Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Does Equality Threaten The Sanctity of Marriage?

Image Source: CBS News, 7 November 2012
Opponents of marriage equality often cite the need to protect the sanctity of marriage as reason for denying gay couples their right to equal protection under the law, yet there is no credible evidence that gay marriage has any influence on heterosexual marriage, let alone poses any real threat.  If it is true that marriage is a covenant between two people and God, then it would follow that the greatest threat to the sanctity of marriage would be anything resulting in a breaking of that covenant.  With divorce rates hovering around 50%, it would seem the greatest threat to marriage is divorce itself, so it's worth considering its leading causes. In truth, it's a complex issue and there are many causes of divorce for heterosexual couples, but gay marriage is not one of them.

A longitudinal study of marital problems in heterosexual couples cited infidelity, money problems, drug use, jealousy, moodiness and irritating habits as some of the major factors leading to divorce.[1]  Another study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family cited seven dimensions of divorce with eighteen possible contributing causes; not one of them gay marriage.[2]  A study published this year in the Journal of Family Issues reported extramarital sex as a strong predictor of divorce with those who have committed extramarital affairs being far more likely to be divorced.[3]  What's more, a systematic review of the literature conducted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University found that differences in gender were a major predictor of divorce; ironic considering differences in gender would not likely pose much of a threat to same-sex marriage.[4]

Perhaps most interesting of all, a recent study conducted by researchers at UCLA found that annual divorce rates among same-sex couples were half that of heterosexual couples, meaning heterosexual couples are twice as likely to divorce than same-sex couples.[5]  It would appear the greatest threat to the sanctity of heterosexual marriage is heterosexuals themselves.  In fact, due to lower divorce rates reported among same-sex couples, there is a case to be made that increasing the number of same-sex marriages may actually bring down the overall divorce rate and thereby serve as a protective factor as it relates to the sanctity of marriage.

  1. Amato PR, Rogers SJ. A Longitudinal Study of Marital Problems and Subsequent Divorce. Journal of Marriage and Family, 1997. 59 (3): 612-624.
  2. Cleek MG, Pearson TA. Perceived Causes of Divorce: An Analysis of Interrelationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, 1985. 47 (1): 179-183.
  3. Allen ES, Atkins DC. The Association of Divorce and Extramarital Sex in a Representative US Sample. Journal of Family Issues, 2012. Retrieved 28 November 2012: http://jfi.sagepub.com/content/33/11/1477.full.pdf+html
  4. Amato PR, Previti D. People's Reasons for Divorcing: Gender, Social Class, the Life Course, and Adjustment. Journal of Family Issues, 2003. 24 (5): 602-626.
  5. Badgett MV, Herman JL. (2011) Patterns of Relationship Recognition by Same-Sex Couples in the United States.  Retrieved 28 November 2012: http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/Badgett-Herman-Marriage-Dissolution-Nov-2011.pdf 

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