Tag archives: Marriage

Kirsten Dunst Is a Good Sociologist

by Rob Schwarzwalder

April 21, 2014

I know virtually nothing about contemporary stars and starlets, other than having consistently to turn away from the images of the substantially disrobed young “entertainers” displayed on the jumbotron across from my office in advertisements for their latest performances. Pornography, by any other name, ain’t art.

But I’m aware of the actress Kirsten Dunst for two reasons: Her memorable performance as a child in 1994’s “Little Women” and the fact that “Dunst” is a fine German name, not unlike my own (she apparently has dual U.S. and German citizenship; warum nicht?).

Now, however, Ms. Dunst is much in the news for having the audacity to say what she thinks of gender roles, to wit:

I feel like the feminine has been a little undervalued … We all have to get our own jobs and make our own money, but staying at home, nurturing, being the mother, cooking – it’s a valuable thing my mum created. And sometimes, you need your knight in shining armour. I’m sorry. You need a man to be a man and a woman to be a woman. That’s why relationships work”.

Wow - how revolutionary! The idea that gender is not a social construct but actually has to do with biology, neurology, morphology, physiology, etc. is an affront to the received orthodoxy of the feminist left, many of whom have piled-on with a predictable combination of derision, illogic, non-sequitur reasoning, and obscenity.

Yet Ms. Dunst’s view corresponds with the science far more than do the opinions of her attackers. Consider the words of Oxford-trained neuroscientist Zeenat Zaidi: “Studies of perception, cognition, memory and neural functions have found apparent gender differences. These differences may be attributed to various genetic, hormonal, and environmental factors and do not reflect any overall superiority advantage to either sex”.

So, men and women are different, and being a stay-at-home mother who cares for her children is something to be honored, not scorned: For affirming these self-evident truths, Ms. Dunst is being labeled “dumb” and ‘insufferable,” among the more printable adjectives.

Whatever the merits or demerits of her various film roles, Ms. Dunst has “committed truth” in the public square, and for this deserves strong support from those who believe that a child needs a male dad and a female mom, and that the distinctions between the two are immutable and beneficial.

So, to my fellow German-American Kirsten Dunst: Herzlichen Glückwunsch, fraulein. Können Sie Ihren Stamm Anstieg (sincere good wishes, young lady; may your tribe increase)!

For more FRC resources on male-female complementarity, see “Complementarity in Marriage” and “Truth is the Greatest Weapon

Who would want to get married today?

by Robert Morrison

November 25, 2013

With the mounting concerns over the “debacle” of ObamaCare, with Iran given permission to retain their nuclear program provided they “freeze” just certain portions of it, the world looks like a threatening place. So, who would want to marry and bring children into such a world, beset by economic worries, dogged by environmental concerns and living as we do under what President Kennedy called “a nuclear sword of Damocles”?

Well, things didn’t seem a whole lot brighter in 1978. Thirty-five years ago, my fiancee and I prepared for our wedding in San Francisco. The weather that entire week was gray and menacing. So somber was the mood. Hundreds of bodies were being returned to the Bay Area from Jonestown where people had been forced to drink poison Kool-Aid. The aftermath of that suicide cult hung over the city like a pall. Then, too the day after we exchanged our vows in dear old St. Paulus Evangelical Lutheran Church, we began our honeymoon in an Alpine village in Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains. It was there we saw the news. San Francisco’s Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk had been assassinated.

The first good news we had from the outside world came on the third day of our getaway. We sat at a picnic table surrounded by snow-covered mountains and saw the newspaper headlines: “Pope on a Slope.” Pope John Paul II had been elected just six weeks earlier. There was great excitement around the world for this dynamic new leader on the world stage. Even as non-Catholics, we shared in the enthusiasm for the Polish Pope. Whoever heard of a Pope who skiied?

In the thirty-five years since that wedding day, we have had the usual portion of joys and sorrows. We have endured the loss of beloved parents and the death of a 16-year old cousin. We have had to cope with financial gains and losses. Was there something in those vows about for “not-so-richer or poorer”?

I had always been taught that a man should lay down his life for his wife. And I was prepared to do just that.

So imagine my surprise when I found my wife saving my life. I had just turned forty when I was stricken with a violent headache. It felt as if there were nine-inch nails being driven into my skull.

Rushed to the Emergency Room at Bethesda Naval Hospital, my wife, an officer in the Medical Service Corps, waited in the ER with our two small children for long hours for a diagnosis. Despite the lateness and the children crying in the summer’s heat, my wife pressed them to give me a spinal tap. The test results confirmed that I had viral meningitis.

Told there were no beds available for me at the hospital, my wife stubbornly refused to let me be taken to a local civilian hospital. She has often said that she wasn’t sure we had insurance for such treatment, but I know she did not want me taken to a place where she did not know the medical staff and their reputations. Emphatically, she told them she was a staff officer and knew there had to be a bed somewhere in the giant facility.

I awoke several days later in the Neuro Step-Down Unit. I was surrounded by dying patients. Naturally, I assumed I was one of them. It’s an experience you tend to remember.

Some time later, when I was out immediate danger, the navy doctors and my wife crowded around my hospital bed in their crisp, starched whites.

He’ll have short-term memory lapses. He’ll be emotional. And irritable,” they told her. Not skipping a beat, my beloved shot back: “And the difference I am supposed to notice in him is what?” One of the best ways to cross that threshold back from death’s door, I submit, is a good laugh.

Throughout our marriage — when children and grandchildren came and when we were earnestly praying for their safety — we remembered the words of that Polish Pope when he was first brought out onto the balcony of St. Peter’s in Rome. I had not heard the words, but read them from the clickety-clack of a teletype machine as it printed its message on a roll of yellow paper. I was on board our Coast Guard cutter, in the middle of the Bering Sea, about as far away from Rome as you can get.

The Pope spoke to the City and to the World and said:

Be Not Afraid!

Those words sustained us in our marriage. After four hundred twenty months of marriage, those are words I would still share with today’s young people: Trust in God and trust in your love for each other. Go ahead boldly and be not afraid.

French Resistance Determined, Undeterred

by Robert Morrison

April 29, 2013

Despite the action of the French Senate that redefined marriage last week, the advocates of true marriage remain determined and undeterred. Calling themselves La Manif pour Tous (Demonstration for All), these champions are taking their case to the French people.  They have scheduled another mass demonstration for Paris on May 26th. The international media—as always—is on the other side. Last week, they reported scattered clashes with police following the French legislature’s cave-in as a violent reaction.

France has a long history of street protests. And the French are well aware of the agents provocateurs—those who seek to use any scuffle as a pretext to bring violence to the streets. In this case, they could use such claims of violent protests to try to de-legitimize the genuinely popular uprising for marriage.

Part of this new movement is Les Veilleurs. These are French youth who gather nightly to share their love for literature, poetry, and music. These, in turn, have inspired Les Meres Veilleuses. These are mothers holding vigil for children’s rights to a mother and father and they are taking their case to the people. Les Veilleurs are described as a kind of “anti-Mai 68” movement.

This is very important. It was in May 1968, that the left staged a nationwide uprising that sought to bring down the government of President Charles de Gaulle. They very nearly succeeded. De Gaulle rallied the people of France to save the Fifth Republic—and in reality to save French democracy itself.

Still, those street radicals—especially Communist theorists and their sympathizers in the media—have had a huge influence in French life ever since. As in the U.S., street radicals took baths, donned coats and ties, and began their long march through the institutions.

Thus, we see soixante huitards (“sixty-eighters”) applauding this latest assault on the family and the future of France. They realize that the greatest barriers to Marxism have always been the family, the church, and small private firms. Thus, they need to crush all these mediating institutions. They seek to suppress resistance, using law and intimidation and their dominance in the media to achieve their results.

As in the U.S., with certain Republicans losing heart and throwing up their hands in fear or resignation, we saw some members of the conservative UMP opposition party cave in to pressures and vote for the end of marriage. There will be no opportunity for a French version of the TEA Party to make its will known in national legislative elections until 2017.

In the meantime, though, the Manif can look to the constitutional council to disallow some portions of the faux marriage law. And they can seek support in the 2014 municipal elections. Already, many mayors are announcing their refusal to bend to this latest assault on the families and future of France. They need our support (and our prayers).

Why should we Americans take such an interest in France? It was in 1979 that Pope John Paul II returned to his captive homeland. We saw then a million Poles crying out “We want God!” Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and presidential candidate Ronald Reagan paid careful attention to what the Poles were saying. Together with the Pope, they began the long-overdue process of liberation of hundreds of millions of people shackled to Communism behind the Iron Curtain.

The left also took note. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, they realize they cannot achieve Marxism through the secret police and the obvious oppression of a one-party dictatorship. But they believe they can achieve Socialism democratically by breaking down family, church, and family-owned businesses. This is the real objective of the left in America. It is what President Hollande seeks to do in France.

In France, however, President Hollande’s economic performance is yielding sparse results. His approval ratings have sunk to record lows in just one year. As the French economy stagnates, discontent rises.

We have everything to learn from the French, from their courage and conviction on the marriage issue. We should pay careful attention to how they frame this issue, too.

The French put children at the center of the debate. Everyone deserves a mother and a father, they say. It is a human right and a child’s greatest need.

The French have recognized that “womb prostitution” (called surrogacy here) is a form of exploitation of poor and vulnerable women. They have made this illegal in France. And one of their strongest arguments against ending marriage is that it will lead to more of this womb prostitution.

If the French resistance succeeds, it will give great inspiration to Americans. At our best, Americans were not ashamed to learn from such brilliant French thinkers as Montesquieu and Tocqueville. Today, we can take lessons from the Manif pour Tous!

Marchons, Concitoyens! Fellow citizens, let’s march!

I Gave up “The O’Reilly Factor” for Lent

by Robert Morrison

April 4, 2013

I gave up Fox’s “O’Reilly Factor” for Lent. It did my soul good. So I wasn’t watching when the modest and retiring New Yorker slammed us “Bible Thumpers” for having no arguments about preserving true marriage. But, of course, I later saw it all on the Internet.

Now, O’Reilly is digging in his heels. And when his sometime guest host, Laura Ingraham took him to task for his offensive statements, he berated her. “You’ve bought into this garbage,” he said. “I don’t have time for any of that,” he said, giving her the back of his hand.

I go back a long way with Bill O’Reilly. I remember well defending him ten years ago when the liberal thought police were after him. O’Reilly had made a remark about young minority men that some took to be racist. Speaking to donors at a fund raiser for an abstinence and character development organization, O’Reilly complained that the young men were late showing up. “I hope they’re not out in the parking lot stealing our hubcaps.”

What a howl went up then. Liberals demanded O’Reilly’s scalp. The 2003 charity event was a 1950’s-style sock hop. Everyone who grew up on Bill O’Reilly’s Long Island, as I did, had heard that jab a hundred times from homeroom teachers. “What are you doing, stealing hubcaps?” In those Happy Days, that was about the worst that could happen in a high school.

O’Reilly is no racist. He’s just a chooch—a wise guy.

I gave up O’Reilly when I tired of his phony populist shtick. He’s looking out for me? Right. He’s the tribune of “the folks?” As we say in New York: Gimme a break.

I was irritated at how rude he always was. Now, we New Yorkers have a problem there.

John Adams complained to Abigail in a letter when he first visited New York City in 1775. “They talk very loud, very fast, and all at once.” And he never met O’Reilly.

I was embarrassed when my kids said: “Dad, he’s just like you!” OK, I admit I do sometimes yell at the tube. But I wouldn’t treat real live liberals like that. I wouldn’t call any of our liberal friends or those in our pews pinheads.

As Family Research Council has reported, as Heritage Foundation and Ethics and Public Policy Center have shown, the reams of studies showing that the married family that worships regularly yields the best outcomes for children. This is especially important for poor children and minority children.

None of these public policy groups thumps the Bible. But none is willing to stomp on Jesus just to get five minutes on cable with Mr. Number One.

Intact families that worship regularly are the key to the success of millions of Asian immigrants. Four hundred Korean-Americans rode buses through the night to come to Washington for the March for Marriage. They came from Flushing, Queens, O’Reilly, your back yard! I was proud to stand with them.

O’Reilly should be commended for his good deeds—when he does them. I’m still grateful for his serving as Emcee for the organization that hosted that fundraiser ten years ago.

But Bill O’Reilly’s arrogant dismissal of the social science case for true marriage, and for the protection of the women and children who are suffering now and who will suffer more if marriage is ended is unacceptable. If he cared, he might find a perspective on true marriage that is even bold, fresh.

He combines arrogance with ignorance. Supine ignorance, as one might say. He doesn’t know because he doesn’t want to know. “I don’t have time to do any of that.”

One hour, O’Reilly. In one hour, even you could learn the case for true marriage. If you were really looking out for us.

But you don’t have time for that, O’Reilly. You’d rather bloviate. “The Factor” moves along, as you say. And it will move along without me.

Marching for Marriage

by Robert Morrison

March 28, 2013

I’ve been going to pro-life marches since 1981, so I’m getting used to the drill. Still, this week’s March for Marriage in Washington, D.C. promised to be different in many ways. It was slated to coincide with the U.S. Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act and on California’s Proposition 8. The media says Prop 8 was designed to “ban” homosexuals from marrying. It was designed for no such thing. As was the federal Defense of Marriage Act, Prop 8 was designed to protect an institution that is under attack.

The media puts us in the anti position. That’s typical. We’re said to be anti-abortion when we say we are pro-life. We have this odd notion that the child in the womb should not be killed. If we came out against hanging, I guess the media would call us anti-gravity.

I arrived early on the Mall for the March, so I ducked into the great red Smithsonian Castle for a cup of coffee. It was only $3.47. I sat down at a table to savor this monumental brew when an attractive blonde lady asked if she might join me. She had to charge her cell phone. Sure, I replied, and asked if she might be here for the March for Marriage.

Oh, that,” she said, rather dismissively and told me she had come to Washington from California for a conference this week. Happily, our conversation did not descend into a nasty spat. “I don’t know what I think about that issue,” she said, “but I know what my son thinks. He’s a journalism major at San Francisco State. Wants to be a combat journalist.”

Then she mentioned she had not been to Washington in five years and wanted to know what was new. Instead of belaboring my case for marriage, I decided to take another tack, I told her about the new Lincoln Cottage and the new Mount Vernon Museum and Visitors Center. That led to a nice chat about George and Martha Washington. I told her of Mary Weiss, a historical interpreter at Mount Vernon. She does “Lady Washington” and offers the best understanding we are likely to have of that amazing woman. That amazing wife.

I confessed that I wish I had studied the relationship between George and Martha Washington more earlier. What an incredible partnership their marriage was. I spoke of how Lady Washington risked death visiting the army camp every winter. Valley Forge and other winter quarters had many diseases, including smallpox. George had survived the deadly disease as a teenager visiting Barbados, so he had an immunity. Did she?

Without being too obvious about it, I made the case that the United States might very well not exist were it not for the great marriage of George and Martha Washington. We had been for two centuries a monarchical people.

Independence was more than Declarations and more than battles, it was also a state of mind. And having George and Martha Washington to take the place of King George III and Queen Charlotte was essential to our making that critical break.

We parted, Mrs. California and I, on pleasant terms. And we avoided any combat for her son to report.

Onto the Mall. I saw many old friends from the March for Life. But I saw so many new friends. It was amazing to see how many black, Hispanic, and Asian folks had come out for this one.

State Sen. Ruben Diaz harangued the crowd estimated at 5-8,000. Sen. Diaz is from New York. He spoke in Spanish. He crowed: “I’m black. I’m Hispanic. I’m against abortion. I’m against this homosexual stuff. And I’m a Democrat.” He added that he wins by 89% in his state senatorial district.

FRC’s Cathy Ruse put her case for marriage in more positive terms. She argued for true marriage by emphasizing the protection of children. So did Heritage Foundation’s Jennifer Marshall. Jennifer cited the 11-year old girl who testified for marriage in St. Paul, Minnesota.

We watched on the jumbotron as this precocious pre-teenager described her love and her gratitude toward her mother and then her father. Pointedly, she asked the state lawmakers in the Capitol: “Which one do I not need?” She asked the suddenly close-mouthed solons again: “Which one do I not need?”

Right. They had no answer. Moving through the crowd, I encountered a group of people from a Korean-American Church in Flushing, Queens. Four hundred of these faithful Christians had ridden all night on a bus to attend this march. Four hundred!

The GOP bigwigs are forever wailing about “outreach.” Every time they lose an election—which they seem to do effortlessly—they conduct “autopsies” on themselves, in public. Don’t try this at home. The party suits assure us they want to be more inclusive.

My advice to them is simple: Try going to church some Sunday morning. You’ll find you don’t need outreach. You could try inreach. In my pew, we have blacks, Hispanics and Asians. We exchange the handshake of peace every week. But I don’t see them as ethnic groups. They’re my friends. They’re my fellow worshipers.

Those faithful folks from that church in Flushing probably haven’t seen an ad for a Republican since Reagan in 1984. Reagan embraced these good people. The GOP bigs ignore them.

That’s why we say pro-life and pro-marriage are bridge issues, not wedge issues. They are the way for conservatives to talk to minority Americans—soon to be the majority.

Some on the left know that liberals are phonies on this issue. David Weigel of Slate, writes:

In his memoir, Democratic consultant Bob Shrum remembers John Kerry fretting that the Massachusetts Supreme Court had forced Democrats to talk about gay marriage before they were ready to. “Why couldn’t they just wait a year?” he asked Shrum, mournfully. The second camp consists of people who really do oppose the idea of gay people getting married. Republicans argued that this second camp was tiny, and that liberals were hiding behind it. They were right!

When we see dozens of Democrats abandoning their previously held positions and a few Republicans also willing to betray the voters who put them in office, it would be easy to become cynical about everyone in politics.

But we have to stand firm and push back. Marriage is a blessing to families. Three-quarters of the teen rapists in our prisons are fatherless young men, so are two-thirds of the teen murderers. Even gay martyr Matthew Shepherd was killed by two fatherless young men. Marriage bashes no one. Marriage benefits everyone.

We know that the marriage issue helped re-elect George W. Bush in 2004. I attended his historic speech in Pittsburgh the day before that re-election. I heard him give a strong endorsement for the pro-life and pro-marriage positions. I say his speech that day was historic. Re-elected the next day, we never heard another word from President Bush on life or marriage.

The Republican consultants and their party power brokers welcomed our votes. They never thought they’d have to actually stand up for what they assured us they believed.

We are seeing a great sorting out. We saw that early in the country’s life, too. Thomas Paine wrote about the sunshine soldiers and the summer patriots who cut and run when there was fighting to do.

These are the times that try men’s souls. Women’s, too. But it’s for our children and our grandchildren that we stand fast. On earth, there’s no better cause.

Defining Marriage—What Harm Would It Do to Redefine Marriage?

by Peter Sprigg

March 25, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I am running a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue. Today I look at what is perhaps at the crux of the debate—the question of what harm marriage redefinition would do.

Q—What harm would it do to the institution of marriage if we redefine it to include same-sex couples?

At the outset, it is worth noting that this question is often framed in a rather misleading way: “What harm would a same-sex couple getting married do to your opposite-sex marriage?” The issue, however, is not how any one couple’s marriage would affect any other specific couple’s marriage—the issue is how changing the definition of marriage under the law would change the social institution of marriage.

Giving unique privileges and a unique status to the only type of relationship that can ever result in the natural creation of another human being sends an important message to society. Contrary to the charges of those who would redefine marriage, that message has nothing to do with “sexual orientation” as such. It simply sends the message that relationships of a type which can result in natural reproduction are unique, and are uniquely valuable to society; and it further sends the message that children benefit uniquely from being raised by their own mother and father (as well as the message that a man and woman should take responsibility for children produced by their union).

If “marriage” is redefined to include same-sex couples, it will of course not abolish civil marriage as an institution, or prevent opposite-sex couples from marrying and having children. However, it will effectively negate—and indeed, reverse—the social message that privileging “marriage” over other relationships would send.

Instead of sending the message that potentially procreative relationships are uniquely valuable and that children being raised by their mother and father is uniquely valuable, the message to society will be the exact opposite. Since same-sex relationships, which are intrinsically infertile and can never result in natural procreation, would be treated as identical under the law to opposite-sex relationships which are the only type that can ever result in natural procreation, the explicit message to society would be that there is nothing uniquely valuable about the very reproduction of the human race. This would be a shocking denial of a reality that is literally fundamental to human existence.

By the same token, same-sex couples never provide a child with a home that includes the care of both their mother and father, and on the contrary deliberately and permanently deny a child such a home. Treating such couples—which are deliberately motherless or fatherless—in a way identical to couples that provide both a mother and father would send the message to society that there is nothing uniquely valuable about a child being raised by his or her own mother and father.

Sending these messages—officially denying, as a matter of public policy, the unique value and importance of reproduction, and of mothers and fathers—would inevitably have an impact on the behavior of people in society.

The following harms would be the predictable results (these are adapted and updated from my 2010 Family Research Council booklet, The Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex “Marriage):

  • Fewer children would be raised by a married mother and father.

The greatest tragedy resulting from the legalization of homosexual marriage would not be its effect on adults, but its effect on children. For the first time in history, society would be placing its highest stamp of official government approval on the deliberate creation of permanently motherless or fatherless households for children.

There simply cannot be any serious debate, based on the mass of scholarly literature available to us, about the ideal family form for children. It consists of a mother and father who are committed to one another in marriage. Children raised by their married mother and father experience lower rates of many social pathologies, including:

  • premarital childbearing;[i]
  • illicit drug use;[ii]
  • arrest;[iii]
  • health, emotional, or behavioral problems;[iv]
  • poverty;[v]
  • or school failure or expulsion.[vi]

These benefits are then passed on to future generations as well, because children raised by their married mother and father are themselves less likely to cohabit or to divorce as adults.[vii]

In a perfect world, every child would have that kind of household provided by his or her own loving and capable biological parents (and every husband and wife who wanted children would be able to conceive them together). Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world.

But the parent who says, “I’m gay” is telling his or her child that he or she has no intention of providing a parent of both sexes for that child. And a homosexual who “marries” someone of the same sex is declaring that this deprivation is to be permanent—and with the blessing of the state.

Homosexual activists argue that research on homosexual parenting has shown no differences among the children raised by homosexuals and those raised by heterosexuals. Even leading professional organizations such as the AmericanAcademyof Pediatrics, under the influence of homosexual activists, have issued policy statements making such claims.[viii]

A close examination of the actual research, however, shows that such claims are unsupportable. The truth is that most research on “homosexual parents” thus far has been marred by serious methodological problems.[ix] However, even pro-homosexual sociologists Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz report that the actual data from key studies show the “no differences” claim to be false.

Surveying the research (primarily regarding lesbians) in an American Sociological Review article in 2001, they found that:

  • Children of lesbians are less likely to conform to traditional gender norms.
  • Children of lesbians are more likely to engage in homosexual behavior.
  • Daughters of lesbians are “more sexually adventurous and less chaste.”
  • Lesbian “co-parent relationships” are more likely to break up than heterosexual marriages.[x]

The most comprehensive study of children raised by parents who had homosexual relationships, conducted by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus and published in 2012, showed that such children suffered numerous disadvantages—relative to children raised in an “intact biological family,” but also in comparison to other family forms.[xi]

Critics of the Regnerus study questioned its relevance to the marriage debate, because some of the children of homosexual parents never lived with that parent and a partner, and almost none were raised by a same-sex couple from birth. (This illustrates, in part, how rare such “stable” same-sex households are in the real world). However, a 1996 study by an Australian sociologist compared children raised by heterosexual married couples, heterosexual cohabiting couples, and homosexual cohabiting couples. It found that the children of heterosexual married couples did the best, and children of homosexual couples the worst, in nine of the thirteen academic and social categories measured.[xii]

As scholar Stanley Kurtz says,

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. In the American context, this would be a disaster.[xiii]

  • More children would grow up fatherless.

This harm is closely related to the previous one, but worth noting separately. As more children grow up without a married mother and father, they will be deprived of the tangible and intangible benefits and security that come from that family structure. However, most of those who live with only one biological parent will live with their mothers. In the general population, 79% of single-parent households are headed by the mother, compared to only 10% which are headed by the father.[xiv] Among homosexual couples, as identified in the 2000 census, 34% of lesbian couples have children living at home, while only 22% of male couples were raising children.[xv] The encouragement of homosexual relationships that is intrinsic in legalization of same-sex “marriage” would thus result in an increase in the number of children who suffer a specific set of negative consequences that are clearly associated with fatherlessness.

Homosexual activists say that having both a mother and a father simply doesn’t matter—it’s having two loving parents that counts. But social science research simply does not support this claim. Dr. Kyle Pruett of YaleMedicalSchool, for example, has demonstrated in his book Fatherneed that fathers contribute to parenting in ways that mothers do not. Pruett declares, “From deep within their biological and psychological being, children need to connect to fathers … to live life whole.”[xvi]

Children—both sons and daughters—suffer without a father in their lives. The body of evidence supporting this conclusion is large and growing.[xvii] For example, research has shown that “youth incarceration risks in a national male cohort were elevated for adolescents in father-absent households,” even after controlling for other factors.[xviii] Among daughters, “father absence was strongly associated with elevated risk for early sexual activity and adolescent pregnancy.”[xix] Even researchers supportive of homosexual parenting have had to admit that “children raised in fatherless families from infancy,” while closer to their mothers, “perceived themselves to be less cognitively and physically competent than their peers from father-present families.”[xx]

President Obama has also acknowledged the importance of fathers. In a speech during his 2008 campaign for President, he said this:

We know the statistics - that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.”[xxi]

Some lesbian couples are deliberately creating new children in order to raise them fatherless from birth. It is quite striking to read, for example, the model “Donor Agreement” for sperm donors offered on the Human Rights Campaign website, and to see the lengths to which they will go to legally insure that the actual biological father of plays no role in the life of a lesbian mother’s child.[xxii] Yet a recent study of children conceived through sperm donation found, “Donor offspring are significantly more likely than those raised by their biological parents to struggle with serious, negative outcomes such as delinquency, substance abuse, and depression, even when controlling for socio-economic and other factors.” [xxiii] Remarkably, 38% of donor offspring born to lesbian couples in the study agreed that “it is wrong deliberately to conceive a fatherless child.”[xxiv]

  • Birth rates would fall.

One of the most fundamental tasks of any society is to reproduce itself. That is why virtually every human society up until the present day has given a privileged social status to male-female sexual relationships—the only type capable of resulting in natural procreation. This privileged social status is what we call “marriage.”

Extending the benefits and status of “marriage” to couples who are intrinsically incapable of natural procreation (i.e., two men or two women) would dramatically change the social meaning of the institution It would become impossible to argue that “marriage” is about encouraging the formation of life-long, potentially procreative (i.e., opposite-sex) relationships. The likely long-term result would be that fewer such relationships would be formed, fewer such couples would choose to procreate, and fewer babies would be born.

There is already evidence of at least a correlation between low birth rates and the legalization of same-sex “marriage.” At this writing [from March 2011 publication—update pending], five U.S. states granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As of 2007, four of those five states ranked within the bottom eight out of all fifty states in both birth rate (measured in relation to the total population) and fertility rate (measured in relation to the population of women of childbearing age).[xxv]

Even granting marriage-related benefits to same-sex couples is associated with low birth and fertility rates. As of March 2011 there were sixteen states which offered at least some recognition or benefits to same-sex relationships.[xxvi] Twelve of these sixteen states ranked in the bottom twenty states in birth rate, while eleven of them ranked in the bottom seventeen in fertility rate. Vermont, the first state in the U. S. to offer 100% of the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples through passage of its “civil unions” law in 2000[xxvii], ranked dead last in both birth rate and fertility rate.[xxviii]

Similar data are available on the international level. In March 2011 there were ten countries which permitted same-sex “marriage.”[xxix] Six of these ten fell well within the bottom quarter in both birth rates and fertility rates among 223 countries and territories. All ten fell below the total world fertility rate, while only South Africa had a birth rate that was higher (barely) than the world rate.[xxx]

It could be argued that the widespread availability and use of artificial birth control, together with other social trends, has already weakened the perceived link between marriage and procreation and led to a decline in birth rates. These changes may have helped clear a path for same-sex “marriage,” rather than the reverse.[xxxi] Nevertheless, legalization of same-sex “marriage” would reinforce a declining emphasis on procreation as a key purpose of marriage—resulting in lower birth rates than if it had not been legalized.

Of course, there are some who are still locked in the alarmism of the 1960’s over warnings of over-population.[xxxii] However, in recent years it has become clear, particularly in the developed world, that declining birth rates now pose a much greater threat. Declining birth rates lead to an aging population, and demographers have warned of the consequences,

… from the potentially devastating effects on an unprepared welfare state to shortages of blood for transfusions. Pension provisions will be stretched to the limit. The traditional model of the working young paying for the retired old will not work if the latter group is twice the size of the former… . In addition, … healthcare costs will rise.[xxxiii]

The contribution of same-sex “marriage” to declining birth rates would clearly lead to significant harm for society.



[i] Kristin A. Moore, “Nonmarital School-Age Motherhood: Family, Individual, and School Characteristics,” Journal of Adolescent Research 13, October 1998: 433-457.

[ii] John P. Hoffman and Robert A. Johnson, “A National Portrait of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 60, August 1998: 633-645.

[iii] Chris Coughlin and Samuel Vucinich, “Family Experience in Preadolescence and the Development of Male Delinquency,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58, May 1996: 491-501.

[iv] Debra L. Blackwell, “Family structure and children’s health in the United States: Findings from the National Health Interview Survey, 2001–2007,” Vital and Health Statistics, Series 10, No. 246 (Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, December 2010). Online at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_246.pdf

[v] Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, America’s Children: Key Indicators of Well-Being 2001,Washington,D.C., p. 14.

[vi] Deborah A. Dawson, “Family Structure and Children’s Health and Well-Being: Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey on Child Health,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 53, August 1991: 573-584.

[vii] Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval, Cambridge,Massachusetts:HarvardUniversity Press, 1997, pp. 111-115.

[viii] Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, American Academy of Pediatrics, “Policy Statement: Promoting the Well-Being of Children Whose Parents Are Gay or Lesbian,” Pediatrics Vol. 31, No. 4, April 2013, pp. 827-830 (Reaffirmed May 2009; online at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/03/18/peds.2013-0376.full.pdf+html

[ix] Loren Marks, “Same-sex parenting and children’s outcomes: A closer examination of the American Psychological Association’s brief on lesbian and gay parenting,” Social Science Research Vol 41, Issue 4 (July 2012), pp. 735-751; online at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X12000580

[x] Judith Stacey and Timothy J. Biblarz, “(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter,” American Sociological Review 66 (2001), pp. 159-183.

[xi] Mark Regnerus, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study,” Social Science Research Vol 41, Issue 4 (July 2012), pp. 752-770; online at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X12000610

[xii] Sotirios Sarantakos, “Children in three contexts: Family, education and social development,” Children Australia 21, No. 3 (1996): 23-31.

[xiii] Stanley Kurtz, “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia: The ‘conservative case’ for same-sex marriage collapses,” The Weekly Standard 9, No. 20 (February 2, 2004): 26-33.

[xiv] Rose M. Kreider, “Living Arrangements of Children: 2004,” Current Population Reports P70-114 (Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau), February 2008, Figure 1, p. 5.

[xv] Simmons and O’Connell, op. cit., Table 4, p. 9.

[xvi] Kyle D. Pruett, Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child (New York: The Free Press, 2000), p. 16.

[xvii] A good recent summary is Paul C. Vitz, The Importance of Fathers: Evidence and Theory from Social Science (Arlington,VA: Institute for the Psychological Sciences, June 2010); online at:

http://www.profam.org/docs/thc.vitz.1006.htm

[xviii] Cynthia C. Harper and Sara S. McLanahan, “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration,” Journal of Research on Adolescence 14(3), 2004, p. 388.

[xix] Bruce J. Ellis, John E. Bates, Kenneth A. Dodge, David M. Fergusson, L. John Horwood, Gregory S. Pettit, Lianne Woodward, “Does Father Absence Place Daughters at Special Risk for Early Sexual Activity and Teenage Pregnancy?” Child Development Vol. 74, Issue 3, May 2003; abstract online at:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-8624.00569/abstract.

[xx] Susan Golombok, Fiona Tasker, Clare Murray, “Children Raised in Fatherless Families from Infancy: Family Relationships and the Socioemotional Development of Children of Lesbian and Single Heterosexual Mothers,” Journal of Child Psychologyc and Psychiatry Vol. 38, Issue 7 (October 1997); abstract online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01596.x/abstract.

[xxi] “Obama’s Speech on Fatherhood,”June 15, 2008; online at:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/06/obamas_speech_on_fatherhood.html

[xxii] Human Rights Campaign, Donor Agreement; online at:

http://www.hrc.org/Template.cfm?Section=Search_the_Law_Database&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=18669

[xxiii] Elizabeth Marquardt, Norval D. Glenn, and Karen Clark, My Daddy’s Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived Through Sperm Donation (New York: Institute for American Values, 2010) p. 9.

[xxiv] Ibid., Table 2, p. 110.

[xxv] Joyce A. Martin, Brady E. Hamilton, Paul D. Sutton, Stephanie J. Ventura, T. J. Mathews, Sharon Kirmeyer, and Michelle J. K. Osterman, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, “Births: Final Data for 2007,” National Vital Statistics Reports Vol. 58, No. 24, August, 2010, Table 11. Rankings calculated by the author.

[xxvi] Human Rights Campaign, “Marriage Equality and Other Relationship Recognition Laws,” April 2, 2010; online at: http://www.hrc.org/documents/Relationship_Recognition_Laws_Map.pdf

[xxvii] “An Act Relating to Civil Unions,” H. 847, adoptedApril 26, 2000. Online at:

http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2000/bills/passed/h-847.htm

[xxviii] Martin et al., op. cit.

[xxix] The Netherlands, Spain, Canada, Belgium, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, and Argentina. See Dan Fastenberg, “A Brief History of International Gay Marriage,” Time, July 22, 2010; http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2005678,00.html

[xxx] “Country Comparison: Birth Rate,” The World Factbook (Central Intelligence Agency); online at:

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2054rank.html; and “Country Comparison: Total Fertility Rate,” The World Factbook (Central Intelligence Agency); online at:

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2127rank.html?countryName=Burma&countryCode=bm&regionCode=eas#bm

[xxxi] Note, for example, that in 2007, the last year for which final birth rate and fertility rate data are available, only one state (Massachusetts) had legalized same-sex “marriage.”

[xxxii] The most well-known representative being Paul R. Ehrlich, The Population Bomb (New York: Ballantine Books, 1968).

[xxxiii] Jonathan Grant and Stijn Hoorens, “Consequences of a Graying World,” The Christian Science Monitor, June 29, 2007; online at: http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0629/p09s02-coop.html; see also Jonathan Grant, Stijn Hoorens, Juja Sivadasan, Mirjam van het Loo, Julie DaVanzo, Lauren Hale, Shawna Gibson, William Butz, Low Fertility and Population Ageing: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Options (Santa Monica, Calif.: TheRAND Corporation, 2004).

Defining Marriage: Do Infertile Couples Undermine the “Procreation Argument” One-Man-One-Woman Marriage?

by Peter Sprigg

March 20, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I am offering a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue. Today, we look at the question of whether the fact that not all opposite-sex couples reproduce undermines the argument that the public purpose of marriage is related to procreation.

Are you saying that married couples who don’t have children (whether by choice, or because of infertility or age) aren’t really married? If we deny marriage to same-sex couples because they can’t reproduce, why not deny it to those couples, too?

A couple that doesn’t want children when they marry might change their minds. Birth control might fail for a couple that uses it. A couple that appears to be infertile may get a surprise and conceive a child. The marital commitment may deter an older man from conceiving children with a younger woman outside of marriage. Even a very elderly couple is of the structural type (i.e., a man and a woman) that could theoretically produce children (or could have in the past). And the sexual union of all such couples is of the same type as that which reproduces the human race, even if it does not have that effect in particular cases.

Admittedly, society’s tangible interest in marriages that do not produce children is less than its interest in marriages that result in the reproduction of the species. However, we still recognize childless marriages because it would be an invasion of a heterosexual couple’s privacy to require that they prove their intent or ability to bear children.

There is no reason, though, to extend “marriage” to same-sex couples, which are of a structural type (two men or two women) that is incapable—ever, under any circumstances, regardless of age, health, or intent—of producing babies naturally. In fact, they are incapable of even engaging in the type of sexual act that results in natural reproduction. And it takes no invasion of privacy or drawing of arbitrary upper age boundaries to determine that.

Another way to view the relationship of marriage to reproduction is to turn the question around. Instead of asking whether actual reproduction is essential to marriage, ask this: If marriage never had anything to do with reproduction, would there be any reason for the government to be involved in regulating or rewarding it? Would we even tolerate the government intervening in such an intimate relationship, any more than if government defined the terms of who may be your “best friend?” The answer is undoubtedly “no”—which reinforces the conclusion that reproduction is a central (even if not obligatory) part of the social significance of marriage.

Indeed, the facts that a child cannot reproduce, that close relatives cannot reproduce without risk, and that it only takes one man and one woman to reproduce, are among the reasons why people are barred from marrying a child, a close blood relative, or a person who is already married. Concerns about reproduction are central to those restrictions on one’s choice of marriage partner—just as they are central to the restriction against “marrying” a person of the same sex.

Although not every opposite-sex couple reproduces, most do—and those that don’t are still able to provide both a mother and a father to any children they may adopt. Same-sex couples, on the other hand, can never reproduce as a natural result of their sexual intercourse, and deliberately deny either a mother or a father to any child they may raise. These undeniable and immutable differences provide clear, bright lines which easily justify classifying such couples differently under the law.

Defining Marriage: What Marriage Is

by Peter Sprigg

March 15, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I am running a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue. Today, we look sociological and anthropological definitions of what marriage is, across all times and cultures.

If marriage is not just about the law, or companionship, or a sexual relationship—what is marriage, then?

Some aspects of marriage—particular rituals and traditions surrounding it, and particularly the roles played by the wife and the husband—have been subject to variation and change in different times and places. However, until the political correctness of the last decade or two pushed it underground, there was a virtually universal consensus that a male-female union was not an optional aspect of marriage, but was essential to it. Following are some statements on marriage from key scholars through the years that reinforce this:

Marriage is generally used as a term for a social institution… Marriage always implies the right to sexual intercourse: society holds such intercourse allowable in the case of husband and wife… At the same time, marriage is something more than a regulated sexual relation… It is the husband’s duty…to support his wife and children… That the functions of the husband and father in the family are not merely of the sexual and procreative kind, but involve the duty of protecting the wife and children, is testified by an array of facts… . 

Edward Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage, Vol. I, (New York: The Allerton Book Company, 1922), p. 26, 46, 27.

 __

The family is a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation, and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults. The family is to be distinguished from marriage, which is a complex of customs centering upon the relationship between a sexually associating pair of adults within the family.”

Three distinct types of family organization emerge from our survey of 250 representative human societies. The first and most basic, called herewith the nuclear family, consists typically of a married man and woman and their offspring, although in individual cases one or more additional persons may reside with them.

George Peter Murdock (Yale anthropologist), Social Structure, (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1949), p. 1-2.

 __

 “The family….is based on marriage, which is defined as a union between a man and a woman such that children borne by the woman are recognized as the legitimate offspring of both partners.”

A Committee of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Notes and Queries on Anthropology, 6th ed. (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1951) p. 71.

 __

Thus seen, marriage is a contractual union of a man and a woman and involves sexual privilege, economic cooperation, cohabitation, the production of children, and responsibility for the children’s care, socialization, and education. If the marriage is fruitful, the resulting social unit is a nuclear or elementary family. Marriage is thus the social transaction that establishes a nuclear family. Other definitions of marriage – variously phrased as a union of a man and woman in which they are the jural father and mother of the children born to the woman or in which the woman’s children are regarded as their legitimate offspring imply the same thing: marriage establishes the jural basis for a group consisting of a man, a woman, and their children…”

Ward Hunt Goodenough, Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures at the Universityof Rochester, Description and Comparison in Cultural Anthropology, (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co., 1970), p. 4.

 __

All known human societies recognize the existence of the sexual pair-bond and give it formal sanction in the form of marriage. With only a handful of exceptions presently to be examined, married pairs are not only expected to copulate with each other, but to cooperate in the raising of offspring and to extend to each other material help. …[M]arriage is nevertheless the cultural codification of a biological program. Marriage is the socially sanctioned pair-bond for the avowed social purpose of procreation.”

Pierre L. van den Berghe, Human Family Systems: An Evolutionary View, (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1979, 1990) pp. 45, 46.

 __

Marriage is a relationship within which a group socially approves and encourages sexual intercourse and the birth of children… Marriage is not usually a transaction confined to the bride and groom. It extends beyond them, to include members of their own families or kin group.”

 

Suzanne G. Frayser, Varieties of Sexual Experience: An Anthropological Perspective on Human Sexuality, (New Haven, Conn: Human Relations Area Files Press, 1985), p. 248, 269.

 __

The universality of kinship terminologies provides a further case of cultural reflection or recognition of cultural fact. A kinship terminology is that linguistic domain (discrete set of terms) found among every people, in which domain most or all terms are translatable by the terms required for sexual reproduction, or combinations of them: father, mother, son, daughter…Marriage – which is distinct from procreation, per se – so regularly impinges on kinship terminologies that it is usually counted as one of the two fundamental building blocks of kinship. Accordingly, the father and mother of an individual are normally husband and wife.”

Donald Brown, anthropologist, Human Universals, (Boston: McGraw Hill, 1991), p. 93.

 __

In an overwhelming majority of human societies, marriage is the mechanism which provides for the legitimation of children and defines their status in relationship to the conjugal family and the wider kin group.”

Alan Barnard, “Rules and Prohibitions: The Form and Content of Human Kinship,” in Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology, ed. Tim Ingold (London: Routledge, 1994),

 __

Because heterosexuality is directly related to both reproduction and survival, and because it involves much more than copulation, every human society has had to promote it actively (although some have also allowed homosexuality in specific circumstances). And marriage is the major way of doing so. It has always required a massive cultural effort involving myths or theologies, rituals, rewards, privileges, and so on. Heterosexuality is always fostered as a cultural norm, in other words, not merely allowed as one “lifestyle choice” among many. Some norms vary greatly from one society to another, to be sure, but others—-along with the very existence of norms—-are universal. So deeply embedded in consciousness are these that few people are actually aware of them. The result, in any case, is a “privileged” status for heterosexuality. Postmodernists are not wrong in identifying it as such, but they are wrong in assuming that any society can do without it. Not surprisingly, comparative research reveals a pattern: Marriage has universal or nearly universal features and variable ones.

Its universal features include the fact that marriage (a) encourages procreation under specific conditions; (b) recognizes the interdependence of men and women; (c) defines eligible partners; (d) is supported by authority and incentives; (e) has a public dimension; and (f) provides mutual support not only between men and women but also between them and children. Its nearly universal features are (a) an emphasis on durable relationships between biological parents; (b) mutual affection and companionship; (c) family (or political) alliances; and (d) an intergenerational cycle (reciprocity between young and old). These features assume the distinctive contributions of both sexes, transmit knowledge from one generation to another, and create not only “vertical” links between the generations but also “horizontal” ones between allied families or communities.

 . . .

We conclude that every society needs a public heterosexual culture, specifically marriage, to foster five things: (a) the birth and rearing of children (at least to the extent necessary for demographic continuity) in culturally approved ways; (b) the bonding between men and women in order to provide an appropriate setting for maturing children and to ensure the cooperation of men and women for the common good; (c) the bonding between men and children so that men are likely to become active participants in family life; (d) some healthy form of masculine identity—-that is, an identity based on at least one distinctive, necessary, and publicly valued contribution to society (responsible fatherhood being one obvious example); and (e) the transformation of adolescents into sexually responsible adults.”

Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson [note: Nathanson is himself openly homosexual], Marriage a la mode: Answering the Advocates of Gay Marriage, 2003

[Note: Most of the quotations here are drawn from a compilation by Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family:

Glenn T. Stanton, Differing Definitions of Marriage and Family: Comparing and Contrasting Those Offered by Emerging Same-Sex Marriage Advocates and Classic Anthropologists, Focus on the Family,March 10, 2008]

Defining Marriage: What Marriage Is Not

by Peter Sprigg

March 15, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I will here begin a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue.

First, it is important to recognize that while many people describe this as a debate over who has the “right” to marry, it is actually about something much more fundamental—the definition of what “marriage” is.

First, let’s look at what marriage is not.

Isn’t marriage whatever the law says it is?

No. Marriage is not a creation of the law. Marriage is a fundamental human institution that predates the law and the Constitution. At its heart, it is an anthropological and sociological reality, not a legal one. Laws relating to marriage merely recognize and regulate an institution that already exists.

But isn’t marriage just a way of recognizing people who love each other and want to spend their lives together?

If love and companionship were sufficient to define marriage, then there would be no reason to deny “marriage” to unions of a child and an adult, or an adult child and his or her aging parent, or to roommates who have no sexual relationship, or to groups rather than couples. Love and companionship are usually considered necessary for marriage in our culture, but they are not sufficient to define it as an institution.

All right—but if you add a sexual relationship to love and companionship, isn’t that what most people would consider “marriage?”

It’s getting closer but is still not sufficient to define marriage.

In a ruling handed down June 26, 2003, the U. S. Supreme Court declared in Lawrence v. Texas that sodomy laws (and any other laws restricting private sexual conduct between consenting adults) are unconstitutional. Some observers have suggested that this decision paves the way for same-sex “marriage.” But in an ironic way, the Court’s rulings that sex need not be (legally) confined to marriage undermine any argument that sex alone is a defining characteristic of marriage. Something more must be required.

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