FOR QUITE A FEW YEARS, the rallying cry of those attempting to prevent marriage equality has been that allowing gay marriage will undermine traditional family values. If this is true, traditional family values should be showing substantially frayed edges in Massachusetts, where gay marriages have been taking place for over five years. Now that nearly every New England state has formally recognized gay marriage, you should expect to see evidence of family values disintegrating all over the northeast.
My dictionary defines traditional family values as “values especially of a traditional or conservative kind which are held to promote the sound functioning of the family and to strengthen the fabric of society.” The epicenter of the “sound functioning of the family” is the marriage bond, so it is the basic spousal unit that logically should feel the impact and show the damage resulting from gay marriage. The divorce rate therefore should be one of the most substantial indicators of gay marriage’s destructive force.
It turns out that family values have not come apart at the seams since same-sex marriage came to Massachusetts. Even more surprising and intriguing is the fact that gay marriage and strong families actually go statistically hand in hand. The states that recognize gay marriage have some of the highest rates of family stability. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2008, Massachusetts has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. The Abstract lists the United States’ national divorce rate as 3.6 per thousand citizens; Massachusetts’ rate is only 2.2. Other states that have legalized same-sex marriage more recently have similarly low divorce rates, suggesting that states where marriage as an institution is the strongest are the ones most likely to accept same-sex marriage. Connecticut’s rate is 2.7, Vermont and New Hampshire each has a rate of 3.3 divorces per thousand, and Maine has 3.5. Iowa, another state to grant marriage equality to its gay citizens, has a divorce rate of 2.7. Rhode Island, which does not perform gay marriages but recognizes those performed elsewhere, has a divorce rate of 2.9. New Jersey, which adopted civil unions in 2006 and also recognizes gay marriages performed elsewhere, is close behind with a rate of 2.9.