C4M – 10 Reasons – Number 1

This is the start of a blog series looking at the “Ten Reasons” booklet put out by the Campaign for Marriage. I will copy below the reason and then a short commentary. Please do comment below but please stay on the topic of the “reason” that is being discussed. I may delete comments that stray off-topic.

Myth 1
It will promote marriage

Evidence shows that redefining marriage actually undermines support for marriage in wider society. Neither has it delivered the promised stability for same-sex couples. In Spain, after gay marriage was introduced, marriage rates across the whole population plummeted. In the Netherlands too there has been a significant fall in the marriage rate since marriage was redefined. Same-sex marriage does not promote marriage.

I contacted the Campaign for Marriage to ask them for the underlying data to support this contention. I received no reply. I think this is very poor. If you are releasing claims like this you should offer the evidence for them with the claim.

That said, let us assume that the figures are correct (I will examine them when I receive them). If that is the case, does this not demonstrate that  the claim that gender-neutral marriage will help marriage in general is palpably false?

Peter’s Verdict

It’s been an interesting discussion. There is actually very little evidence that introducing gay marriage helps foster marriage amongst heterosexuals. At the same time, the claim that marriage rates plummeted in Spain after gay marriage was introduced rather misses the point that it was already falling beforehand AND the fall subsequent to gay marriage wasn’t any different.

Final Outcome – No-Score Draw

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39 Comments on “C4M – 10 Reasons – Number 1

  1. Hasn’t marriage been falling in many european countries anyway meaning that, to be fair, one would have to establish a statistically notable decrease in marriage and then demonstrate that this can fairly be blamed on allowing gay marriage? I read that 4500 gay couples got married in Spain in the first year of the new law, a figure that, without the law change, would surely otherwise be a big fat zero ;)

  2. Interestingly enough the Policy Exchange analysis of the extant evidence in existing jurisdictions that allow gender neutral marriage came to exactly the opposite conclusion after studying a basket of statistics from, I think 14 different countries. I hope when you get a reply from C4M they have a similarly broad spectrum of comparators. Thing is, all there is to examine is a very short time. Evidence of, for example, divorce rates among gay people who used to get married heterosexually and now get married to same sex partners will be many years coming, if ever, I would think.

    • I’ve already seen one report from the Netherlands that claims a certain rate of decline since the Millennium when gay marriage was introduced. Problem is, there was the same rate of decline prior to the millennium, so gay marriage has made no impact on the overall trend.

      • You could argue, though, that gay marriage is being introduced in countries in which support for marriage as an institution is declining. So it’s not exactly that gay people start to get married and people go ‘ooh, this isn’t for me anymore!’ (which isn’t very likely, when you think about it), but more the other way around – that when heterosexuals stop believing in marriage, they can’t see any reason why gay people shouldn’t get married. That would fit with the UK situation where, despite what Cameron says about supporting gay marriage because he’s a conservative, many people tend to support the change because they think the whole institution belongs in the dark ages. There are, of course, exceptions, like Simon Callow who seems to have some real belief in some version of marriage.

        • Yes, I think that’s right. There are plenty of people who value marriage, and also support Same Sex Marriage for the same reasons, but many more who don’t think much of the institution of marriage at all, and whose only interest is in equality.

          • Yes Sean, I’m afraid that is so. Can people who have several marriages and divorces be said to value it? You might say yes because they keep trying but the institution is trivialised by multiple show-piece weddings. Allowing remarriage of divorcees in Church can’t have contributed anything to upholding the dignity of marriage as an institution for life. It is not reasonable to blame those who support equal marriage for what the Church has brought on itself. PLaying about with who you allow to have a second wedding and who you don’t as Rowan Williams did Prince Charles is even worse.

  3. It’s a real pity they haven’t supplied the statistics. However, even if they had, the problem is that there just hasn’t been enough time. We won’t be able to see the impact of this change for at least another generation. There’s clearly going to be a significant number of gay marriages in the first year as there will be couples who have been waiting for a change in the law. Any change in numbers of heterosexual marriages could be from any number of causes.

  4. I agree with what Fiddlesticks says. If the Government (for many years) considered marriage to be important it would have policies that supported it. It’s because marriage is seen as being a purely personal lifestyle choice of no greater value than alternatives that the Government sees it as a means to advance the equal rights agenda. While this is good news for supporters of SSM (particularly those who see marriage as important), it is not good in that I think it in some way further entrenches the ‘nice if you like that sort of thing’ value that our society places on marriage.

  5. It’s very hard to see how it could promote marriage (quite apart from whether it undermines it). If the nature of marriage has been changed from a relationship focused on childrearing to a relationship (say) centred on the romantic commitment of a couple to each other, it certainly hasn’t promoted the first (again putting aside whether it actually undermines it). (And as to whether marriage has been previously focused on childrearing, it might short circuit at least some of the normal objections here to point out that at the least that’s been the clear Catholic understanding of marriage in natural law. So whatever anyone else can say, Catholics at least can’t claim that, on their understanding, marriage is promoted by same sex marriage.)

  6. Is the measure of promotion of marriage a numerical improvement? What if, for moment, we just consider the values of marriage: permanence, commitment and stable kinship. The Policy Exchange issued the paper, ‘What’s in a name?’ cited by Alan Wilson.

    The paper states with supportive quotes from gay charity spokepersons: ‘Although there are many examples of successful, monogamous relationships in gay life, many parts of the gay scene are still dominated by heavy drinking, drug abuse and short-term relationships – both of which can be detrimental to long-term physical and mental health.’

    It goes on to propose that marriage could be a ‘commitment device’ for gay relationships: ‘Marriage encourages commitment and discourages promiscuity, so a group which is unable to marry is likely to be more promiscuous, lacking the social norms towards commitment that marriage creates. Marriage as a “commitment device” could be beneficial to gay people –encouraging commitment, long-term relationships and lower levels of risk taking.’

    Yet, if this were so, the introduction of Civil Partnerships would have had a significant effect already:
    1. Since the Gay Men’s Sex Survey 2008, EMIS 2010 didn’t show a marked decrease in high-risk sexual behaviour among gays. In the 2008 survey, the percentage of gay men surveyed having more than one anal sex partner in 12 months was 60.6%. In EMIS 2010, the percentage of men having sex with men (MSM) aged 15 – 49 who have had anal or vaginal sex with more than one partner in the last twelve months was still around 60 percent. You’d have to create a weighted average of the regional data to get an accurate figure. The point is that if civil partnership legislation has not engendered greater commitment, why should access to marriage do so?

    2. After the initial surge in Civil Partnerships registrations, the take-up tapered off. Clearly, the ‘commitment device’ is not working. The estimated stock of civil partners was around 80,000 in 2010 (source: Civil Partnerships 5 Years On) representing 40,000 civil partnerships. Although, after 5 years, the percentage of dissolutions is lower than for marriage, the paper states that it’s just too early to infer that civil partnerships are more stable than heterosexual marriage.

    So, I don’t see how such a small proportion of a community with a disproportionately higher level of concomitant promiscuity will benefit from marriage as a ‘commitment device’, nor significantly improve the general marriage rate.

    How then will the same-sex marriage proposals promote marriage?

    • This is a very good point. There is an excellent academic paper from the Netherlands that shows that in that country, after a decade of marriage equality and probably one of the most liberal and tolerant societies on the Continent, rates of mental health issues amongst the gay population were still as high as ever. Liberal attitudes and marriage equality did absolutely nothing there to affect underlying psychological and behavioural issues, so why are we proposing that gay marriage will increase monogamy and relational stability amongst self-identified homosexuals when the evidence is to the contrary?

    • I think that piece explains very well how gay marriage fits into a general societal trend of devaluing marriage as a social institution geared towards procreation and child raising, but does little to support the contention that the introduction of gay marriage has reduced heterosexual marriage rates any further then the trends they were currently on. This I think is the key point here.

      • The myth as stated is “will promote marriage”. Leaving aside for a moment whether anyone believes that exactly as stated, surely in order for it to be true, we would need to see some sort of upward trend, or reduction of the downward trend, in the number of people getting married? If it simply continues on the same course, whether upwards, downward, or flat, surely “will _promote_ marriage” is indeed disproved?

      • Yes, I think trying to pin declining marriage on gay couples is quite unfair (if not actually offensive). It’s more like heterosexuals have done a pretty good job at wrecking marriage themselves and so gay couples who’ve been together for years have come along and said ‘why not let us have a go? we could do a better job!’ You can see where they’re coming from. The problem I have is not with committe gay couples (who I think have had enough grief), but the hetersoexuals who don’t themselves believe in marriage trying to convince those of us who still do that it will somehow strengthen the institution, and calling us biggots when we’re not so convinced.

  7. Incidentally, when I read this article, your blogging system tells me I might also like Rob Bell’s new movie. Not sure how it made that determination, or whether giving movie recommendations is really appropriate for blogging software…

  8. A further thought on the word ‘promote’. It contains a number of possible interpretations:
    1) ‘rational promotion’: you can promote something by advocating it or providing reasons or a coherent case for it. It then becomes a further question as to whether that more coherent case in fact alters (eg) social trends. (So SSM might be part of making existing marriage intellectually coherent, but might not have any effect on marriage rates.)

    2) ‘factual promotion’: you can promote something by in fact aiding it. (So even if there were no coherent, rational case for SSM, the very fact of introducing might stir up interest in marriage and increase it.)

    And within both the above categories:

    a) promotion as a success word: if you promote something, then you have succeeded in promoting it;
    b) promotion as an attempt word: if you promote something, then you may not succeed in what you are trying to do.

    Sounds abstract, I know, but the importance of being careful about the possible meanings are that (eg) if someone suggests that SSM promotes marriage in the sense of (say) 1b, the lack of empirical evidence of a change in marriage rates woudn’t be relevant to that claim.

    • On that basis, could you not say that the dispute between those for and against SSM ‘promotes’ marriage by calling attention to it?
      How does promotion as simply publicizing the issue produce a benefit to marriage (which is the benefit that SSM advocates claim )? How is promotion of that sort a convincing argument in favour of SSM?

      • Well, the first thing to say is that the above taxonomy is only intended to sort out possible interpretations of ‘promote’: it’s a further question as to whether any or which of them offers a good argument.

        On the specific issue you mention, you might indeed argue that the dispute promotes marriage in that way. (It’s not in principle a ludicrous thought: Opus Dei apparently received far more inquiries about joining after Dan Brown’s Da Vinci code.) But you’d have to unpack the argument quite a lot and I suspect you’d have difficulty making the case.

        (Oddly, although I’m an opponent of SSM, I think the debate has in fact contributed to a better understanding of the theology of marriage among Catholics at least. I wouldn’t defend it on those grounds, but it has been a benign side effect.)

    • In a world where there are still people who seriously believe that the universe was created in six days at some time in the last 10,000 years, that Copernicus and Galileo were wrong about the solar system, and that the story of Noah’s Ark is history, there must surely be a minuscule number of cranks who believe that homosexuality can and should be promoted, but I have yet to make their acquaintance.

      I do remember someone (I can’t now remember who) writing a few years ago that people who genuinely value traditional marriage should, if they had any sense, want to see gays out of the heterosexual marriage market altogether and safely married to each other. He had a point.

  9. Well, what i mean is, there were plenty of people using that word about homosexuality, but there were none of them from our ranks!

  10. Isn’t this rather a straw man? As Martin suggests, has anybody seriously suggested that SSM will encourage heterosexuals to get married? At the most, the well-intentioned Cameroonian argument might be that SSM is “good for” the institution of marriage in the sense that gay couples wanting to commit to stable, permanent relationships is a great advert for conventional marriage. The argument that gays only want the right to get married in order to undermine it is ridiculous and offensive; as has been mentioned before, Simon Callow’s recent piece gets right to the heart of things.

  11. Agree about the likely direct positive or negative effects of “gay marriage” of the overall health of marriage in a society. Much more likely to both be linked secondary effects of general societal attitudes to sex and marriage.

    Actually, don’t I remember that NT Wright observed that we misread Paul in Romans i we think he is saying that homosexuality is to blame for people rejecting God, the breakdown in families and society etc etc? And that what Paul is actually saying is that same-sex sexual behaviour is one of the consequences, along with the breakdown of familes, society and personaly righteousness, of people rejecting God. (Not that that is any more pallatable to most people in current society!)

    Certainly, as UK society openly rejected Christianity in recent generations we have seen a huge increase in crime and in marital breakdown. Are there any figures on whether a higher proportion of people are engaging in same-sex sex or experiencing homosexual orientation?

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