Same-sex marriage surges while matrimony overall dips

by Will Hall, |
Joni B. Hannigan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) – The latest Census report on marriage for the first time included questions about same-sex couples, but even with a bump in numbers of gay marriages, marriage rates overall have reached a 93-year low.

The data show the portion of households led by married couples dipped to 48 percent in 2013, from a high of 65 percent in 1920.

Same-sex marriages, on the other hand, exceeded previous estimates by about 70,000. The 2013 survey showed this number to be 252,000.

But the jump had a relatively small effect when measured against the 56 million married couples numbered in the American Community Survey.

Moreover, other research shows the drop in the number of married couples overall is profoundly shaped by the absence of marriages among Millennials, reflecting a general attitude of unimportance toward the role of marriage in society.

Concurrently, Millennials essentially have driven the rise in the number of same-sex married couples as this age group's open attitude about homosexual couples has been a significant force in pushing cultural change and political reversal in legalizing same-sex marriage in the U.S.

By far, in a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, Millennials had the lowest percentage of married adults between the ages of 18 and 32 than any other generation when they were in this age range. Only 26 percent of this generational cohort have taken nuptial vows so far. By comparison, 36 percent of Generation X'ers were married at that point in life, 48 percent of Boomers had taken the plunge, and the majority (65 percent) of the Silent Generation already had settled down.

Not surprisingly, this marriage divide parallels a divergence in attitudes toward marriage that also is generational.

In a different Pew survey, 67 percent of Millennials said there were more important priorities for society than marriage and having children—compared to 46 percent of the other generational cohorts combined. Meanwhile, Millennials' level of support for same-sex marriage is almost identical in size effect, 68 percent (Pew)—meaning it holds as much high regard for same-sex marriage as it holds low regard for marriage overall.

Social commentators disagree about cause and effect among these cultural attitudes, with many blaming the economy and financial insecurity as key factors in the scarcity of matrimony among Millennials.

But Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council disagrees.

"Stanley Kurtz writes about this in the Scandinavian countries where they have been undergoing this process for nearly two decades and the redefinition of marriage has accelerated the decline in marriage," he said, according to Fox News, adding, "and I think we are foolish to think that we would escape the same consequences in America."