Threat to society
Marriage and same-sex unions
More and more states are legalizing same-sex unions. Here's my newspaper column concerning
the controversy from May 2004:
According to the folks at the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, marriage is "the state of being united to a person of the opposite sex as husband or wife in a consensual and contractual relationship recognized by law." *
That's why I'm having trouble viewing the thousand gay and lesbian "marriages" performed last week in Massachusetts as, well, marriages. In a pluralistic, secular democracy, homosexual couples certainly have a constitutional right to enter into a consensual and contractual agreement, allegiance, bargain, bond, codification, covenant, oath, pact, pledge, promise, relationship, treaty, and/or but not limited to a verbal understanding.
But there are some very real differences between marriage of a man and women and a union of same-sex partners. Let's look at the statistics in some key categories:
A 2001 National Center for Health Statistics study on marriage and divorce statistics reported that 66 percent of first heterosexual marriages last ten years or longer, with 50 percent lasting twenty years or longer. The 2002 U.S. Census Bureau study reported slightly higher numbers, with 70.7 percent lasting ten years, 57.7 percent lasting twenty years or more.
However, a study of homosexual men in the Netherlands published in the journal AIDS found that the "duration of steady partnerships" was one and a half years. According to a study of male homosexuality in Western Sexuality: Practice and Precept in Past and Present Times, "few homosexual relationships last longer than two years, with many men reporting hundreds of lifetime partners."
A 1995 survey by Partners Task Force for Gay And Lesbian Couples found that the average female relationships lasted over six years (6.6) and male relationships just over four years (4.2).
A nationally representative survey of 884 heterosexual men and 1,288 heterosexual women published in the Journal of Sex Research found that 77 percent of married men and 88 percent of married women had remained faithful to their marriage vows. A 1997 national survey appearing in The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States found that 75 percent of husbands and 85 percent of wives never had sexual relations outside of marriage.
The Dutch study of partnered homosexuals, found that men with a steady partner had an average of eight sexual partners per year. The Handbook of Family Diversity reported a study in which "many self-described 'monogamous' homosexual couples reported an average of three to five partners in the past year." According to McWhirter and Mattison, most homosexual men understood sexual relations outside the relationship to be the norm and viewed adopting monogamous standards as "an act of oppression."
According to the U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs and "Intimate Partner Violence," the percentage of heterosexual wives abused is one-quarter of one percent (0.26); married heterosexual men, one-twentieth of one percent (0.05).
The same study revealed that 11.4 percent of women in lesbian relationships suffered abuse while 15.4 percent of men in gay relationships suffered abuse. A study in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence found that 31 percent reported one or more incidents of physical abuse. In a survey of 1,099 lesbians, the Journal of Social Service Research found that slightly more than half of the lesbians reported that they had been abused by a female lover/partner.
Homosexual couples seeking to adopt children point to studies that children raised by gays and lesbians are no different than those raised by heterosexual couples. In fact, in 2002 the American Academy of Pediatrics announced that it was endorsing homosexual adoption.
However, sociology professors at the University of Southern California Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz report that "contrary to earlier assertions, children of same-sex parents exhibit significant [negative] differences when compared to children raised by heterosexual couples." David Murray of the Washington-based Statistical Assessment Service agrees that most of the research on homosexual parenting is politically contaminated. "We have allowed the politicization of this issue to erode our capacity to see clearly."
Both sides of the battle are seeking to interpret the data for their own agenda. However, the following statistics should concern all of us: A study in Adolescence found that children are sexually molested in 0.6 percent of heterosexual households. That's, obviously, 0.6 percent too many! However, 29 percent of adult children of homosexual couples report being sexually abused as young people. That's 48 times higher than sexual abuse occurring in heterosexual households!
Apples to . . .
Based on these statistics, comparing traditional, heterosexual marriage to homosexual unions is not just comparing apples to oranges, but apples to Oregon. From a simply statistical perspective, there are few correlations in the duration, fidelity, or safety of the two social groups.
So, call same-sex unions civil unions, domestic partnerships, or whatever, but please don't call them "marriages."
Copyright © 2004 James N. Watkins
Today's background on the issue [off site]
A "civil" debate [on civil unions]
Why are some people so bent out of shape about
* In 2009, the dictionary expanded the definition of marriage to include the uniting of "a person of the same sex in a
I've received several emails from gays and lesbians challenging the statistics in this article. I do want to be
fair and balanced, so if you have contradicting studies, please
them to me with the source and date. Thanks!
I read your article concerning homosexual marriages with interest. While many of the studies regarding this topic may be valid, I personally don't think that any study coming out of the Netherlands concerning a sexual issue should be considered relevant in any less sexually deprived culture, which is almost any culture. The study you mentioned was published in a journal named "Aids." Surely any relationship, homosexual or heterosexual, that had the threat of this disease hanging over it would be threatened. Concerning western studies on the topic, it occurs to me that homosexual people must experience social pressure on a constant basis that we heterosexuals cannot even fathom. Therefore, it stands to reason that gay couples would be very stressed by these pressures, and therefore, their relationships and marriages would suffer as a result. As we know, gay people certainly don't and wouldn't have equality of condition, even if they were given equality of opportunity. Unless the playing field was even, and this isn't likely in the near future, I don't think gay and heterosexual marriages should be compared. I think it's enough that a couple believe they are in love enough to make a commitment and believe it will last a lifetime, no matter how long it actually lasts. firstname.lastname@example.org (July 2005)
Former Harvard professor and noted social scientist James Q. Wilson writes frequently about marriage. He said, "The vast majority of people do better if men marry women. The sexes complement each other. Having a woman in your household makes men better, and having a man in your household makes women better."
As for kids, social science has done more than 2,470 studies indicating a married man and woman raising their own children offers clear advantages to those kids no other family structure can.
Cause and Effect: The Benefits of Traditional Marriage
by Paul Strand (July 2004)
Hi Jim - just read your 5-24 article on comparing marriage to same-sex
unions. I thought you'd probably get lots of negative email, so thought
I'd let you know I appreciated the article. I don't recall anyone
pointing out the dictionary meaning of "marriage" in all the pro and con
arguments! I've noticed that if you don't agree with "them" you are
intolerant. However, their not agreeing with you doesn't bother them at
all! Thanks again for a well written article. email@example.com (May 2004)
Wow! Glad someone has the patience to put statistics together on another inane idea in the endless stream of senseless oxymorons that sap our energy and productivity. Of course, what do we expect in a society that legalizes killing the unborn? What was that God said about calling good evil and evil good??? Blessings,
firstname.lastname@example.org (May 2004)
I believe you have hit on the fundamental error in the ruling by the
Supreme Court of Massachusetts: they didn't define their terms before
proceeding with their analysis.
They approached it as "we have before us two categories people, each
desiring access to a status called marriage." With that beginning, it is
only logical that they found that equal protection of the laws entitled
both groups desiring marriage to have it, not just one category of
But, IF marriage is indeed the union of a man and a woman, then what the
group denominated homosexuals want is not marriage at all, but some new
and different status. If marriage is not the union of a man and a woman,
then what is it? The legal union of two people to indulge in mutual
sexual gratification and also pool their economic resources? It gets
History supports the definition you found in Webster's. Any other
definition would be hard to construct. No man has ever been denied a
license to marry a woman on the grounds that he is a homosexual (which
would be rank discrimination). email@example.com (May 2004)
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