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Gay couples ‘under pressure’ to marry

Many gay couples in Canada now feel under pressure to marry, researchers have claimed.

Gay marriage was legalised in the country when the parliament passed the Civil Marriage Act in 2005. Sociologists from the University of British Columbia recently spoke to 22 people in unmarried same sex couples to find out what effects the legislation has had on their relationships.

They found that gay marriage is now not only a right, but an expectation. Study co-author Katherine Lyon said she was surprised “how prominent marriage became in participants’ lives” over the last decade. Once the law was passed, “more people wanted to talk to [gay couples they knew] about their relationship and getting married”, she found.

Older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people “came of age when coming out meant letting go of access to marriage”, Lyons said. As a result, many “developed relationship models outside the status quo” for years before they were legally allowed to marry.

The legalisation of gay marriage was “essential”, she continued, but when such a shift occurs “it can change how people think about themselves and their relationship”.

Lyons and co-author Hélène Frohard-Dourlent said that their research demonstrates that marriage “remains the relationship pinnacle in Canadian society” despite the growing popularity of cohabitation. They questioned whether the introduction of gay marriage had “eliminated relationship hierarchies” or simply “extended a dominant ideal to a new group of people”.

Openly gay Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson believes this research showed true marriage equality as gay couples “are coming under the same type of pressure” as their straight peers. However, he expected that a significant number of people in same sex relationships would not “bend to societal norms” by marrying.

The study was titled ‘Let’s Talk about the Institution’: Same-Sex Common-Law Partners Negotiating Marriage Equality and Relationship Legitimacy. It was published in academic journal the Canadian Review of Sociology.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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