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Equality Doesn’t Undermine Marriage a Bit

We are forever hearing the bigots declare that allowing gay and lesbian people to marry will destroy the institution of marriage, or even civilization itself. But as more and more states and other countries have legalized it and — surprise, surprise — straight people are still getting married. Slate looks at the numbers:

Start with Massachusetts, which endorsed gay marriage in May 2004. That year, the state saw a 16 percent increase in marriage. The reason is, obviously, that gay couples who had been waiting for years to get married were finally able to tie the knot. In the years that followed, the marriage rate normalized but remained higher than it was in the years preceding the legalization. So all in all, there’s no reason to worry that gay marriage is destroying marriage in Massachusetts.

The other four states that have legalized gay marriage—New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire—have done it more recently, somewhere between 2008 and 2011. But from the little data we have, it looks as if the pattern will be more or less the same—a temporary jump in marriage followed by a return to virtually the same marriage rates as before gay marriage became legal. Washington, D.C., which started accepting same-sex marriages in March 2010, saw a huge 61.7 percent increase in marriage that year, though it’s too soon to see where it will settle. Again, no signs of the coming apocalypse.

Another measure of the health of marriage is a state’s divorce rate. Have those changed since gay marriage was introduced? Not really. In each of the five states, divorce rates following legalization have been lower on average than the years preceding it, even as the national divorce rate grew. In 2010, four of the five states had a divorce rate that was lower than both the national divorce rate and the divorce rate of the average state.

In fact, by almost any measure, marriages among the people most likely to support equality and in the states that allow it, tend to be far healthier and less likely to divorce than those who oppose it most vociferously.

Comments

  1. unbound says

    Of all the things that challenges my marriage even a small amount, other people’s marriages are not on that list.

  2. d cwilson says

    I’ve been waiting for years for someone to explain to me how same sex marriage would undermine my own straight marriage of 20 years. So far, the only answer I’ve gotten is that just the very thought that gay people are out there in committed relationships ruins marriage for some people.

    I think it’s the fact that gay people might be happy that drives republicans crazy. The GOP should be called the anti-happiness party.

  3. bybelknap says

    When facts collide with blind bigotry the bigots will simply ignore the facts.
    Does the fact that comprehensive sex ed prevents pregnancy therefore reducing abortion rates persuade them to dump “abstinence only?”
    Do the facts supporting the ToE convince them that Genesis is horseshit?

  4. Gregory in Seattle says

    There you go again, confusing a perfectly good argumentum ad odium with facts and reason. The nerve of some people.

  5. katkinkate says

    There has been gay people in every society for thousands of years. In some societies it was even encouraged (Greeks). They have never been the cause of any civilisation collapsing ever.

  6. roggg says

    Equality Doesn’t Undermine Marriage a Bit

    Of course it doesn’t. That’s just an absurd argument put forth disingenuously and parroted by the unthinking hordes. Marriage equality is no more an attack on traditional marriage than Taco Bell is an attack on Indian food. It’s a different option equal in stature, but drawing from a different audience.

  7. cptdoom says

    So far, the only answer I’ve gotten is that just the very thought that gay people are out there in committed relationships ruins marriage for some people.

    But doesn’t it also follow that committed gay and lesbian couples would have that impact whether their relationships are legally recognized? That’s what I’ve never understood. If marriage is weakened if non-marital relationships exist and have social support, how does the legal recognition of those relationships make the situation worse? Those couples are already out there, and roughly half the country is fine with them, so the availability of those relationships is already a reality.

  8. Gregory in Seattle says

    @katkinkate #5 – Fact: the Roman Kingdom, Republic and early Empire tolerated homosexuality (to a limited extent, granted.) As the Empire became more and more Christianized, it became more and more intolerant. It was then that barbarian hordes came in from Asia, destroyed the western half of the empire, and reduced the eastern half to a small, corrupt echo of its former self.

    Cause and effect.

  9. Jeremy Shaffer says

    I guess some people just can’t be happy unless they have something others can’t.

  10. Artor says

    roggg @ #7
    Your comparison of Taco Bell to Indian food is offensive! Death to the infidel!!!

  11. says

    You have to look past their code words. The conservative religious types, ultimately, aren’t interested in preserving traditional marriage per se, but traditional patriarchy.

  12. The Lorax says

    I had a few red flags about the marriage rate (did the rate for opposite-sex couples go down, or remain the same?), but the divorce rate going down was absolute win. You can’t make that shit up.

  13. dingojack says

    Pfft – all your facty things and scientificky stuff can’t unfute –
    Well it does; ’cause I say so (& so does god*) so shut up! [/wingnut]
    Dingo
    —–
    * or at least that’s what the voices n my head says that god says (surprise!)

  14. says

    If wingnut predictions actually came true, The Netherlands with its euthanasia laws, legal prostitution, decriminalized marijuana, national mandatory health care, and yes, gay marriage, would be a deserted wasteland by now.

  15. Johnny Vector says

    Deen, I tried that tack on a wingnut friend-of-a-friend on Facebook. He promptly found a quote from the Amsterdam police suggesting tourists should be careful in certain sections of the city because there was some crime. Thus proving that yes, the Netherlands is in fact exactly the hell-hole you would expect from all their liberal policies. Unlike, say, Los Angeles or New York City, neither of which have any crime at all, apparently.

  16. cottonnero says

    I’d be curious to see the ages of gay couples getting married each year. I’d assume that the first year or so of legal gay marriage in each state would see a spike in older couples, then settling down to a younger age (which would probably still be older than the marriage age in red states).

  17. marcus says

    I got married a month ago. Until everyone can marry the person they love, and make a lifetime commitment to the person they want to spend their lives with, my marriage will not be complete. It will always harbor some regret, some incompleteness, a privilege that I am allowed at the expense of someone else. It’s not right.

  18. jaranath says

    This is pure speculation as I haven’t dug into marriage statistics…but wouldn’t most divorces not happen immediately, but rather later on? If so, I would expect to see a sort of “baby boomer” effect, where overall divorce rates dip at first since we just added a bunch of new couples to the pool, then rise above average later on as they start to fall off, and eventually the curve would settle out.

    Like I said, speculation, but I’m a bit skeptical gay marriage has had any real impact on overall “marriage health”, good OR bad.

  19. says

    @22 Probably not, because you have so many of the couples who initially got married already having been in committed relationship for many years and these couples are much less likely to divorce. Once you start having same-sex couples marrying at the same ages and after a more average time together we’ll probably see the divorce rate even with the rate for opposite-sex couples.

  20. Sastra says

    d cwilson #2 wrote:

    I’ve been waiting for years for someone to explain to me how same sex marriage would undermine my own straight marriage of 20 years. So far, the only answer I’ve gotten is that just the very thought that gay people are out there in committed relationships ruins marriage for some people.

    Do you think things that exist in this world just depend on themselves? No! There is a whole realm of supernatural Platonic forms which make things what they are by imbuing their essence onto physical reality. There’s a relationship. Healthy lower level physical manifestations of these higher essential forms strengthen the sacred character of the Perfect Ideation.

    But, by the same token, going against the ideal form sends destructive energy to the supernatural realm, damaging the essential character of that which sustains the things below. The normal process of imbuing essence from the supernatural onto the natural is therefore interrupted and eventually ALL earthly manifestations show a weakened character. The accidents available to our senses begin to effect the original substance, the vibratory rate changes, and this causes accidents below. If gay marriage is allowed, eventually heterosexual brides and grooms will start to stumble as they descend the church steps, leading to dismemberment, death, and even a possible drop in fertility rates.

    For older couples, it could be an increase in petty quarrels. Or something worse.

    It’s all perfectly simple. I only studied New Age physics, but seems to me they all work on the same basic principles.

  21. says

    In each of the five states, divorce rates following legalization have been lower on average than the years preceding it, even as the national divorce rate grew.

    Ah hah! So gay marriage does ruin marriage, by forcing states that don’t allow it to continue divorcing at the rates that were increasing anyway!
    Take that, gay homos!

    jaranath “Like I said, speculation, but I’m a bit skeptical gay marriage has had any real impact on overall “marriage health”, good OR bad.”
    Let me sweep away your speculating with some factulating: I was in the marriage store just the other day, and on one of the wedding cakes the cake bride was alone, crying, as the cake groom was climbing down the side of their cake and heading over to another.(*1)

    *1. And that cake groom was cake groom Gingrich.(*2) If marriage no longer means anything to cake groom Gingrich, think what that means for the rest of us!
    *2. And he was climbing over to meet cake groom Limbaugh, for a drug-fueled sex vacation in the wedding cake Dominican Republic! I know!

  22. jaranath says

    Sastra and modusoperandi: Thank you for some truly beautiful posts to lighten my otherwise crappy day.

    Noadi: Interesting point…hadn’t thought of the “basically already married” factor.

  23. Infophile says

    You’re attacking something of a straw man here, Ed. Those who argue that legalizing gay marriage will harm the “sanctity of marriage” don’t mean that other marriages will be placed in jeopardy. Rather, they mean that other marriages will become less valuable (for a certain metaphysical definition of “valuable”).

    Humans value things that are rare. The more exclusive an institution is, the more pride their is in taking part in it. Imagine you join the “Incredible People Club,” which only admits one member per year. You’d be pretty stoked, right? Well, imagine the next year, it admits a hundred people. Suddenly, although your membership is in no jeopardy, it seems a lot less valuable.

    Now, all of this value is purely in the heads of those who make this argument against gay marriage, and it doesn’t actually provide any reason that marriage should be limited: The government should not be in the position of elevating and privileging some people above others. I’m not saying this is a good argument, but it’s the argument they’re making, even if they don’t make it very clear.

    See also Natalie Reed’s post on this topic.

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