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PLoS Medicine

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Same-sex marriage -- United States, Same-sex marriage -- Law and legislation -- United States, Gay couples -- Legal status -- United States


Background: Marriage benefits both individuals and societies, and is a fundamental determinant of health. Until recently same sex couples have been excluded from legally recognized marriage in the United States. Recent debate around legalization of same sex marriage has highlighted for anti-same sex marriage advocates and policy makers a concern that allowing same sex couples to marry will lead to a decrease in opposite sex marriages. Our objective is to model state trends in opposite sex marriage rates by implementation of same sex marriages and other same sex unions.

Methods and Findings: Marriage data were obtained for all fifty states plus the District of Columbia from 1989 through 2009. As these marriage rates are non-stationary, a generalized error correction model was used to estimate long run and short run effects of same sex marriages and strong and weak same sex unions on rates of opposite sex marriage. We found that there were no significant long-run or short run effects of same sex marriages or of strong or weak same sex unions on rates of opposite sex marriage.

Conclusion: A deleterious effect on rates of opposite sex marriage has been argued to be a motivating factor for both the withholding and the elimination of existing rights of same sex couples to marry by policy makers-including presiding justices of current litigation over the rights of same sex couples to legally marry. Such claims do not appear credible in the face of the existing evidence, and we conclude that rates of opposite sex marriages are not affected by legalization of same sex civil unions or same sex marriages.


Copyright 2013 Dinno, Whitney. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


10.1371/ journal.pone.0065730

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