Straights not great at marriage
February 27 2004 1:00 AM ET
What is President Bush exactly trying to "preserve" in marriages between straight people while attempting to ban same-sex marriage through a constitutional amendment? It appears that straight people haven't been so great at it, according to an analysis of American marriage trends by USA Today:
Divorce: A Census study showed that 73% of women who married between 1980 and 1984 reached their 10th anniversary, compared with 90% of women who married between 1945 and 1949. Although divorce leveled off in the 1990s, as many as 50% of new marriages end.
Cohabitation: At least half of all newlyweds have lived together first, researchers say. And David Popenoe, a Rutgers University sociologist, estimates that two thirds of people who marry have lived with somebody else first. To religious conservatives, that's "living in sin."
Adultery: Some estimates say that about 60% of both husbands and wives have had an affair, if not in their current marriage then in a previous one.
Still, in a recent report, the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy found that people in long-term marriages "live longer, healthier lives with higher levels of emotional well-being and lower rates of mental illness and emotional distress. [They] make more money than otherwise similar singles and build more wealth and experience...than do single or cohabiting couples with similar income levels."
Why shouldn't those positive benefits be given to gay men and lesbians? "Because it's morally wrong," Terry Calhoun, 47, a Catholic who lives in Stockton, Ill., with his second wife, told the newspaper. His first marriage was annulled. "Marriage has slipped a lot," he says, and reserving it for one man and one woman would strengthen it.
That argument makes no sense to 69-year-old John Plessis of Scottsdale, Ariz. He's a retired steamship company executive who says he has lived with several women over the years but never married. "Gays are people too," he told USA Today. "I don't see what difference it makes if they're allowed to get married."
According to the most recent figures, 65% of men and 71% of women marry by age 30. By age 60, those figures rise to 97% for men and 95% for women. "The institution of marriage itself strikes me as being in no trouble at all," Robert Lang, a demographer at Virginia Tech, told the newspaper. "How many things do 95% of people do?... They should have a Defense of Voting Act."
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