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Because of the paucity of surveys that allow identification of sexual orientation, researchers have been creative in thinking about ways to study this important subpopulation. In our opinion, this trend is most welcome but brings with it associated challenges. We have outlined several here with respect to partnership: Correspondingly, these issues we have highlighted translate into recommendations for survey researchers who want to collect information on sexual orientation and partnership.

We strongly urge researchers to more routinely include direct measures of sexual orientation identification on surveys, especially on those that might already be measuring sexual behavior. Beyond measuring sexual orientation, our analyses demonstrate the complexities of measuring partnership status among same-sex couples.

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Some of these complexities revolve around the more general challenges associated with measuring nonmarital cohabitation. In this regard, it is helpful to measure marital status separately from both partnership and cohabitation and to create surveys that allow researchers to distinguish between current and former legal marital status. Finally, we recommend the following: We thank the editors, multiple anonymous referees, Dan Black, and seminar participants at the JSM meetings in Toronto for helpful comments.

All opinions expressed are those of the authors only. Census data on same-sex unmarried partners are regularly used by government officials and policymakers in major national debates.

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For example, the Congressional Budget Office CBO released a report on the budgetary implications of legalizing same-sex marriage; their analysis relied almost exclusively on assumptions about gay and lesbian people based on data from Census CBO This contrasts directly with census data from countries that explicitly recognize same-sex partnerships. The GSS identifies gay and lesbian people using measures of same-sex sexual behavior.

When pooled, the GSS provides data on gay men and lesbians across the — waves Black et al. The NHSLS contains a self-reported measure of sexual orientation identity but has much smaller samples of self-identified gay men and lesbians than the GSS. Because of concerns with question wording Carpenter , we restrict our attention in this paper to adults who reported that they did not have a problem speaking English.

We do not analyze partnership among bisexual-identified individuals in this paper, though it is an important area for future research. One issue is that we do not have a good benchmark data source for comparison for bisexual individuals in partnerships as we do for gay men and lesbians i. Conversely, more than a third of bisexual men and nearly two-thirds of bisexual women are married or partnered with someone of the opposite sex. In the CHIS, 18 gay men and 19 lesbians report being currently married.

These individuals may be in a traditionally conceived heterosexual marriage i. Unfortunately, the sex composition of the household is not available in the CHIS. The broad patterns are little affected by their inclusion, however. Recoding all married gay men and lesbians as partnered—an extreme assumption—increases the estimated fraction partnered by less than 2 percentage points for gay men and by less than 3 percentage points for lesbians i. We promise to keep all answers confidential. For these interviews, we are interested in speaking with people who are not often studied in public health research: Would you include yourself in one of those groups?

If there were multiple eligible individuals in the household, the computer randomly selected a respondent to participate in the phone interview. Although the census does not ask direct questions about sexual orientation, there is relatively good evidence that the census couples sample is, indeed, gay and lesbian. Carpenter further documented that same-sex unmarried partner households exhibit sexual and family planning behaviors that are both 1 systematically different from their married and different-sex unmarried partner households and 2 what one would expect if they were, indeed, gay or lesbian.

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These counts of same-sex couples likely undercount the true population of gay and lesbian couples. Concerns about the confidentiality of their responses may have led many gay and lesbian couples to indicate a status that would not provide evidence of the true nature of their relationship. A study of the undercount of same-sex unmarried partners in Census indicates that these were the two most common reasons that gay and lesbian couples chose not to designate themselves as unmarried partners Badgett and Rogers The difference between the reported partnership prevalence estimates and the partnership fraction using the reported sample sizes is due to the fact that we report weighted partnership estimates in the text and tables along with the raw sample sizes on which the weighted means are based.

In presenting demographic characteristics by partnership status for gay men and lesbians in California, we are not attempting to identify pathways of causality among partnership, education, and general socioeconomic status measures. We would need richer data—preferably with a longitudinal component—to disentangle whether gay men and lesbians with high socioeconomic status have unobserved characteristics that make them more attractive as partners or whether being in a partnership facilitates improved labor market and educational opportunities.

Similarly, socioeconomic characteristics could be related to factors affecting partnership dissolution in addition to partnership formation. All of these possibilities are consistent with the observed patterns in our data that gay men and lesbians with high socioeconomic status are more likely to be in a partnership. Our goal here is to first document these patterns. The parenting outcome is equal to 1 if there are any children under age 18 present in the household at the time of the survey. This measure does not actually require the child to be biologically or legally related to any of the adults in the household.

Parenting rates by partnership status are partly mechanically related to the presence of potential parents in the household. As such, the likelihood of parenting is higher for individuals in a couple because there are potentially two parents in the household and our measure makes both of those partners a parent regardless of the legal parental status of each individual if a child is present.

That the tobacco data yield higher rates of children in the household than the CHIS may be related to the fact that CHIS does not ask partnership separately from marital status since divorced individuals are more likely to have children from a previous marriage. There have, of course, been numerous changes in attitudes and public policies regarding sexual minorities between and that could have changed the incentives to cohabit or otherwise form a partnership— including the legislation in California AB that gave same-sex domestic partners several of the same rights and responsibilities afforded to married heterosexual couples.

The samples in columns 2—5 are mutually exclusive. We exclude from those columns the 12 gay men and 13 lesbians who reported that they are currently married because although they reported that they are gay or lesbian, we cannot identify whether their spouse is of the same sex or a different sex. We include these individuals in the full sample estimates in column 1, however, and they are also included in the denominator when we estimate the fraction of gay men and lesbians in partnerships as is true in all the data we consider.

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Columns 2—5 also do not include an additional 5 observations of gay men and 2 observations of lesbians with a missing value that did not allow the classification of partnership status. A common residence is required for official registration in California.

See Cal. The European experience is notably different in this regard. For example, in the first six months of the availability of civil partnership registration in England and Wales, two-thirds of the registrations were male couples General Register Office Similar ratios occurred in Norway and Sweden Andersson et al. Patterson offered a review of some of the literature that explores duration among lesbian and gay couples.

Our finding of slightly higher duration among gay male couples than among lesbian couples is consistent with relationship duration estimates made in studies using nonprobabilistic sampling. Blumstein and Schwartz used a sample of gay men and lesbians solicited from various public appearances by the authors, focusing on specific locations to maximize geographic diversity and draw from areas with different levels of social stigma related to homosexuality. Kurdek and Kurdek used samples drawn from respondents to advertisements in gay periodicals and found average cohabitation lengths of 7.

Kurdek used the Blumstein and Schwarz data and reported mean cohabitation lengths of 5. At the time of the Tobacco Survey, state registration in California did not confer all of the state-level rights and responsibilities of marriage, though legislation that took effect in to a large degree equalized marriage and domestic partnership registration. Interestingly, we do not find much evidence that the measurement of sexual orientation in our California data is related to the estimated fraction of gay men and lesbians who are partnered. Specifically, the and waves of the CHIS include information on both self-reported sexual orientation and self-reported same-sex sexual behavior for the same respondents, thus allowing a direct comparison of our preferred method of identifying sexual minorities i.

In results not reported but available upon request, we found behavior-based partnership estimates that were very similar to those based on self-reports. In part, this is because sexual behavior and sexual orientation are highly correlated, particularly among males.

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As with the CHIS, we find very similar partnership estimates for males using behavior and orientation, though the partnership estimates for females are lower when we use behavior than when we use orientation. Given the slightly different ways that same-sex sexual behavior is assessed in the CHIS and the Tobacco Survey, we do not make too much of these differences. Carpenter forthcoming used large samples of individual level data from Canada in and and found partnership estimates of As of July , same-sex couples can marry in Massachusetts and California.

Civil unions and domestic partnership registries in Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, and Vermont are designed to offer the benefits and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples. Domestic partner registries in the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Maine, and Washington provide same-sex couples with some rights but are not functionally equivalent to marriage. Couples who are in civil unions or registered partnerships in these states have no way of designating their legal status on a standard marital status question, even though the statutes creating these laws often explicitly equate the status to marriage.

National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Demography v. Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Much recent research on sexual minorities has used couples-based samples, which—by construction—provide no information on nonpartnered individuals. RESULTS Prevalence and Correlates of Partnership Table 1 presents our main results on the fractions of gay and lesbian individuals who are partnered again, using our definition that requires cohabitation , as well as demographic characteristics related to partnership.

Table 1. Open in a separate window. Figures are weighted means.

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Comparing Individual-Level Survey Data With Census How valid are our individual level data on partnership among gay men and lesbians? Table 2. Table 3. Acknowledgments We thank the editors, multiple anonymous referees, Dan Black, and seminar participants at the JSM meetings in Toronto for helpful comments. Footnotes 1. Amherst, MA: Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies; Missing Same-Sex Couples in Census The Role of Economic Factors. Dating as a queer woman presents a unique set of issues.

Men would either ask me to explain what the term meant, incorrectly assume they knew exactly what it meant, or completely misidentify me. It quickly became a frustrating ritual for me, a self-identified queer woman and someone with a graduate-level education in gender and queer studies, to constantly be in a position of educating.

Knowing what the term queer means, and how people choose to use and identity with it is vital.


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Being queer, like being gay or straight is not a choice. It is a form of sexual identification and gender, and for some, the term even falls into a larger social and political stance. By the s, queerness started to gain academic notoriety through the work of queer studies scholar Eve Sedgwick.