What’s Next for Marriage?
After the Supreme Court



Supporters of traditional marriage were dismayed by the Supreme Court’s failure to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the Prop 8 and DOMA cases. However, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins is rightly relieved that “the court today did not impose the sweeping nationwide redefinition of marriage that was sought.”

So far, twelve states have redefined marriage to allow same-sex unions. A few more may do so, but the vast majority of states will not change their laws or constitutions that limit marriage to one man and one woman.

Sadly, traditional marriage is in decline. Divorce rates are high. Cohabitation is soaring, and it has eroded marriage. Women regard cohabitation as a step toward marriage, but men cohabit to avoid committing to it. Only a fifth of cohabiting couples marry. Pastors perpetuate this problem by marrying cohabiting couples — instead of requiring them to move apart and take a rigorous course in marriage preparation.

In order to save traditional marriage, houses of worship should join in creating a Community Marriage Policy with five major reforms:

• Offer a better way to test the relationship by taking a premarital inventory and discuss results with trained Marriage Mentor Couples. In our home church, Mentor Couples we trained prepared 288 couples for marriage in the 1990s. Fully 58 couples — 20 percent — decided not to marry. Studies suggest they avoided a bad marriage before it began. But of the 230 couples who did marry, we know of only 16 divorces. That’s a 93 percent success rate over two decades — virtual marriage insurance!

• Enrich existing marriages with annual getaways, such as 10 Great Dates, in which couples watch a brief DVD and then have a date to discuss such topics as Resolving Honest Conflict and Becoming an Encourager.

• Restore troubled marriages with couples whose own marriages once nearly failed.

• Reconcile separated couples by offering a course the committed spouse can take with a friend of the same gender, such as Marriage 911, to help him or her grow and attract back the errant mate.

• Save stepfamilies, who divorce at a 70 percent rate, by creating Stepfamily Support Groups, which save 80 percent of them.

Marriage Savers has helped more than 10,000 churches create Community Marriage Policies in 229 cities. On average, city-wide divorce rates fell 17.5 percent, saving 100,000 marriages, according to an independent study. Cohabitation rates also fell by one-third.

Community Marriage Policies can help diverse churches forge healthy, long-lasting marriages, a safe place for children to grow.

— Mike McManus is president of Marriage Savers.

From a legal standpoint, the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA is extraordinary and far-reaching. Our entire legal history and tradition regarding marriage continues to be dismantled. Nobody can know what will come from redefining thousands of federal statutes and regulations — wherever the words “marriage” or “spouse” appear. It will take decades to know the ultimate legal consequences.

But there is a deeper meaning. We have been engaged in a great struggle for the soul of our society, and the souls of individuals. The battleground has been over the nature and significance of marriage, and why people should choose marriage as the centerpiece of their lives. We have long been contending against a hostile culture.

This task will go on, regardless of whatever the law might be. Families, schools, and churches will all continue to teach the authentic meaning of marriage — one man, one woman, lifelong, faithful, and inherently oriented to having children. But the terms of engagement have dramatically changed. The Court’s ruling will make our mission more difficult, by branding the real meaning of marriage as mere bigotry, hatred, and irrationality. 

In a way, though, this may enable us to become more effective teachers. The big lie at the heart of the Supreme Court’s decision — that same-sex relationships are the same as real marriages — cannot ultimately gain sway over the hearts of people. It is false, and deep in our hearts we know it. And it will only highlight the contrast between the false values of a corrupted society and legal system, and the true virtues of authentic, loving married couples.

The law is a great teacher, and this Supreme Court decision teaches a lie. But the truth about marriage will continue to be attractive to people, who always prefer truth to lies.

Edward T. Mechmann, a former prosecutor, is director of public policy at the Archdiocese of New York.


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