Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Bigots’ fears about gay marriage apocalypse debunked (yet again)

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Two brides kissing

Slate takes a look at the facts surrounding the LGBT marriage equality debate and points out the obvious: U.S. states that have legalized same-sex marriage aren’t crumbling into oblivion, nor are they host to any more drug-fueled gay orgies than before (as far as we know, anyway). The article starts with overall marriage rates:

Start with Massachusetts, which endorsed gay marriage in May 2004. That year, the state saw a 16 percent increase in marriage. The reason is, obviously, that gay couples who had been waiting for years to get married were finally able to tie the knot. In the years that followed, the marriage rate normalized but remained higher than it was in the years preceding the legalization. So all in all, there’s no reason to worry that gay marriage is destroying marriage in Massachusetts.

The other four states that have legalized gay marriage—New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire—have done it more recently, somewhere between 2008 and 2011. But from the little data we have, it looks as if the pattern will be more or less the same—a temporary jump in marriage followed by a return to virtually the same marriage rates as before gay marriage became legal. Washington, D.C., which started accepting same-sex marriages in March 2010, saw a huge 61.7 percent increase in marriage that year, though it’s too soon to see where it will settle. Again, no signs of the coming apocalypse.

Another shocker: Straight couples in those same states aren’t seeing their heteronormative unions magically dissolved, either:

Another measure of the health of marriage is a state’s divorce rate. Have those changed since gay marriage was introduced? Not really. In each of the five states, divorce rates following legalization have been lower on average than the years preceding it, even as the national divorce rate grew. In 2010, four of the five states had a divorce rate that was lower than both the national divorce rate and the divorce rate of the average state.

Of course, no amount of real evidence will ever dissuade anyone of the idea that allowing gays and lesbians to marry won’t somehow contaminate or weaken heterosexual unions (much less society as a whole) if they’re stupid or delusional enough to believe that in the first place. But there’s always hope for more reasonable individuals and fence-sitters to see reality for what it is and come down on the rational side of the issue.

(via Dispatches from the Culture Wars)