Last night’s “historic” vote for “gay marriage” in New York ought to be a wakeup call to the Republican Party and social and cultural conservatives more generally. We are fighting, I regret to say, a losing battle — and I say that as someone who strongly supports traditional marriage, and who believes that further attempts to undermine its special and privileged place in our society will have serious, baleful consequences.
Of course, liberals and “progressives” mock our concern. “For some reason,” tweets The Atlantic‘s Jeff Goldberg, “I suddenly feel that my heterosexual marriage is under threat.”
Goldberg’s marriage isn’t under threat, but the institution of marriage is — so much so that marriage rates in America have plummeted and out-of-wedlock births have skyrocketed.
National Review‘s Rich Lowry notes, for instance, that the number of Americans in intact first marriages has dropped from 73 percent in the 1970s to as little as 39 percent today, depending on socioeconomic status. And the poorer and less educated you are, the more likely you are to suffer from the political and cultural degradation of marriage.
Just 45 percent of moderately educated, middle-income Americans are in intact first marriages. For the poorest and least-educated Americans, the corresponding figure is 39 percent.
Why does this matter? Because the best and most effective way to avert crime, poverty, drug abuse and other social pathologies is to have strong, intact families. “Being raised in a married family reduces a child’s probability of living in poverty by about 80 percent,” writes the Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector.
Last week was Father’s Day. Yet, according to a new Pew Foundation study, 27 percent of Americans younger than 18 live apart from their fathers. In 1960, the corresponding figure was 11 percent.
The percent of children born out of wedlock, meanwhile, has increased from just six percent in the mid 1960s to more than 40 percent today.
“Nearly half of the children born to Hispanic mothers in the U.S. are born out of wedlock, a proportion that has been increasing rapidly with no signs of slowing down,” reports the City Journal‘s Heather Mac Donald
“Fatherlessness,” notes David Frum, “is associated with an array of negative outcomes, including aggravated likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse, reduced educational achievement, and increased odds of prison incarceration.”
But what does this have to do with gay “marriage”? Everything. Sure, this breakdown in the family has occurred independent of the push for “marriage equality.” But it is still part and parcel of an overarching effort to undermine and deprecate traditional marriage and the traditional family.
It is still part of a broader political and cultural movement to decouple marriage from its principal purpose, which is the care and raising of children.
Instead, marriage must become (as it has become) mainly about personal self-fulfillment — and it must mean whatever each of us wants it to mean, and it must be culturally optional. No one’s marriage and no one’s family (or the lack thereof) is better (or worse) than any other. These are all individual lifestyle choices.
That would be fine, perhaps (or at least less of a problem), if we all lived in isolation and were wholly self-dependent and self-sufficient family units, but we’re not. We live in communities, and we make demands upon the state for family “assistance” and other remedial, governmental actions.
And we do this because there really is no substitute for the traditional family, with a mother and a father. So when our new and more modern “families” fail, the state must intervene. So it is that the seeds for the bureaucratic welfare state, the redistribution of wealth, and economic liberalism are sown in social and cultural libertarianism.
This doesn’t mean, obviously, that some children without fathers and mothers don’t turn out well and are necessarily consigned to failure. Of course, some fatherless (and motherless) children do quite well. But the odds are against them. And the more we undermine the institution of marriage through misplaced notions of “equality” and “rights,’ the more we stack the deck against them.