Rick Santorum talks a good game when it comes to condemning same-sex marriage for destroying society and the family unit, but when the Des Moines Register asked him what he would do to impose his views of heterosexual marriage on the nation if elected President, the former Pennsylvania senator was left practically speechless. He promised to advocate for a federal constitutional amendment outlawing such unions and “go out and speak and talk” about the issue.
During these trips, Santorum said he’d argue that providing the benefits of opposite-sex marriage to same-sex relationships would devalue the entire institution. Pointing to his relationship with is aunt — whom he assured the board he loves very much — Santorum claimed that that relationship wasn’t as valuable as the one he shares with his wife and if the government said it were, his marriage would lose its value. The national marriage rate would plummet:
SANTORUM: What happens with marriage is — you’ve seen it in Europe and places where you’ve seen this over a long period of time. Fewer people get married. They get married later. They have children out of wedlock before they get married and marriage has become a more casual relationship. Why? Because these other relationships because they are not built on the natural units of the procreative elements of what marriage is about and the stability of having children, they’re not as stable over time. In fact, they don’t even claim to be as stable over time.
Had the editorial board pressed Santorum to substantiate his claims about same-sex relationships devaluing opposite-sex marriages, he would have faced as much difficulty coming up with real word examples as he did explaining how he would act as president.
After all, conservatives made this very same argument after Massachusetts began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2004, warning against a rapid deterioration of heterosexual partnerships and broken families. Their European statistics were wrong then — after Denmark’s passed its registered-partner law in 1989, marriage rates actually climbed, as did the rates in other Scandinavian countries — and their doomsday projections never materialized in the states that do recognize same-sex unions today.
In fact, Massachusetts recorded the “the lowest divorce rates in the entire country” and Iowa has posted the lowest number of divorces since 1970. As FiveThirtyEight.com pointed out last year, “states which have tended to take more liberal policies toward gay marriage have tended also to have larger declines in their divorce rates,” while the seven states with the highest rates “all had constitutional prohibitions on same-sex marriage in place throughout 2008.” And although the causation may still be unclear, it’s certainly not the case that same sex marriage leads to the kind of disintegration of the institution that Santorum is describing.