A letter writer in my Maryland hometown newspaper, the Frederick News-Post, advanced an unusual claim the other day: “Statistically, natural marriage is weakest and illegitimacy most prevalent wherever same-sex marriage is legal.” I wrote a letter to the editor, published today, pointing out that
the reverse is true. Per cdc.gov, the states with the nation’s lowest divorce rates are Massachusetts (recognized same-sex marriage in 2004) and Iowa (in 2009).
Most states with same-sex marriage likewise have lower, not higher, rates of out-of-wedlock childbearing. States and countries in this category have some of the highest life expectancies, education levels and prosperity in the world. After Maryland has joined them, we will come to wonder what the fuss was about in permitting our law to accommodate the realities of modern life….
How did the original letter writer come to imagine the reverse? From her letter, she may have been relying on the work of Religious Right polemicist Frank Turek who in turn seems to have relied on the 2004 writing of Ethics and Public Policy Center fellow Stanley Kurtz. When SSM was brand new and first making legal headway in places like northern Europe, Kurtz advanced an exceedingly strained and much-criticized argument trying to blame it for Scandinavian family trends generally. Now, eight years later, there is vastly more data available from countries around the world (Canada, Spain, etc.) and from U.S. states confirming that SSM neither causes nor correlates with divorce or out-of-wedlock birth rates above Western norms – results that would prove no surprise to libertarian columnist Steve Chapman, who has pointed out the extent to which predictions of harm to family structure from gay marriage seem allergic to empiricism.