Divorce rate lower in (gay-marriage legal) Massachusetts

Bruce Wilson of the Huffington Post is reporting some interesting findings debunking the myth that same-sex marriage will lead to a breakdown in the traditional family structure (emphasis mine):

Provisional data from 2008 indicates that the Massachusetts divorce rate has dropped from 2.3 per thousand in 2007 down to about 2.0 per thousand for 2008. What does that mean? To get a sense of perspective consider that the last time the US national divorce rate was 2.0 per thousand (people) was 1940. You read that correctly. The Massachusetts divorce rate is now at about where the US divorce rate was the year before the United States entered World War Two.

Back in summer 2006, after more than a year of poring over accumulating data I reported what was, to my mind, a foregone conclusion; after two years of legal gay marriage, the Bay State still boasted the lowest divorce rate of any state in the nation. That was notable in light of the absurdly histrionic claims made by leaders on the Christian right that legal gay marriage in Massachusetts would be an “apocalypse” that would destroy the institution of marriage and lead to the destruction of Western Civilization or even the Earth itself.

I’ve always maintained that the argument same-sex marriage would lead to a breakdown in the traditional family is absolute crap, and I’m glad to see data is actually backing up my belief.


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15 thoughts on “Divorce rate lower in (gay-marriage legal) Massachusetts

  1. I think your logic here is a failure to understand the argument. I don’t think the argument that it would destroy the institution of marriage meant that everyone would run out and get divorced. Instead, they meant that you would ruin or dilute the sanctity of marriage by allowing more than one man/one woman marriage.

    I think the confusion here lies in the medling of a religious and social institution. By allowing gay marriage, why then would you oppose bigamy, incestual marriage, etc.? Take CA for example, they had a civil union system set up but they needed to claim the term “marriage,” which only incited a culture war.

    Again, I fail to follow your logic. Are you saying that if other states pass gay marriage laws that the divorce rate will go down? Or is this just a happy coincidence?

  2. I read a similar study a few years back and not only does the “liberal” northeastern part of the country have the lowest divorce rates but the bible belt has some of the highest. Higher levels of poverty and a less educated population seemed to be key factors in that analysis.

    forgetful: Mass is not the only NE example…look at Vermont and Maine divorce rates and compare them to the national rate or that of the bible belt states. i would hardly call that a coincidence, it seems to be more like a pattern. There has been no collapse of the “institution of marriage” in Mass, VT,or ME and in the same way we have not seen a push for legalizing bigamy, incestual marriage or any other of the red herrings that you can name.

  3. Cory, so is it your assertion that legalized gay marriage and lower divorce rates go hand in hand? One other explanation is that if your statistics are correct, more people in the bible belt get married at a young age (trying to follow their morality) and that only the truly commited are getting married in the northeast, while the rest just shack up (a practice that may be frowned on in other regions). That’s just one thought and makes a hell of a lot more sense that a dubious connection that gay marriage somehow lowers divorce rates.

    I see you completely ignored my point that those who are against gay marriage would claim legalizing it IS the collapse of the instituion, not a precursor to the collapse.

    As far as my “red herrings,” would you support bigamy or brother/sister marriage if there was a push for legalization? Remember 50 years ago, homosexuality seemed pretty reprehensible, maybe one of these practices will be deemed more acceptable in the future. After all, they should be able to do what they want. Or do you think that’s kind of a low bar to set for society?

    1. forgot, 50 years ago interracial marriage was illegal and considered reprehensible in most of the South….does that mean we shouldn’t allow interracial marriages today, since it was forbidden only 50 years ago?

    2. I must confess that I have mixed feelings about asserting that legalizing same-sex marriage or granting certain protections to same-sex couples somehow go hand in hand. Although it is kind of a nice thought, it seems to give us gay couples some awesome superhuman power.. *smirk* 😉

      Seriously, the whole point which we seem to agree with is that there has been no collapse on the religious institution of marriage.

      As for bigamy, brother/sister marriage, and every other slippery slope argument? It is rather disturbing to see them continuously being brought up in the context of a discussion about same-sex couples. These have little to nothing to do with sexual orientation.

      The root issue is that all couples, regardless of the two people’s orientations, deserve basic protections regardless of anyone’s religious belief. Granting rights to both set of couples doesn’t damage or diminish one or the other. Eradicating or prohibiting rights from specific groups is a completely different story. I just don’t understand why equality is so much to ask for..

      1. Seriously, did you think the argument was that there would be some sort of collapse of traditional marriage overnight? That husbands would get up in the middle of the night and leave their wives? That has nothing to do with it. I think the real argument was that over generations, the sanctity of traditional marriage would become clouded or lost.

        That aside, what is the secular reason for marriage in a society? It’s a matter of contract law to maintain an orderly society and a family order. An oath in church is sacred, but not legally binding. One of the problems of modern marriage is that it is far too easy to break the contract. Right or wrong Zach, interracial marriage in south was deemed disruptive at that time. Society has to ask if gay marriage is beneficial to orderly family relationships today. These are decisions society as a whole has to make.

        You see it as a civil rights issue. You say my examples of bigamy or incestual marriage are red herrings, but really, they are quite logical examples under the arguments for gay marriage… “if two people love each other, who is anyone to stand in the way of us being together and having the same rights as traditional couples.” Under such logic I would say you are correct. You can call it orientation, sexual practices, or whatever, but leonel, would you really deny someone who wanted 3 wives, to marry his sister, or his cat if that’s what he really wanted to make them happy?

        You ask if equality is too much to ask for — what exactly would that be? With many companies and goverments allowing for domestic partnerships with equal benefits and rights, isn’t all this about owning the term “marriage.” I think that will come with due time, but not by forcing society into it. But I can’t wait til it happens coast to coast because then America will have a much lower divroce rate! Right Zach?

        1. “what is the secular reason for marriage in a society?” –Stability, shared resources, minimal spread of disease, effective child rearing. From a utilitarian point of view, the institution of marriage encourages (but does not guarantee, of course) all of these things and brings a great benefit to society.

          For me, marriage is a committment to my husband sworn before family and friends. It’s as much about tradition as Sunday morning pancakes and and opening one gift on Christmas Eve. But it’s also about making a life with someone. For us getting married was not about God, religion, or church. So, why must marriage be a religious institution, and therefore exclusive of same-sex couples?

          The separate-but-equal philosophy is crap. RDPs are not given the same rights as married couples. I know–my own company does not honor, for example, benefits for opposite-sex domestic partners, ostensibly because these people *could* get married if they wanted to.

          I would like to see us head toward states *requiring* civil unions of anyone who wants to be viewed as a couple in the eyes of the government for tax, property and other purposes. Then people can do whatever they like in their churches or synagogues or temples to satisfy their own religious needs. Why not make church and state just a little bit more separated?

        2. “Right or wrong Zach, interracial marriage in south was deemed disruptive at that time.”

          forgot, it wasn’t deemed “disruptive;” it was deemed to be immoral because blacks were thought of as being subhuman.

        3. I disagree that this is about “owning the word marriage”. I believe this is about granting rights, privileges, and protections to any two unrelated people who enter into a long-term relationship. Why bring anything else into the discussion? Why use religion to determine who deserves rights from the government? Why use the name of a religious institution as the name for a civil/legal contstruct? These are questions I’d love to see answered.

          1. Aren’t you being kind of narrow-minded by only wishing to grant those rights, privileges, and protections to any two people? What’s wrong with 2, 3, 4, or 5 people who enter into a long-term relationship? And, provided they are sterile/do not reproduce, why must they be unrelated?

            “Why use the name of a religious institution as the name for a civil/legal construct?” Exactly! So what was wrong with CA having a civil form of domestic partnerships? Why did proponents need to go further and insist on calling it the religious institution name of marriage?

  4. Saying that a lower divorce rate is an example that gay marriage is not destroying traditional marriage does not meet a causality/effect argument.

    There have always been committed relationships without marriage, as well as marriages without committment. I think that it is too early to tell the long term effects of gay marriage on society, let alone on traditional marriage.

    And besides, I was told in the 1960’s the no-fault divorces would destroy marriage; gay unions cannot own that reputation. And interracial marriages can’t claim that accomplishment either.

    The only thing that destroys marriages are the people in them. Sometimes for good reasons and sometimes not.

    1. I wonder what percentage of marriages in MA are gay marriages? My gut feeling tells me it is a pretty low number, which means that statistically it would have relatively little impact on the statewide divorce rate.

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