Brownback Uses Stanley Kurtz Statistic

07 September 2007

At the Republican debate the other night, Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) cited a statistic that really made me raise my eyebrows. I couldn't wait for to lay into him.

Here is what Brownback said, in an attempt to paint same-sex marriage as a threat to our society:

Brownback: In countries that have redefined marriage, where they’ve said, okay, it’s not just a man and a woman, it can be two men, two women, the marriage rates in those countries have plummeted to where you have counties now in Northern Europe where 80 percent of the first-born children are born out of wedlock.

Sure enough, investigated his claim:
This sentence has so many problems it’s hard to know where to begin. Brownback's campaign tells us that the senator got that statistic from conservative columnist Stanley Kurtz, who frequently asserts that two Norwegian counties, Nordland and Nord-Troendelag, have an out-of-wedlock birthrate in excess of 80 percent. Kurtz does not provide a source for this number, although in a column for the conservative National Review, he does link to a Statistics Norway summary. But that summary doesn’t address the number of children born out of wedlock in any county. We have been unable to find any other support for Kurtz’s figures.

And besides, Norway doesn’t have legalized gay marriage. The Netherlands and Belgium are the only Northern European countries that do. They enacted it in 2001 and 2003, respectively. The Netherlands' rate of out-of-wedlock births is much higher than it was a decade ago, but in 2005 the rate was only about 35 percent. According to Statistics Netherlands, unmarried birth rates in both Belgium and the Netherlands have been climbing since the mid-1970s.

Finally, both Brownback and Kurtz talk about first-born children specifically, but the countries’ statistics bureaus don’t differentiate between first-borns and other children.

For more on Stanley Kurtz and his bogus claims about same-sex marriage, it's worth the time to read this and this. Basically, there is no evidence that same-sex marriages or partnership rights (which factcheck neglects to mention - probably because Brownback's statements were restricted to "marriage") have had any impact on divorce rates. It's also worth noting that Masachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the country.

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