The controversial TLC show “My Husband’s Not Gay” exposed a new kind of Mormon couple that mainstream society hadn't seen before on reality television -- namely, men who are attracted to other men and choose to marry women because of their faith. A study shows that these kind of marriages are more prevalent than you might think -- and most end in divorce.
The findings of a study led by John P. Dehlin and published in the Journal of Counseling Psychology in March show that out of the 1,612 gay Mormons and former Mormons surveyed, 51 percent to 69 percent of those who entered mixed-orientation marriages ended in divorce. The study was published in 2014, but one of its authors publicized the findings in a Jan. 9 blog post ahead of the TLC show’s premiere.
Of the participants surveyed -- all of whom volunteered to be in the study -- 31 percent reported entering mixed-orientation marriages at some point in their lives, with 240 still in a mixed-orientation marriage at the time of the survey. The study found a divorce rate of 51 percent for couples who entered mixed-orientation marriages. But broader studies showed the divorce rate among these couples varies from 50 percent to 85 percent.
Of the LGBT Mormons surveyed, 70 percent left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A vast majority, 80 percent, tried to change their sexual orientation through religious and private efforts.
The study’s participants came from 48 states and 22 countries. Forty-five percent came from Utah, where Mormons are roughly 60 percent of the population. Three-quarters were male, 22 percent female. The study was not a random sampling. Authors recruited participants through websites geared at current and former Mormons.
Kendall Wilcox, director of the documentary film on gay Mormons “Far Between,” has experience collecting narratives on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. He said there are a variety of reasons why LGBT Mormons decide to tell their story -- such as in the new TLC show -- or participate in studies like Dehlin’s.
For those who have divorced, some couples face “triple blame” from their families and faith communities -- for being gay, for hurting their spouses and children by using marriage to “overcome” their homosexuality, and for having failed at marriage -- Wilcox told the Salt Lake City Tribune.
Those who are "heavily invested in their [mixed-orientation marriages’] success" want their story publicized, Wilcox said. "Not only do they want their marriages to succeed for personal and religious reasons but they are also professionally invested in their propagation."
Still, Dehlin says the process used in his study (known as “snowballing”) is a respected one in the scientific world to find sensitive populations. “We worked hard to avoid any bias," Dehlin said.