“Marriage is a great institution. No family should be without it.” -Mae West
Stanley Kurtz of the Weekly Standard wrote a piece about how the legalization of gay marriage in the Netherlands has resulted all sorts of social ills, including a sky rocketing out-of-wedlock birth rate.
“Today, marriage is in trouble in the Netherlands…. Again and again, voices from across the political spectrum argued that gay marriage signifies the demotion or abolition of marriage as the socially preferred setting for parenthood. It should come as no surprise when Dutch parents act accordingly.”
The number of out-of-wedlock births has increased in The Netherlands – much like the increase in all of Europe, in the US, and in Australia. The Netherlands seems to be following a larger global trend. Correlation is not causation, Mr. Kurtz.
Furthermore, despite the lack of gay marriage in the US and the availability of gay marriage in The Netherlands, where marriage and children are concerned the Dutch are pretty much doing it all better.
The Dutch divorce rate is lower, 1.91 divorces for every 1000 people in The Netherlands while the US has 3.6. Few Dutch children live in homes headed by single parents. 18.1% of children under 18 in The Netherlands live in homes that are headed by single parents. Compare that to the 26.2% in the US. Significantly more US children live in poverty (20.7% compared to only 10% of Dutch children). Finally, The Netherlands has Europe’s lowest teen pregnancy rate. 5 babies are born per 1000 15-19 year old girls. Compare that to the US, where 53 babies are born. And lest you think that Dutch teenagers are having more abortions, there are 3.9 abortions among the same population in The Netherlands, while 30.2 are had in the US.
According to Kelly Musick, Professor in Policy Analysis at Cornell Management (or person who knows more about this shit than me or anyone at The Weekly Standard), more couples opt to not marry in Europe when they have children together:
“In Europe, where there are high levels of childbearing outside of marriage, when childbearing is not happening in marriage, it’s happening in cohabitation. Cohabitations are reasonably stable.”
Kurtz is defining marriage as… well marriage. If what’s important to raising children is a piece of paper saying “Marriage Certificate,” then the statistics regarding out-of-wedlock children are concerning. But if what is important to children is having two stable parents in a solid, committed relationship (and really, what babies checks their parents legal status?), then Kurtz is missing a big piece of the picture.
The Dutch government recognizes three kinds of relationships; marriage, registered partnership, and cohabitation agreement. Until 1998, there were two forms of relationships; marriage and cohabitation. Then, in 1998, the Netherlands began allowing “registered partnerships” for couples, both gay and straight. (In 2001, the country allowed gays to marry.) A full third of these registered partnerships are given to heterosexual couples.
Registered partnerships and marriages are mostly equivalent, essentially the rights and obligations are defined by law. Cohabitation agreements are written by the two involved parties. Considering the legally binding nature of all of these agreements, this seems like what Mr. Kurtz would be looking for. While Mr. Kurtz is getting hung up on terminology, the Dutch are creating stable relationships and families under a whole host of names.