NYT Looks At Gay Couples Choosing to Say ‘I Don’t’

The New York Times takes an in-depth look in today's Sunday Style section at same-sex couples who are in loving, committed, long-term relationships who, despite being afforded the right to marry, thanks to the destruction of DOMA section 3 and the increase in the number of states allowing same-sex marriage, choose not to:

CoupleFor some, marriage is an outdated institution, one that forces same-sex couples into the mainstream. For others, marriage imposes financial burdens and legal entanglements. Still others see marriage not as a fairy tale but as a potentially painful chapter that ends in divorce. And then there are those for whom marriage goes against their beliefs, religious or otherwise.

“It’s a very, very archaic model,” said Sean Fader, 34, an artist in New York who is single and asked to be identified as queer. “It’s this oppressive Christian model that says ‘Pick a person that’s going to be everything to you, they have to be perfect, then get a house, and have kids, and then you’ll be happy and whole.' ”

IdontIndeed, despite the rush to the altar we've seen after the Supreme Court rulings on Prop. 8 and DOMA and more recently after the New Jersey state supreme court ruled that same-sex marriages must be allowed to begin in the Garden State despite Governor Christie's opposition, same-sex couples are less likely to seek out marriage, according to a new Pew Research Poll released in June that found "60 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults are married or said they wanted to marry, compared with 76 percent of the general public."

The Times also notes that not all LGBT activists have been so keen to focus on pushing for marriage equality when HIV/AIDS education and prevention along with securing the safety of LGBT youth are issues that, in the eyes of some, have been under-served and even ignored by the community at large.

The reluctance to marry also seems to span across generations:

“For people in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, there was a feeling that L.GB.T. people can do better than marriage, that relationships can be more egalitarian” when built around untraditional families, said Mary Bernstein, a professor at the University of Connecticut and an author of “The Marrying Kind?” which examines the marriage debate in the gay rights movement.

Milennials on the other hand may consider themselves "a very disillusioned generation," as Eric Routen, 24, a student at New York Medical College, put it, less willing to take a chance on marriage because, “No one expects marriage to last."

Check out the full piece from The Times HERE.


  1. jpeckjr says

    It does not surprise me that some couples are choosing not to marry. That is also what it means to live in a free society. I am a bit concerned that the pressure to marry will grow in the LGBTQ community and there will be an expectation that marriage will become the norm for all same-sex couples.

  2. revchicoucc says

    Mr. Fader’s calling marriage “an oppressive Christian model” is unfortunate and, uninformed. Other religions, and people of no religion, get married, too, and people were getting married before the emergence of Christianity. Pairing off is universal in human culture, and it takes various forms.

  3. Geoff says

    As a rule marriages DON’T last, but – hey – if you want to give it a whirl…why not. That being said – it may be that we (as humans) just aren’t cut out for that kind of commitment, but there are some pairings that last a lifetime. Religion really should not enter into the picture at all…ever.

  4. Stefan says

    Give it a generation and the difference will level off. Many older gay couples have been together for decades and have all their affairs in order, so they may not see a need, however the young generation sees this as a non-issue and will embrace the opportunity to marry.

  5. york says

    When marriage affords financial security and allows for same sex couples not be effed over by homo hating parents..

    yes fatso mary bernstein – we are the marrying kind…

  6. etseq says

    Ah the NYT style section and their infamous “trend” pieces. Filled with anecdotes from yuppie or hipster denizens of NYC, little or no empirical evidence, and given a gloss of credibility with some pseudo-academic theory. Notice the only statistic they included showed a 60% vs 78% “desire to get married” which actually undermines their entire article. The vast majority of both str8 & gay people want to get married and the fact that the difference is only 18% says it all. Once you adjust for age, I am pretty sure you would find no difference.

  7. bravo says

    Agree with JPeckJr. It’s nice to be able to choose whether or not to wed. I love the quote in the article that partnerships (like older cell phone contracts) should be for 2 years, with the option to renew and even upgrade the status.

  8. KC says

    If there are any questions, look no further than the story of “Bridegroom.” A loving partner who dies, a committed partnership that had everything to live for. Suddenly, family steps in and forbids you to see your partner in his last moments, to at least say one last goodbye. Then forbids you to attend the funeral, even threatens violence against you if you try, and does what they can to re-write history and write you out of his life.

    This is why we fight. Marriage should be a right and a choice for all, not an exclusive right for some. If you choose not to marry, that is your choice, and your right. But please don’t demean or mock anyone else’s desire to do so. For some (i.e., the authors of this article), it may not mean so much. But for some (i.e., the rest of us), it may just mean everything.

  9. Steve says

    Marriage shouldn’t come with the insane amount of privileges and rights as it does. Things like hospital visitation, medical decision making and inheritance shouldn’t be so closely tied to marriage. But that’s how things are, and the chances are slim that it will change in the forseeable future. Until then, it’s better for people in certain situations to be married.

  10. mark says

    I think what is being lost is not that marriage is allowed its that marriage is now a choice.
    When you are a tax paying adult with everything you want in your life and your told you cant do something because of the choice you make for a partner thats one thing no different than the colour of your skin or sex but when everything is a choice and it is up to the individual to marry or not than it makes us equal in every sense

  11. bkmn says

    It is one thing for someone in their mid 30’s to say they don’t want to get married. Hell, I sure didn’t when I was that age.

    But having turned the bend past 50 almost two years ago and having a partner of over a decade who is older than me, you look at what marriage can bring to the relationship. Right at the top of the list is entitlement to inheritance, hospital privileges, shared social security/medicare benefits and many more.

  12. Francis #1 says

    The vast majority of straight and gay people may want to get married, but fewer than half of both are married and same-sex marriage rates have consistently been pretty low on average. In Massachusetts, in New York, in Minnesota. Marriage just may not be a central tenant of our community. It’s not really a big deal. As more states have marriage equality, that may or may not change, but ultimately, the LGBT community isn’t the straight community so it may not change.

  13. says

    Marriage IS a big deal for couples who have been together a long time (i.e. not single 30-something NYC artist queers, who represent little beyond the NYTimes Style pages) and want to protect themselves. Not having that freedom was a bigger deal, and still is for those who have no choice. That said, it’s not surprising that gay people regard the institution of marriage with skepticism–so do young straight people who grew up with divorced parents.

    It will be interesting to see what happens when gay kids grow up knowing they have the right to marry. Quite a sea change from my generation, when we grew up knowing we did not, unless we married someone of the opposite sex. A bit ironic that gay people are joining an institution on the decline. We could actually refresh it, or simply mimic the hetero model, which would be unfortunate.

  14. Nat says

    “‘Pick a person that’s going to be everything to you, they have to be perfect, then get a house, and have kids, and then you’ll be happy and whole.'”

    None of these characteristics are necessary for marriage, or even a happy marriage.

    Marriage brings individuals together to create a family. That’s it. The details belong to the couple, and the couple alone.

    ” I am a bit concerned that the pressure to marry will grow in the LGBTQ community and there will be an expectation that marriage will become the norm for all same-sex couples.”

    So what if there’s pressure? As long there are no laws mandating marriage for gay couples, I don’t see the problem. Why does societal pressure concern people so much? We are all autonomous individuals capable of deciding our futures. We are only beholden to people to the extent that government dictates, and we shouldn’t fret over non-existent obligations.

  15. johnny says

    “Pick a person that’s going to be everything to you, they have to be perfect, then get a house, and have kids, and then you’ll be happy and whole.”

    If that was the actual – and wholly unrealistic – basis of marriage in either gay or straight culture, almost nobody would be married.

    What an idiot they chose to interview for this story.

    I knew from the offset my partner would not be “everything” for me, that wasn’t the point. I had money, I had friends and a life, but I still needed someone to share that life. I loved him, he loved me, that’s where it started. And we certainly knew neither of us were perfect, yet we STILL loved each other and that’s what makes for a good marriage. Apparently the guy interviewd has never experienced that kind of love.

    Neither of us want kids, either BTW, but a house was a fairly smart investment, and, given the market you live in, still is.

  16. Profe Sancho Panza says

    Marriage does have a social status and privilege; married people are often seen as more mature, stable, and trustworthy than singles. (Why else do politicians show off their families in photo ops? Notice we don’t elect many single presidents!) Not that many decades ago, polls showed that significant majorities of Americans held negative attitudes toward the mental health and morals of people who remained single “after a certain age”. Even nowadays, a person who’s never been in a long-term relationship is going to be regarded by many people as either too selfish and immature for serious commitment, or too undesirable to find anyone.

    So it’s not surprising that many gay people in committed relationships do want the social privilege of marriage along with the legal benefits. They don’t want a society where marital status doesn’t matter; they believe it should matter, and they want the social recognition. And if some single people, either gay or straight, have reservations about the unequal social status that marriage brings, that’s not surprising, either.

  17. emjayay says

    Well I was going to throw in my two cents but you guys pretty much covered it.

    All the objections in the rather silly article (but pretending to be substantive) seem like people reacting to some old definition in their imaginations. Kind of self defeating.

  18. Paul R says

    Obviously I strongly support marriage equality, but damn I’m glad I never got married. After a 20-year relationship ended, I would have been screwed if he’d had access to my assets. He seemed more stable than me when we started, but people and situations change.

    Inheritance can be taken care of by putting someone’s name, birthday, or SSN on an online form or cheap will. Blocking hospital visitation seems like an issue mainly for backward hospitals or bitter relatives; I wouldn’t take my partner to either. Of course there are other concerns and needs, but there are burdens as well. For some of us they don’t balance out. I’d also hate being the center of attention to tell the world I love someone when they know it already.

  19. says

    Apparently the one young man actually believes the BS that Christianity somehow owns or created marriage. History does not show that. Marriage predates all religions practiced and has been many different things to different people. What the law recognizes as marriage and what Christianity taught about marriage are not the same thing.

  20. FFS says

    @Sancho Panza: When you say “many people,” you mean you, right?

    Why don’t you ask Anthony Wiener’s, John Edwards’ and Newt Gingrich’s wives how trustworthy and mature their husbands are?

    You know what a society in which marital status has no meaning is called? Egalitarian. Don’t hastily presume that, because you don’t want to live in that world, there aren’t many people who do.

  21. pickles says

    My guy and I have been together 19 years. WIth his former marriage and my hippy upbringing, we question that marriage ‘validates’ our relationship. We don’t believe in a god, aren’t religious and we don’t need a dominant paradigm to justify us.

    That said, we demonstrated for all to have the right to marry. We’re not above taking the benefits and considering marriage- mostly for unromantic reasons, e.g.: death. A simple marriage is a lot cheaper than a complicated will. Then if the taxes don’t make us pay more than our exisiting share, perhaps…

  22. QJ201 says

    That vapid little “queer” will change his tune if he moves in with his boyfriend who then decides to toss his ass out on the street after a few years.

    Marriage offers protection, from outsiders and each other!

  23. Gigi says

    It’s a personal choice. My man and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary in March, 2014. We have no desire to get married. We love that we live in Canada, in an area where same-sex marriage has been legal for ten years, but we’re just not the marrying kind. It breaks my heart to see the battle for marriage equality in the United States, but it’s also heartwarming to see how rapidly things are changing there. Love from Canada!

  24. Paul R says

    Anon: I didn’t mean a simple will as in “Everything goes to John.” I fully understand the tax, social security, housing, and myriad other implications, and wasn’t trying to belittle them.

  25. bigolpoofter says

    Having been married to a man for over nine years and later divorced, I could be jaded and as anti-marriage as those spouting high-minded queer theoretics, but I’m not. While I would concede that humans are not biologically pre-disposed to neither sexual exclusivity, nor emotional longevity, yearning to be know another person deeply on all levels as that person knows us is a virtually universal human trait. That same-sex couples celebrate such relationships under the label of “marriage” unites us with mixed-sex couples in a common experience of navigating life within a formal union, whether blessed by a faith community, a state, or neither. That same-sex couples are afforded equal treatment is only just.

  26. rocko says

    People should be required to have ‘civil’ unions..then have the traditional marriage if you want.. It needs to be done for protection in all financial, health, etc issues that might arise..
    The problem with our society is that we are throw-away, we are quick to move on from what we embraced at one time but now bores us, this is across the board..gays and str8’s..and the fact that most marriages are centered around a religious ceremony makes a lot of people want to abstain..
    My partner and I don’t see any need to do it except for financial reasons..we have validated our relationship by being together for almost 2 decades..we don’t want nor feel the need for the traditional
    marriage..and if you want it fine..if you want kids..fine..its just not for us.

  27. Brian says

    Hey at least we have a CHOICE as to whether we want to get married or not. I live in Massachusetts, and I made the choice a long time ago already. For me, marriage was the natural step in my relationship. It is also a matter of survival for two gay male Latinos who are neither rich nor privileged. I love being married.

  28. Fenrox says

    Ha, so wait, the anachronistic, bourgeois and complicated state of marriage confounds you to the point of making a complicated, bourgeois and terrible anti-marriage campaign? THAT COULD ONLY BE SUPPORTED BY ANTI-GAY BIGOTS…

    You guys are just hitting every branch on your way down, aren’t you?

  29. John says

    Yeah yeah…all any couple that has been together forever needs to do is sit down with an accountant for 10 minutes and they will run – not walk – to the marriage bureau. The financial incentives are huge. Why doesn’t this ever get said?

  30. jamal49 says

    REVCHICOUCC It’s not an “unfortunate” description of marriage to described it as “an oppressive christian model” because that is exactly what it is in Western society. Heterosexual marriage has always been about property (women and children) and forging tribal or dynastic alliances. Until say the 19th century or even the early 20th century, marriage has been less about “love and commitment” and more about convenience and enforced procreation. Not everybody thinks marriage is the ultimate goal in a relationship. I still have the queer ideal that there should be other options to relationships besides “traditional marriage” whether it is gay or straight.

  31. jimstoic says

    Marriage existed before Christianity and in non-Christian cultures from Japan to China to India to Europe to the New World. While there’s plenty to debate about it, disregarding it because it’s “Christian” is nonsensical.

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