2. Impact on lesbian partnerships – European view

Same-sex partnerships in Europe upheld the tradition of monogamous marriage – even though those relations were not legalized and thus acknowledged by the state – for a long time in history. Since romanticism introduced love as a reason for marriage, the concept of love and romantic marriage has played an important part in shaping lesbian partnerships as well. It can be assumed that most same-sex partnerships in Europe consist of monogamous couples – and are therefore comparable to opposite-sex partnerships. But undoubtedly the plurality of partnerships is increasing today, ranging from lifelong monogamous couples to ‘serial monogamy’ and polygamous concepts of partnerships. At the same time, the divorce rates of heterosexual couples are increasing: In 2006 in Vienna, about 60% of married couples got divorced; since a new divorce law was introduced in Spain in 2005, numbers jumped to 3/4 of marriages ending in divorce. In the Czech Republic, the divorce rate is about 50% and marriages last an average of 14 years. Spain was one of the latest European countries to introduce a divorce law – in 1980. According to a report by the Institute for Family Policy, with more than 141,817 divorces in 2006, Spain has become the country with the highest divorce rate in the European Union.
Data on divorce rates for civil unions between same-sex couples in European countries is rare. Processing this data, one should be aware, for example, that in Sweden about 62% of same-sex marriages involve male couples. According to a report of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy (IMAPP) and based on data from 2004, divorce rates among same-sex couples are very high as well. Gay male couples were 50% more likely to divorce within an 8-year period than were heterosexuals. Lesbian couples were 167% more likely to divorce than heterosexual couples. According to statistics released by the Dutch Government in 2005, the divorce rate of gay and lesbians couples in the Netherlands is nearly identical to that of heterosexual couples.

The concept of romance and romantic love seems to be less bonding than economic reasons. Therefore, the average duration of relationships is decreasing. People do not necessarily change the shape of their relationship but keep a series of socially monogamous relationships. The tradition of monogamous couples as the dominant type of partnership has an impact on how lesbians create and wish to live their relationships. Since no other types of partnership are promoted and legally accepted, LGBT organisations’ foremost demand is for equal rights in recognizing and enacting civil unions for same-sex couples. But some LGBT organizations and political parties are still fighting for the legal acknowledgement of other types of partnerships, which for example could involve more than two people or elective affinities.

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Funded by:and
European Commission and the German Federal Ministry of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth.

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