Utah: Marriage Equality Reduces Birth Rates

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In their opening brief in support of Utah’s appeal of a ruling that the state’s ban on same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, the Beehive State’s lawyers argued Monday that one reason to avoid marriage equality was the “correlation between genderless marriage and lower birthrates.” But not only does the state fail to show any causation between legal marriage equality and lack of reproduction, but it also fails to show any actual correlation.

Utah’s lawyers argue in the filing that the need to for “adequate procreation is “one reason why, since time immemorial, and even in societies that embraced homosexual liaisons, marriage has always been conceived as a union of a man and a woman for the purpose of having children.” In an attempt to substantiate that claim, the brief notes:

It is also striking that fertility and birthrates tend to be markedly lower in nations and states that have embraced same-sex marriage. For example, the birthrate in states (and Washington, D.C.) that have adopted a genderless marriage definition is significantly lower than the national average. In fact, the six lowest birthrate states have all adopted that redefinition, while none of the nine highest birthrate states have done so.

In a footnote, the attorneys reference the Centers for Disease Control’s National Vital Statistics Reports – Births: Final Data for 2012, which identified the six states with the lowest birthrates in that year were Connecticut (10.2 live births per 1,000 estimated population), Maine (9.6), Massachusetts (10.9), New Hampshire (9.4), Rhode Island (10.4), and Vermont (9.6). The states with highest birthrates in that report Texas (14.7) and Utah (18.0). While other factors including religious beliefs, prenatal care access, contraceptive use, abortion rate, or even climate could all be factors, same-sex couples are biologically no more likely to become pregnant based on the legal recognition of their relationships.

But a ThinkProgress examination of the 2000 edition of the same report reveals just how silly this claim is. Not one state had legal marriage equality at the time (Vermont adopted civil unions that year), and yet the numbers were largely similar. Birthrates in the six New England states were all under 14 per 1,000 people, while Texas (17.8) and Utah (21.9) had the highest rates. While the national birthrate has declined from 14.7 in 2000 to 12.6 in 2012, the decline in Texas (-3.1) and Utah (-3.9) in that time was higher than in any of those six marriage-equality states at the bottom.

In other words, Utah’s birthrate actually dropped more as it rejected same-sex marriage than in key states that embraced it.