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NorthCarolina Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Oct-15-08 12:55 PM
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Same-Sex Marriage: Three Years On
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Same-Sex Marriage: Three Years On

Filed by: Mercedes Allen
October 14, 2008
from The Bilerico Project

Reposted from:

If people in California, Arizona, Florida, and anywhere else that same-sex marriage is being debated finds this article useful, they are welcome to distribute it. I'm writing this because a lot of people in America are forgetting that there is already an over 3-year long test case slightly north of them, in a nation with a culture that closely mirrors American culture at times, and which can help sort the facts from the fearmongering: Canada.

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since July 19th, 2005, following a chain of events that began in a Court of Appeal in Ontario in 2003. It was the third country in the world to legalize it, after the Netherlands (2000) and Belgium (2003), and happened in a few Provinces before being recognized nationwide. In the end, the issue still came to a vote in the House of Commons (instead of, as many in the religious right will tell you, legislating done by judges) and it passed with 158 MPs for it (versus 133 against). When the Conservatives came to power, they attempted to reopen the debate, and this motion was defeated by a vote of 175 to 123 on December 7th, 2006. By that time, people were used to over a full year of same-sex marriage existing, and typically called it a "non-issue." And somehow, the country failed to implode.

Where hard statistics are available (they're amazingly hard to find), I present them below; at times, common sense also needs to be remembered.

Claim: "Same-sex marriage will weaken the institution of marriage."

Okay, that's a pretty broad statement. First we need to define things. If we're referring to statistical rates of marriages, they have continued to climb along with the population. If we're talking about divorces, there has been no quantifiable change.

In Canada, divorces hovered at just under 38% from 2000 to 2002, the year before the Provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, along with the Yukon territory, legalized same-sex marriage in their jurisdiction. In 2004 (just before the legalization across the country) it rose to 41.3%. Since then, it has dropped again, slightly. For 2007, I have an unconfirmed number of 37%.

Divorces among same-sex couples specifically has been significantly small thus far -- marriage was first available to some Provinces in June of 2003, but two years later only two same-sex divorces were recorded, compared to thousands of marriages having taken place in that same time frame. Perhaps same-sex marriages are hard-won enough and serious enough decisions that people do not enter into them as frivolously as opposite-sex couples.


"Among many religious and social liberals, giving same-sex couples the same marriage rights (and rites) as opposite-sex couples has already had one positive effect on marriage in Canada: It has brought many same-sex couples who are enthusiastic supporters of marriage into the institution. Marriage in North America has been suffering lately, as increasing numbers of couples decide to simply live together rather than marry. Also, large numbers of married couples are separating and/or divorcing."

So while opposite-sex couples have not been noticeably impacted by same-sex marriage legislation, the institution of marriage has achieved a kind of renaissance in Canada -- albeit one that homophobes simply don't want to acknowledge. In comparison, Barna Research Group discovered in 1999 that divorce rates among faith populations were considerably higher for conservative Christians, and so far no one has been able to attribute that to the advent of same-sex marriage.

I don't have any comparative rates of infidelity between heterosexual and gay couples (reliable studies, i.e. with no likely bias either way, appear not to exist at this point in time).

Also keep in mind that marriage was not always the institution that we understand it to be today. Prior to the Roman Catholic Church's assertion of authority over legal partnerships at the Council of Trent (1545-1563), it was far less formal, and for hundreds of years following that event, it was still largely reserved for the wealthy, often used to strategically unite families for monetary and political gain. For commoners, the "common law" had to suffice. The effect of same sex marriage pales compared to the effect of Catholicization and economic changes over the centuries -- not to mention the advent of divorce itself. Similar claims of "destroying marriage" had been made about interracial marriages prior to 1958, and negative effects from that have also not materialized (unless you're a white supremacist who believes in racial purity).

Claim: "Same-sex marriage will pave the way for polygamists, incest and all sorts of other immoral couplings."

In fact, Canada does have an issue with polygamy, centering around a Mormon community in Bountiful, B.C. This year, authorities were reluctant to move on claims of abuses in that community, because they felt it likely that they would lose a court challenge... not because of same-sex marriage, but because of the Mormons' freedom of religion.

And incest, which is illegal in the eyes of the Criminal Code of Canada, certainly has not had any sort of surge in popularity or acceptance since the legalization of SSM.

Claim: "Two mommies or two daddies cannot adequately parent."

Although it has been suppressed by the current Conservative government in Canada, an extensive report drawn up for the Department of Justice took a thorough look at families in which children are raised by same-sex parents. The report found:

"The strongest conclusion that can be drawn from the empirical literature is that the vast majority of studies show that children living with two mothers and children living with a mother and father have the same levels of social competence. A few studies suggest that children with two lesbian mothers may have marginally better social competence than children in traditional nuclear families...."

The conservative right often advances this belief along with certain assumptions about male and female roles in parenting. It is believed by many of these groups that men were meant to lead, make decisions and support families financially, while women were meant solely to parent (i.e. careers for women negatively impact the family) and to submit to their husbands. Dysfunction can be found among as many conservative and religious households as any other households, while considerable functionality can be found among families where gay males or lesbian couples are parenting. It helps when at least one parent is able to focus on the child's upbringing and well-being, and foster communication. The conservative stance on this point reveals a particular mysogyny at work.

Liberal studies sometimes find that children of same-sex couples tend to develop less bigoted attitudes; even if dismissed as biased studies, they still tend to pass muster as anectodal evidence.

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