Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Setting the record straight on Civil Partnerships...


“There was a 30% breakup of Partnerships with gays last year - and it only became law recently!!!”   Gerald Coates, 19th March 2013.
This direct quote comes from my Facebook page yesterday where Charismatic church leader Gerald Coates launched an unnuanced attack on anyone who would dare to suggest that same-sex partnerships can be anything but sinful.

His views and opinions on same-sex relationships are of course his own - and he has a right to hold them – but what particularly disturbed me was the blatant untruth of this statistical claim.
It is not just Gerald Coates who makes such claims.  I have heard similar ones from a number of traditionalist Evangelical clergy and ministers.  For some people who hear them, they have been repeated so often that they must be true!  And it doesn’t help when well known Evangelical church leaders like Gerald Coates repeat them with such force.

So what is the truth about Civil Partnerships and rates of dissolution?
Below is a summary of the available statistics from the ONS (Office for National Statistics) who provide official government statistics on a whole host of areas of public life.  Please feel free to follow the links to see the source documents.

Untruth Number 1:


Contrary to Gerald Coates claim – the statistics for 2012 have not yet been released.  The latest available statistics for Civil Partnerships are for 2011.

Untruth Number 2:


The ONS statistics for 2011 show that there were 6,795 new Civil Partnerships registered during the year.  It also shows that the number of dissolutions (the equivalent of divorce) was 672 – which is less than 10% of the number of new Civil Partnerships.
That does not mean, of course, that 10% of those new Civil Partnerships were dissolved, merely that  672 of the total number of registered Civil Partnerships (over 48,500) were dissolved in 2011.

Untruth Number 3:


So perhaps the year on year statistics show a higher rate of break-up?  Not atall.
In the period 2005-2010 (the first 5 years of Civil Partnerships) 42,778 Civil Partnerships were registered.  But during this same period only 1,007 ended in dissolution.  That is a break up rate over 5 years of 2.35%, making Civil Partnerships much more successful than marriage where long term statistics indicate that 42% of marriages are expected to end in divorce.

If we add the 2011 figures to this, we find that by the end of 2011, 49,572 Civil Partnerships had been registered and 1,679 had ended in dissolution.  That makes a cumulative break-up rate of 3.38% - a long way short of the 30% that Gerald Coates and others have claimed.
All of the above shows that in the short time since Civil Partnerships have been lawful in England and Wales, rates of dissolution are far below the rate of divorce.

But what of the longer term? 


Divorce rates are measured over much longer time period and the rate of Civil Partnerships which end in dissolution is increasing.  Perhaps in the longer term, that will show that Civil Partnerships are less stable than married relationships?
Or perhaps not…

The ONS have spent a lot of time analysing marriage and divorce trends and have concluded that just over 15% of marriages end in divorce during the first 6 years – compared with 3.38% of Civil Partnerships during the first 6 years – again showing that CP’s have been much more successful than marriage at keeping people together in their first 6 years. (Population Trends - The proportion of marriages ending in divorce  - Table 3)
Furthermore, there are countries which have had the equivalent of Civil Partnerships for much longer that the UK.  What do their statistics show?

Denmark was the first country to introduce registration for same-sex partnerships – back in 1989 – providing over 20 years of statistical data to analyse.
Their experience has been that Civil Partnerships are much more robust and long lasting than heterosexual marriages.  I am grateful to Dr John Pike in Bristol for researching this and for the following conclusions:

"Data for registered same-sex partnerships in Denmark[i] are particularly interesting since it is the country with the longest experience of official same-sex unions, since 1989. The cumulative number of partnerships rose steadily from 1400 male and 491 female partnerships by 1992 to 4347 male and 4732 female partnerships by 2012. Numbers of partnerships which had been dissolved were 26 male and 22 female by 1992 and 981 male and 1231 female by 2012. Allowing for partnerships where one partner had died, the cumulative dissolution rate is 17% male partnerships and 20% female partnerships. Directly comparable data for heterosexual marriages and divorces are not available, but over the same period 1992 to 2011, the divorce rate in Denmark varied between 38.6 and 43.6 percent.”

Conclusions:


So whichever way we look at it, Gerald Coates’ claim of a 30% break-up rate is a blatant untruth.  Not only that, but the evidence from this country and others with far longer experience, is that Civil Partnerships are much more successful that heterosexual Marriages in helping two people to stay together.
Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ – that is my prayer for Gerald Coates today.

Update: 

Gerald Coates has clarified/retracted his claim yesterday about Civil Partnerships.

He has written on my Fb page today commenting, "My 30% was taken out of context - it came from an article in the press at the end of last year - noting that 'last year' [ 2011] there had been a 30% rise in dissilusions. (The eqiuvalent of divorce as I am sure you know.) I wasn't making a big deal of it."

So everyone can see if it was taken out of context, I include a screen clipping below of his Fb comment from yesterday... and I will leave others to judge whether the 3 exclamation marks he used are making a big deal of it or not.





[i] Data from “Danmarks Statistik”. Publication “Befolkningens udvikling” 2011 at http://www.dst.dk/Pubomtale/16600. Table 7.1 (p. 89) is on registered partnerships.

46 comments:

  1. Thank you for researching and presenting these statistics in your blog - it certainly helps set the record straight for UK (and Danish) context. Gerald Coates' remark demonstrates the dangers of quoting statistics out of context and without citing (or researching) sources in order to support an argument. If the premise is false it becomes easy to defeat the argument. Is this an example of someone saying what conforms to a 'tribal' fundamentalist view without doing the harder work of seeking the truth?

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    1. Hi Nancy: Gerald Coates has now clarified/retracted his claim on my Fb page. He said,"my 30% was taken out of context - it came from an article in the press at the end of last year - noting that 'last year' [ 2011] there had been a 30% rise in dissilusions. (The eqiuvalent of divorce as I am sure you know.) I wasn't making a big deal of it."

      I have replied to ask him to be more careful in future as what he says is taken as Gospel truth by many people.

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  2. i think this is an interesting and important debate. I found your response interesting clear. however, i felt that you did yourself few favours in your use of statistics in point 2. to compare 5 years figures of dissolutions (2.35%) to projected lifetime figures of marriage is to weight the statistics heavily in your favour. i would be interested to know what the number of divorces were during this same period and what percentage of all marriages that was. then it would be a fair comparison. Even if you narrowed the statistics down to new marriages in the last 5 years that have divorced. I just feel that you responded to a perceived abuse of statistics with your own abuse of statistics which is a shame because much of what you said was interesting and helped the conversation. hope this is received positively.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. I readily acknowledge that point 2 is not an equivalent comparison statstically. What I was trying to do is to build a picture bit by bit which showed that no matter how hard we try, we can't get anywhere near the 30% which Gerald Coates claimed. Hence I then went on to add the 2011 figures and brought in the statitsics for the probability of divorce within 6 years of marriage. This provides a clearer comparison but even then it is not perfect as some CP's will be less than a year old at the end of 2011.

      The most statistically valid comparison is clearly the Danish analysis because of the length of time over which dissolution was compaired.

      However the clear conclusion all the way through is that there is no evidence on which to argue that CP's are more likely to break up than marriages and nothing to substantiate the claim made by Gerald Coates.

      I hope that helps.

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  3. More interesting still would be if you could do a post debunking Gerald's repeatedly trumpeted claim that there is no evidence that people are born gay.

    I think I saw elsewhere on one of your threads the statistics to do with identical twins that where one was gay only in 50% of the cases was the other one gay. This was supposed to be evidence that it is not genetically determined. Anyone who says that is completely ignorant of how science works. If it were NOT genetically determined (but a choice), then one would expect the proportion of the "other twin" being gay to be about the percentage in the normal population, ie about 2-4%. Given the actual percentage is given as 50, this constitutes STRONG evidence that your genes are a significant contributing factor to your turning out gay. I found another paper (University of Hawaii I think) which gave the conformity (ie both of the same sexuality) as somewhat higher in their study - around 68%. Interestingly also was that the corresponding figure was much lower with non-identical twins. So the genetics are a strong contributing factor (though don't fully determine it - there are evidently other factors involved).

    What makes me furious is that people like Gerald can demand "100% evidence", where science just doesn't work like that. That 68% figure COULD be a fluke, and you can compute the probability of it happening if there's no connection (the null hypothesis). That probability will not be zero, so the evidence can never be 100% certain ( as I illustrated on the thread with the Higgs Boson discovery).

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  4. I find it strange reading Geralds comments given his taste in young adult men, albeit closeted but certainly not well hidden...

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  5. Thank goodness heterosexual couples (Christian or otherwise) don't fall in love, jump into bed, then separate - all within weeks. Their chastity is legendary.

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