The Corner

15 Consequences of Redefining Marriage

In an historic opening brief filed yesterday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the state of Utah identified at least 15 consequences of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. You can read the full text, which justifies more fully why each of these reasons are valid.  The 15 effects:

1. “First, as many commentators have observed, because procreation is an inherently gendered affair, redefining marriage in genderless terms would break the critical conceptual link between marriage and procreation. . . . Given the manifest ills of fatherless parenting, the State has a compelling interest in sending a powerful message to women that, whenever possible, marriage to the fathers of their children is very important to the welfare of those children and to society itself.”

2. “Second, for similar reasons, the loss of the State’s clear message in favor of biological mother-father parenting within marriage would likely result in a higher percentage of couples conceiving children without the stability that marriage would otherwise bring.”

3. “Third, replacing the child-centric or ‘conjugal’ view of marriage with a more adult-centric view would undermine the existing social norm that often leads parents in acceptable but not ideal marriages to make self-sacrifices and remain married to the parents of their children.”

4. “Fourth, by shifting the understanding of marriage to a more adult-centric view, the redefinition ordered by the district court would also undermine the current social norm (weakened though it may be) that those who wish to have children—or to engage in conduct that could lead to children—should get married.”

5. “Fifth, and most obviously, a genderless definition of marriage would likely increase the number of children being raised by same-sex parents. That could happen because the couple decides to raise together an existing child of one of the partners. Or it could result from the conception of a new child through surrogacy or sperm-donation. Either way, such children will not benefit from the State’s preferred mother-father parenting model; often they will have no way of knowing even the identity of both biological parents. And recent evidence on same-sex parenting, while not conclusive, indicates that same-sex parenting arrangements are less effective than married biological mothers and fathers in producing positive outcomes in the lives of their children.

6. “Sixth, if the traditional male-female aspect of marriage were thrown out as irrational, it would likely become more difficult to resist other innovations that would lead to additional children being raised without a father or mother.”

7. “Seventh, a court-ordered redefinition of marriage could well lead to its wholesale ‘privatization’—for example, by enactment of a civil- union regime for all couples, with religious and other organizations being free to offer the title of ‘marriage’ as they see fit.”

8. “[The] correlation between genderless marriage and lower birthrates. . . . It is also striking that fertility and birthrates tend to be markedly lower in nations and states that have embraced same-sex marriage.”

9. “Because procreation is an inherently gendered matter, redefining marriage in genderless terms breaks the critical conceptual link between marriage and procreation—and in that way alone would dilute the implicit encouragement the institution of marriage currently provides for procreation by married couples.”

10. “By implicitly endorsing the adult-centric model of marriage, a genderless redefinition would send a powerful message that it is entirely appropriate—even expected—for adults to forego or severely limit the number of their children based on concerns for their own convenience. That a new child might ‘cramp the style’ of an adult would come to be seen as sufficient reason not to have the child at all. That too would tend to reduce fertility rates.”

11. “To the extent a genderless marriage definition encourages the further abandonment—or privatization—of marriage, it would  almost certainly reduce birthrates. Studies have shown that cohabiting couples tend to produce fewer children on average than married couples do—perhaps because the resulting instability makes the participants less willing to bring children into the mix. Thus, if overall marriage rates decline further, birthrates would likely decline as well.”

12. “Governments would likely be pressured—and perhaps agree—to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches or other non-profit religious organizations that refuse on religious grounds to recognize same-sex marriages or to provide benefits to same-sex couples on the same terms as husband-wife couples.”

13. “Governments would likely be pressured—and perhaps agree—to investigate, prosecute and punish people in wedding-related businesses for refusing on religious conscience grounds to assist with same-sex weddings.”

14. “Government licensing agencies would likely be pressured—and perhaps agree—to investigate and punish counselors for refusing on religious conscience grounds to counsel same-sex married couples on the same terms as heterosexual couples.”

15. “Religion-based conflicts between public schools and parents would likely increase as children are taught about sexuality and marriage in ways that contravene parents’ and students’ deeply held religious beliefs.”

Note that these consequences are subtle in the short-run and life-changing in the long-run.  Courts should no longer to hide behind the lie of “no rational basis” when the state of Utah provided 15 – and many more.

— Michael T. Worley is a law student at Brigham Young University.


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