Yesterday the U.S. Senate cloture vote (effectively the vote to vote) on the Marriage Protection Amendment failed 49-48. The good news is, this isn’t the first time such an amendment has come before the Senate, and it certainly wont be the last.
Critiques of the MPA run the gamut: some are fatuous (the so called “conservative case” for same-sex marriage, a chimera) , others quixotic (all you need is love!), many take a mysogamic tone (for example Judith Stacey, professor of sociology at NYU, who hopes that the understanding of marriage will break down completely), while still others are just flat ignorant (it wont directly affect my marriage!).
The gay lobby then works its puppet-master magic on Ted Kennedy and others, who cast MPA advocates as “bigots, radical, and narrow minded.” This, despite the fact that six in 10 Americans oppose gay marriage, and according to the latest Gallup poll, a majority of whom also support a constitutional amendment to protect marriage.
As Dennis Prager explains, the liberal view of Republicans and conservatives holds that they are either “phonies or bad.” That they could sincerely oppose redefining “the most important social structure of society…is inconceivable.” Those who oppose are labeled bigots. He further explains that the inability of liberals to understand conservatives’ views on marriage as anything more than bigotry or pandering is “part of a narcissism that characterizes much of the left.” They are narcissistic in that they are unable to see the world through another persons eyes. Perhaps the most offensive example of this narcissistic world-view is liberals application of the word “radical” to religious or social conservatives.
To describe as “radical” those who wish to preserve the man-woman-based definition of marriage known to every civilization is to stand the word on its head. It is beyond intellectually dishonest–it is mendacity–to describe those who favor preserving the definition of marriage as “radical” rather than to so describe those who wish to change the gender-based definition of marriage for the first time in history. Even if you support same-sex marriage, you should at least have the honesty to admit that it is you who favors something radical.
But this is just another way for liberals and same-sex advocates to marginalize the issue and its advocates. It’s right up there with “gas prices” as a favored way of “putting things in the proper perspective.” Which is what type of perspective exactly? That gas prices are somehow more important than marriage?
There exists a certain idealistic libertarian strain that insists that the “right” to marriage is ingrained in the Constitution. William F. Buckley Jr. and Sheldon Kinsel point out that this isn’t a civil rights issue at all. From Mr. Kinsel,
Society is not required to let anyone who wants to marry to do so, particularly if that would be harmful. To protect itself, society must and does impose significant restrictions on marriage, including those having to do with blood relationship and age. If there is any issue of rights at stake, it is only the legitimate right of society to protect a vital social institution. In this light, it is also clear that doing so certainly is not “writing discrimination into the Constitution,” as the advocates frequently charge.
Additionally, efforts to associate the fight for same sex marriage to the Civil Rights movement has drawn the ire of some members of the gay community, to say nothing of the response from the African American community. The link to the women’s suffrage movement is also specious. The monumental gain of that movement was the vote. Gays are allowed to vote, are they not?
The ignorant continue to sit on the sideline because they don’t think court-imposed same-sex marriage will affect them while others are afraid of imposing their religious or moral values. Fine. Ignore the religious or moral aspect. The social imperative alone is enough to make rejection of same-sex marriage the only rational course.
To understand the impact of same-sex marriage on society we refer you to two important sources. The first is a body of work from a group of scholars associated with the Witherspoon Institute (hat tip: Morgan). Though the temptation to do the 30 minute Google search remains, I suggest taking the time to read the entire work.
It examines various societal threats to marriage and the threat of same-sex marriage in particular. Historians, political scientists, law professors, economists, sociologists, psychiatrists and psychologists, anthropologists, public policy experts–even professors of philosophy!–all sign off on a document that draws on extensive social scientific studies. Refer specifically to Section III, Evidence from the Social and Biological Sciences, heading “Four Threats to Marriage,” sub point “Same-Sex Marriage.” See also Section IV, Analysis from Political and Moral Philosophy: The Intrinsic Goods of Marriage. The evidence is there.
Among other things, they find that children reared by same-sex parents will have problems with everything from identity, sexuality, and attachments to kin. Same-sex marriage undercuts the idea of procreation being intrinsically connected to marriage and the idea that children need both a mother and father–thus “further weakening the societal norm that men should take responsibility for the children they beget.” It also erodes marital norms of sexual fidelity. Their strongest appeal comes in the final section, reproduced here:
But marriage cannot survive or flourish when the ideal of marriage is eviscerated. Radically different understandings of marriage, when given legal status, threaten to create a culture in which it is no longer possible for men and women to understand the unique goods that marriage embodies: the fidelity between men and women, united as potential mothers and fathers, bound to the children that the marital union might produce.
The law has a crucial place in sustaining this deeper understanding of marriage and its myriad human goods. The law is a teacher, instructing the young either that marriage is a reality in which people can choose to participate but whose contours individuals cannot remake at will, or teaching the young that marriage is a mere convention, so malleable that individuals, couples, or groups can choose to make of it whatever suits their desires, interests, or subjective goals of the moment.
The marriage culture cannot flourish in a society whose primary institutions–universities, courts, legislatures, religious institutions–not only fail to defend marriage but actually undermine it both conceptually and in practice. The young will never learn what it means to get married and stay married, to live in fidelity to the spouse they choose and the children they must care for, if the social world in which they come of age treats marriage as fungible or insignificant.
Marriage is essential to society and provides economic utility far better than any second best alternative. According to their research, any breakdown in the familial unit will inevitably lead to increases in all problems associated with the breakdown of the family–well-documented in the families of minorities (father absent), single parent homes, and foster care.
There remains a group who call for a sort of same-sex marriage trial to be experimented in several states. The social science referred to by the study above cites only research from the United States and must make assumptions about the probable impact of codified same-sex marriage. “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia” by Stanley Kurtz answers what he calls the “key empirical question” of the gay marriage debate–“will same sex marriage undermine the institution of marriage?” Where the social scientists above had no empirical data from the U.S. on which to test their theories, Mr. Kurtz is able to go to Scandinavia, where same-sex marriages have been the norm since as early as 1989 (Denmark).
Recently, gay marriage advocates Andrew Sullivan (journalist) and William Eskridge Jr. (Yale law professor) reported on an unpublished study by Darren Spedale. Their conclusions based on this study held that the introduction of same-sex marriage in Scandinavia had a positive impact on marriage, reversing the trend toward cohabitation, divorce, and single-parent families. That it was unpublished is significant because it means that the study has not gone through several levels of peer review. Prior to publication in a given discipline’s journal, several professors in a that field typically review the study/paper. Once it has been cleared by the reviewers and cleaned of any errors in technique, analysis, grammar, etc. it is then published where its contents are debated for a number of years as the theories and assumptions begin to take shape. Mr. Spedale’s study jumped both of those stages and went straight to the “accepted as fact” stage by the mainstream media.
As Mr. Kurtz points out, “the half-page statistical analysis of heterosexual marriage in Darren Spedale’s unpublished paper doesn’t begin to get at the truth about the decline of marriage in Scandinavia during the nineties.” How quickly same-sex marriage advocates will seize on convenient, if spurious research to support their claims.
With marriage so weak in Scandinavia, examination of demographic shifts must focus on the out-of-wedlock birthrate and the family dissolution rate. He explains the reason behind this:
cohabitating couples with children break up at two to three times the rate of married parents. So rising rates of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock birth stand as proxy for rising rates of family dissolution.
During the nineties–the period that same-sex marriage was supposed to have stabilized marriage as an institution–Norway’s out-of-wedlock birthrate rose from 39-50 percent, Sweden’s from 47 to 55 percent. “As out-of-wedlock childbearing pushes beyond 50 percent, it is reaching the toughest areas of cultural resistance.” This has resulted in marriage becoming a minority phenomenon in turn causing it to lose the “critical mass required to have a socially normative force.” In sum, marriage in Scandinavia has experienced a deep decline and “children [shoulder] the burden of rising rates of family dissolution.” Mr. Kurtz cites gay marriage as the “mainspring” of the decline because of its obvious tendency to separate marriage from parenthood.
What exactly does this mean for the children, now forced to shoulder the burden of their parents decisions of convenience? A study of all children born in Stockholm in 1953 showed that parental breakup negatively impacted children’s mental health. Another study done in 2003 discovered that children in single parent homes in Sweden “have more than double the rates of mortality, severe morbidity, and injury of children in two parent households.”
Returning to the link between gay marriage, and the separation between marriage and parenthood, Mr. Kurtz states that,
as rising out-of-wedlock birthrates disassociate heterosexual marriage from parenting, gay marriage becomes conceivable. If marriage is only about a relationship between two people, and it is not intrinsically connected to parenthood, why shouldn’t same-sex couples be allowed to marry? It follows that once marriage is redefined to accommodate same-sex couples, that change cannot help but lock in and reinforce the very cultural separation between marriage and parenthood that makes gay marriage conceivable to begin with.
We see this process at work in the radical separation of marriage and parenthood that swept across Scandinavia in the nineties. If Scandinavian out-of-wedlock birthrates had not already been high in the late eighties, gay marriage would have been far more difficult to imagine. More than a decade into post-gay marriage Scandinavia, out-of-wedlock birthrates have passed 50 percent, and the effective end of marriage as a protective shield for children has become thinkable. Gay marriage hasn’t blocked the separation of marriage and parenthood; it has advanced it.
Once gay marriage was established in the Scandinavian countries, it “symbollically ratified” the passing of the link between marriage and parenthood. Gay marriage became one of the major factors leading to further increases in cohabitation, out-of-wedlock birthrates, and early divorce. The overall symbolic message of gay marriage and civil unions has been that “most any nontraditional family is just fine” and in this way, “individual choice trumps family form.”
Henning Bech, one of Scandinavia’s most prominent gay thinkers, completely dismisses as “implausible” the idea that gay marriage promotes monogamy as suggested by the aforementioned “conservative case.” According to Rune Halvorsen, a Norwegian sociologist, “many of Norway’s gays imposed self-censorship during the marriage debate, so as to hide their opposition to marriage itself.” The goal for gays in Scandinavia was not marriage but social approval for homosexuality.
The result in Sweden is startling. Swedes marry less and have more children out-of-wedlock than any other industrialized nation.
It should come as no surprise that in America, the younger generation is more likely to favor gay marriage than their parents. This is related to another fact: “less than half of America’s twentysomethings consider it wrong to bear children outside marriage.” Though cohabitation is increasing in the United States, it has still not reached levels found in Europe. America’s situation is similar to Norway before the advent of gay marriage. Religiosity is strong, out of marriage birthrate remains relatively low, while the majority opposes gay marriage. The similarities don’t end there.
If, as in Norway, gay marriage were imposed here by a socially liberal cultural elite, it would likely speed us on the way toward the classic Nordic pattern of less frequent marriage, more frequent out-of-wedlock birth, and skyrocketing family dissolution.
Were this to occur in America, it would result in rising rates of middle class family dissolution, continued separation of marriage from parenthood, and expansion of the American welfare state.
Typically this blog believes in leaving decisions like these to the states to decide separately, but judicial activism and the empirical effects of state-by-state loosening of divorce laws demands a different course of action. Plus, it’s not as though such an amendment would have the same effect on democratically established state law as say, Roe v. Wade. Where Roe v. Wade overturned laws banning or partially banning abortion in a large number of states, such an amendment would only serve to affirm statutes established in 26 states and what citizens of 19 states have enshrined in their state constitutions.
Civil unions are not the great middle ground solution, put forward by “moderates.” Scandinavian registered partnerships are exactly similar to Vermont-style civil unions. Mr. Kurtz has clearly shown that the “lesson of the Scandinavian experience is that even de facto same-sex marriage undermines marriage.” And this would be the result of civil-unions as the laws and limitations distinguishing them from marriage as such would begin to be repealed.
Mr. Kurtz also speaks to the supposed link between Civil Rights and gay marriage.
The Scandinavian example also proves that gay marriage is not interracial marriage in a new guise. The miscegenation analogy was never convincing. There are plenty of reasons to think that, in contrast to race, sexual orientation will have profound effects on marriage. But with Scandinavia, we are well beyond the realm of even educated speculation. The post-gay marriage changes in the Scandinavian family are significant. This is not like the fantasy about interracial birth defects.
America cannot afford to experiment with same-sex marriage. What’s more, doesn’t need to. Scandinavia has already run the test and given us the important data. Same-sex marriage does not encourage marriage, it erodes the family. The breakdown of the family leads to a loss of goods associated with marriage and an increase in all the sorts of problems we read about in the newspaper everyday. Rising crime rates (including violent crime), illiteracy, drug use, increased incidence of high school drop-out, depression–all become more likely for children raised outside of the traditional family.