Everyone’s favorite anti-gay blowhard Rick Santorum has a gloriously self-aggrandizing op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the California gay marriage ruling. The whole tone of the piece is “I told you this would happen and you all laughed at me. But who’s laughing now?” Well Rick, I am, at the ridiculous and long-debunked lies you tell in this op-ed piece. Like this one:
Look at Norway. It began allowing same-sex marriage in the 1990s. In just the last decade, its heterosexual-marriage rates have nose-dived and its out-of-wedlock birthrate skyrocketed to 80 percent for firstborn children.
Absolutely, patently and in all other ways false. As M.V. Lee Badgett points out in an article in Slate, the out of wedlock birth rate went up in the 1980s, before Norway legalized gay marriage:
Norway’s big surge occurred in the 1980′s, with an increase from 16 percent to 39 percent. In the decade after Norway recognized same-sex couples (in 1993), the nonmarital birth rate first rose slightly, then, after a couple of years, leveled off at 50 percent.
And Santorum’s focus on the first born child obscures a cultural distinction that is rather important. In Scandinavia, most couples wait until they have children to get married. Once they do have children, the overwhelming majority gets married and stays married:
Parenthood within marriage is still the norm–most cohabitating couples marry after they start having children. In Sweden, for instance, 70 percent of cohabiters wed after their first child is born. Indeed, in Scandinavia the majority of families with children are headed by married parents. In Denmark and Norway, roughly four out of five couples with children were married in 2003. In the Netherlands, a bit south of Scandinavia, 90 percent of heterosexual couples with kids are married.
Those rates are, in fact, far higher than the US. So now we’ve established that the big jump in out of wedlock births came before gay marriage was legalized, now let’s look at what has happened to heterosexual marriages after gay marriage was allowed. William Eskridge and Darren Spedale give the stats:
A decade after Denmark, Norway and Sweden passed their respective partnership laws, heterosexual marriage rates had risen 10.7% in Denmark; 12.7% in Norway; and a whopping 28.8% in Sweden. In Denmark over the last few years, marriage rates are the highest they’ve been since the early 1970s. Divorce rates among heterosexual couples, on the other hand, have fallen. A decade after each country passed its partnership law, divorce rates had dropped 13.9% in Denmark; 6% in Norway; and 13.7% in Sweden. On average, divorce rates among heterosexuals remain lower now than in the years before same-sex partnerships were legalized.
Marriage rates have gone up, divorce rates have gone down. Damn that same-sex marriage for “destroying” marriage in Scandinavia!