Glen T. Stanton
As we watch the celebratory images streaming out of New York on Sunday, it’s important to realize the fullness of what we are seeing. Each of these couples, and nearly all the media reporting on them, is celebrating a radical redefinition of not just marriage and family, but at its base, what it means to be human.
Marriage is so much more than a religious, Western, conservative, modern, or legal idea. Anthropologist Donald Brown, in his book, Human Universals, examining the qualities that all cultures at all times hold in common given their shared humanity, lists marriage as one of these universals. And for all the varied ways that different cultures have done marriage, one thing remains commonly consistent – or at least it did until the last few nanoseconds of our human experience. Marriage always brought the two amazing and mysteriously distinct parts of humanity together into an exclusive, socially valued, and protective union. Marriage has always existed to solve the paradox that humanity exists in male and female.
Each of the couples we will see on Sunday — together with the New York legislature which enacted this new law — is proclaiming with a loud and powerful voice that male and female are now merely sentimental terms. Have a husband and wife, mother and father in your family if you like, but no one really needs them anymore. Male and female become to the family what the service agreement on your new SUV is: optional, based on your personal preference. This is exactly what New York marriage law now teaches, and it will not be without widespread consequence. How can it not?
For these people, the mighty, flowing stream of human experience has nothing to teach us. With all the self-assurance they can muster, they know better today simply because they are children of the modern age. Consider the experimentation with family formation over the past 40 years — and there has been a great deal of it: divorce and growing step-families; explosive growth in unmarried cohabitation and child-bearing; fatherlessness and sexual experimentation. None of these changes have served to improve any important measure of developmental well-being for children. In fact, each has reduced child welfare significantly. Same-sex marriage and parenting is simply the next step in this long line of family experimentation, driven by nothing more than adult desire, and copious amounts of happy talk and wishful thinking.
— Glenn T. Stanton is director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family.
Marriage is a public institution, and the marriage practices that a society endorses inevitably have real-world consequences that extend far beyond the individuals who marry, and shape or deform the broader culture. Does anyone really believe otherwise? It’s clear that many people support so-called same-sex marriage at least in part because of the public validation of same-sex relationships that the redefinition of marriage entails.
The idea that a man could “marry” another man (or that a woman could “marry” another woman) could be taken seriously only in a culture that has become deeply confused about what marriage is. That confusion is largely the result of what heterosexuals have done to marriage in recent decades. It will not be easy to rebuild a sound marriage culture. But the spread of same-sex marriage would make that rebuilding project impossible, as it would sever permanently the societal understanding of the inherent link between marriage and responsible procreation and child-rearing. The more confusion there is about the mission of marriage, the less well marriage will perform its critical mission. And the millions and millions of victims — children born into unstable or nonexistent families — will continue to pile up, with all the attendant disastrous consequences.
If there is a dim silver lining, it is perhaps that New York’s legislative adoption of same-sex marriage will expose the canard that homosexuals are politically powerless — one of the criteria for recognition as a “suspect” class for purposes of heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause — and will induce the Supreme Court to leave the definition of marriage to the democratic processes in the various states and in Congress.
— Ed Whelan is the president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.