Surveying Marriage vs. Cohabitation: Not a Binary Choice Any More

I have been following the Institute for American Values, led by David Blankenhorn, and the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, led by W. Bradford Wilcox.  They have been working, among other things, on the fortunes of children born outside of either wedlock or cohabitation versus children born in cohabitation, in marriage preceded by cohabitation, and in marriage not preceded by cohabitation.  David Blankenhorn has in fact famously decided to be no longer opposed to same sex marriage, it not being relevant to his concerns.  I am writing under the assumption that same sex marriage will be imposed nationwide at the end of June this year.

So you will now have:

  1. Civil marriage, to which same sex couples will have equal access, and has some tax advantages, but is basically a ‘civil union’;
  2. ‘Holy matrimony’ of conservative religions, which must be between a man and a woman, and also canon law may refuse to recognize civil divorce and remarriage under some conditions; the Catholics do so now, and I hope the conservative Protestants will sometimes do so;
  3. ‘Holy matrimony’ of liberal religions which do include same sex matrimony in their liturgy; there are plenty of people who hold liberal religious beliefs, but they are much less likely to attend church except to use the churches for weddings and funerals, so the actual participating membership in these ‘liberal’ religions is fairly low compared to ‘conservative’ religions;
  4. Cohabitation without any recognized marital status;
  5. Perhaps a revival of ‘common law marriage’, in which a couple living together after a while under certain conditions are adjudged to be civilly married even if there has been no ceremony.  If this is used or revived, same sex couples will have to be included in it on an equal basis.  This creates an interesting problem regarding roommates living in the same house; will inspectors have to come into the homes of single roommates and check how many bedrooms there are, who is staying in which bedrooms, and whether there are twin beds or a double bed!  Heterosexuals are not exempt from this; for some 40 years it has not been uncommon for people to have opposite sex roommates in a different [I trust] bedroom, as well as those of the same sex, to pay the rent, where there is no ‘cohabitation’ or sexual relationship.

Institute for American Values and National Marriage Project have discovered evidence that couples who are ‘married’ when they have children, and couples that do not precede their ‘marriage’ with cohabitation, have more successful families.  But now they are going to have to break down these statistics according to the several different kinds of ‘marriage’ we now have, and find out whether civil ‘marriage’ produces the same beneficial fruit as conservative ‘matrimony’, ‘ liberal matrimony’, or ‘common law’ marriage.  This statistical business is about to get a lot more complicated!

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