Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hanging Flesh on SSM Skeleton

The data are in! Well, sort of, a bit, nearly enough to comment on.

Homosexual couples are legally marrying in scattered countries and in Massachusetts. What it all means depends on your frame of reference. However, you can train your jaundiced eye on some collected data now.

Oddly enough, the report released yesterday is from the virulently anti-SSM Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, authored by its two main naysayers, Maggie Gallagher and Joshua K. Baker. An irony is that the phenomenon is only five year old, so that even this attempt to gather data does not permit trend analysis.

The numbers are what you want them to be. As an AP article puts it, "both sides in the gay marriage debate may take heart from the findings."

Report in PDF: You can download the slim, 12-page report, Demand for Same-Sex Marriage: Evidence from the United States, Canada, and Europe. It is eight pages, plus extensive footnotes. The last four pages have some worthwhile links for statistics freaks.

Not surprisingly, the data show that when SSM becomes legal, homosexual couples rush to wed. Then the number of SSMs drops off.

That must fall in the duh! class. Pent demand would predict this accurately. Other conclusions are slim and conjectural. The study itself merely ends with noting that Massachusetts had the highest percentage of gay couples wedded in its initial rush (16.7%). Elsewhere in the world, it seems to be 1% to 6% of the gay population marries when it legally can.

To the IMAPP anti couple, the extrapolation is that this is a fad that will go away. As they conclude:
Of course our experience with same-sex marriage is in its infancy. The small fraction of gays and lesbians who have currently married may change as cultural mores and expectations in the gay community shift, as some commentators have predicted. Or as others have suggested, once the novelty wears off, same-sex marriage may prove a decreasingly popular personal choice in the gay and lesbian community.
That's a coulda-shoulda-woulda that shows their viewpoint. It's as likely that as homosexual couples adapt to the idea in their country or state(s) that they have the option, the long-term trend could well be toward substantially more marriages per capita. Here also, if the Federal government would recognize Massachusetts marriages and provide the tax benefits that come with that, the number of self-interested gay couple marrying would surely climb.

One noted scholar in the field thinks that the figures point to gay acceptance. Gary J. Gates concentrated on the Massachusetts figures. He is a Williams Fellow at UCLA School of Law and a widely published researcher on this and other gay-rights issues.

Your Own Research: Many articles from a variety of sources on SSM are available here.

He said that in the 20 months covered in the Bay State data a higher percentage of homosexual couples wed than heterosexual ones. He told the AP, "Numerically, same-sex couples will never comprise a major portion of the married population, but gay people do seem to be really interested in getting married - it's kind of a compliment to the institution of marriage."

Yet, we should stay aware that straights aren't the only ones skeptical of marriage. A strongly diminishing percentage of heterosexuals here and elsewhere marry. That trend is decades old and long predates the first legal SSM.

Perhaps no one says it better -- and certainly not more often -- than author and professor Michael Bronski. He's been a gay activist since the late 1960s and thinks marriage sucks for straights as well. He has tirades against the Barbie-ized, commercialized wedding industry that so many women seem to worship.

As he not too subtly put it three years ago in the Boston Phoenix:
As an old-time gay liberationist, I find the frenzy around marriage organizing exciting but depressing. I would never have imagined that a movement that started out in the bars, the streets, and in public cruising places could have come this far. The gay-liberation movement had a vision of radical change and making the world a better place. Securing the right to marry will make the world a better place, but it will not change the world. Heck, it doesn'’t even change marriage. In the end, it is such a small gain for such a big fight.

In 1969, we didn't just want –— as we said then –— a piece of the pie we had been denied for so long. We wanted to take over the bakery and produce a huge array of tasty, extravagant, nutritious, luscious, and inviting foodstuffs for queers and everyone else. I don't think we ever imagined that our movement would one day be happy to settle for such small crumbs, no matter how sweet.
Other gay activists and feminist also have their issues with SSM and marriage in general. As in the general population, there seems to be a bifurcation on marriage.

Next, whether homosexuals wedding begin to compensate for the long-term decline in percentage of Americans marrying is not yet knowable. Clearly over 7,000 couples here thought it was a good idea.

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