Friday, December 27, 2013

Marriage in review 2013


The large world religions offer direction about moral relationships and offer ceremonies to celebrate the beginning of a marriage. Religions generally frown on or prohibit divorce. Adultery is perhaps the most commonly accepted reason for divorce. Monogamy is the norm in most religions but polygamy is widespread in Asia and Africa and Muslims are permitted to have up to four wives (Qur'an 4:2-3).

The legal status of relationships changed for many couples in 2013; however, the fact that same sex couples could legally marry in many parts of the world does not indicate whether there were changes in the number of same-sex couples who lived together. Given the moral stance of most religions against same-sex marriage, one would expect same-sex couples will have to wed outside of places of worship. Will they be welcomed into holy places? Time will tell? For example, in the UK, England and Wales allow same-sex marriage but those marriages will not take place in the Church of England.

JANUARY 1. Maryland’s same-sex marriage bill passed in 2012. It became effective January 1, 2013.

MARCH 27, UNITED STATES.  The case of the UNITED STATES v. WINDSOR was argued before the US Supreme Court. The case of Hollingsworth v. Perry was argued the same day and both were later decided on June 26.
APRIL 17. New Zealand passed a law legalizing same sex-marriage effective in August. The law includes a provision to permit the adoption of children.
MAY 3, Uruguay. President José Mujica signed a law legalizing same-sex marriage. The country had approved same sex unions in 2008 and couples were allowed to adopt since 2009. (Pew Forum).

MAY 7."Polygamy, USA" premiered on the National Geographic television channel. In addition to polygamy, the program included a look at fundamentalist rituals of prayer, Sunday services, baptisms, and funerals.

MAY 14. Nearly half of the 27 jurisdictions in Brazil allow same-sex marriage. On May 14th the National Council of Justice ruled same-sex couples should not be denied marriage licenses. The decision was appealed (Pew Forum).

MAY 18. A French law legalizing same-sex marriage was signed into law by President Francois Hollande. (Pew Forum)
The Rand Corporation ( published a report on cohabitation.

“Half of the white females have entered a cohabitation by age 23, while for black and Hispanic women the comparable age is 25. By age 25, only 40% of ‘other’ women (primarily Asian) have cohabited. Males enter cohabiting unions at a slower pace than females. Black males experience cohabitation more rapidly than other race/ethnicity groups, with half having entered a cohabitation by age 24. Half of white males have entered a cohabitation by age 25, while only 40% of Hispanic and ‘other’ males have cohabited by age 24.” (Page 7)

JUNE 20. Alan Chambers formerly of Exodus International, apologized to the LGBT community. The organization was associated with efforts to help gay persons become "ex-gays." See the story at  

JUNE 26, 2013. The US Supreme court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional. The legal marriage of a same-sex couple in the State of New York would be recognized in terms of the benefits due the spouse of the deceased.

JUNE 26, 2013. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the U S Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the decision of the Ninth Circuit is vacated and remanded. Proposition 8, which would have ended same-sex marriage in California, was no longer the law. The effect of the Court's action was a return to marriage equality in California.


‘If a person is gay and seeks God and has goodwill, 
who am I to judge him?’
Pope Francis

The Catholic Pope’s words to reporters garnered much attention when he said them in July and were often quoted throughout the year. Pope Francis appears to focus on restoring the Catholic Church in society as a place where all people are welcome. Interestingly, the Church has not changed its teaching regarding marriage or same-sex relationships. Read more in TIME.

JULY 1 was the effective date of Delaware’s law making same-sex marriage legal.

JULY 17. Queen Elizabeth II assented to a bill legalizing same-sex marriage in England and Wales. The law prohibits same-sex weddings within the Church of England, which limits marriage to one man and one woman. Although most Scots support same-sex marriage, the Scottish Parliament has not voted to legalize it. (See

JULY 18. The National Center for Family & Marriage Research at Bowling Green State University issues a report on marriage. The US marriage rate was found to be the lowest in more than a century. The recent rate for which data are available is about 31 per 1,000 married women compared to a rate of 92.3 in 1920.


AUGUST 1. The legislatures of Minnesota and Rhode Island passed laws making same-sex marriages legal on August 1.

AUGUST 5. Jamie Dettmer wrote about the increase in multiple marriages within the UK's Muslim communities. Although plural marriages were outlawed in 1604, ceremonies take place in nikah ceremonies. High estimates place the number of men with multiple wives at 30,000. What makes the increase noteworthy is the growing popularity among younger and well educated women.

AUGUST 25. The penalty for adultery is death in some parts of the world. Jessica Donati of Reuters reported proposed changes in Afghan law that would establish stoning as the punishment for adultery. Following a public outcry, the government backed away from the plan.
"We are working on the draft of a sharia penal code where the punishment for adultery, if there are four eyewitnesses, is stoning," said Rohullah Qarizada, who is part of the sharia Islamic law committee working on the draft and head of the Afghan Independent Bar Association.

SEPTEMBER 12. Sharon Jayson of USA Today summarized reports of a decline in remarriages.
“The remarriage rate in the USA has dropped 40% over the past 20 years
Cohabitation is more accepted, and couples are older at first marriage
37% of cohabiters have been married before…” 
Some sources linked the decline in remarriages to the cohabitation option. Jayson reports research results and comments on recent studies by university scientists. 


OCTOBER 21. New Jersey court ruling resulted in legal same-sex marriage. New Jersey Governor ended efforts to appeal the decision. He has repeated his position that marriage is between one man and one woman, which would please Republicans supporters but he signed a bill that made gay conversion therapy illegal. NY Times story.


NOVEMBER 5. Illinois passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage effective June 1, 2014.


Time magazine announced its person of the year as Pope Francis, which was no surprise. But what was surprising was the same honor bestowed on him by TheAdvocate.

DECEMBER 2. Hawaii’s legislature passed a law 13 November legalizing same-sex marriage on December 2.

DECEMBER 13, Utah. Judge Clark Waddoups ofthe U S District Court ruled against the State’s law prohibiting cohabitation in a case brought by Kody Brown Meri Brown, Janelle Brown, Christine Brown and Robyn Sullivan. The Judge referred to religious beliefs in his ruling. The family are members of the Apostolic United Brethren Church. The judge let stand the State’s law against bigamy. Here's a quote from pages 9-10 of the ruling.
This decision is fraught with both religious and historical significance for the State of Utah because it deals with the question of polygamy, an issue that played a central role in the State’s development and that of its dominant religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the “LDS Church” or “Mormon Church”).  The Brown Plaintiffs are not members of the LDS Church, but do adhere to the beliefs of a fundamentalist church that shares its historical
roots with Mormonism

DECEMBER 16. Peggy Stack of The Salt Lake Tribune ( reported that the LDS Church published an essay on its website providing a history of their practice of polygamy. The full text is at

Amidst the news about gay marriage and polygamy, Phil Robertson of A&E’s Duck Dynasty offered firestorm-inducing comments about sexual relationships (among other things) in an interview with GQ. The A&E network announced a suspension of the show and the media went into overdrive as did fans of the show.
“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” Phil Robertson
DECEMBER 19. New Mexico’s Supreme Court found it unconstitutional to refuse marriage licenses to same-sex couples. (NPR)

DECEMBER 20. Federal Judge, Robert J. Shelby ruled in the case of Kitchen v. Herbert. The ruling overturns Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage. Following the ruling, couples were in line to obtain marriage licenses. TIME magazine

Summary of Marriage and Relationships in 2013

United States
The news headlines suggest that the major marital changes in 2013 were about the legalization of same-sex marriages. As of 21 December, 17 states and D.C. allow same-sex marriages, 5 states allow civil unions or domestic partnerships, and 28 states have a constitutional ban prohibiting same-sex marriage. (Boston Globe).

US data through 2010, indicated the median age for first marriage has risen in recent decades after hitting bottom around 1950. On average (median) women are age 27 when they first marry. Pew data indicate about half of US adults were married in 2010 (

In the US, all states except Nebraska require a couple be age 18 to legally marry without parental consent. In some cases, a couple may marry with court approval if the woman is pregnant. The legal age in Nebraska is 19. Most states set a lower limit of age 16 even with parental consent but a few allow younger persons to marry with court approval (

Divorce laws appear to have changed little and are not highly contested. Divorce rates appear little changed in recent years. Approximately half of marriages are likely to end in divorce. Remarriage rates appears to have declined and cohabitation may be a factor in lower remarriage rates.

By the end of the year, polygamy made the news with the ruling in Utah suggesting that plural marriage-like cohabiting relationships were no longer forbidden by law. It is not known how many plural marriages or plural marriage-like relationships exist in the US. The focus on polygamy by news sources is usually on members of groups that split from the official LDS church. But according to a 2008 NPR report, some 50,000 to 100,000 Muslims live in polygamous relationships.

According to the Pew Forum, 16 countries allow same-sex marriage and two countries (Mexico, USA) permit same-sex marriage in some jurisdictions.

The age at which people marry varies with the country. About 20% of women are married by age 18 in 39 countries. In 20 countries, 10% of women are married by age 15. (, November 22, 2013). Overall, the age of first marriage is rising around the world.

Although divorce is limited by the teaching of different religious groups, protests about divorce and legal efforts to impose stricter guidelines are not making news. I only found evidence that divorce remains illegal in the Philippines and the Vatican.

According to the Independent, a UK newspaper, more than 40 countries recognize polygamous marriages. These are mostly in Asia and Africa. (, Sunday 08 December, 2013).

Previous posts on marriage and relationships
Healthy marriages

Marriage under reconstruction Part 1

Marriage under reconstruction Part 2

Note on polygamy and related terminology. I find reports on plural marriage vary in the terminology used. Some use the general term polygamy to refer to both official polygamous marriages and unofficial marriage-like plural unions involving more than two persons. Most polygamous relationships appear as one man and a few wives (polygyny) but some cultures practice polyandry (one woman and a few husbands). Polyamory denotes multiple simultaneous loving relationships. The people in a polyamorous relationship may or may not be married.

Other sources
National Conference of State Legislatures Link to same-sex marriage summary
Pew Forum ( (map for ages of first marriage around the world based on UN data)
RAND report ( (Working paper on cohabitation and marriage)
United Nations World Marriage Data 2012 at

It is possible I have made an error in this summary. Please share your corrections or suggestion in a constructive comment.


  1. Thanks for your post! I am currently in a Marriage and Family Therapy class that has been discussing many of these growing trends. I am interested in learning more about the part that talked about the increase of popularity of plural marriage among younger and well educated Muslim women.

  2. That definitely caught my eye too. I wonder what young well educated Muslim women find valuable in a plural marriage situation. I am definitely interested in hearing more about this trend.

  3. This article also made me think about arranged marriages. I know, that like polygamy, it is still accepted in certain parts of the world. I wonder how prevalent it really is and what are the legal limits?