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Gay Marriage in Scandinavia
May 20, 2004 4:02 PM   Subscribe

Scandinavia has had gay marriage for years, and surprise surprise, the institution has not collapsed. It's amazing how rarely Americans take advantage of these sorts of international comparisons...
posted by MikeB (33 comments total)

 
Well that is a strawman. I don't think anyone said the institution will collapse, much less in a matter of years. I think most opponents are taking the multigenerational view. It is similar to the ongoing debates about Income tax, or the Gold Standard, or Global Warming.. long term views about what kind of society and culture we want, what will happen in the long term based on choices we make today.
posted by stbalbach at 4:11 PM on May 20, 2004


Belgium and the Netherlands, neither of them Scandinavian, are the only European countries to recognize gay marriage, as opposed to just some kind of registered partnership.
posted by Dasein at 4:14 PM on May 20, 2004


That brings up a joke I heard the other day... if the terrorists really hate freedom, why aren't they trying to take over the Netherlands? Why aren't there attacks in Amsterdam every day as terrorists desperately try to curtail their freedom?
posted by mathowie at 4:17 PM on May 20, 2004


I suppose that would be because, surprise, surprise, a decent amount of Americans could not find Scandinavia on a map, or most any country. Or sometimes even America.
posted by efalk at 4:17 PM on May 20, 2004


MikeB, are you sure we need another thread on this. The last thread is still active, ya know?
posted by dash_slot- at 4:18 PM on May 20, 2004


Other countries are unamerican.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 4:18 PM on May 20, 2004


It's amazing how rarely Americans take advantage of these sorts of international comparisons...

I know... seriously man. Lame no-international-comparing American mother fuckers.

Anyway, did anyone listen to the Diane Rehm(?) Show a couple days ago? Some other woman was actually running the interview, but they were talking to some (gay) guy who had just written a book about "gay marriage in the America". I can't remember his name or the name of his book, but he was a DAMN good interview, well prepared. His comments were well thought out, educated, easy to understand, non-argumentative, sensible. To go with being a great voice for the cause, he was also a very good listener. He took each bit of criticism, doubt, or opposing view and really listened to it, often putting himself in that other person's place without wholly dismissing the thought. I hadn't heard anyone do that so well before. He understood and was seemingly genuine about his concern for other viewpoints. I was obviously impressed with the fella. In the end, I parked the truck in front of the house, sat there for a sec and thought, "that son of bitch just changed my mind". I didn't think it was possible, but it's true. If I have the opportunity to vote on this issue someday, I will vote FOR gay marriage. DING!
posted by Witty at 4:21 PM on May 20, 2004


matthowie: if you hate freedom, you want to attack people who will respond by attacking their own freedoms first; that way they do most of the work for you. If they then go on to attack an uninvolved third country and depose a guy you didn't much like, so much the better. From a freedom standpoint the Dutch may seem like a better target, but there's no reason to think they're stupid and obliging enough to reward terrorism as handsomely as the US does.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:36 PM on May 20, 2004


Actually, MikeB, I'd say you're just not looking in the right places:
MARRIAGE IS SLOWLY DYING IN SCANDINAVIA. A majority of children in Sweden and Norway are born out of wedlock. Sixty percent of first-born children in Denmark have unmarried parents. Not coincidentally, these countries have had something close to full gay marriage for a decade or more. Same-sex marriage has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood. The Nordic family pattern--including gay marriage--is spreading across Europe. And by looking closely at it we can answer the key empirical question underlying the gay marriage debate. Will same-sex marriage undermine the institution of marriage? It already has.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 4:43 PM on May 20, 2004


Why would the US look to some furriners for insight into gays getting married? We're America, we're the best and brightest and richest and all that and a bag of chips.

They should be learning from us!

Seriously, its amazingly difficult for me to believe that gay marriage is still an issue. I mean, come on. Britney Spears can get drunk on peach schnapps and marry her child hood pal only to annul it hours later? And THAT'S not worse for the "institution" than allowing two people who love each other, who just happen to be the same sex, to enjoy the same benefits that Britney could have enjoyed?

Such a stupid debate over what should be a non-issue.
posted by fenriq at 4:43 PM on May 20, 2004


Witty - first, I had always assumed you were agnostic on this one. Second, is this the guy -
11:00 - Jonathan Rauch: "Gay Marriage" (Times Books)

Journalist Jonathan Rauch examines arguments and developments in the debate over gay marriage -- including the first same-sex marriages being performed this week in Massachusetts.

Jonathan Rauch, correspondent for "The Atlantic Monthly," columnist for "National Journal," and writer-in-residence at The Brookings Institution.

* Brookings Institution
* Atlantic Monthly

"Gay Marriage : Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America"
posted by dash_slot- at 4:44 PM on May 20, 2004


.ram link here.

I also wanted to congratulate you on your open mind.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:50 PM on May 20, 2004


That brings up a joke I heard the other day... if the terrorists really hate freedom, why aren't they trying to take over the Netherlands? Why aren't there attacks in Amsterdam every day as terrorists desperately try to curtail their freedom?
posted by mathowie at 6:17 PM CST on May 20


There is no trial by jury in the Netherlands.
posted by four panels at 4:55 PM on May 20, 2004


Very few nations compare in statistically relevent ways in any respect to America. The foreign analogies aren't drawn because they really aren't useful. Iceland is powered entirely(?) by hydrogen fuel cells. No analogy there. Etc.
posted by abcde at 5:07 PM on May 20, 2004


grrarrgh00, did you click on the link in this post? The column linked therein is specifically discrediting the numbers cited by Stanley Kurtz, the author of what you just linked.
posted by logovisual at 5:07 PM on May 20, 2004


About that article about Scandinavia: the phenomenon of children born out of wedlock does not necessarily equal family instability. If people choose to have kids without getting married, why should the government care? If our civilization will fall if not everyone gets married (as some would have us believe), why isn't there a law about flogging/fining (take your pick) unmarried parents?
posted by Triplanetary at 6:03 PM on May 20, 2004


There is no trial by jury in the Netherlands.

I just don't trust a jury of my peers, anyways. If they weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty, why should I trust they'd be smart enough to determine my fate, and analyze all those legal facts and such?
posted by benjh at 6:29 PM on May 20, 2004 [1 favorite]


If people choose to have kids without getting married, why should the government care?

Because statistically, children born out of wedlock are significantly more likely to commit crimes, go on welfare, and abuse drugs - creating significant social costs. Also, a conservative would say that children born into a married home tend to be happier and healthier, and we want to encourage what's best for the children, don't we?
posted by gd779 at 9:01 PM on May 20, 2004


Because statistically, children born out of wedlock are significantly more likely to etc. etc. etc.

How much of that has to do with the magical, mystical power of wedlock, and how much of that has to do with unmarried parents being placed at a disadvantage by their peers, the tax system, the welfare system, employers? Do you have any research on couples who are unmarried but nonetheless stay together in a relationship throughout the their offsprings' childhood?
posted by Jimbob at 9:18 PM on May 20, 2004


and how much of that has to do with unmarried parents being placed at a disadvantage by their peers, the tax system, the welfare system, employers?

You tell us. You're making the assertion that these seemingly intangible qualities somehow affect child-rearing, but provide no proof as to why. Then, you go on to ask for research on an third topic. The statistics that prove that children who were raised in a nuclear family are more socially healthy exists and is considered common sense. The proof of your assertions, on the other hand, has no real basis in fact (that you've displayed, or that I've read about in a comprehensive fashion).
posted by BlueTrain at 9:25 PM on May 20, 2004


The statistics that prove that children who were raised in a nuclear family are more socially healthy exists and is considered common sense.

I just want to know what a "nuclear family" has to do with obtaining a marriage certificate? What, after all, does an actual marriage achieve for individuals, given that (a) it's easy to obtain (b) it's easy to discard? Marriage does, however, offer a variety of financial benefits, thanks to the state. And large parts of society still retain a disgraceful stigma about unmarried parents.

I'm not fussed about gay marriage... I think there are more important issues, like why gay people should need to be married to obtain benefits that striaght people take for granted. Remove any advantage obtained by married people in their financial and social dealings, level the playing field, and then we'll see what sort of effect it has.
posted by Jimbob at 9:31 PM on May 20, 2004


I just want to know what a "nuclear family" has to do with obtaining a marriage certificate?

Don't take this offensively, but you're not married with kids, are you? The certificate itself is a legal document, with no real affect upon people's emotions or personalities. The commitment one must endure with marriage, and kids, however, is life-long and extremely taxing (and joyous, don't get me wrong here). And those who are married with children are more likely to engage is responsible, steady, and rational behavior, as opposed to the alternatives.

And if gays were married w/ kids, I would expect them to realize the same maturity and responsibility as their straight counterparts. For whatever reason, humanity values the idea of marriage with such high regard that cultures will defend its "values" to the death.

BTW, the truth is, I can't explain in this forum the subtle nuances of marriage w/ kids because human subtleties are lost in text (and I'm not THAT good a writer).
posted by BlueTrain at 9:42 PM on May 20, 2004


i don't have any friends who grew up in a 2 parent family that had opposite sex parents - we are all children of divorce or purposely single parents - and yet somehow we're all well adjusted, successful people. almost none of us are certifiably (heh!) married, most of us are common-law, those of us who are breeders have happy, productive, socially adept children. we're also not american... so i wonder, is it only american children who apparently can't cope with anything outside the leave it to beaver fantasy...? or is it the adults...? i've read the same stats BlueTrain has read, yet i don't see those stats playing out in the world i live in.

i've also read stats and seen a documentary on american foster families that concluded gay foster parents were more stable & more successful at raising foster kids, and also more likely to have successful adoptions of their foster kids. it pains me that i often don't think to jot down titles and sources, i'd love to be able to cite that documentary. gah. i'm a bad mefite.
posted by t r a c y at 10:05 PM on May 20, 2004


I think it's the 'having kids' part that should rightly be the catalyst for one making a life-long committment to raise them. Not having a certain legal document beforehand certainly shouldn't be a get out of jail free card.
posted by Space Coyote at 10:47 PM on May 20, 2004


We all know the saying about lies damn lies and stats right? Well the thing is stats that say single parent families are more likely to produce bad kids presupposes those single parent families are all the negative examples (ie. druggie, irresponsible etc) fact is if individuals make certain choices they are going to be bad parents. And people who abuse drugs and are irresponsible are more likely to be single. separate that from people who are single by choice and make good decisions.
Second point, it is a logical fallacy to say since Scandinavia a)allows gay marriage and b)marriage in general is on the decline c)therefore it is gay marriage fault (just because there are clouds in the sky does not mean it is going to rain, even if every time it rains there are clouds in the sky)- look up Post Hoc argument. Consider divorce rates in America have been pretty high (near %50) without gay marriage afterall. I think divorce and non marriage has more to do with freedom to choose who you want to be with and the freedom to exit abusive or non-ideal situations than anything else. Most stats we quote concerning negative social behavior and non marriage have to do with American populations and are more geared towards our non-supportive society, really in many ways we are a mean spirited society.
posted by edgeways at 11:31 PM on May 20, 2004


Witty - first, I had always assumed you were agnostic on this one.

That's true... to a point. Meaning, I would have probably leaned to the right a bit if put in that position. But I never really thought it was my issue, so it never really bothered me one way or another... it didn't matter to me that I wasn't hardlined for or against gay marriage. At face value, it's like "WHOA, wait... gay people cant get married. They're gay." I tend to stick with my gut instincts/reactions, as most people would I imagine. So maybe "changed my mind" wasn't 100% accurate. It would probably be better to say, Jonathan Rauch (that's him) convinced me that gay marriage is the RIGHT direction to go. And to be quite honest, it felt pretty good to come to that conclusion... a relief of sorts.

I also wanted to congratulate you on your open mind.

Thanks. I really do try. But I am a stubborn opinionated s.o.b. and that's what I usually put out there first, though not always through a conscious decision.

I dated a girl in high school whose parents were both gay... her mom and her dad. They both decided to come out at the same time, the summer before our senior year (thanks a lot {grin}). I don't know all the details, I tried to stay out of it really... it was a crazy time to say the least. Mom moved out with her lover (still together today, going on 20 years) and dad's lover moved in. I assume they were gay all along (of course, right?), but played the "we're straight" card for decades. I also assume that's because this was the 60's, they were both nurses in the army in Vietnam, fell in love, decided (personally) to just go with it, and ultimately had kids and started a family. I guess by the time the kids were about to go off to college, they couldn't take it anymore and let the cat out of the bag. It's still so bizarre to me, even today. I wonder how much of it was planned, how much they discussed it all, when did they tell each other "I'm gay"... "No shit! I'm gay too". Did they both know all along, but just wanted to have kids that badly?

I guess my point of this little anecdote is those two people, her parents, have always been my only frame of reference when it comes to anything gay (aside from crappy TV)... hardly an ideal case.
posted by Witty at 1:45 AM on May 21, 2004


Not exactly relevant I know, but I've just filled out my StatsCanada census form and I noticed in the "relationship" section the first two choices are:

Opposite-sex spouse or common-law partner
Same-sex spouse or common-law partner


I'm impressed that they included that already. At least I assume it wasn't on the 1999 census form.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:14 AM on May 21, 2004


The assertion that gay 'marriage' in Scandinavia has caused the decline in heterosexual marriages there is absolutely ludicrous.

The most important reason for why so many Scandinavians don't marry - at least not right away - is that there is no stigma attached to being an unwed mother. And why should there be? Most of the time the parents continue to cohabit and raise the child together, so it's not like these are all single mothers who are somehow not providing for their children. Marriage is also taken a little more seriously in Scandinavia - people often wait till many years into their relationships before they get married. There is no stigma and very few civil benefits that aren't available to co-habiting couples, so why rush and make that decision before you're ready? Scandinavians are also really good at integrating children into their lives, whereas Americans tend to have an all or nothing attitude - children vs. career, or swinging single vs. stuck-at-home parent. Childcare is free for everyone, so Scandinavians are not forced to make a lot of the child vs. career decisions that Americans are. Society there is structured to help parents nurture their children, which is one of the things I love about Scandinavia.

As an example, my cousin in Norway and her live-in boyfriend got pregnant a few years ago. She was entitled to 9 months maternity leave at 100% pay (!) and 3 more months at 80% (!!). Her boyfriend was also entitled to a 6 week paid paternity leave, even though they were not married. They decided they did want to get married but were in no rush about it - three years later, when they had saved up the money, they had a beautiful ceremony just the way they wanted.

This, to me, is a progressive social structure. There is plenty of time for the mother to breastfeed and mother and nurture her child, and there is time for the father to bond and help out as well. There is no stigma or penalty because they weren't married at the time of the child's birth. Compare this to the US, where women - if they're lucky enough to work for a progressive company - get a maximum of 3 paid months off after birth, and fathers rarely get any time off (and even if they do, there is stigma attached to actually taking it - like it makes them less of a man, somehow). Other things being equal, which society do you think produces healthier, more grounded citizens?

This issue holds much meaning for me, but I'll get off my soapbox now and spare you the rest of the diatribe. I love the US and am very happy in my choice to live here, but marriage and child welfare is certainly one area where I feel Norway has it going on and the US lags sorely behind.

Oh, and Witty, I'm very happy to hear about your broadened way of thinking. Thank you.
posted by widdershins at 11:38 AM on May 21, 2004


we want to encourage what's best for the children, don't we?

Not necessarily. There is more to society than its children.
posted by rushmc at 11:56 AM on May 21, 2004


Rush, that is simplistic and myopic. All citizens need a decent start, and all begin as children. Universal child welfare as a society's organising principle is much more sensible than economic growth, which only benefits a section, not all.

/dreams
posted by dash_slot- at 3:10 PM on May 21, 2004


Universal child welfare as a society's organising principle is much more sensible than economic growth

Um...whoa. One broad generalization does not deserve another.
posted by BlueTrain at 3:13 PM on May 21, 2004


dreams some more...
posted by dash_slot- at 4:53 PM on May 21, 2004


All citizens need a decent start, and all begin as children.

Um, I don't believe I disagreed with that statement anywhere....
posted by rushmc at 6:24 PM on May 22, 2004


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