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Minority Stress, Same-Sex Couples, and Marriage Equality: A Qualitative Interview Study

By Angela Lee-Attardo


In June 2015, the marriage equality movement in the United States succeeded at the federal level. This study documents individuals’ perceptions of how the fight for marriage equality affected their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors within their own marriages to same-sex spouses. I conducted interviews with eight married individuals (five men and three women) who were married prior to the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide. Areas of inquiry included (a) motivation to get married, (b) factors affecting commitment, (c) willingness to utilize couple therapy, and (d) factors affecting thoughts about divorce. I hypothesized that, for some individuals or couples, the fight to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide may have imposed pressure to promote the cause of marriage equality or fight antigay stigma and prejudice, thereby affecting commitment in their marriage. The primary interest in this study was to better understand the way individuals think about their marriages and how they were affected by the marriage equality movement. I used interpretive phenomenological analysis to analyze the data. Most participants endorsed some degree of political or social justice themes in their reasons for getting married or among the factors impacting their thoughts and feelings about marriage. Fewer participants thought political and social justice concerns would impact their commitment or thoughts about divorce, though this was a factor for two individuals. Participants did not see their willingness to use couple therapy as impacted by the marriage equality movement or by political and social justice concerns. Participants also described the impact of the marriage equality movement and the associated sociocultural/political turmoil on their lives in general. This study has implications for therapists working with same-sex couples or individuals struggling with relationship concerns. Political factors can be present among the motivations of a couple to get married. For some individuals, it is possible these factors impact commitment, though in this study, this was only true for two interviewees. If therapists are aware of the impact of their clients’ political and social justice concerns on their values and their relationships, they will be more likely to form accurate case conceptualizations and targeted interventions to help clients work through their problems

Topics: marriage equality, same-sex marriage, commitment, minority stress interpretive phenomenological analysis, Clinical Psychology
Publisher: AURA - Antioch University Repository and Archive
Year: 2018
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