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Dutch gay couples divorce at about the same rate as heterosexuals

Dutch gay couples divorce at about the same rate as heterosexuals

Since the legalization of same-sex marriage in the Netherlands, gay couples appear to have divorced at a rate of about 1%--nearly the same rate as heterosexual couples, according to data released Monday. The Netherlands legalized same-sex marriage in April 2001--the first country to do so--and the data released Monday was the first time the government has reported on gay divorce rates. Between April 2001 and December 2003 there were 5,751 gay marriages and 63 divorces, according to figures gathered from city registers. In the same period, there were around 243,000 heterosexual marriages and 2,800 heterosexual divorces. The Netherlands has a population of 16 million. Jan Laten, a demographics expert at the Netherlands's Central Bureau for Statistics, cautioned that the figures for gay couples were based on a relatively small sample and could be interpreted in various ways. "The rate could just as well be 2% next year," he said. He said many of those who married shortly after legalization had waited years for their chance, implying a higher than usual level of commitment and stability. On the other hand, gay couples are generally more likely to be two-income families with no children--couples that have a higher risk of divorce in the straight population, he said. Professor Laten said that Dutch lesbian couples appeared to divorce at a slightly higher rate than gay male couples. He said the reason wasn't clear, but data from Nordic countries--where gay civil unions have been legal for more than a decade--also showed a slightly higher divorce rate for lesbians. Although the legalization of gay marriage caused great debate in the Netherlands, the issue has quickly faded, and the Dutch view the contentious debate over same-sex marriage in the United States with bemusement. (AP)

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