It’s already under ‘threat’

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, visiting the state the day Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the same-sex marriage bill into law, met with opponents of the legislation to encourage them to continue to fight.

(Within hours of the bill signing, opponents filed Referendum 74 with the aim of repealing the legislation. If they succeed in collecting 120,577 valid signatures by June 6, the law would be put on hold until the November election.)

Santorum said allowing same-sex marriage waters down marriage at a time when divorce rates are already up. Without strong traditional marriages, society experiences more people going to prison, higher school drop-out and poverty rates and more government spending, he said. To rectify the situation, Santorum wants a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

Santorum also called for civility on both sides of the debate, something he did not receive from protesters who continuously interrupted him as he spoke to supporters. And so we respectfully challenge some of Santorum’s statements about marriage.

First, divorce isn’t up as much as marriage is down. Historically down.

Barely half of all adults in the United States — a record low — are currently married, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census data released in December. The median age at first marriage has never been higher for brides (26.5 years) or grooms (28.7).

If current trends continue, the share of adults who are currently married will drop to below half within a few years.

Other adult living arrangements — including cohabitation, single-person households and single parenthood — have all grown more prevalent in recent decades, Pew reports.

Divorce is a factor in diminishing the share of adults who are currently married compared with 50 years ago. But rates have leveled off in the past two decades after climbing through the 1960s and 1970s, so divorce plays less of a role than it used to, Pew reported.

Another Pew study (2010, “The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Families”) states: “By emphatic margins, the public does not see marriage as the only path to family formation. Fully 86 percent say a single parent and child constitute a family; nearly as many (80 percent) say an unmarried couple living together with a child is a family; and 63 percent say a gay or lesbian couple raising a child is a family.”

Same-sex marriage gives people a chance to be part of a “traditional” married-parents-with-children family.

What is really a bigger “threat” to the institution of marriage? Fewer people choosing to marry? Or giving same-sex couples the right to marry?