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In short, couples who lived together before getting married had a slightly lower chance of having a long-term marriage than those who did not live together.

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And adults with advanced degrees were not separately analyzed because of the small sample size.

College-educated adults are more likely to be married than less-educated adults.

"This would provide indisputable guidance which would be hugely helpful, rather than having to establish precedents through the courts." The Free Church wants "some reassurance that in the eyes of the state it will still be legal to believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, that those who hold to this traditional view will not be subject to prosecution and that they will be free to express their opinions", the spokesman said.

It said: "Given what has already happened in England - where a court case is being brought against the Church of England with the ink barely dry on the Royal Assent - there is no doubt that we will see similar instances north of the Border.

The findings refer only to opposite-sex marriages; the sample size was too small to analyze same-sex marriages.

Reasons for marriages ending include divorce and separation.

But for one demographic group, marriages last longer than most: College-educated women have an almost eight-in-ten chance of still being married after two decades.

are likely to survive at least 20 years, according to government estimates.

The Free Church of Scotland said this would offer greater protection to celebrants who did not want to carry out marriage ceremonies for gay couples.

A conscience clause could also help protect teachers who do not want to teach pupils about same-sex marriage as part of their classes, the Free Church said.

Medical staff who are opposed to abortion can refuse to play any part in the procedure if it goes against their beliefs, with the conscience clause allowing them to take this stance.

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