Divorce Equality

In December 2000, The Netherlands became the first country to legalize same sex marriage and allow same sex couples to adopt children. The Dutch parliament passed this bill by a 3 to 1 margin. Iceland was the first country to elect Johanna Sigurdardottir, an openly gay Prime Minister, in 2009. Iceland also unanimously passed a measure in June 2010 legalizing same sex marriage. On May 22, 2015 Ireland legalized same sex marriages by popular (62%) vote in this predominantly Catholic state only 22 years after homosexuality had been decriminalized.  Currently, nearly 24 countries have legalized same sex marriage mostly in Europe and the Americas plus South Africa and New Zealand. 

On June 26, 2015 the Supreme Court of The United States of America ruled that the 14th amendment guarantees equal protection under law throughout the country... and limiting marriage to only heterosexual couples violates this constitutional right. This ruling came 11 years after same sex marriage was first legalized in the US by Massachusetts. At the time of this Supreme Court ruling, 14 US states had imposed bans on same sex marriage including: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. 

At the time of this ruling, nearly 2/3 of married same sex couples were lesbians. Approximately 1% of same sex couples divorce each year as opposed to 2% of heterosexual couples.  In addition, a smaller percentage of same sex couples register to marry than do heterosexual couples.  In Massachusetts in 2011, a poll by UCLA's William's Institute identified that 68% of same sex couples were in marriages rather than in domestic partnerships as opposed to 91% of heterosexuals being married over domestic partnerships. Overall, same sex divorce rates are lower than rates for heterosexual couples, as long-term stable same sex couples have been more likely to pursue marriage than same sex couples in new unions. Heterosexual couples seem to pursue marriage regardless of relationship stability. However, with marriage equality it is likely that this will also bring divorce equality.  At the very least, there will be a spike in same sex divorce rates as there is likely to be a spike in same sex marriages. 

The research shows that when people rush into marriage they soon file for divorce. A post-ruling same sex marriage boom, followed by a leveling out period, has been noted in states that have previously legalized same sex marriage. It's natural for people to rush to exercise a right that has been unconstitutionally withheld for generations. Unfortunately, this will increase divorce rates at least in the short-run as hastiness is likely to be the root cause. 

Marriage is the most important decision you will ever make in your life. You are choosing a partner to not only bear witness to your life, but to also take part in it. They will be a part of every important decisions made.. and the unimportant ones. They will be the person to nurse you when you are ill. They will be your sexual companion for the rest of your life. They will be the parent of your children and you will need to be able to co-parent with them. They will be involved in making and spending your joint income. Basically, they will greatly influence your quality of your life and happiness for the better or for the worse. This is not a decision to make in haste, but one to consider over time, personal experience, and evaluation of compatibility for ALL couples. 

By Delicia Mclean, Ph.D., MHA