When radical social experiments are undertaken, it takes a while for the dust to settle and for clear assessments to be made as to how beneficial or damaging the changes have been. The current assault on marriage is a good example. For the first time in human history we have declared war on the institution of marriage, and it is still early days yet as to how this will all pan out.
But given that Europe has taken the lead in this area, we can look there to see what kind of early results are coming through. And things are not looking too good.
Proponents of same-sex marriage such as William Eskridge and Darren Spedale will argue that marriage is still healthy in Europe. But that is a moot point. Stanley Kurtz, writing in the October 30, 2006 National Review online argues that marriage is under real threat.
He notes that defenders of homosexual marriage are tending to drop the Netherlands from their discussions, given what a mess marriage is becoming there. The Netherlands was the first nation in the world to legalise same-sex marriage, so we can take a hard look at the situation there. “We’ve had registered partnerships in the Netherlands for nearly a decade, and full gay marriage for about half that time. It’s absurd to rule a decade’s worth of data from the Netherlands out of court, especially when much of that time includes the world’s first and longest experiment in formal same-sex marriage.”
And the data does not look good: “marriage has deteriorated more rapidly in the Netherlands than in any West European country over the last decade.”
Scandinavia is not looking very good either: “there has already been a move to abolish marriage in Sweden and replace it with a ‘gender neutral’ partnership system that would recognize multiple unions.” But critics argue that marriage is still thriving in Scandinavia. Not so argues Kurtz:
“Scandinavian marriage statistics are notoriously misleading. (See ‘The End of Marriage in Scandinavia.’) Scandinavian marriage rates are inflated by remarriage among the large number of divorced, and also by a phenomenon called ‘catching up,’ in which older couples who have long delayed marriage (even after having had a child out of wedlock) eventually get married (if they haven’t broken up first, which unmarried parents are far more likely to do). ‘Catching up’ by older Scandinavian couples means that Scandinavian marriage rates tend to statistically disguise the growth of unmarried parenthood in the younger generation. This is particularly true in Denmark, where recent changes in family-leave policy have caused an unusual spike in the ‘catching up’ phenomenon.”
After looking at unmarried parenting rates there, he says, “So since the advent of same-sex unions, Scandinavian marriage has weakened considerably. Whereas the initial spike in Scandinavian out-of-wedlock births reflected parents treating their first-born child as a test of whether to get married, the somewhat slower, yet far more dangerous continued rise in out-of-wedlock birthrates, especially in Sweden and Norway, indicates that many Scandinavian parents are now dispensing with marriage entirely.”
He concludes, “But if you want to see a major spike in the out-of-wedlock birthrate after the institution of same-sex unions, go to the Netherlands, where we see a remarkably clear ‘before and after’ case of marital decline following the advent of same-sex unions.”
It is still early days. But the initial results are not looking very promising. One can expect things to get worse before they get better.