Netherlands gay divorce rate equal to heterosexuals

Ross von Metzke | April 08, 2005

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands — According to statistics released by the Dutch government on Monday, the divorce rate of gay and lesbian couples in the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage has been legal since 2001, is nearly identical to that of heterosexual couples.

Of the 5,751 same-sex marriages performed between April 2001 and December 2003, approximately 1-percent, or 63 couples, ended in divorce. During the same period, 243,000 heterosexual couples were married, with 2,800 filing for divorce.

The data, collected from city registers, showed that lesbians were slightly more likely to divorce than gay men, though government officials offered no explanation for that trend.

An expert on demographics from the Netherlands' Central Bureau for Statistics said that, while the data was based on a small sample, it can be interpreted in a number of ways.

According to Jan Laten, since many lesbians and gay men had waited years to marry, same-sex couples with unusually high levels of commitment and stability may be overrepresented.

"The [divorce] rate could just as well be 2 percent next year," he said.

On the other hand, Laten said the same-sex couples who married were more likely to have dual incomes and no children. Straight couples who fit that profile are generally at higher risk for divorce.

The low divorce rate challenges the popular opinion of many evangelical conservatives who believe the legalization of same-sex marriage will endanger the sanctity of marriage in the United States, Jason Cianciotto, research director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute said in a statement to the press.

"They talk about how the end of Western civilization is going to come when gay and lesbian people are allowed to marry," he told the PlanetOut Network. "Well, the sky didn't fall. These data make them look like the liars that they are."

In the United States, the state with the lowest divorce rate is Massachusetts, the only state so far to have legalized same-sex marriage. No statistics have been compiled about divorce among same-sex couples married there.

The Netherlands and Belgium are the only two countries that grant full marriage rights to same-sex couples, though Belgium still prohibits those couples from adopting children. The Netherlands is currently reviewing legislation to allow gay and lesbian couples to adopt children from other countries. Dutch couples who adopt tend to adopt foreign children, a right still limited to heterosexual couples. – Gay Link Content

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