The following is an excerpt from When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage by M. V. Lee Badgett, posted at Alternet.
Dutch winters are notorious for being gloomy, with low gray clouds pressing down from the sky. But January 1, 1998, was a happy winter day for same-sex couples in the Netherlands, who could finally register their partnerships and receive almost all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage. A little more than three years later, the Dutch parliament had opened up full-fledged marriage to same-sex couples. Did the low Dutch skies drop a bit in response to giving gay couples access to a marriage?
Letting gay and lesbian people marry someone of the same sex obviously changes the gender combinations in married couples by opening up the rules about who may marry whom. I have shown that same-sex couples approach the existing institution of marriage carefully as they consider whether to marry, displaying respect for the institution’s social power and for its potential personal influence. What would happen to the institution of marriage if same-sex couples were allowed to marry everywhere? Some have argued that one good reason to slow down or stop the movement toward marriage equality is the possibility that this change will have a long-lasting negative influence on different-sex couples’ decisions about marrying or on the institution of marriage. In other words, some people fear changes in what marriage means in a larger cultural sense. In particular, they worry that opening up marriage poses a threat to children by diminishing heterosexual couples’ desire to marry, thereby reducing parents’ commitment and attention to childrearing.