Washington, July 31 : God fearing gay and lesbian couples who have kids are more likely to legalize their relationship and hold a commitment ceremony, says a new University of Illinois study.
"Opponents of relationship recognition for same-sex couples often say that we have to protect children, or that same-sex relationships are against God," said Ramona Faith Oswald, a U of I associate professor of family studies.
"But this study suggests that lesbians and gay men who seek relationship recognition may be acting to protect their children and enact their own religious beliefs," said Ramona.
In the study, 190 persons who were cohabiting with a same-sex partner were surveyed to gather a broad range of information about lesbian and gay persons living in downstate Illinois.
Within this group, a subsample of those who had legalized their same-sex relationship by making a will or granting power of attorney to their partner was identified.
Length of relationship was the strongest predictor that a couple would legalize their relationship.
Legalizers in this sample were more likely to belong to a supportive religious congregation than non-legalizing cohabiters, Oswald said.
"Faith communities may be important sources of legal education and advocacy for same-sex couples," she said.
From the legalizers, Oswald identified a still narrower group she called ritualizers, couples who had both legalized and participated in a commitment ceremony.
Having children and identifying religious beliefs as being very important in their daily life were the strongest predictors that a legalized couple would ritualize their relationship.
In fact, mothers and fathers in this study were 3.5 times more likely to have had a commitment ceremony than lesbians or gay men who lived together and had legalized their relationship but had not been part of a commitment ritual, she said.
Most children in this study were from partners' previous relationships, she noted.
The study has been published in the June issue of the Journal of Family Psychology.