The Corner

Slate Vs. Stanley

Slate has just come out with two extended attacks on my arguments against gay marriage. One piece, by Slate’s legal correspondent, Dahlia Lithwick, is a general swipe at proponents of the “slippery slope” argument, including me. The other piece, is by M. V. Lee Badgett, a professor of economics and gay and lesbian studies at U. Mass Amherst, is a lengthy attempt to rebut my Scandinavia work. I’ll have a reply to both pieces next week, but here’s a quick response to Badgett. Badgett’s claim that marriage in Scandinavia is pretty healthy right now is not credible. Whether on the left or right, demographers acknowledge that marriage in Scandinavia is on the way out. Badgett gives the same tired statistics that supposedly prove that Scandinavian marriage is going through a renaissance, completely ignoring my detailed critique of those figures. Badgett also overlooks a key element of my argument–that the practice of marrying after the first child is falling by the wayside and couples are increasingly not marrying after even second and third children. This is the core change that has taken place since gay marriage. The rate of out-of-wedlock births may have increased more rapidly prior to gay marriage, but those were first births, when the custom was still to marry sometime after the arrival of the first child. That was the “easy” part of the growth in the out-of-wedlock birthrate. What’s happened since gay marriage is that couples are increasingly waiting till after two and three children have been born before marrying–or not marrying at all. That is a much deeper and more disturbing change. Comparing that to the earlier rise in what were essentially first child out-of-wedlock birthrates is comparing apples and oranges. There’s more to be said here, but the main point is that the Netherlands example proves what Badgett denies–that when you bring gay marriage into a country where there had not previously been a high rate of parental cohabitation, the rate of out-of-wedlock births does in fact shoot up quite sharply. I’ll have much more on the Netherlands soon.


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