The founder of Britain’s first fertility clinic for same-sex couples believes the legalisation of gay marriage has resulted in a soaring divorce rate among lesbians.
Government figures last week showed that divorces among lesbian couples last year were about three times higher than those among gay men. It came as the overall number of divorces in England and Wales saw their largest rise for nearly half a century.
Fertility clinic boss Natalie Drew’s concerns over gay marriage, which was introduced in 2014, have grown since she discovered that about a third of the 586 lesbian couples she helped to have babies between 2011 and 2015 have split up.
Ms Drew, 45, whose own same-sex marriage ended last year, believes the breakdown of many lesbian relationships today is caused by couples rushing into traditional married life that they may be unsuited for.
Natalie Drew, pictured right with former partner Ashling Phillips, believes the legalisation of gay marriage has resulted in a soaring divorce rate among lesbians
‘I don’t think the law should have changed from allowing gay people to have civil partnerships to actually getting married,’ she said.
‘The legalisation of gay marriage has done more damage than good. It hasn’t done lesbians any favours.’
The Office for National Statistics revealed that there were 107,599 divorces of opposite-sex couples in England and Wales last year, up by nearly a fifth from 90,871 the previous year.
But the sharpest rise involved divorces between same-sex couples, with the figures almost doubling from 428 in 2018 to 822 in 2019 – nearly three- quarters of which were lesbian relationships.
Ms Drew suggested that getting married put pressure on lesbians to adopt roles more typically associated with heterosexual couples.
‘You get caught up in these expected roles, one being the breadwinner, going out earning the money, and one being the mother,’ she said.
Government figures last week showed that divorces among lesbian couples last year were about three times higher than those among gay men
‘There’s an expectation you’ll fit into these traditional roles because you’ve done the norm, you’ve done what everyone else has done and got married.
‘But we are not the norm. And I think this causes an imbalance, because the one going out to work feels left out of motherhood.’
She feels too many female couples had rushed into marriage, saying: ‘With lesbian couples, everything happens so fast. They move from a relationship into marriage, sometimes within months. There’s no steady, easy-going dating process.’
Ms Drew regrets converting her own civil partnership to a marriage in 2015. ‘We were much more relaxed as civil partners than as a married couple,’ she said.
The former teacher set up the first online fertility service for same-sex couples in 2007 with her partner Ashling Phillips, with whom she has two children through a sperm donor.
Four years later, they opened the Gay Family Web Fertility Centre in the West Midlands, but it closed in 2016.
‘We kept in contact with many of the couples – through Facebook and other means,’ she said.
‘You drop them a line from time to time saying how are you getting on and that’s when you start seeing just one person in the picture.’
Kanak Ghosh, of the ONS, said that since same-sex couples have been able to marry in England and Wales from 2014, there has been an increase in divorces year on year.
He added: ‘Unreasonable behaviour, which includes adultery, was the most common ground for divorce among same-sex couples this year, as almost two-thirds of couples divorced for this reason.’