Will the Marriage Amendment Protect Male-Female Marriage?

One of the goals of the political proponents of Amendment One is the desire to protect the institution of marriage between one man and one woman.

N.C. State Representative Paul Stam, who advocated for the amendment to be placed on the ballot, contended in a press conference that the amendment is necessary to prevent heterosexuals from losing interest in marriage.  I will have more to say about this from a practical standpoint later, but first, the facts.

Holning Lau, an Associate Professor of Law at UNC School of Law, wrote an article in September 2011, using data he gathered from other states to test the premise offered by Representative Stam.  His article, which can be found at the link below, relied on ten years worth of information from the National Vital Statistics System.  As he put it, he was using this information to evaluate the assertion that amending our constitution is necessary to promote marriage and protect it from depreciation.


As a result of his research, Professor Lau found State Representative Stam’s claim to be invalid.  The data he studied from other states did not support the assertion that more people will get married and stay married if only their home state has a constitutional marriage amendment.

Here are some of the high points from the data.  Out of the 5 states with the lowest divorce rates, none ever had an amendment banning same-sex marriage.  On the other hand, would it surprise you to learn that of the five states with the highest divorce rates, they have statutes and amendments excluding recognition for same-sex couples?

It gets better.  In our neighboring states that have adopted marriage amendments, Professor Lau observed that marriage rates declined steadily, and further, those amendments failed to change preexisting trends in divorce rates.  And when taking into account other states, Professor Lau concluded that passing marriage amendments to protect male-female marriage neither increased or decreased divorce or marriage rates.

In other words, the data simply proved what should be self-evident.  Men and women are not going to refuse to get married to or divorced from each other because their neighbors are in a same-sex relationship that is not being condemned by the state.

For my two cents worth, this research hardly seemed worth the trouble to anyone as smart as a 5th grader.  In fact, isn’t it in about 5th grade when kids start figuring out that there is something a little different about the opposite sex?  Do we really think that boys and girls will become less likely to pay attention to each other at that age because of the lack of a marriage amendment?  Or less likely to date in high school?  Or less likely to “talk” or “hang out” or whatever else it is they do now in college?  Or, when they get a little older,  less likely to marry or get divorced, simply because of the lack of a marriage amendment in our State constitution?

Taking Representative Stam’s proposition to its illogical conclusion, without a marriage amendment in North Carolina, I should want to leave my wife of 28 years and worse yet, start playing for the other team.  And for those young men and women just entering their prime marrying years, they just won’t be interesting in marrying those smart, attractive members of the opposite sex if gays and lesbians are allowed to have committed relationships too.  It will be too much for their average hormones and IQs to handle.

But because this is serious business, and because the proposed amendment could have serious consequences for a minority population who some politicians of this State want to demote to second and third class citizens, Professor Lau’s work was necessary.

In his conclusion, Professor Lau says that “it is important to ground the debate in evidence rather than unsubstantiated theories” and that “individuals engaged in deliberation should be skeptical of marriage protection claims”.  Amen and Amen.

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