Divorce Rates Similar among Gay and Straight Couples

A many kisses his husbandOpponents of gay marriage have periodically argued that gay marriage is fundamentally different and that gay couples are more likely to break up. According to a new study, though, gay marriage looks a lot like heterosexual marriage, with gay couples splitting at rates similar to those of straight couples.

Divorce Rates among Gay and Straight Couples

The study drew its data from the How Couples Meet and Stay Together survey and began tracking about 3,000 couples in 2009. They followed up with the couples every year through 2012. Because many states did not have legal gay marriage options at the time of the study, researchers looked at both legally married same-sex couples and same-sex couples who maintained long-term, marriage-like relationships. The study included almost 500 same-sex couples.

Researchers found that the rate of marriage breakup among same-sex couples was indistinguishable from that of straight couples. There was also no substantive difference in marriage breakup rates between lesbian and gay couples. Both straight and gay marriages had an annual breakup rate of less than 3%.

The study also found that legalized same-sex marriage tended to encourage marriage among same-sex couples. Forty-two percent of same-sex couples living in states where gay marriage was legal were married when the survey began, compared to just 28% of couples in states that did not legally recognize gay marriage.

Michael Rosenfeld, an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University and the study’s lead author, explains in the study that same-sex couples are more likely to stay together in states that legalize same-sex marriage. He further emphasizes that the sex of partners plays a less significant role in predicting divorce than other factors. The study notes that some previous research found that gay couples are more likely to break up, but that data did not come from a nationally representative sample. For both gay and straight couples, the study says, factors such as commitment, the history of the relationship, and the length of the relationship all play more significant roles in keeping couples together.


Marriage break-up rates similar for gay, straight couples — study. (2014, October 6). Retrieved from http://health.usnews.com/health-news/articles/2014/10/06/marriage-break-up-rates-similar-for-gay-straight-couples-study

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  • Micah

    October 9th, 2014 at 10:57 AM

    Very interesting, I would have thought that the rates and percentages would be lower than that of heterosexuals

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