While Americans wage a battle over gay marriage, the results of the first study on same-sex couples in civil unions indicate domestic peace and harmony.
The survey, which compared men and women in civil unions with their married heterosexual siblings (as well as with gay and lesbian friends not in civil unions), found that gays in civil unions reported a much more equitable division of labor and child care than did straight couples.
"Same-sex couples who have a difference in income still tend to share housework evenly," says study author Esther Rothblum, professor of psychology at the University of Vermont. "The nice thing about studying same-sex couples is that you can see whether the partner who makes more money does less housework, without worrying if gender socialization is a factor."
Past research has shown that among heterosexuals, cohabiting couples divvy up chores, but then fall into more traditional roles once they marry. Says Rothblum, "There is something about the institution of heterosexual marriage that encourages the pattern."