Comparing the Lifestyles of Homosexual Couples to Married Couples
by: Timothy J. Dailey, Ph. D.
Summary: Many times, homosexual relationships are touted as being no different than ordinary married couples. But research shows that in several key respects, the homosexual lifestyle differs radically from other types of relationships.
Married and Gay Couples Not All that Different," proclaimed the headline of a news article portraying homosexual households as remarkably similar to married couples. "We're the couple next door," claimed one partnered homosexual. "We have a dog and a cat. I drive a Volvo. I'm boring." Such down-home portrayals of homosexual couples are meant to provoke the question: Since gay couples really differ only in that both partners are of the same sex, what rational basis exists for denying them full marriage rights?
Are homosexual households, as the article suggests, simply another variant of human relationships that should be considered, along with marriage, as "part of mainstream American society"?
On the contrary, the evidence indicates that "committed" homosexual relationships are radically different from married couples in several key respects :
Source: Current Population Reports: U.S. Census Bureau (2002)
Male Homosexual Relationships
The 2003-2004 Gay/Lesbian Consumer Online Census surveyed the lifestyles of 7,862 homosexuals. Of those involved in a "current relationship," only 15 percent describe their current relationship as having lasted twelve years or longer, with five percent lasting more than twenty years. While this "snapshot in time" is not an absolute predictor of the length of homosexual relationships, it does indicate that few homosexual relationships achieve the longevity common in marriages.
"Commitment" in Male Homosexual Couples
Sources:Laumann, The Social Organization of Sexuality, 216; McWhirter and Mattison, The Male Couple: How Relationships Develop (1984): 252-253; Wiederman, "Extramarital Sex," 170.
According to McWhirter and Mattison, most homosexual men understood sexual relations outside the relationship to be the norm and viewed adopting monogamous standards as an act of oppression.
In their Journal of Sex Research study of the sexual practices of older homosexual men, Paul Van de Ven et al. found that only 2.7 percent of older homosexuals had only one sexual partner in their lifetime.
Brad Hayton provides insight into the attitudes of many homosexuals towards commitment and marriage:
Homosexuals...are taught by example and belief that marital relationships are transitory and mostly sexual in nature. Sexual relationships are primarily for pleasure rather than procreation. And they are taught that monogamy in a marriage is not the norm [and] should be discouraged if one wants a good "marital" relationship.
While the rate of fidelity within marriage cited by these studies remains far from ideal, there is a significant difference between the negligible lifetime fidelity rate cited for homosexuals and the 75 to 90 percent cited for married couples. This indicates that even "committed" homosexual relationships display a fundamental incapacity for the faithfulness and commitment that is axiomatic to the institution of marriage.
LEVEL OF COMMITMENT IN HOMOSEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS
If homosexuals and lesbians truly desired the same kind of commitment signified by marriage, then one would expect them to take advantage of the opportunity to enter into civil unions or registered partnerships, which grant them legal recognition as well as the legal rights of marriage. However, surprisingly few homosexuals and lesbians choose to enter into such legally recognized unions where such arrangements are available, indicating that such couples do not share the same view of commitment as typified by married couples.
In April 2000, the governor of the state of Vermont signed a law instituting civil unions for homosexuals. The bill conferred 300 privileges and rights enjoyed by married couples upon same-sex partners who register their relationship with the town clerk and have their union solemnized by a member of the clergy or the justice of the peace.
Estimating the homosexual and lesbian population of Vermont: The number of homosexuals and lesbians in the state of Vermont may be estimated based on national studies. Contrary to the widely promulgated but inaccurate claims that up to ten percent of the population is homosexual, research indicates that homosexuals comprise one to three percent of the population. For example, a recent study in Demography relying upon three large data sets--the General Social Survey, the National Health and Social Life Survey, and the U.S. Census--estimated the number of exclusive male homosexuals in the general population to be 2.5 percent and the number of exclusive lesbians to be 1.4 percent.
According to the 2000 Census, the adult population of Vermont is 461,304. Based on the Demography study, a reasonable estimate of the number of homosexuals and lesbians in Vermont would be approximately 5,600 (2.5 percent of the adult male population) for male homosexuals, and approximately 3,300 (1.4 percent of the adult female population) for lesbians, for a total of approximately 8,900 homosexuals and lesbians. [Note: these are only rough approximations for purposes of statistical comparison.]
Number of homosexuals and lesbians in Vermont who have entered into civil unions: USA Today reports that, as of January 2004, only 936 homosexual or lesbian couples (for a total of 1,872 individuals) have entered into civil unions. This indicates that only about 21 percent of the estimated homosexual and lesbian population of Vermont has entered into civil unions. Put another way, 79 percent of homosexuals and lesbians in Vermont choose not to enter into civil unions.
By contrast, in Vermont, heterosexual married couples outnumber cohabiting couples by a margin of 7 to 1, indicating a much higher level of desire on the part of heterosexual couples to legalize their relationships.
For purposes of comparison it may be useful to examine two countries that have granted special rights to homosexuals, including marriage-like civil unions, which grant gays and lesbians virtually all of the rights of marriage.
In 1995 Sweden passed the Registered Partnership Act which created civil unions for homosexual couples. In 2003 that law was amended to give registered homosexual couples the same right to adopt or have legal custody of children as married couples. The percentage of homosexual or lesbians in Sweden that enter into civil unions may be estimated as follows:
Estimated homosexual and lesbian population of Sweden: Extrapolating from the Demography estimates in the U.S., a similar percentage of the homosexual and lesbian population of Sweden would be approximately 140,000 (2.5 percent of the adult male population of 3,531,554, and 1.4 percent of the adult female population of 3,679,317).
Number of homosexuals and lesbians in Sweden who have registered their unions: The number of registered same-sex unions in Sweden is reported to be about 1,500 (for a total of 3,000 individuals) out of the estimated homosexual and lesbian population of 140,000. This indicates that only about two percent of Swedish homosexuals and lesbians choose to enter into legally recognized unions. Put another way, about 98 percent of Swedish homosexuals and lesbians do not officially register as same-sex couples.
A landmark law allowing same-sex "marriage" was instituted in the Netherlands on March 31, 2001, with a highly publicized communal ceremony that included two lesbian "brides" and six homosexual "grooms." The Netherlands instituted a "registered partnership" law in 1998 that accorded legal status to homosexual relationships similar to that of marriage. The new law, which explicitly recognizes same-sex matrimony, is restricted to Dutch nationals. However, as the following analysis shows, the percentage of homosexuals and lesbians that have entered into marriage-like civil unions is very low.
Estimated homosexual and lesbian population of the Netherlands: Extrapolating from demographic figures for homosexuals and lesbians in the U.S., a similar percentage for the Netherlands would be 242,000 (2.5 percent of the adult male population of 6,161,662, and 1.4 percent of the adult female population of 6,311,338).
Number of Dutch homosexuals and lesbians who have registered their unions: A news report by the Gay Financial Network predicted that "some 10,000 gay couples could be married" in the first year following the legalization of gay "marriage" in the Netherlands. In reality, far fewer chose to solemnize their relationships. The Office of Legislative Research released a report in October 2002 stating: "The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs reports that 3,383 of the 121,776 marriages licensed between April 1, 2001, and June 30, 2002, involved people of the same sex."
Thus, as of October 2002, only 2.8 percent, or 6,766 individuals (3,383 licenses) out of an estimated homosexual and lesbian population of 242,000, have registered their unions as "married."
Sources:U.S. Census Bureau, Married-Couple and Unmarried-Partner Households: 2000, 2; Black, "Demographics," 141; U.S. Census Bureau Census 2000 Summary File 1; Bayles, "Vermont's Gay Civil Unions," 1; Census 2000 Special Reports, 4; Shane, "Many Swedes Say 'I Don't,'" 1; "ORL Backgrounder," 1.
The much lower rates of homosexual and lesbian civil "marriages" in Sweden and the Netherlands must be viewed in the light of much lower marriage rates in both of those countries, a trend that the introduction of gay "marriage" in the 1990s has not reversed. Thus, as writer Stanley Kurtz argues, the granting of marriage rights to homosexuals and lesbians "has further undermined the institution" of marriage: "Scandinavian gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable."
Conclusion: Level of Relationship Commitment Among Homosexuals
Data from Vermont, Sweden, and the Netherlands reveal that only a small percentage of homosexuals and lesbians identify themselves as being in a committed relationship, with even fewer taking advantage of civil unions or, in the case of the Netherlands, of same-sex "marriage." This indicates that even in the most "gay friendly" localities, the vast majority of homosexuals and lesbians display little inclination for the kind of lifelong, committed relationships that they purport to desire to enter.
NUMBER OF CHILDREN BEING RAISED IN HOMOSEXUAL HOUSEHOLDS
Inflated Statistics for Homosexual Households in the United States
Claims regarding the numbers of children being raised in homosexual and lesbian households vary widely and are often unsubstantiated. According to a study on homosexual parenting in the American Sociological Review, researchers have given figures "of uncertain origin, depicting a range of...6 to 14 million children of gay or lesbian parents in the United States."
According to the study's authors, Judith Stacey and Timothy J. Biblarz, the higher estimates are based upon "classifying as a lesbigay [sic] parent anyone who reports that even the idea of homoerotic sex is appealing." Instead, the authors favor a figure of about one million, which "derives from the narrower...definition of a lesbigay parent as one who self-identifies as such."
However, even the lower figure of one million children being raised in gay and lesbian households does not stand up to statistical analysis.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are 594,391 same-sex unmarried partner households in the United States (301,026 male homosexual households and 293,365 lesbian households). This indicates that only one percent of the total of 59,969,000 households contain same-sex partners. Assuming the Stacey/Biblarz estimate that one million children have a homosexual or lesbian parent, this would mean that, on average, every homosexual household has at least one child.
However, the 2000 Census figures show that only 33 percent (or 96,810) of female same-sex households and 22 percent (or 66,225) of male same-sex households have their own children living with them. These 163,035 same-sex couples (or 326,070 individuals) comprise only 8 percent of the estimated homosexual and lesbian population. Put another way, 92 percent of the estimated adult population of homosexuals and lesbians in the U.S. do not live with children. By comparison, the 2000 Census showed that 46 percent of married couple households have at least one child living in the household. However, this figure underestimates the total number of married couples who have had children, as many older couples have grown children who are no longer living at home.
*Sources:Black, "Demographics," 141; Census 2000 Special Reports, 4.
The Stacey/Biblarz estimates may include children being raised by single homosexuals, some of whom are raising their own biological children conceived in a previous heterosexual relationship.
Implications for Homosexual Parenting
Gay activists attempt to minimize the differences between homosexual and heterosexual households in order to make homosexuality look as normal as possible. However, as already shown, only a small minority of gay and lesbian households have children. Beyond that, the evidence also indicates that comparatively few homosexuals choose to establish households together--the type of setting that is normally prerequisite for the rearing of children.
The Human Rights Campaign, a homosexual advocacy organization, claims that the U.S. population of gays and lesbians is 10,456,405, or five percent of the total U.S. population over 18 years of age. However, as we have seen, the best available data supports a lower estimate of 2.5 percent for male homosexuals and 1.4 percent for lesbians. This would lead to a figure of approximately 4,040,000 homosexual men and women in the U.S. population. Thus, only about 30 percent of homosexuals (1,202,418 out of some 4 million) choose to live in a household with a person of the same sex.
The above indicates that only a small minority of gays and lesbians choose to live in partnered relationships, and furthermore, only a small percentage of partnered homosexual households actually have children. The evidence thus does not support the claim that significant numbers of homosexuals desire to provide a stable home for children.
Even those homosexual relationships that are loosely termed "monogamous" do not necessarily result in healthier behavior. The evidence indicates that homosexual and lesbian relationships are at far greater risk for contracting life-threatening disease compared with married couples:
"Exclusive" Lesbian Relationships Also at Risk
The assumption that lesbians involved in exclusive sexual relationships are at reduced risk for sexual disease is false:
Greater Risk for Suicide
Homosexual and lesbian relationships experience a far greater rate of mental health problems compared to married couples.
INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE Lesbian and Homosexual Relationships
Research indicates very high levels of violence in homosexual and lesbian relationships:
Gay and lesbian vs. other opposite-sex intimate partner relationships
Surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice confirm that homosexual and lesbian relationships had a far greater incidence of domestic partner violence than opposite-sex relationships including cohabitation or marriage.
The National Violence against Women Survey, sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, found that "same-sex cohabitants reported significantly more intimate partner violence than did opposite-sex cohabitants. Thirty-nine percent of the same-sex cohabitants reported being raped, physically assaulted, and/or stalked by a marital/cohabitating partner at some time in their lifetimes, compared to 21.7 percent of the opposite-sex cohabitants. Among men, the comparable figures are 23.1 percent and 7.4 percent."
Source: "Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence," U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs, 30.
Marriage vs. Other Types of Intimate Partner Relationships
Source: "Intimate Partner Violence," Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, Bureau of Justice Statistics, January 31, 2002: 4.
Homosexual and Lesbian Couples vs. Married Couples
When homosexual and lesbian relationships are directly compared with married couples, the difference in the domestic partner violence is pronounced:
Sources: "Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence," U.S. Department of Justice: Office of Justice Programs: 30; "Intimate Partner Violence," Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report:11.
A POLITICAL AGENDA: REDEFINING MARRIAGE
By their own admission, gay activists are not simply interested in making it possible for homosexuals and lesbians to partake of conventional married life. Rather, they aim to change the essential character of marriage, removing precisely the aspects of fidelity and chastity that promote stability in the relationship and the home:
In the gay life, fidelity is almost impossible. Since part of the compulsion of homosexuality seems to be a need on the part of the homophile to "absorb" masculinity from his sexual partners, he must be constantly on the lookout for [new partners]. Consequently the most successful homophile "marriages" are those where there is an arrangement between the two to have affairs on the side while maintaining the semblance of permanence in their living arrangement.
The evidence is overwhelming that homosexual and lesbian "committed" relationships are not the equivalent of marriage. In addition, there is little evidence that homosexuals and lesbians truly desire to commit themselves to the kind of monogamous relationships as signified by marriage. What remains, then, is the disturbing possibility that behind the demands for "gay marriage" lurks an agenda of undermining the very nature of the institution of marriage.
Timothy J. Dailey, Ph.D., is senior fellow in the Center for Marriage and Family Studies at the Family Research Council. Dr. Dailey and Peter Sprigg recently co-authored Getting It Straight: What the Research Says About Homosexuality.
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