On January 1st, Hawaii and Delaware began to offer same-sex civil unions. That brings the number of states recognizing same-sex civil unions to five. Meanwhile, six states and Washington, D.C. now allow same-sex marriage. What impact has marriage equality had on same-sex couples?

A 2009 study examining same-sex couples in Massachusetts (where gay marriage has existed since 2004) gives some perspective. The authors of the study found overwhelmingly positive results from the extension of marriage equality: “As a result of marrying,” the authors report, “individuals feel more committed to their partners and more accepted by their families and communities.” Additionally, more than 70 percent of respondents said they felt more committed to their partner. Nearly half of respondents said they felt less worried about legal problems, and 93 percent of respondents with children said they agreed or “agreed somewhat” that their children were happier and better off.