Gay or straight, where there’s marriage there’s divorce. While there are many people celebrating the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, there is another group that is also cheering: divorce lawyers. In fact, Philadelphia attorney Conor Corcoran has opened what he says is the first LGBTQ divorce firm.
Yet, new data suggest that gay and lesbian couples aren’t weakening the institution of marriage – they’re actually more likely to stay married opposed to straight couples.
After a banner year for marriage equality, a new report finds that same-sex couples are not only marrying in greater numbers, but also seem to be taking their newly legal vows particularly seriously. The Williams Institute, an LGBT policy and research think tank housed at the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, reported new data that female couples are more likely to get married than male couples, while same-sex couples in general are less likely to get divorced.
In early 2014, The Williams Institute collected administrative data on marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships of same-sex couples in the 23 states that offered these statuses at the time data collection began. The average divorce rate for same-sex couples was half of the divorce rate of heterosexual couples.
It’s been a 10 year legal climb for marriage equality. In 1995, Utah became the first state to enact a Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) upholding states’ right to ban same-sex marriage and prohibiting the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage. In 1996, President Clinton signed the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
In 1997, Hawaii became the first state to offer same-sex couples domestic partnership benefits. In 1998, Alaska voters approve a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Hawaii voters overturn a series of earlier court decisions and then also approve a measure to ban same-sex marriage.
In 1999, California enacts a law allowing domestic partnerships and Vermont ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same benefits and protections as married heterosexual couples. In 2000, Nebraska banned same-sex marriage and California voters approved Proposition 22, banning same-sex marriage.
In a federal vote in 2001, Americans oppose same-sex marriage by a 57% to 35% margin. Yet in 2003, Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage.
Jumping ahead to 2008, California’s Supreme Court ruled that the state’s constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry. Later in the year, California voters approve a constitutional amendment (known as Proposition 8) banning same-sex marriage. “Prop 8” was widely spread across the country with the “NO H8” photos, some even including popular celebrities in support of same-sex marriage.
In 2009, Vermont votes in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage. In 2010, a federal district court in California rules that Prop 8 violates the U.S. Constitution.
In 2011, Hawaii approved civil unions and New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.
In 2012, Barack Obama became the first president to announce his support for same-sex marriage. In December of that same year, same-sex marriage became legal in my home state of Washington. Governor Christine Gregoire signed legislation that established full marriage rights for same-sex couples. Within a couple of days after the law took effect, more than 600 same sex marriage licenses were issues in King County alone.
More and more states followed suit approving same-sex marriage or civil partnership recognition over the next 3 years.
Prior to the 2015 ruling, the simplest divorce scenario is where a same-sex couple married in one state also divorced in the same state. In some states, getting a divorce was much more difficult than getting a marriage license as a same-sex couple. In Washington, larger cities like Seattle have numerous attorneys practicing same-sex divorce law, while Vancouver divorce lawyers are more rare to find.
Now, with the 2015 ruling, every state will recognize same-sex marriage and also same-sex divorce. It will be interesting to check the statistics after another year and see the homosexual vs. heterosexual divorce rate comparison.