Christian Right Wrong On Gay Marriage in Massachusetts:
Mass Likely To Retain Lowest Divorce Rate Spot In 2005,
States Hostile to Gay Marriage Lag

by Bruce WIlson, Talk To Action


“….Over two years have passed now since same sex marriage was legalized in Massachusetts, and data from all of 2004 and the first 11 months of 2005 are now available. Emergent trends in Massachusetts amount to a stark indictment of those dire claims about sex marriage cited earlier in this article.

Divorce rates are commonly used as a key measure of marital and family health. US states, including Massachusetts, submit monthly summaries of vital statistics on births, deaths, marriages, and divorces to the US Center For Disease Control’s National Center For Health Statistics ( NCHS ). The NCHS then compiles publicly available monthly and yearly reports of this data. The following statistics are based on that NCHS material.

Divorce rates in the US have been declining steadily since the the early 1980’s. Massachusetts has shared in the trend and traditionally has had a divorce rate considerably lower than the national average. In fact. for several years now the Commonwealth has had the lowest divorce rate of any state in the union.

In 2004 the Massachusetts divorce rate, at 2.2 per 1,000 residents per year, was considerably lower than the US national average rate for that year, 3.8 per 1,000. Indeed, it was lower than the national average rate for 1950 (2.6 per 1,000) and even approached the national rate of 1940 (2 per 1,000).

In 2003, total divorces in Massachusetts declined 2.1% relative to 2002.
But in the first two years of legal same sex marriage in the Bay State, Massachusetts showed a more rapid decline and will very likely hold on to its title as the US state with the lowest divorce rate in the nation. The field is hotly contested — divorce rates have fallen dramatically in the last few decades.

The institution of marriage in Massachusetts, as measured by the rate of divorce, has not been healthier in at least half a century regardless of dire predictions of Christian Right leaders and Catholic Bishops. But the states that have taken aggressive action against same sex marriage, have not done nearly as well during the two year period of legal same sex marriage in Massachusetts.

The preliminary data from 2004 and the first 11 months of 2005 — from the 17 US states which have provided data on divorce for 2004 and 2005 and whose voters also passed state constitutional amendents prohibiting same sex marriage — presents a striking picture : the group of US states arguably most hostile to divorce, those which have passed both state laws and also state constitutional amendments prohibiting same sex marriage, lag dramatically in terms of divorce rate improvement when compared to same sex marriage friendly states.

Among those US states that have no laws on the books specifically prohibiting same sex marriage or civil unions — WY, NM, NY, MA, RI, CT, NJ, MD, VT — the average divorce rate drop ( unadjusted for population changes ) was -8.74%. No states in this group had divorce rate increases in 2004 and 2005.

Among those US states that are most opposed to same sex marriage which have also provided divorce data for the time period — ( alaska ? ) AR, KS, KY, MI, MS, MO, NE, NV, ND, OH, OK, OR, UT, TX — the average divorce rate ( unadjusted for population changes ) for 2004 and the first 11 months of 2005 increased 1.75%. This group contains 4 of the 5 states with the highest divorce rate increases in the US during 2004 and the first 11 months of 2005.

( states in the second group may have on average a higher population growth rate but that will not change the almost 10.5% gap between the two groups more than a few percentage points )

Meanwhile, the one state in the United States Of America that has legal same sex marriage, Massachusetts, will be among the top ten states – or better – with the largest drop in divorce rates in America during 2004 and 2005.

Wilson provides divorce statistics for every state except Indiana, and for years going back to 1910, to substantiate his case.

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