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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM)

Part 1: Definition of terms. Is the theory that
SSM causes a drop in birth rates reasonable?
Comments by Senior U.S. District Court Judge
John G. Heyburn. The theory is tested and fails
in Massachusetts.

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same-sex marriage logo Definition of terms:

The following definitions are often used In population studies:

  • Birth rate: This is the total number of live births per thousand of population, including females, males and intersexuals, from newborns to seniors. It is typically calculated over a given year. Synonyms: natality, birth-rate. The birth rate in the U.S. for 2011 was 12.7 live births per thousand persons. 1

  • Fertility Rate: The number of live births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years in the population in a given year. The fertility rate for all of the U.S. in 2011 was 63.2. 2

  • Total fertility rate: The sums of birth rates for 5-year age groups of women aged 15 to 44 years multiplied by 5. Expressed as live births per 1,000 women who are in this age range. Synonym: TFR. The TFR for the U.S. averaged 1,894.5 per 1,000 women, or 1.9 per woman. A TFR expressed as average live births per woman of slightly more than 2 is required to stabilize the population, assuming that the levels of immigration and emigration are equal. 2

  • Theory: There are two quite different definitions of the word "theory" in common use:
    • In popular usage, it refers to a hunch that someone promotes that has not been verified or tested. This meaning is often observed in crime TV shows.

    • In scientific usage, it refers to a belief that started as a hunch but has been extensively tested for accuracy via specially designed experiments, has been widely publicized in scientific literature, and is generally accepted by scientists. An example is the theory of evolution.

We use the first meaning in this essay, because the theory was never tested before publication.

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Is the link between same-sex marriage and the total fertility rate a reasonable conclusion?

Outside lawyers hired by the Government of Kentucky noted that only "man-woman" couples can "naturally procreate." Further, they suggested that the state has a legitimate interest in encouraging what they refer to as "natural procreation" because this will maintain stable TFR values which will lead to "long-term economic stability." As support for their claim, the lawyers noted that the U.S. states with the highest birth rates all currently ban same-sex marriage whereas the states with the lowest birth rates all allowed same-sex marriage. This emphasis on natural procreation appears to be a form of bias that discounts the value of children born as a result of artificial insemination or surrogacy.

However, concluding that the legalizing of same-sex marriages in a state causes TFRs to drop may not be valid, because there are many economic, cultural, social, religious, educational, and other differences among the 50 states. For example, consider a comparison of Vermont and Mississippi: Vermont legalized same-sex marriage in 2009. Mississippi does not yet permit same-sex couples to marry. The federal government's Centers for Disease Control most recent results when this essay was written in mid-2014 were for 2011: Vermont had a low TFR of 1.63 per woman; Mississippi had a relatively high birth rate of 1.94 per woman. 2 Thus there is a correlation between birth rate and the legalization of same-sex marriage between these two states. But correlation does not necessarily prove a cause and effect relationship. There are also differences between the two states in: religiosity, educational attainment, average income, average age at first marriage, rate of teen births, the rates of miscarriages and stillbirths, various cultural factors, etc. The difference in birth rate may well be caused by some combination of these factors and not significantly related to same-sex marriage policies.

The only method to show that a cause and effect relationship between the legalization of same-sex marriage in a state and any subsequent fall in the birth rate would be to study whether a state's TFR typically increases, decreases, or remains the same during the years after SSMs are legalized, when compared to the TFR for the entire country. It is necessary to compare a the state's TFR with the federal value because these values change noticeably with economic conditions in the country. The country suffered a recession during 2007 to 2009, which depressed the birth rates in all states throughout the U.S. at a time when five states legalized SSM.

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Senior U.S. District Court Judge John G. Heyburn II in Kentucky rejected the arguments of the defendants' lawyers:

In his ruling in Love v. Beshear, Judge Heyburn II appeared to be both unimpressed with and highly critical of the state's main argument against allowing same-sex couples to marry. He wrote:

"The Court will begin with Defendant’s only asserted justification for Kentucky’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage: 'encouraging, promoting, and supporting the formation of relationships that have the natural ability to procreate.' Perhaps recognizing that procreation-based arguments have not succeeded in this Court ... nor any other court post-Windsor, Defendant adds a disingenuous twist to the argument: traditional marriages contribute to a stable birth rate which, in turn, ensures the state’s long-term economic stability."

The term "traditional marriage" is often used to refer to marriages between opposite-sex couples.

Judge Heyburn continued:

"These arguments are not those of serious people. Though it seems almost unnecessary to explain, here are the reasons why. Even assuming the state has a legitimate interest in promoting procreation, the Court fails to see, and Defendant never explains, how the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage has any effect whatsoever on procreation among heterosexual spouses. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage does not change the number of heterosexual couples who choose to get married, the number who choose to have children, or the number of children they have." 3

Judge Heyburn referred to a recent case: Bishop v. United States ex rel. Holder (962 F. Supp. 2d 1252, 1291 (N.D. Okla. 2014):

“Marriage is incentivized for naturally procreative couples to precisely the same extent regardless of whether same-sex couples (or other non-procreative couples) are included. ... The Court finds no rational relation between the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage and the Commonwealth’s asserted interest in promoting naturally procreative marriages. ... The state’s attempts to connect the exclusion of same-sex couples from marriage to its interest in economic stability and in 'ensuring humanity’s continued existence' are at best illogical and even bewildering. These arguments fail for the precise reasons that Defendant’s procreation argument fails. ... Numerous courts have repeatedly debunked all other reasons for enacting such laws. The Court can think of no other conceivable legitimate reason for Kentucky’s laws excluding same-sex couples from marriage." 3

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Did the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) values in Massachusetts drop after SSMs were legalized?:

During 2004, Massachusetts was the first state in the U.S. to make marriage available to same-sex couples. Yearly data is available for the state as recently as 2012.

TFR data, from the March of Dimes web site 4 is:

Year TFR in MA TFR in U.S. Ratio of TFR: MA to US (in %) Years after SSM legalized
2000
57.0
65.9
86.5%
-4
2001
56.9
65.1
87.4
-3
2002
56.7
64.8
87.5
-2
2003
57.2
66.1
86.5
-1
2004
56.5
66.3
85.2
0
2005
56.1
66.7
84.1
1
2006
56.9
68.5
83.3
2
2007
57.4
69.5
82.6
3
2008
56.7
68.6
82.6
4
2009
55.3
66.7
82.9
5
2010
54.0
64.1
84.2
6
2011
54.3
63.2
85.9
7
2012
53.5
63.0
84.9
8

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This topic continues in the next essay with conclusions for MA, a pictorial, and data for Connecticut

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Birth rate," The Free Dictionary, at: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/
  2. "2011: National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 62, No. 1," Page 40, Table 12, Centers for Disease Control, 2013-JUN-28, at: http://www.cdc.gov/
  3. Judge John G. Heyburn II, "Memorandum Opinion and Order," Federal District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, 2014-JUL-01, at: http://www.scribd.com/
  4. "Birth rate: Massachusetts and US, 2002-2012," Form, March of Dimes, at: http://www.marchofdimes.com/

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How you may have arrived here:

Home > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Same-sex marriage > SSM sub-menu > Anti-SSM argument based on birth rate > here

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2014-JUL-12
Latest update: 2014-JUL-14
Author: B.A. Robinson
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