A recently released Boston College study indicates that legal recognition and the opportunity to make a public statement are the prime motivators for Massachusetts gay and lesbian couples to marry.

The college conducted the study 13 months after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage. (The state began marrying gay couples in May 2004.) Professor Pamela J. Lannutti surveyed 263 couples, including those who were legally married in Massachusetts and those who plan to marry. The average relationship duration was 7.5 years.

A quarter of couples said they were motivated to marry for legal protections, while 20% said they wanted to make a public statement of commitment, and only 15% cited feelings for their partner.

Others said they tied the knot to receive acknowledgement from family members (14%), legal protection for help in having children (13%), political reasons (4%), and religious reasons (2%).

“The arrival of same-sex marriage brings up many issues that often lurk in the background in families. It forces same-sex couples and their parents to confront their deepest feelings about same-sex love,” said Robert-Jay Green, Ph.D., in a press release from Rockway Institute, a national center for psychology research, education, and public policy on sexual orientation and gender issues.

A common obstacle for same-sex couples to overcome when considering marriage is lack of family approval. Forty-one percent of the couples interviewed reported dissatisfaction from parents. A majority of couples, 58%, said their primary method of dealing with family members’ disapproval is to ignore it.

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