Marriage and divorce rates down

It’s not surprising to see that marriage rates are down, and it is inevitable that with fewer people getting married, there are also fewer divorces.

NZH: New Zealand marriage rates are falling, Statistics NZ figures show

Despite a steadily rising population, the general marriage rate has dropped, according to Statistics NZ.

In 1992, the marriage rate was 18.3 couples per 1000 people eligible to marry (or form a civil union from 2005). This has dropped to 10.9 couples in 2017.

“The highest number of marriages and civil unions in the last 25 years was in 2008, when 22,275 couples celebrated,” said population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers.

“The lowest number was in 2013, when 19,425 couples celebrated.”

But the number of divorces had also dropped over the past 25 years.

In 2017, 8001 couples split up and the number of divorces per 1000 existing marriages was 8.4.

This was in comparison to a divorce rate of 11.9 in 1992.

Marriage rates are falling in New Zealand and in the United Kingdom and Australia.

The declining divorce rate has lagged the drop in marriages, but if less people are married it follows that less will divorce. And if relationships don’t work out couples will tend to break up before getting married. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In today’s society fewer marriages on it’s own means little. Many couples live in virtual married arrangements, without the ceremony and certificate.

It is possible (and common) to make a long term commitment to a partner, and to a family and children, without legal marriage.

Marriage equality especially important for transgender people

I hadn’t thought how important marriage equality might to transgender people, more so than homosexuals having equal rights to get married. In addition to that they have a unique problem under current marriage law.

If someone who is married changes gender they either can’t legally change their gender identity status, or they can’t remain married, because same sex marriage is not possible.

A GayNZ post Trans marriage equality by Diane Sparkes explains this.

When a person who changes their gender to that of the opposite gender i.e. male to female or female to male, they have the legal right to make changes to all public records, to change their birth certificate, in order to reflect their chosen gender identity.

That’s fine, as long as they aren’t married.

Under the present law when one party to a legal marriage changes their gender identity, the state requires that before the transitioning partner can achieve true legal gender identity status, the marriage is dissolved. In the case where neither party wishes to dissolve their marriage, both parties find themselves in a no win situation. Each partner is forced by the state to divorce the other even though love and support has maintained the relationship through arguably one of the most difficult situations any married couple will ever face.

The law does not actually demand divorce or enforce dissolution; however should the transitioning partner make no application to obtain their legal status, they become further disadvantaged as failing to achieve ones legal status carries many uncertain issues. For example a male who transitions to female will still be male in the eyes of the law and vice versa!

In effect, for proper legal recognition of their gender status, current marriage law forces a divorce.

To friends, family and society the couple after transition, still present themselves as a couple as they have always done. The law however, because of current legislation is unable to make the necessary changes allowing the transgender partner their right to be legally recognised because they are still legally married.

Passing this bill will remove a serious injustice placed upon the married transgender individual, because it will no longer be a requirement of the state for the dissolving of the marriage.

The transgender person will then be able to achieve legally their new gender identity, stay married, and maintain the family unit. Then and only then will true equality to exist.

The simple solution is to enable marriage equality.

As Diane also points out, when a spouse wishes to change gender the marriage will often break down anyway. But marriage equality would remove one major complication in what can be a very difficult time.