As same sex marriages begin to become normal throughout the United States and in other regions of the world, there is a certain interest in how stable those marriages will be. It isn’t to judge whether or not they are better or worse than a “traditional” marriage. It is simply to see if all of that work to gain happiness has actually achieved happiness.
States that have allowed same sex unions actually have lower divorce rates in every population demographic than states that have banned the practice.
Gay Marriage Divorce Rate
Take Massachusetts as an example. This state was the first to allow same sex marriages and it is also the state that has the lowest overall divorce rate. It isn’t a small difference in the divorce rates either. Compared to states that have banned same sex marriage, states that allow the practice have a 20% lower divorce rate.
- In any given year, about 1% of the total number of registered same sex civil unions or legal marriages will wind up in divorce.
- The same sex marriage divorce rate is about 50% lower on any given year when directly compared to the heterosexual divorce rate.
- About two thirds of same sex marriages involve two women.
- There are currently about 150,000 registered same sex unions in the United States right now.
- Because of the low number of unions that are legally created or dissolved, most countries don’t actually calculate divorce data.
Because same sex marriages are relatively new, there just isn’t any long term data that can show how stable these relationships tend to be. One reason why the divorce rates are 50% less than traditional couples may be because those who are getting married tend to already be in long term relationships that just weren’t legally recognized before. What data does exist shows that same sex couples are just as likely to end in divorce as their heterosexual counterparts. With 42.8% of marriages ending in divorce in 2012 and 2% of all marriages that exist ending, what matters more is the creation of a stable marriage and relationship instead of looking at the sexual orientation of the relationship.
What About International Data?
- In Sweden, where unions became legal in 1995 and marriages in 2009, marriage and fertility rates have trended upwards and the divorce rate is down.
- A 2004 study in Sweden showed that male same sex couples were 50% more likely to divorce than heterosexual couples.
- Children who live in same sex marriages have the same adjustment difficulties as children from male/female relationships.
- By the age of 17, 55% of female same sex parents had separated, compared to 36% of heterosexual parents.
- Same sex couples, even in divorce, are more likely to share custody of their children than heterosexual couples.
- There is no discernible difference in the educational process of children in same sex marriages when compared to children from heterosexual marriages.
- In the last year, some countries only had 1 divorce filing for same sex marriages. Others had fewer than 10 filings in total.
The long term data internationally shows that there could be the possibility of more instability in same sex marriages, but most of this data is taken from legal civil unions and not legal marriages. The data shows that there is a 10 times greater chance for a civil union to dissolve than a marriage, so there is a certain bias in the statistics that are being used. The bottom line with same sex divorce is this, no matter where it happens to be: it’s going to happen because relationships break up. We just don’t know how often it is going to happen because the data samples are small and sometimes not even calculated. Until we have that data, all that the statistics really show is an educated guess about what the divorce rates are going to end up being.
Why Isn’t There Reliable Divorce Data?
- In many states and countries where same sex marriages have been allowed, divorce laws have not kept up at the same pace.
- It is not uncommon for a same sex couple to fill out court forms that refer to them as “husband” and “wife.”
- Some states do not allow for the divorce of a same sex couple because there are no actual divorce laws on the books that permit the practice.
- Over 60% of same sex couples who get married don’t actually reside in the state where the marriage ceremony takes place.
- There is a greater chance [11%] of a same sex couple ending a legal union than there is [1%] of ending their marriage in any given year.
- If a same sex couple lives in a state that doesn’t recognize the marriage in the first place, then the divorce won’t be recognized and no alimony will be awarded.
Having marriage equality is a good thing, but with that there must also be divorce equality. If a heterosexual couple does not need to establish residency in the state where they got married in order to have a divorce, then the same should be true for a same sex couple as well, but that just isn’t the case. Critics can point to the fact that some divorce filings have occurred just a few months after the marriage ceremony takes place, but that isn’t any different than heterosexual couples. Some heterosexual marriages have been known to last only 72 hours and can’t be annulled. Until we have more data, it is not right to look at the limited data that exists in civil union dissolution and say that same sex marriages divorce at higher rates. 85% of cohabiting heterosexual relationships also dissolve. It’s like comparing apples to horses.