The Spectacle Blog

Marriage Realities: Political and Cultural

By on 6.27.11 | 4:10PM

Jeff Goldberg's response to my post about gay "marriage equality" is substantive, thoughtful, and engaging, and for that I thank him.

Still, Goldberg cannot resist the urge to snidely mock, with unbecoming putdowns, those of us who genuinely think that same-sex marriage threatens the institution of marriage.

"Red Alert! Your Marriage Is In Danger from the Gays" reads the headline of his post. "The gays are coming to steal your marriage," he tweets.

Again, the upper-middle-class cultural elite who are happily married with children needn't worry. It is young people who are not married -- and especially disadvantaged youth, who lack the same social, economic, and cultural capital as Goldberg -- about whom we must be concerned. Because for them, the institution of marriage has become increasingly passé, undistinguished, and decoupled from parenting.

The problem with gay "marriage," obviously, is not that gays will marry; it is the cultural lesson that non-gays will learn from its legitimization -- which is that marriage and children don't necessarily go together; so, if you have or want children, why bother with marriage?

Unfortunately, this is not some fanciful or far-fetched idea; it has been borne out, as Stanley Kurtz has observed, by the experience of Scandinavian countries which already have traveled down this path. Kurtz writes,

Americans take it for granted that, despite its recent troubles, marriage will always exist. This is a mistake. Marriage is disappearing in Scandinavia, and the forces undermining it there are active throughout the West...

A majority of children in Sweden and Norway, [for instance], are born out of wedlock. Sixty percent of first-born children in Denmark have unmarried parents.

Not coincidentally, these countries have had something close to full gay marriage for a decade or more. Same-sex marriage has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood...

"In effect," concludes Kurtz, "Scandinavia has run our experiment for us. The results are in."

In the United States, meanwhile, more than 40 percent of children, and nearly half of Hispanic children, are born out of wedlock. This ought to alarm the pundits and the politicians.

David Frum and other conservatives recognize this problem, but refuse to see it linked in any way to "gay marriage." They are, I think in willful denial. These conservatives see that public opinion, especially amongst the young, has shifted; and that fighting to retain the exclusivity of traditional marriage may be politically difficult if not untenable.

I share this (political) concern, but cannot escape the fact that undermining traditional marriage with so radical a notion as same-sex marriage will harm future generations, and especially children.

One final point: Goldberg cites his own personal experience with gay friends and colleagues to argue that gays are embracing marriage and parenting, and doing so with gusto.

"Doesn't this endorsement of marriage by people who have been excluded from marriage suggest something wonderfully traditional and stabilizing about this moment?" he writes.

"That's what gay marriage is about, then: the embrace by previously-marginalized people of a traditional institution, an institution indispensable for the raising of healthy, whole children."

I don't doubt that some gay men and women are doing exactly as Goldberg describes. But I have seen no evidence to show that this is true of most, or even many, lesbians and homosexuals. Gay men, in fact, are known to be rather promiscuous (a fact which helps to explain the devastation, within the gay community, wrought by the AIDS virus).

In truth, there is a big push for "gay marriage" because so-called gay rights advocates see this as a winning means to gain social acceptance and approval for gay men and women.

I am glad that we live in a tolerant and accepting society. However, there is little reason to think that most lesbians and homosexuals yearn for traditional married life. And, even if they did, I'm not sure why they need special legal recognition of their unions in order to settle down into monogamous relationships.

The problem for us conservatives is that "gay marriage" advocates have shrewdly and brilliantly adopted the language of "rights" and "equality." They are wrong to have done so. Marriage is not about "rights"; it is about children and civilization. And when it comes to raising children, an intact family with a mother and a father has no equal.

The political challenge -- the now extremely formidable political challenge -- is translating these truths into effective electoral propositions that can command the support of our fellow citizens. I am, I regret to say, not sanguine or optimistic about our chances.

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