Friday, December 13, 2013

Watch out for 'a genderless mush'

When the Government legalised same-sex marriage, some supposed that the divorce rate in same-sex marriages would be similar to the divorce rate in traditional marriage. Others supposed that divorces in same-sex marriages would be much higher. We may never know.

The Office for National Statistics, which keeps records of marriage and divorce, is considering including marriage, same-sex marriage and civil partnerships without distinction in the same definition of "legally recognised partnerships." The break-up of relationships in the three classes would then be listed in the same single figure.

Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, says "It is vital that the ONS is completely open and transparent about the statistics it publishes on marriage, civil partnership and divorce. If we are going to be able to assess the impact of same-sex marriage on traditional marriage, the figures will need to be published separately and not merged into a genderless mush.

“Decades of research have demonstrated that a marriage between a man and a woman is considerably more stable than other types of relationship and produces better outcomes for children. The Prime Minister and some other supporters of the recent redefinition of marriage are assuming that same-sex unions will produce identical results, but without separate figures the argument cannot be settled one way or the other.

"To adopt a gender-blind approach to marriage and divorce would severely limit the ability of researchers to assess the relative benefits of different types of registered relationships and stifle healthy debate in a key area of public policy.
“If the Government is serious about pursuing family policy based on sound evidence, it is of the utmost importance that all the relevant statistics should be readily available and not hidden from view.”

William Oddie, of the Catholic Herald, produces figures from somewhere where same-sex marriage has been available for some time. After eight years, he says, 82 per cent of marriages of a man and a woman are still intact, 60 per cent of opposite-sex cohabiting couples are still together, but only 25 per cent of same-sex couples are still together. 

It is vital that the ONS doesn't muddy the waters, he says. "It's something we HAVE to know about." 

The ONS quietly launched a consultation on the matter on the same day it issued a report showing that female couples were almost twice as likely to end a civil partnership as male couples.

To take part in the consultation, click here, then under the heading Downloads, click on "Consultation document." Your response to the consultation can be sent by e-mail. The consultation closes on December 17.

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