Sexuality Research & Social Policy

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 1-10

Will providing marriage rights to same-sex couples undermine heterosexual marriage?

  • M. V. Lee BadgettAffiliated withDepartment of Economics, Thompson Hall, University of Massachusetts Email author 

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This paper analyzes data regarding the impact on heterosexual marriages of laws in five European countries that provide marriage or marriage-like rights to same-sex couples. The data provide no evidence that giving partnership rights to same-sex couples had any impact on heterosexual marriage. Specifically, heterosexual marriage rates and divorce rates in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, and the Netherlands displayed no significant change in trends after implementation of rights for gay couples; longstanding trends in nonmarital birth rates showed no sign of acceleration attributable to passage of partnership laws; and nonmarital birth rates showed the same changes in countries with and without partnership laws. Finally, because the United States gives many more incentives for heterosexual couples to marry than European countries, any effects of passage of gay marriage or partnership laws in this country would be even less likely to have an impact on the status of heterosexual marriage.

Key words

gay lesbian partnership Scandinavia Netherlands