AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, JUNE 24, 2006 (Zenit.org).- After the clamor to legalize same-sex marriage, it turns out that not many homosexuals really want it. Following a bitter battle last year, the Spanish government gave homosexuals the right to marry. Since the law took effect last July 3, until May 31, only 1,275 same-sex marriages took place, reported the Madrid daily newspaper ABC last Saturday.
Comparatively, that would add up to a mere 0.6% of the 209,125 marriages contracted in Spain during 2005. Of the total number of same-sex marriages, 923 were between males and 352 among females.
A recent study by the Virginia-based Institute for Marriage and Public Policy did a roundup of same-sex marriage trends. The study, “Demand for Same-Sex Marriage: Evidence from the United States, Canada and Europe,” was published April 26.
So far the highest estimate of the proportion of homosexuals who have used the new laws to marry is in the American state of Massachusetts, with 16.7% tying the knot. But this seems to be an exception. In the Netherlands, where same-sex marriage has been established the longest, the percentage was far lower.
The authors of the study, Maggie Gallagher and Joshua Baker, warn that it is often difficult to obtain precise data, either on the number of same-sex marriages, or on the number of homosexuals in a given geographical area.
The Dutch experience
In April 2001, the Netherlands became the first country to legally recognize marriages between two people of the same sex. From this date till the end of last year, 8,127 same-sex couples married in the Netherlands. Dutch survey data suggest that 2.8% of Dutch men and 1.4% of Dutch women are homosexuals. Assuming all same-sex partners who wedded in the Netherlands were residents, roughly 6.3% of homosexuals married by year-end 2005. The percentage, both here and in the following countries, includes all who were ever married, not necessarily the number of current marriages.
Belgium, in June 2003, followed the Netherlands. During the rest of that year, 1,708 same-sex couples married in Belgium. By year-end 2004 this increased to 2,204 couples. The authors did not find official estimates of the numbers of homosexuals in Belgium. If it were the same percentage as in the Netherlands, then roughly 4.7% of Belgian homosexuals had married by year-end 2004.
In Canada, the Ontario Court of Appeals led the way for same-sex marriages in June 2003. Eventually, courts in various provinces followed suit. Same-sex marriage was legalized at the national level last summer.
The law allows couples to marry without either of them being resident in Canada. After checking newspaper reports and contacting statistics offices, Gallagher and Baker confirmed that many of the same-sex marriages are between non-Canadian couples, mostly from the United States.
Gallagher and Baker were able to obtain data on same-sex marriage from nine of Canada’s 13 provinces. In British Columbia, 2,531 same-sex marriages were contracted from July 2003 through year-end 2005. In Quebec, same-sex marriages have been available since March 2004. Between then and last September, 574 homosexual couples married.
The Canadian Community Health Survey conducted by Statistics Canada first asked about sexual orientation in 2003. This resulted in 1.3% of men and 0.7% of women aged 18 to 59 identifying themselves as homosexuals. Of the seven provinces that have had same-sex marriage for at least one year, between 0.15% and 14% of Canadian homosexuals entered such marriages.
South of the border, in Massachusetts, same-sex marriage was introduced on May 17, 2004. That year, 5,994 same-sex couples married. Recent official data indicate that an additional 1,347 same-sex couples married in Massachusetts last year, for a total of 7,341 such unions between May 2004 and December 2005.
According to the study, there are not reliable estimates of the homosexual population in Massachusetts. Assuming the proportion is the same as the national average (2.3% of men and 1.3% of women), and assuming all the marriages are between local residents, 16.7% of homosexuals entered into same-sex marriages.
Information from newspaper reports and data collected by Gallagher and Baker suggest that the number of same-sex marriages, after an initial burst, appears to be decreasing with each passing year.
This is clearest in the Netherlands. In 2001, from April to December, 2,414 couples entered into same-sex marriages. In 2002, the number of new same-sex marriages dropped to 1,838. By 2003 this decreased to 1,499. In 2004 there was a further fall, to 1,210. Recently released statistics put the number for 2005 at 1,166 couples.
The data contained in Gallagher and Baker’s study was supported by Hudson Institute fellow Stanley Kurtz. Writing on June 5 in National Review Online, he argued that statistics from Northern Europe confirm the trend to low levels of same-sex unions.
Kurtz drew his information from a new study by a pair of Scandinavian demographers, Gunnar Andersson and Turid Noack: “The Demographics of Same-Sex Marriages in Norway and Sweden.”
Scandinavian countries have had legally recognized same-sex unions for many years, and for all intents and purposes there is little to distinguish them from marriage. In Norway, from 1993 through 2001, only 1,293 same-sex partnerships were contracted, compared with 196,000 heterosexual marriages. In Sweden, 1,526 same-sex partnerships registered between 1995 and 2002, compared with 280,000 heterosexual marriages.
Meanwhile, Benedict XVI continues to defend the value of marriage between a man and woman as a vital social institution. On May 20, in his speech welcoming Spain’s new ambassador to the Holy See, the Pope stated: “The Church proclaims wholeheartedly the fundamental right to life from conception to its natural end, the right to be born, to form and to live in a family, and not to let the family be supplanted by other institutions or different forms.”
He added that during his July visit to the World Meeting of Families in Valencia, Spain, he is looking forward to being able to “celebrate the beauty and fruitfulness of the family founded on marriage, its exalted vocation and indispensable social value.”
Just two days earlier, in his speech to Australia’s new ambassador, the Pontiff noted that many young people are realizing “that it is the transcendent order that steers all life along the path of authentic freedom and happiness.”
This respect for a transcendent order, he continued, enables Australians to recognize the fundamental importance of marriage and stable domestic life at the heart of society. “They appreciate that pseudo-forms of ‘marriage’ distort the Creator’s design and undermine the truth of our human nature.”
Shortly afterward, Australia’s national government overruled an attempt by local authorities in the Australian Capital Territory, the relatively small area where Canberra is located, to introduce same-sex marriage, under the guise of civil unions.
The federal Cabinet decided to invalidate the new law introduced in mid-May, the Age newspaper reported June 7. Prime Minister John Howard branded the law “a plain attempt to equate civil unions with marriage — and we don’t agree with that.” The federal Parliament voted in 2004 to explicitly define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. The numbers elsewhere indicate that traditional marriage remains far more popular too.