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Jan 23 / Jonathan

Civil unions and straight marriage

“But even if we take matrimony at its lowest, even if we regard it as no more than a sort of friendship recognised by the police…” —Robert Louis Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque.

Civil unions and straight marriage

Arthur Goldhammer’s excellent blog on French politics and society points to this article on the French pact civil de solidarité – a kind of civil union introduced in 1999/2000, largely as an alternative to gay marriage. But the pacs has had very interesting consequences for straight couples (95% of couples with pacs are straight), as this chart shows.

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The growth of the pacs’ popularity over its first decade is striking. There are now two pacs for every three marriages. Interestingly, this is because of both a significant decline in marriage, and a significant increase in the overall number of people willing to engage in some kind of state-sanctioned relationship. While you would obviously need more finely grained data to establish this properly, the obviously intuitive interpretation of this (at least to me) is that the pacs have grown both by providing an option for people who would probably not have gotten married in the first place, and attracted a number of people who otherwise would have gotten married, but who prefer the pacs’ lower level of formality (it is much easier to cancel a pacs relationship than to get divorced). …

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