Gay marriage

1 November 2003 to 30 July 2006

Core research findings

  • Couples in our study were divided on whether it was preferable to have a special category of Civil Partnership or whether the existing legal form of marriage should be expanded to include same-sex couples
  • It was very important to the majority of our participants to involve their parents or other close kin in their commitment ceremonies
  • All the couples also invited friends (except two couples who held an entirely private ceremony)
  • It was often difficult for couples to mix their families of origin with friends, but they worked hard to sustain relationships even in the face of difficulties
  • Couples were aware they could be criticised for adopting the values of heterosexual couples, but this concern was outweighed by a desire to celebrate their commitment to each other
  • Few couples met with hostility but some found that either friends or family could be reserved in their enthusiasm about ceremonies or planned civil partnerships when told of the event
  • Couples welcomed the legal protections that civil partnership would provide, but 80% had already made wills to safeguard their partner in the event of death
  • New forms of kinship may be developing as same-sex partners are embraced by family as sons - rather than sons-in-law - or as sisters - rather than sisters-in-law.

Complete research findings.

Printed copies of these findings (or a large print version) are available from


'"It's made a huge difference": Recognition, Rights and the Personal Significance of Civil Partnership', Shipman, B, and Smart, C, Sociological Research Online (2007) 12 (1).  View article online.

Press articles and interviews

'Parental cloud over a gay day', Geary, J. The Birmingham Post, August 2006.

'6,500 couples opt for civil partnerships but ceremony creates new problems', Muir, H, The Guardian, 8 August 2006 (PDF opens in new window). Or view article online.

'Happy Ever After', Smart, C, New Humanist, July/August 2006. PDF (308KB), file opens in a new window.

'Unhappy Couples', Gilliver, A and Quirke, J, Pink Paper, 910, 5 October 2006. PDF (153KB), file open in a new window. 

Also reported in 'Families show acceptance of gay marriage', Manchester Evening News, 4 August 2006.

Research team

Carol Smart, Jennifer Mason and Beccy Shipman.

For enquiries about this project, please contact Carol Smart on 0161 275 0262 or email


This project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (Ref: R000-23-0418).