Tag Archives: Definition of Marriage

Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George reflect on the legalization of same-sex marriage

Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign
Gay activist vandalizes pro-marriage sign

Same-sex “marriage” has been the law of the land for 10 years, now. As with the first redefinition of marriage – no-fault divorce – many unexpected problems have arisen. I found an article by two famous social conservative professors in USA Today, where they explain.

Excerpt:

[I]n 2013, [the Supreme Court] struck down the federal definition of marriage as a male-female union in a 5-4 ruling.

[…]Same-sex marriage advocates told the public that they sought only the “freedom to marry.” Same-sex couples were already free to live as they chose, but legal recognition was about the definition of marriage for all of society. It was about affirmation — by the government and everyone else.

It’s unsurprising that once a campaign that used to cry “live and let live” prevailed, it began working to shut down Catholic adoption agencies and harass evangelical bakers and florists. This shows it was never really about “live and let live” — that was a merely tactical stance.

[…]While these were the early effects of redefinition, the more profound consequences will be to marriage itself. Law shapes culture; culture shapes beliefs; beliefs shape action. The law now effectively teaches that mothers and fathers are replaceable, that marriage is simply about consenting adult relationships, of whatever formation the parties happen to prefer. This undermines the truth that children deserve a mother and a father — one of each.

Traditional marriage had the notions of exclusivity and permanence embedded into it. These were seen as necessary to safeguard vulnerable children, who are the natural outcome of natural marriage. But what if you take out the complementary genders, and make marriage about the romantic feelings of adults?

It also undercuts any reasonable justification for marital norms. After all, if marriage is about romantic connection, why require monogamy? There’s nothing magical about the number two, as defenders of “polyamory” point out. If marriage isn’t a conjugal union uniting a man and a woman as one flesh, why should it involve or imply sexual exclusivity? If it isn’t a comprehensive union inherently ordered to childbearing and rearing, why should it be pledged to permanence?

[…]But same-sex marriage is a catalyst for further erosion. Already, we see respectable opinion-makers mainstreaming “throuples,” “ethical nonmonogamy” and “open relationships.”

The progressive elites got rid of natural marriage without even thinking about why marriage was there in the first place. Marriage was traditionally seen as being an exclusive, permanent commitment – and that commitment provided the stability needed for children. Marriage required you to look for a partner who was good at self-control (exclusivity) and commitment (permanence). But when judges decided that marriage was just about two people having romantic feelings, it opened up the door to all of these other “lifestyles”.

I’m just thinking right now about how to stop this. I know that social conservatives are trying to highlight the damage that is being caused by focusing relationships on adult happiness instead of children’s needs and rights. But I still don’t hear any sort of thoughtful presentation of marriage as a commitment enterprise, where two adults suppress their own selfishness in order to make a promise to love and care for this other person. Does anyone see relationships as being a self-sacrificial commitment to another person, and to any children who result? Or are we locked into this view that the goal of relationships is to make my spouse, my children, and everyone else make me feel good and look good?

Ryan T. Anderson presents the case for natural / traditional marriage

Does government provide incentives for people to get married?
What effects does redefining marriage have on society?

A must-read long paper from the Heritage Foundation. It’s a great concise presentation of the reasons why the United States should not redefine marriage. (H/T A tweet from Ryan T. Anderson)

Abstract:

Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. By encouraging the norms of marriage—monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanence—the state strengthens civil society and reduces its own role. The future of this country depends on the future of marriage. The future of marriage depends on citizens understanding what it is and why it matters and demanding that government policies support, not undermine, true marriage.

Excerpt:

Supporters of redefinition use the following analogy: Laws defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman are unjust—fail to treat people equally—exactly like laws that prevented interracial marriage. Yet such appeals beg the question of what is essential to marriage. They assume exactly what is in dispute: that gender is as irrelevant as race in state recognition of marriage. However, race has nothing to with marriage, and racist laws kept the races apart. Marriage has everything to do with men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers and children, and that is why principle-based policy has defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Marriage must be color-blind, but it cannot be gender-blind. The color of two people’s skin has nothing to do with what kind of marital bond they have. However, the sexual difference between a man and a woman is central to what marriage is. Men and women regardless of their race can unite in marriage, and children regardless of their race need moms and dads. To acknowledge such facts requires an understanding of what, at an essential level, makes a marriage.

And a bit later:

If the law taught a falsehood about marriage, it would make it harder for people to live out the norms of marriage because marital norms make no sense, as matters of principle, if marriage is just intense emotional feeling. No reason of principle requires an emotional union to be permanent or limited to two persons, much less sexually exclusive. Nor should it be inherently oriented to family life and shaped by its demands. This does not mean that a couple could not decide to live out these norms where temperament or taste so motivated them, just that there is no reason of principle to demand that they do so. Legally enshrining this alternate view of marriage would undermine the norms whose link to the common good is the basis for state recognition of marriage in the first place.

Insofar as society weakens the rational foundation for marriage norms, fewer people would live them out, and fewer people would reap the benefits of the marriage institution. This would affect not only spouses, but also the well-being of their children. The concern is not so much that a handful of gay or lesbian couples would be raising children, but that it would be very difficult for the law to send a message that fathers matter when it has redefined marriage to make fathers optional.

And one last one:

In fact, much of this is already occurring. Heritage Foundation Visiting Fellow Thomas Messner has documented multiple instances in which redefining marriage has already become a nightmare for religious liberty.[48] If marriage is redefined to include same-sex relationships, then those who continue to believe the truth about marriage—that it is by nature a union of a man and a woman—would face three different types of threats to their liberty: the administrative state, nondiscrimination law, and private actors in a culture that is now hostile to traditional views.[49]

After Massachusetts redefined marriage to include same-sex relationships, Catholic Charities of Boston was forced to discontinue its adoption services rather than place children with same-sex couples against its principles.[50] Massachusetts public schools began teaching grade-school students about same-sex marriage, defending their decision because they are “committed to teaching about the world they live in, and in Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal.” A Massachusetts appellate court ruled that parents have no right to exempt their children from these classes.[51]

The New Mexico Human Rights Commission prosecuted a photographer for declining to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony.” Doctors in California were successfully sued for declining to perform an artificial insemination on a woman in a same-sex relationship. Owners of a bed and breakfast in Illinois who declined to rent their facility for a same-sex civil union ceremony and reception were sued for violating the state nondiscrimination law. A Georgia counselor was fired after she referred someone in a same-sex relationship to another counselor.[52] In fact, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reports that “over 350 separate state anti-discrimination provisions would likely be triggered by recognition of same-sex marriage.”[53]

This article is long and comprehensive. It will take some time to read. It’s includes logical arguments as well as empirical evidence from research – with footnotes. I really recommend taking a look at the article. Even if it takes a long time to read, it will definitely expand your mind to think about why we had a definition of marriage in the first place, and what we would lose by changing that definition. When you debate people who want to redefine marriage, it’s very important to appeal to logical arguments and evidence from studies. Get the conversation away from emotions and instead introduce facts and arguments.

My favorite book on the marriage issue is Ryan Anderson’s “Truth Overruled”. If you don’t have it, I really recommend it.

Ryan T. Anderson presents the case for natural / traditional marriage

Does government provide incentives for people to get married?
What effects does redefining marriage have on society?

I spend Tuesday night working through 3 chapters of Anderson’s book “Truth Overruled”, so I thought I would re-post this old post on marriage.

A must-read long paper from the Heritage Foundation. It’s a great concise presentation of the reasons why the United States should not redefine marriage. (H/T A tweet from Ryan T. Anderson)

Abstract:

Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. By encouraging the norms of marriage—monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanence—the state strengthens civil society and reduces its own role. The future of this country depends on the future of marriage. The future of marriage depends on citizens understanding what it is and why it matters and demanding that government policies support, not undermine, true marriage.

Excerpt:

Supporters of redefinition use the following analogy: Laws defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman are unjust—fail to treat people equally—exactly like laws that prevented interracial marriage. Yet such appeals beg the question of what is essential to marriage. They assume exactly what is in dispute: that gender is as irrelevant as race in state recognition of marriage. However, race has nothing to with marriage, and racist laws kept the races apart. Marriage has everything to do with men and women, husbands and wives, mothers and fathers and children, and that is why principle-based policy has defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Marriage must be color-blind, but it cannot be gender-blind. The color of two people’s skin has nothing to do with what kind of marital bond they have. However, the sexual difference between a man and a woman is central to what marriage is. Men and women regardless of their race can unite in marriage, and children regardless of their race need moms and dads. To acknowledge such facts requires an understanding of what, at an essential level, makes a marriage.

And a bit later:

If the law taught a falsehood about marriage, it would make it harder for people to live out the norms of marriage because marital norms make no sense, as matters of principle, if marriage is just intense emotional feeling. No reason of principle requires an emotional union to be permanent or limited to two persons, much less sexually exclusive. Nor should it be inherently oriented to family life and shaped by its demands. This does not mean that a couple could not decide to live out these norms where temperament or taste so motivated them, just that there is no reason of principle to demand that they do so. Legally enshrining this alternate view of marriage would undermine the norms whose link to the common good is the basis for state recognition of marriage in the first place.

Insofar as society weakens the rational foundation for marriage norms, fewer people would live them out, and fewer people would reap the benefits of the marriage institution. This would affect not only spouses, but also the well-being of their children. The concern is not so much that a handful of gay or lesbian couples would be raising children, but that it would be very difficult for the law to send a message that fathers matter when it has redefined marriage to make fathers optional.

And one last one:

In fact, much of this is already occurring. Heritage Foundation Visiting Fellow Thomas Messner has documented multiple instances in which redefining marriage has already become a nightmare for religious liberty.[48] If marriage is redefined to include same-sex relationships, then those who continue to believe the truth about marriage—that it is by nature a union of a man and a woman—would face three different types of threats to their liberty: the administrative state, nondiscrimination law, and private actors in a culture that is now hostile to traditional views.[49]

After Massachusetts redefined marriage to include same-sex relationships, Catholic Charities of Boston was forced to discontinue its adoption services rather than place children with same-sex couples against its principles.[50] Massachusetts public schools began teaching grade-school students about same-sex marriage, defending their decision because they are “committed to teaching about the world they live in, and in Massachusetts same-sex marriage is legal.” A Massachusetts appellate court ruled that parents have no right to exempt their children from these classes.[51]

The New Mexico Human Rights Commission prosecuted a photographer for declining to photograph a same-sex “commitment ceremony.” Doctors in California were successfully sued for declining to perform an artificial insemination on a woman in a same-sex relationship. Owners of a bed and breakfast in Illinois who declined to rent their facility for a same-sex civil union ceremony and reception were sued for violating the state nondiscrimination law. A Georgia counselor was fired after she referred someone in a same-sex relationship to another counselor.[52] In fact, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty reports that “over 350 separate state anti-discrimination provisions would likely be triggered by recognition of same-sex marriage.”[53]

This article is long and comprehensive. It will take some time to read. It’s includes logical arguments as well as empirical evidence from research – with footnotes. I really recommend taking a look at the article. Even if it takes a long time to read, it will definitely expand your mind to think about why we had a definition of marriage in the first place, and what we would lose by changing that definition. When you debate people who want to redefine marriage, it’s very important to appeal to logical arguments and evidence from studies. Get the conversation away from emotions and instead introduce facts and arguments.

You can get an even longer treatment in the new book by Ryan T. Anderson and his co-authors Sherif Girgis and Robert P. George. This is *the* book to get on the marriage issue.

What are some of the arguments against gay marriage?

Marriage and family
Marriage and family

Here are 10 from the Family Research Council. (H/T Dangerous Idea)

The list:

  1. Children hunger for their biological parents.
  2. Children need fathers.
  3. Children need mothers.
  4. Evidence on parenting by same-sex couples is inadequate.
  5. Evidence suggests children raised by homosexuals are more likely to experience gender and sexual disorders.
  6. Same-sex “marriage” would undercut the norm of sexual fidelity within marriage.
  7. Same-sex “marriage” would further isolate marriage from its procreative purpose.
  8. Same-sex “marriage” would further diminish the expectation of paternal commitment.
  9. Marriages thrive when spouses specialize in gender-typical roles.
  10. Women and marriage domesticate men.

The eleventh one they missed is that a husband’s leadership is beneficial to a woman because it gives her direction and balances her emotional highs and lows. It’s not politically correct to say what women need from men in marriage, but it’s true. Just like men, women have weaknesses that can be corrected and compensated for by the opposite sex. The twelfth one they missed is that same-sex marriage is incompatible with religious liberty, as recent court cases have shown.

Anyway, here are the details on #7:

7. Same-sex “marriage” would further isolate marriage from its procreative purpose.

Traditionally, marriage and procreation have been tightly connected to one another. Indeed, from a sociological perspective, the primary purpose that marriage serves is to secure a mother and father for each child who is born into a society. Now, however, many Westerners see marriage in primarily emotional terms.

Among other things, the danger with this mentality is that it fosters an anti-natalist mindset that fuels population decline, which in turn puts tremendous social, political, and economic strains on the larger society. Same-sex marriage would only further undercut the procreative norm long associated with marriage insofar as it establishes that there is no necessary link between procreation and marriage.

This was spelled out in the Goodridge decision in Massachusetts, where the majority opinion dismissed the procreative meaning of marriage. It is no accident that the countries that have legalized or are considering legalizing same-sex marriage have some of the lowest fertility rates in the world. For instance, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Canada have birthrates that hover around 1.6 children per woman–well below the replacement fertility rate of 2.1.

I chose this one because I wanted to comment.

I think it’s common today for men and women to not put the production and development of children at the center of their marriage plans. They are not working a financial plan to prepare for children. They are not developing the skills they need to mentor and nurture others. They are resentful of any demands placed on them that restrict their freedom. And they want marriage to be about fun and self-fulfillment. This is not compatible with children, however. And that’s the point. The more we redefine marriage to be about adult selfishness – first with no-fault divorce, then with same-sex marriage – the less emphasis there is on the pre-marital preparations for making and raising children.

If you want to know what you should be doing with your life before marriage, then think of the process of having children and raising children. Think of how much it costs, what skills you will need, and how your character has to be trained. Many of the things that you see young people doing these days – binge drinking, hooking up, running up debt, cohabitating, avoiding things that are hard to do – are not preparing their character for the responsibilities, expectations and obligations that people face when they have children.

Suppose you have a friend who is not good at driving a manual transmission car or not good at weight lifting or not good at doing apologetics – are you able to help them do it, or are you incapable of taking responsibility? If you can’t take responsibility for helping an adult, you certainly can’t take responsibility for a child – children are much less capable. Now are you able to say no to doing things for your own happiness? If you are not able to give up your own happiness – and this is a thing that gets easier as you practice more – then you’re liable to look on your duties to your children with resentment – that you are being “manipulated” into it. You don’t suddenly learn how to put up with children just by walking down the aisle at a wedding. It takes training to get good at being generous with your time, money and effort. It takes practice.

In fact, a smart man who is courting a woman would be trying to get her to practice the behaviors of a wife and mother before he marries her. And the same for a smart women who is being courted by a man. For example, a man has to comfortable giving things to the people around him – he can’t be resentful about it. Even when he doesn’t particularly like those people, he has to focus on their needs, think about where he is trying to lead them, and then work a plan to provide for their needs so they get where he wants them to go. If a man doesn’t like the feel of caring for others who may not be grateful – or who may even hate him – then he should take steps to prepare his character to learn to like it. When a little kid says “I hate you!” to his father, who is paying thousands of dollars for him to grow up, it’s not an easy thing. Always being selfish before you marry is not good preparation for what children will demand of you. This is something I struggle with personally – being content to invest in others who turn out to be ungrateful, and even destructive.

So I think this focus on parenting is a wonderful way for people to work backwards from the goal (healthy, happy, successful children) to the interim tasks and required skills. It helps us to get away from thinking that marriage is about us – our happiness, our needs. Unfortunately, not everyone who runs around telling people that they want to get married “some day” is really taking steps to prepare for marriage and parenting right now. Marriage is a commitment to self-sacrificially love another person – however much they change – for the rest of their lives, and to love any children who appear, too. People don’t like to read about marriage and think it through. But just saying “I want to marry someday” is not a proof of preparation for marriage, as the divorce rate attests. To get married, you have to train yourself to think of others, and to do hard things that don’t make you feel “free” or “happy”. There is no path to a successful marriage that does not involve responsibilities, expectations and obligations for husband and wife. It’s not “happily ever after”. It’s hard work!

What does social science tell us about children raised by gay couples?

The Public Discourse has a post about a new book that summarizes what we know so far.

Here is the introduction:

An important new collection of peer-reviewed scholarly papers entitled No Differences? How Children in Same-Sex Households Fare has just been released by the Witherspoon Institute. The papers included and summarized in the book all study the nexus between children’s well-being and the structure of the families in which they are raised. In particular, the authors focus on the efficacy of families in which the adults are involved in a physically intimate same-sex relationship.

Here are the chapters:

  1. Loren Marks: survey existing studies on parenting by same-sex couples
  2. Mark Regnerus: large-scale study comparing standard parenting vs same-sex couple parenting
  3. Douglas Allen, Catherine Pakaluk, and Joseph Price: analysis of studies based on census data
  4. Douglas Allen: study of educational outcomes of children raised by same-sex couples
  5. Walter Schumm: evaluation of the methodology of the Regnerus study
  6. Walter Schumm: analysis of the stability of standard relationships vs same-sex relationships

Here’s the blurb on one of the chapters:

The first paper included in the volume, by Loren Marks, examines the foundations of the position taken by the American Psychological Association (APA) on what it calls “lesbian and gay parenting.” The 2005 APA monograph setting forth that organization’s position asserts that the question of whether the childrearing efficacy of parents in same-sex relationships is at least the equal of that of heterosexual couples is settled, and that the serious academic literature speaks with a single voice on the matter.

Marks reviews an extensive literature on the topic and finds that most of the studies on the subject rely on “convenience samples”: groups of respondents that cannot be considered cross-sections of the population at large. Convenience samples are a staple of the literature because same-sex parenting is rare, and so recruiting same-sex parents for a study generally involves placing ads at day-care centers and in publications aimed at the LGBT population, or contacting people by way of their network of friends. While they can provide a useful window on the experience of parents in same-sex relationships, Marks notes that convenience samples suffer from two generic problems. First, the sample sizes are very small; one of the better studies might include a dozen or two lesbian families and a comparable number of heterosexual families. In such a small sample, only enormous differences in children’s outcomes will rise to the level of statistical significance. Technically speaking, estimates of the difference between outcomes for same-sex parents and those for heterosexual couples suffer from low “power.” Moreover, because convenience samples do not constitute a random cross-section of the population, they are not representative, and so estimates based on them suffer from a problem known to statisticians as “bias.”

Marks also notes that many of the small studies either fail to identify a comparison group of heterosexual parents, or they compare educated and affluent lesbian couples to single heterosexual parents. He suggests that better comparison groups might consist of married heterosexual parents or of all heterosexual parents. Certainly that would be the case if one wanted to maintain that there was no difference between the status quo outcomes for children of parents in same-sex relationships and those of heterosexual married parents, as some have seemed to want to do.

Marks highlights three studies that avoid small convenience samples and work with much larger random samples, two of which can be found in the new volume, in the chapter by Mark Regnerus and the chapter by Douglas Allen, Catherine Pakaluk, and Joseph Price.

I took a quick look at Loren Marks’ bio:

Loren Marks holds the Kathryn Norwood and Claude Fussell Alumni Professorship in the LSU College of Human Sciences and Education where he teaches family studies classes and conducts research on family relationships. He currently serves as Program Director for Child and Family Studies in Louisiana State University’s School of Social Work. Marks received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from BYU, and his Ph.D. from the University of Delaware.  Since beginning his work at LSU in 2002, Dr. Marks has centered his research efforts on religion and families, and has published more than 70 articles or chapters, as well as the book Sacred Matters (with Wes Burr and Randy Day). He has also studied children’s outcomes in various family forms—and strong African American families.  His research has received national media attention from outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Times, The Boston Globe, and The Wall Street Journal. Loren was honored with college-level teaching awards in 2005, 2009, and 2013.  In 2011-2012, LSU nominated him for the national Carnegie (CASE) Professor of the Year Award—and nominated him again in 2014. He is Co-Director (with Dr. David Dollahite) of the American Families of Faith Project that includes about 200 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim families from all eight regions of the United States. Findings from this ongoing project have resulted in over 50 scholarly articles/chapters and two in progress books.

The Kindle edition of the book is currently $7.99. The volume is basically one stop shopping for this issue, so if you ever debate on this, get the book.

The best philosophical book on the definition of marriage is “What is Marriage?” by Girgis, Anderson and George.

I think if you are interested in same-sex marriage as a policy issue, you should get both of these books first.