Allowing gay marriage might reduce divorce rates

Traditional marriage ‘defenders’ are in a tizzy after a federal judge overturned Proposition 8. Newt Gingrich issued a statement explaining how this ‘notorious’ ruling  shows ‘disrespect’ for the Constitution and the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. He should know about marriage sanctity;  Newt’s been married no less than three times, with a few extramarital affairs to boot.

Divorce is a hot topic for conservatives worried about preserving the institution of marriage, so there is a silver lining in Proposition 8 for them: allowing gay marriage appears to reduce the divorce rate. Here’s a case study from the country with the longest history of allowing same-sex marriage: The Netherlands.

Methods: divorce rates for The Netherlands were taken from the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS) website; the official Dutch census/demography agency. Divorce rates per 1,000 people were downloaded from a 16 year period spanning 1992 through 2008.

Results: as can be seen in the above plot, the legalization of gay marriage in the Netherlands in 2001 appears to have led to a reduction in divorce rates. A comparison of mean divorce rates from the periods 1992 through 2000 and 2001 through 2008 shows significantly lower divorce rates after gay marriage was introduced.

The Duck Says: if conservative folks can somehow get past the ‘one-man-one-woman’ hurdle, and find it in their hearts to allow loving couples of any sexual orientation to marry, then perhaps the institution of marriage in California (and the rest of the US) will be strengthened… despite Newt’s best efforts to sully it through affairs and multiple divorces.

*Duck disclaimer: this informal study has certainly not managed to examine all the factors involved in Dutch divorce rates, and there is no reason to assume that correlation equals causation in this case. See more about potential problems here. Also, the average marriage in The Netherlands lasts about 14 years, so perhaps once the first gay marriages from 2001 start reaching the 14 year mark, divorce rates will shoot back up to ‘one-woman-one-man’ rates. Time will tell.

© 2010 Science Duck.

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