Where is the Gay Marriage Disaster?

May 16, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

It's been ten years since same-sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts. So, precisely what are the results of this deregulation? Anti-gay activists predicted disaster for "the family," but were always quite vague about how.

Of course, they may claim that 10 years is not enough time to gage the extent of the disaster, but surely trends should have already emerged. Exactly how much time is necessary? I have problems when special interest groups predict long-term disasters of any kind. They are usually wrong, outcomes are affected by too many variables. This is the bane of central planning.

Whether some like it or not, the "overpopulation" disaster in vogue in the 1960s just didn't happen. The predicted famines, with the hundreds of millions of deaths, didn't take place. In fact, the general trend has been the world becoming more food-secure with population growths rates continuing to fall. Some right-wing "financial experts" have been predicting utter economic collapse and hyper-inflation for decades, and still haven't been right. The "Y2K" disaster predicted by loons such as Gary North just didn't happen.

Of course, the further out you project your disaster, the more likely it is you may eventually be right. The sun will swallow the earth someday, just not in a time frame that could possibly concern us. Disasters in vogue politically, however tend to be more short term, ranging from the next few decades to the next hundred or so years. I get highly suspicious of those. They project long enough in advance so to not suffer the humiliation of being spectacularly wrong, but are still short term enough to scare people to further a political agenda.

So it is with the vague, general "family" disaster same-sex marriage is supposed to create.

In Massachusetts we don't see collapse of birth rates. The trend line has been downward, but that has been true of the entire country for almost 60 years. That trend will increase because we have an aging population. All this unrelated to marriage deregulation. There is a lot of good news in that trend line, however.

Teen birth rates have been falling. Actually, both teen pregnancy and single motherhood, which conservatives think are bad things, have been falling. They remain highest in states utterly opposed to same-sex marriage and lowest in states that deregulated spousal choice. In Massachusetts, teen birth rates are at the lowest levels ever recorded there; they have the second lowest teen-pregnancy rate in the nation. Out of the ten states with the lowest teen pregnancy rates, nine of them recognize same-sex marriage. Only one of the ten with the highest does--New Mexico, and that is a recent addition. Arkansas is also one of the worst states for teen-pregnancy and same-sex marriage was briefly allowed, but is back on hold, so it remains unsettled.

Another no-no on the Right is single motherhood, so they should be praising Massachusetts, not damning it. There, the percentage of unmarried mothers is 34.6% compared to the national average of 40.8%.

Men and women in Massachusetts do wait a few years longer to marry than Americans in general, but as Pew Research notes, a higher median age at marriage correlates with "high shares of college-educated adults.... Indicating that highly educated individuals marry later in life." It also means they divorce less. In less-educated states, which tend to be ones most opposed to spousal deregulation, "adults are more likely than average to marry three or more times."

Whereas 5% of all U.S. adults have been married three or more times, the percentage in Massachusetts is just 2%. When it comes to divorce in general, the latest Statistical Abstract from the Census Bureau, for 2009, shows Massachusetts having the lowest divorce rate in the country.

What has been true in Massachusetts has been true nationally. Marriages in states that regulate spousal selection according to gender are less stable. Statistician Nate Silver looked at the data and said: "Those states which have tended to take more liberal policies toward gay marriage have tended also to have larger declines in their divorce rates."

His conclusion was, "I would be surprised if there were any statistical evidence that interpreting the right of marriage to apply to same-sex couples would be injurious to heterosexual couples in any material way." No same-sex marriage is not the reason these states have lower divorce rates, or lower teen pregnancy rates. Same-sex couples marrying have no positive impact on the state of marriage in general, neither do they have a detrimental one. That undermines the entire conservative case against equality.


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