Why should the state have an interest in intimate personal relationships? Nowhere do the authors suggest that consenting adults should be prevented from forming whatever intense emotional bonds they please. But it is a fallacy to conflate the issue of freedom of sexual expression with the institution of marriage. The state has an interest in children, first of all because it has a responsibility to promote their welfare, and secondly because the common institutions of society have an interest in our common future. Marriage, the authors write,
is a bond of a special kind. It unites spouses in body as well as mind and heart, and it is especially apt for, and enriched by, procreation and family life. In light of both these facts, it alone objectively calls for commitments of permanence and exclusivity. Spouses vow their whole selves for their whole lives. This comprehensiveness puts the value of marriage in a class apart from the value of other relationships.
That is the conjugal view of marriage, in the authors’ definition. It is permanent and comprehensive, as opposed to an intense emotional bond, which may dissolve as quickly as it was formed. That may be convenient for lovers but catastrophic for their children.
Only the union of a man and woman can be comprehensive, the authors argue. The issue isn’t dignity, which all human beings deserve. Instead, the issue is what a married man and woman can do that no other human arrangement can do: “Marriage is ordered to family life because the act by which spouses make love also makes new life; one and the same act both seals a marriage and brings forth children. That is why marriage alone is the loving union of mind and body fulfilled by the procreation – and rearing – of whole new human beings.”
Across the ideological spectrum, researchers agree that “the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poorer outcomes,” as the research institution Child Trends concluded. And as Professor Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project concluded, “The core message…is that the wealth of nations depends in no small part on the health of the family.”
Adoption by gay parents does not do as well: The authors present a wide range of research showing that “compared to children of parents at least one of whom had a gay or lesbian relationship, those reared by their married biological parents were found to have fared better on dozens of indicators”. Part of the reason that married biological parents do better may have to do with sexual exclusivity, which is virtually nonexistent in male homosexual relationships according to the standard research on the subject.
The state cannot help but take an interest, for it gets the bill for the damages when marriage breaks down. As George et al write, “Since a strong marriage culture is good for children, spouses, indeed our whole economy, and especially the poor, it also serves the cause of limited government. Most obviously, where marriages never form or easily break down, the state expands to fill the domestic vacuum by lawsuits to determine paternity, visitation rights, child support, and alimony.”
That is the fallacy of the libertarian argument in favor of absenting the state from all questions involving personal intimacy. Society can get along with a small government if it has strong private institutions: families, churches, charities, schools and volunteer associations. Among these the family has more weight than all the rest put together. The state, and above all a state that seeks self-limitation, needs the family to flourish.
This book review is a great summary of the history of marriage, the essential issue in the redefinition of marriage (the selfishness of adults), and why marriage matters to society. Really recommend this one! Everyone who defends marriage these days seems to get called every kind of name possible. We face all kinds of persecution from being put on trial to being harmed in the academy and the workplace. Largely because we cannot put our intuitions about the goodness of marriage into arguments, and then support them with evidence.
- Frank Turek: is “equality” the issue in the same-sex marriage debate?
- Childless single adults “co-parenting” children in loveless partnerships
- Dawn Stefanowicz explains her experience being raised by a gay parent
- What is marriage? A lecture with Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George
- Growing up with two lesbian mothers: a child’s perspective
- Mark Regnerus and the progressive war against science
- More social scientists stepping forward to defend Regnerus study
- Do children of gay parents perform as well as those of heterosexual parents?
- Are gay relationships typically stable and monogamous?
- The American Psychological Association (APA) on lesbian and gay parenting
- Do children raised by gays and lesbians do as well as those of married parents?
- New study finds that children do best in traditional mother-father families
- Obama openly supports gay marriage: 48 hours after top gay donors cut off funding
- Democrat introduces bill to defund adoption agencies that favor married couples
- A secular case against same-sex marriage