Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Declining Rates Of Marriage Among Same-Sex Couples

Today I was reading this post over at The Corner on NRO. In that post the author linked to a few articles about the declining rates of marriage among same-sex couples where it is legal for them to marry. The partisan group Institute for Marriage and Public Policy came up with the numbers that fuel these findings, so there are some weaknesses and biases to the study, but the figures they come up with are quite startling and worth considering. Here is a link to the actual report. It's 12 pages, but really you can get a good feel the findings just by reading the introduction and conclusion, which don't amount to much more than two pages (which is pretty much true of any academic article).

What they essentially find is that once marriage becomes legally available to same-sex couples, demand for it from the LGBT community drops off soon thereafter. There is a spike in the number of marriages once it is legalized, but then it quickly declines. Keep in mind, however, that their findings are only estimates. In order to come up with a percentage of couples who are married, you need a total number of gay-lesbian people, which is problematic.

A brief aside, that in itself should be an indicator of the problem with considering homosexuality something other than a behavioral issue. When it comes to ethnicity, it's easy to operationalize that variable and come up with categories. Same thing when it comes to gender, except in very rare cases. Although the tendencies might be innate or even biological, it's still a behavioral issue, albeit a very difficult one to reconcile. Back to the lecture at hand...

The way they figure out the numbers of the percentage of same-sex individuals married of the total population is by taking the number of marriage ceremonies performed (valid and reliable numbers) and divide that by an estimate of the number homosexual individuals (best guess). In the US, national surveys indicate that 2-2.5% of men and 1-1.4% of women identify themselves as gay or lesbian. Same-sex advocates decry that number as being an underrepresentation of the true number of gay people out there. For the purposes of this study, the researchers bumped that percentage to 5% of the total US population.

Because Massachusetts was the first state to legalize same-sex marriage, they use that as the basis for US estimates. In the year and a half period from May 2004 when it was legalized to December of 2005, just over 7,000 marriage ceremonies were performed, or about 5.9% of the total homosexual population, a very small percentage. What's interesting is that that particular number is the among the highest in the world. In other areas where it's been legalized for more time, not only has a smaller percentage been married, but those numbers continue to decline. While not enough data is available for Massachusetts to see how that has changed over time, that kind of information is available for other countries, particularly European ones.

In this New York Times article from February of 2005, Clifford Krauss notes that marriage rates are on a sharp decline among Canadian gay and lesbian couples. According to the IMAPP report, the same is also true in Belgium and the Netherlands.

So why is any of this important? From what you hear in the media, it would be easy to think that the gay community is desperate for the chance to wed and become betrothed to their partners, but the reality is that marriage is not the ideal option for them, as indicated by their reluctance to make those marriage vows to one another. Whether it comes from a general disinterest from the gay culture in the institution of marriage itself, or it is a broader indicator of the inability or desire to remain monogamous to one another, gay and lesbians couples do not covet the "right" to be married. What they really desire is the blessing of society at large to accept their choice in lifestyle. And maybe that in itself is not a real problem, but does become one because it comes at the expense of devaluing a sacred institution that provides stability and a foundation for the rest of society.


Karen said...

Very interesting.

Did you see Ben & Jerry's renamed Chubby Hubby to Hubby Hubby to promote gay marriage? Almost makes me want to stop buying it.


Dave said...

See... I would think that Chubby Hubby would remain quite appropriate for promotion of gay marriage.

Quite appropriate.