Support for Same-Sex Marriage vs. Civil Unions


The purpose of this research proposal is to explore support for same-sex marriage, in comparison with that given to civil unions, within the wider context of the marriage institution. This is an issue that has generated a heated controversy amongst the proponents and opponents alike. This controversy has seen individuals that are in support of civil unions, yet frown on same-sex marriage.

Attitudes and opinions that people hold on the issue of same-sex marriage and homosexuality are informed more by the form of cultural orientation that the people have been exposed to, in addition to the cultural environment that surrounds them. As such, there is the possibility that the attitudes and opinions of one group of individuals could differ on the same issue, based on the differences in terms of their cultural perspectives. Still, we have sociological theories that inform the opinions held by people on same-sex marriage debates, in comparison with civil unions. There is a need therefore to explore these various theories along with the views and opinions of those that are opposed to them.

Literature review

Even as there is an increasing rise in the number of students that seeks to assess the public opinions of Americans regarding the issue of same-sex marriage, nevertheless a lot less scholarly effort has been directed examining the attitudes held by the Americans regarding the same issue, from a cultural perspective. Accordingly, a certain level of inconsistency appears to have emerged (Hull, 2006, p. 132). While the media organizations and the journalists alike have been keener on enhancing this particular debate, the same cannot be said of the researchers and scholars. On the other hand, it is important to put in mind that scholars in this area are required to take into consideration the theoretical as well as the practical reasons as to why an individual would be in support of, for example, the legalizing of same-sex marriage, at the expense of civil unions. All the same, there is existing evidence to support the claim that in the United States, the number of the civil union by far outnumbers same-sex unions.

On the other hand, there has been an increase in terms of frequency for the rate of divorce amongst couples who are in a civil union, in comparison with those enjoying a same-sex marriage (Hull, 2006, p. 235). What these valuable points appear to indicate is that far-reaching differences do indeed exist between on the one hand, the civil unions and on the other hand, same-sex unions. Another implication could be that as a result of the failure by researchers and scholars alike to examine the attitudes held by the population regarding same-sex marriages and civil unions, there is the likelihood that the same researchers and scholars could as well misrepresent and misunderstand the prevailing debate on the same issue. Hypothetically, it is important that scholarly researchers into this area pay attention to the existing attitudes towards not just same-sex marriage, but also the civil unions as well. This is because in line with the aforementioned observations, fundamental differences may be said to exist between the two arrangements from a social perspective. For example, the manner in which an individual may view a marriage between propelling of the same sex could have a lot to do with the way that individual was oriented, socially.

Additionally, the examinations of existing attitudes between these two issues would go a long way into providing the much-needed insight regarding a theoretical dilemma that is very fundamental within the realm of cultural sociology. In cultural sociology, there are two distinct, yet influential hypotheses that seek to provide competing justification about the way in which the development of attitude amongst individuals occurs, as regards any form of issue that could be confronting them. To start with, there is the structural theory which attempts to call attention to the coherence as well as the internal philosophical arrangements of the belief systems. Separately, Lemm (2006, p. 83) has noted that belief systems may assume a pragmatic form, or an ideological one. Within the context of this particular view, the manner in which individuals are able to comprehend such a contentious issue as same-sex marriage bears correlation with the structure that characterizes the belief systems that such people have been oriented to.

Furthermore, these structures have been seen to hinder the process of forming attitudes for such individuals (Lemm, 2006, p. 83). For that reason, the forecasting of this hypothesis would be that the attitudes of individuals regarding same-sex marriage to a great extent hinges upon their beliefs, attitudes, as well as feelings regarding homosexuality. In light of this, it might sound quite irrational for an individual that harbor negative attitudes toward lesbians and gays to at the same time offer their support on same-sex marriage. In so far as this hypothesis is correct, the beliefs and attitudes of people require being also consistent, from an ideological point of view. Furthermore, the capability of an individual to arrive at particular judgments is held back by attitudes, preexisting beliefs, as well as feelings. Secondly, the argument that the proponents of the “pragmatic” theory wish to put across is that belief systems lack the ideological perspective and coherence as a majority of the structural theorists have opined.

To a certain extent, belief systems are usually made up of attitudes, contradictory beliefs, feelings and attitudes. It is from this collection therefore that individuals are able to draw the perspectives that they hold on the sociological issues at hand. The pragmatic theory would therefore offer an explanation regarding a given issue, such as same-sex marriage within the context of the social environment to which such individuals are exposed (Lemm, 2006, p. 84). In this connection therefore, as opposed to having attitudes regarding same-sex marriage emanating from the beliefs that people hold on marriage and its meaning, or about homosexuality, this pragmatic hypothesis could forecast that the attitudes of individuals on same-sex marriage may very well be as a result of the existing differences in the social environments of individuals. For example, we could take into account here the number of lesbian and gay couples the individual in question could be familiar with, or even the social framework that informs the need to seek their opinion.

It is important to put in mind the fact that individual harbors a multitude of opinions or attitudes, as opposed to a single opinion or attitude. The fact that there has been a rise in the number of same-sex marriages within the society could be regarded as a potential challenge to proponents of the structural theory. Even as two the debate on same-sex marriage vs. civil unions may be seen as constituting dual positions that are consistent ideologically, the debate however, is not without an inconsistent and ideological position. Accordingly, there are those individuals that will totally be against same-sex marriage, yet offer their unrelenting backing for civil unions of the same sex.

From the outset, it might appear rather difficult for the scholars of the structural theory to justify the position of the proponents of this ideological inconsistency. For an individual who harbors negative views regarding homosexuality, or in the case of a born-again Christian, the expectation from the rest of us would be that such a person would ideally be in opposition to all the various types of recognition (religious, social and legal) regarding same-sex marriage. Devoid of opting for a justification that those individuals whose ideological position on the issue of same-sex marriage is rather inconsistent are only confused, nevertheless there is a need to come up with an explanation that hinges on the structural elements of the beliefs and attitudes of people (Buchanan, & Bryman, 2009, p. 156). Plainly put, offering support for civil unions, yet being totally against same-sex marriage could actually be seen as a position that is rather consistent, from an ideological point of view. However, the fact that this might very well be the case is not a position that is all too obvious. It is at this point therefore that the point of view of pragmatists might be necessary, to further shed light as to why individuals could be in support of civil unions to a much higher degree, as opposed to same-sex marriage. In this case, social pragmatists start by hypothesizing that individuals usually harbor attitudes, beliefs and feelings that are contradictory, from an ideological point of view. In light of this, there is a high likelihood that the attitudes of individuals could be held in a weak manner.

Alternatively, there is also the chance that the attitudes of people could be such that they have a mind to competently oppose lesbian and gay unions in totality. Another possibility is that the feelings that people have towards the issue of same-sex marriage could be driven more by emotions, as opposed to logic. For instance, there is a possibility that a person could be against the same-sex marriage due to the fact that such an individual usually gets emotional disturbances when they think of homosexuality. Such a thought pattern could be informed by the individual’s unimpulsively viewing marriage as an institution that is sacred, and made up of one woman and a single man. At the same time, an individual could opt to back civil unions on the basis of the fact that they could be familiar with a person that is either a lesbian or gay, and who is also involved with their partner in a relationship considered long-term. Accordingly, there is a chance for the individual to harbor sympathy for them.

Research questions

It is anticipated that the research questions below will help to shed light on the study at hand:

  1. Are beliefs, demographic characteristics, feelings and attitudes important in forecasting the same-sex marriage proponents?
  2. Are beliefs, demographic characteristics, feelings and attitudes important in forecasting the civil union marriage proponents?
  3. What are the differences between individuals that are in support of civil unions, yet are opponents of same-sex marriage?


Research design

Creswell (2008) refers to a research design that framework that assists in the collection of data for a research study, with the intention of yielding logical and appropriate findings of the study in question. It is the intention of this study to conduct the research using a qualitative design. Patton (2002, 193) is of the opinion that qualitative research usually provides a more detailed and profound analysis of the specific situation.

Study respondents

The participants of this study shall be members of the public that are of 18 years and above. The intention shall be to assess their attitudes regarding the issue of same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Sample size

Due to time and financial constraints, this study shall assess a sample size of 300 participants.

Data collection

Maxwell (2005, 76), opines that goods qualitative study often gives solutions to vital and stated questions. In this case, a semi-structured interview questionnaire shall be used to gather the needed information on the attitudes of the participants regarding same-sex marriage and civil unio9ns. The questions for this survey shall principally lay more emphasis on the social and religious beliefs of the participants regarding civil unions and same-sex marriage. The intention here shall be to assess the different beliefs and attitudes regarding same-sex marriage and homosexuality.

Data analysis

The data collected shall be analyzed using such statistical tools as the Scientific Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) and Microsoft Excel (MS Excel).

Ethical considerations

Prior to the carrying out of the study, consent shall be sought from the participants. Furthermore, participation shall be on a voluntary basis, and the data collected shall also be used for purposes of informing this research.


Buchanan, D. A., & Bryman, A. (2009). The Sage handbook of organizational research. London: Sage Publications Limited.

Creswell, J., (2008). Research design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed. Methods Approaches (Third Edition). London: Sage Publications.

Hull, K (2006). Same-sex marriage: the cultural politics of love and law. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lemm, K. M. (2006). “Positive Associations Among Interpersonal Contact, Motivation, and Implicit and Explicit Attitudes Toward Gay Men.” Journal of Homosexuality, 51, 79-99.

Maxwell, J. A. (2005). Qualitative research design: an interactive approach. London: Sage.

Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods. London: Sage.

Find out your order's cost