Marriage Equality: How it Made Marriage Better and Changed Religion Forever
Two year after the official ruling for marriage equality, Obergefell v. Hodges, there is no doubt it has changed marriage forever. Many conservatives and religious people feared marriage equality as an enemy of marriage and even religion, but what do the facts from the last two years show? In fact over the last two years the divorce rate is down as is the rate of non-marital births. Of course this is not simply because of marriage equality, but it certainly shows that marriage equality did not ruin marriage like many believed it would. Read more below.
Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court’s definitive marriage equality verdict, celebrates its second anniversary today, June 26th, 2017. Nine days earlier, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) held a sparsely attended march on the Court to rally against what its followers consider the Court’s “redefinition” of marriage. NOM’s speakers dramatically declared that marriage equality has proven to be the greatest threat to marriage and religion – two central pillars of our civic society – in the new millennium. We think that NOM has it half right: marriage equality has transformed both marriage and religion, but not in the ways in which the critics have alleged.
Like other defenders of traditional marriage defined as one man, one woman, NOM claims that Obergefell is causing a further decline of marriage. It has never been clear why this should be the case, as Obergefell has only served to expand the institution of marriage and has undermined a competing institution. In religion, culture, and business, the expansion of the enterprise and the elimination of competition is typically viewed as a symptom of robustness and vigor.
In June of 2015, when Obergefell was decided, there were an estimated 368,000 married same-sex couples. Just a year later, that number rose to 491,000 legally married same-sex couples.
One of those couples, plaintiffs in Obergefell, is April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse, two nurses who are nurturing a family of five adopted children—Nolan, Ryanne, Jacob, Rylee, and Kennedy—in Hazel Park, Michigan. They are so devoted to their children that they originally brought suit only to obtain joint adoption rights: marriage would be about the parents, while adoption was all about Nolan, Ryanne, and Jacob (pictured above, with their moms), the three children they were then raising. A federal judge coaxed them into amending their complaint to seek marriage equality.
The night the U.S. Supreme Court handed April and Jayne their victory, they asked the same federal judge to preside over their marriage ceremony. Given their kid-centric parenting philosophy, they changed the ceremony so that each parent exchanged vows with the children as well as with each other.
The DeBoer-Rowse marriage, and many others like it, scarcely can be seen to have harmed the institution. Data from 2015 indicates that the Obergefell year saw a small increase in the marriage rate; a small drop in the divorce rate; and a small drop in the number of non-marital births. We do not claim Obergefell “caused” marriage to rebound in this modest way, but the data is certainly inconsistent with an argument that it wounded the institution.