I also find it interesting that same-sex marriage advocates frequently trot out gay or lesbian couples with children in an effort to try to make that construct look as similar as possible to the average American family. But no one ever points out that same-sex relationships of that nature are an aberration among the homosexual community. Studies show that there are a relatively small number of homosexuals that demonstrate any desire to live this way.
This morning I heard a radio news broadcast featuring a lesbian woman commenting on the current US Senate debate of the Marriage Protection Amendment. The woman asked why she, her partner, and their son should not be considered a family. She said, “They are voting to harm my family.” Doesn’t fairness dictate that this woman should be able to marry the person she loves so that they can raise a family together with all the legal antecedents accorded heterosexual couples?
One of the favorite debate tactics used by same-sex marriage proponents is to ask, “How does the marriage of two people of the same sex impact your (or my) marriage?” These last two questions appeal to the universal desire for fairness—something regarded in all cultures as natural law. This appeal is often used in the same-sex marriage debate because it is simple to do and is easily understandable, while answering such an appeal is complex and not easily understandable.
J. Max Wilson at Sixteen Small Stones published a link (here in comment #3) to an April 2005 post by libertarian blogger Jane Galt that addresses head-on the issue of how same-sex marriage impacts heterosexual marriage. Galt takes no position either in favor of or against same-sex marriage. Rather, her essay examines the wisdom of casually reforming social constructs to address obvious or perceived unfairness.
Galt specifically discusses three law changes, two of which are directly related to marriage and are also related to fairness. She shows how the sowing of well intentioned laws in each case have ultimately reaped whirlwinds of unanticipated changes that exceeded the direst warnings of opponents.
Galt says that when social conservatives argue that legalization of same-sex marriage would affect the complex interplay of elements at the basis of society to the effect that the institution of marriage would fall apart, proponents mock them by saying something like, “Why on earth would it make any difference to me whether gay people are getting married? Why would that change my behavior as a heterosexual?”
Galt argues that this is a flimsy, arrogant retort that ignores market realities. “The argument that gay marriage will not change the institution of marriage because you can't imagine it changing your personal reaction is pretty arrogant. It imagines, first of all, that your behavior is a guide for the behavior of everyone else in society, when in fact, as you may have noticed, all sorts of different people react to all sorts of different things in all sorts of different ways, which is why we have to have elections and stuff. And second, the unwavering belief that the only reason that marriage, always and everywhere, is a male-female institution (I exclude rare ritual behaviors), is just some sort of bizarre historical coincidence, and that you know better, needs examining.”
Galt also makes an economic case to address the question above:
“Now, economists hear this sort of argument all the time. "That's ridiculous! I would never start working fewer hours because my taxes went up!" This ignores the fact that you may not be the marginal case. The marginal case may be some consultant who just can't justify sacrificing valuable leisure for a new project when he's only making 60 cents on the dollar. The result will nonetheless be the same: less economic activity. Similarly, you--highly educated, firmly socialised, upper middle class you--may not be the marginal marriage candidate; it may be some high school dropout in Tuscaloosa. That doesn't mean that the institution of marriage won't be weakened in America just the same.”The three cases Galt uses to bolster her contention are the defeat of the proposed 10% cap on income tax, the extension of welfare to single mothers, and the relaxation of divorce laws. Galt painstakingly takes the reader through each case, showing that opponents of each gave warnings that proponents could not imagine could ever become actual. She then shows how in each case, the new law created a sea change that fundamentally altered the previously existing social understanding—not immediately, but over a generation or two.
In the case of income tax, it seemed unimaginable that the public would ever tolerate a tax rate as high as 10%. In the case of welfare for single mothers, no one could imagine that it would literally destroy the institution of marriage in inner cities, raising rates of unwed births to 70%. In the matter of divorce, not even anti-reform people foresaw a day when 50% of all marriages would end in divorce.
Galt argues (and most social scientists agree) that the relaxation of divorce laws 40 years ago resulted in an overall weakening of commitment in the institution of marriage. She finds truth in the assertion of David Brooks that weddings have become extravagant affairs “because the event itself doesn't mean nearly as much as it used to, so we have to turn it into a three-ring circus to feel like we're really doing something.”
Galt has no desire to return to the days of the Scarlet Letter, or hard-core divorce laws; although, she wouldn’t mind returning to the sub-10% income tax days. Nor does she argue that we should never legalize same-sex marriage. Instead, she calls for deep understanding and extremely cogent reasoning before messing around with this important social construct.
She says, “If you think you know why marriage is male-female, and why that's either outdated because of all the ways in which reproduction has lately changed, or was a bad reason to start with, then you are in a good place to advocate reform. If you think that marriage is just that way because our ancestors were all a bunch of repressed [********]s with dark Freudian complexes that made them homophobic bigots, I'm a little leery of letting you muck around with it.”
Marriage researcher Stanley Kurtz has gone to great lengths to show that research (even by same-sex marriage advocates) demonstrates that same-sex marriage weakens and destroys the institution of marriage. He shows that many European researchers acknowledge and are enthused about this fact. You can start by looking at this article and this article. These articles link to additional articles that link to additional articles, and so on. If you have the will, you can spend hours reading through Kurtz’s conclusions. He actually has a very cogent body of work, with 11 years of articles here. I would also recommend his articles, the End of Marriage in Scandinavia and Beyond Gay Marriage.
In short, there is a great deal of research to show that same-sex marriage actually does harm the institution of marriage itself. But proponents of same-sex marriage in the U.S. are quick to brush aside and mock the documented problems in order to correct what they see as a social injustice. I’m not worried about gay marriage affecting my marriage; I’m worried about it affecting the marriages of my children and grandchildren.
I agree with Jane Galt that it is wrong to approach the fundamental changing of the institution of marriage so casually. If there is a social injustice, let’s see if there is a way to address it without destroying marriage. If that is not possible, then let’s accept the fact that sometimes life isn’t fair and that everyone is called upon to make some sacrifices for the good of society as a whole.