Gay divorce stats released

2005-04-04 17:39

Amsterdam - Gay Dutch couples appear to divorce at a rate of about one percent a year - the same rate as heterosexual married couples, according to government data released on Monday.

The Netherlands legalised gay marriage in 2001 - the first country to do so - and the data released on Monday was the first time the government has reported on gay divorce rates.

Between April 2001, when gay marriage was legalised, and December 2003 there have been 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 in the country of 16 million.

Jan Laten, a demographics expert at the Netherlands' 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 two percent next year," he said.

He said many of those who married shortly after legalisation had waited years for their chance, implying a higher than usual level of commitment and stability.

Higher divorce rate for lesbians

On the other hand, gay couples are generally more likely to be two-income families with no children - couples which 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 legalisation of gay marriage caused great debate here, the issue has quickly faded, and the Dutch viewed recent controversies in the United States with bemusement.