We review methodological opportunities and lessons learned in conducting a longitudinal, prospective study of same-sex couples with civil unions, recruited from a population-based sample, who were compared with same-sex couples in their friendship circle who did not have civil unions, and heterosexual married siblings and their spouse. At Time 1 (2002), Vermont was the only US state to provide legal recognition similar to marriage to same-sex couples; couples came from other US states and other countries to obtain a civil union. At Time 2 (2005), only one US state had legalized same-sex marriage, and at Time 3 (2013) about half of US states had legalized same-sex marriage, some within weeks of the onset of the Time 3 study. Opportunities included sampling legalized same-sex relationships from a population; the use of heterosexual married couples and same-sex couples not in legalized relationships as comparison samples from within the same social network; comparisons between sexual minority and heterosexual women and men with and without children; improvements in statistical methods for non-independence of data and missing data; and the use of mixed methodologies. Lessons learned included obtaining funding, locating participants over time as technologies changed, and on-going shifts in marriage laws during the study.

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Published in Journal of GLBT Family Studies, v. 16, issue 3.

This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in Journal of GLBT Family Studies. Rothblum, E. D., Balsam, K. F., Riggle, E. D. B., Rostosky, S. S., & Wickham, R. E. (2020). Studying the longest ‘legal’ U.S. same-sex couples: A case of lessons learned. Journal of GLBT Family Studies, 16(3), 259–276. https://doi.org/10.1080/1550428X.2019.1626787

It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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Funding for this research was provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development R01HD069370 (Kimberly Balsam, PI).