Marriage Has Changed; It’s Not Because of the Gays

Ross Douthat bemoans the evolution of American cultural norms over the past fifteen years.

gay-marriage-cake

Ross Douthat notes that marriage and family life in America has changed since “David Frum and Andrew Sullivan, debated same-sex marriage for the online magazine Slate” in 1997.

As the cause of gay marriage has pressed forward, the social link between marriage and childbearing has indeed weakened faster than before. As thepublic’s shift on the issue has accelerated, so has marriage’s overall decline.

Since Frum warned that gay marriage could advance only at traditional wedlock’s expense, the marriage rate has been falling faster, the out-of-wedlock birthrate has been rising faster, and the substitution of cohabitation for marriage has markedly increased. Underlying these trends is a steady shift in values: Americans are less likely to see children as important to marriage and less likely to see marriage as important to childbearing (the generation gap on gay marriage shows up on unwed parenting as well) than even in the very recent past.

[…]

There are plenty of interesting arguments, often from gay writers, about how the march to gay marriage might be influencing heterosexual norms — from Alex Ross’s recent musings in The New Yorker on the sudden “queer vibe” in straight pop culture to Dan Savage’s famous argument that straights might do well to imitate the “monogamish” norms of some gay male couples. It’s only the claim that this influence might not always be positive that is dismissed as bigotry and unreason.

A more honest, less triumphalist case for gay marriage would be willing to concede that, yes, there might be some social costs to redefining marriage. It would simply argue that those costs are too diffuse and hard to quantify to outweigh the immediate benefits of recognizing gay couples’ love and commitment.

Now, this is all interesting. There’s little doubt that marriage as an institution has evolved rather radically within my memory, owing mostly to women having far more options, the destigmatization of divorce, and the like. And, certainly, as I’ve noted many times, I can’t thing of an issue where the public consensus has shifted more starkly and radically than on gay rights.

But while we’re actually ahead of most of the world on recognizing same-sex marriage, we’re lagging on the indicators that Douthat points to. Married middle class women were far more likely to have careers in Western Europe well before their American counterparts. And the decline of religious observance and the concomitant impact of the moral pressures that come with it is much more prevalent in most of the developed world than it is here.

So, yes, marriage is changing. But, no, it’s not because of teh gays.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    A more honest, less triumphalist case for gay marriage would be willing to concede that, yes, there might be some social costs to redefining marriage.

    Hey Ross? How about we put the shoe on the other foot?

    A more honest, less triumphalist case for against gay marriage would be willing to concede that, yes, there might be are some social costs to redefining denying marriage to some classes of people.

  2. Argon says:

    Good catch on the counterfactuals that Ross ignores. The saying goes, ‘if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’

    And while we’re on this correlation/causation path, note that societal opinions have changed about marriage as the capabilities of cell phones have increased. Similarly, they’ve changed as the length of copyright protections have been extended. It also tracks with the mean surface temperature of the Earth.

    Besides, there are more marriages between heterosexuals where the couples have no plans to have children than there will ever be of gay marriages. It’s not ‘teh gays’.

  3. sam says:

    “For 10 years, America’s only major public debate about marriage and family has featured one side — judges and journalists, celebrities and now finally politicians — pressing the case that modern marriage has nothing to do with the way human beings reproduce themselves, that the procreative understanding of the institution was founded entirely on prejudice, and that the shift away from a male-female marital ideal is analogous to the end of segregation.”

    Kevin Drum points out that the procreation argument was introduced — and continues to be the mainstay of the aginers — by conservative opponents of same-sex marriage. See, for instance, anything by Robert P. George.

    Marriage and Procreation: The Intrinsic Connection

    In this essay we will show how to answer the argument denying an intrinsic link between marriage and procreation, and we will explain why the state is obliged, for the sake of moral truth and the common good, to recognize and protect marriage as a man-woman community naturally oriented to procreation.

    It’s the argument the opponents always come back to in the end.

  4. Tsar Nicholas says:

    The Beat movement, the Hippie movement, the women’s lib movement, the “sexual revolution,” the drug culture; all of which predated by multiple decades the issue of same-sex marriages. Blaming gays and lesbians for the decline of marriage is analogous to blaming Nixon for Vietnam.

    Concerning the US and Europe, there now are a helluva lot more similarities than differences: systemic high unemployment, massive welfare states, slow to negative GDP growth, slow to net negative population growth (only the Hispanic demographic is preventing the US from falling into the latter camp), large and unassimilated populations of uneducated and unskilled immigrant worker classes, excessive regulatory schemes, high taxes, calamitous debt-GDP and deficit-GDP ratios. The prospects are bleak on both sides of the pond.

    Breakdowns in social mores have severe ripple effects: politically, fiscally, economically. And in certain respects watching nations in severe decline is like watching the wings being torn off of flies.

  5. steve says:

    The social cons are unable or unwilling to address the problems with serial marriage, out of wedlock births and cohabitation rather than marriage. I think that is largely because it would require criticizing its own members in any meaningful way. That leaves gay marriage for them to go after, which is something they can all agree on and they can pursue policies against without harming, they believe, their own members. This is what happens when faith gives itself over to politics. It lets the religiously inclined ignore the big issues like divorce and kids born out of wedlock, so they can focus on an issue that will gain votes for their party.

    Steve

  6. Mark Ivey says:

    Dick Cheney supports gays getting hitched.

    Republican discussion on this subject is now over.

    GOPers who like to whine can go back to abortion and gun control full time..

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @steve:

    The social cons are unable or unwilling to address the problems with serial marriage, out of wedlock births and cohabitation rather than marriage. I think that is largely because it would require criticizing its own members in any meaningful way. That leaves gay marriage for them to go after,

    From my own perspective Steve, I think they just hate gays more than they love marriage or children. This just shows where their true values lie.

  8. An Interested Party says:

    The Beat movement, the Hippie movement, the women’s lib movement, the “sexual revolution,” the drug culture; all of which predated by multiple decades the issue of same-sex marriages. Blaming gays and lesbians for the decline of marriage is analogous to blaming Nixon for Vietnam.

    And yet you’re more than happy to blame the hippies, women, and other groups for the decline in marriage…you know, other right-wing bogeyman/stereotypes…oh, and Nixon rightfully gets blamed for prolonging Vietnam for his own political gain, not for Vietnam itself…

  9. grumpy realist says:

    Why is it that the people who always whine about this are upper-middle-class hetrosexual males?

    Methinks that someone doesn’t like losing his 1950 privileges. Must be nice to have a housewifey to come home to, who takes care of the house and the kiddies, brings the guy a beer and his slippers, and he never, ever has to change a diaper or see any more of his kids than the 30 minutes after they’ve been bathed and just about to go to bed. Because he’s the “breadwinner”, right?

  10. michael reynolds says:

    I think the important point here is one I’ve made before: Douthat isn’t very smart.

    I mean, at this point he’s reversing time’s arrow to explain effects that occurred before the supposed causes. Isn’t it time yet for conservatives to admit this guy’s neither interesting nor bright?

  11. Barry says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: “Concerning the US and Europe, there now are a helluva lot more similarities than differences: systemic high unemployment, massive welfare states, slow to negative GDP growth, slow to net negative population growth (only the Hispanic demographic is preventing the US from falling into the latter camp), large and unassimilated populations of uneducated and unskilled immigrant worker classes, excessive regulatory schemes, high taxes, calamitous debt-GDP and deficit-GDP ratios. The prospects are bleak on both sides of the pond. ”

    Not a single thing you wrote is correct.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    @Barry:

    It never is.

  13. PD Shaw says:

    Douthat is understandably operating from a high church background. America has had several conceptions of marriage, including that of the more libertarian frontier. There, one was married if one lived together, but titles to the possession of another were irrelevant and not anybody’s concern until a harm was suffered, a child born of the union was uncared for, or a pregnant companion abandoned. Otherwise, what happened behind closed doors was of nobody’s concern, whether the woman was beaten or the man was being robbed.

    Registering a marriage for regulation by public laws is a Puritan creed, by which public law both rewards and claims fees for the state. Traditionalist signed on thinking that the public law would always reflect their traditional values. Public laws are always an unthinking accommodation of the sense of the people. And now we have a law that imposes a marriage penalty through the income tax system that discriminates between those who are religiously obligated to marry and those co-habitating who do not.

  14. JKB says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    There is no denial of marriage to certain classes of people. Heterosexuals and homosexuals have the same right to marry a person of the opposite gender.

    The question before us is there a state interest in limiting marriage to the opposite gender. That depends on the definition of marriage, which has been degraded long before now. It is weak to try to argue marriage is about children when, especially over the last 40 years, we have degraded the commitment and responsibilities in marriage even when children were borne of it.

    So that brings us back, if in the secular, marriage is an economic arraignment that may or may not involve children, is it in the State’s interest to limit it to opposite gender pairings. Why shold same gender individuals wishing to form a marriage economic unit be denied license to do so? Homosexuals, of course, some to mind as some who might benefit from same-gender marriage but also mobsters might find protection in pooling their assets and the protections against forced testimony against their partner.

    So it is not a class denial as much as a societal denial against all genders who may desire the liberty to marry someone of their same gender.

  15. PD Shaw says:

    @sam: I read enough comparative anthropology across various cultures to believe that marriage is always about the risks and responsibilities of procreation. I don’t know how one could argue otherwise, though I could understand that cultures change, but for that to happen one must decide how cultures change and at least recognize that ideas have changed.

  16. Rafer Janders says:

    @JKB:

    There is no denial of marriage to certain classes of people. Heterosexuals and homosexuals have the same right to marry a person of the opposite gender.

    “La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain.” (“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread”) — Anatole France

  17. andrew e. says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: Couple of questions:

    a) have you ever provided a modern example of a country that lives under the principles you so wish for- no welfare, never-ending GDP growth, low unemployment, high education across the board with no immigration problem, non-liberal social morals- that actually exists?

    b) Do you ever come back to actually defend your assertions?

  18. sam says:

    @PD Shaw:

    @sam: I read enough comparative anthropology across various cultures to believe that marriage is always about the risks and responsibilities of procreation. I don’t know how one could argue otherwise, though I could understand that cultures change, but for that to happen one must decide how cultures change and at least recognize that ideas have changed.

    But PD, the argument seems to confuse a sufficient condition with a necessary condition, no?

  19. Al says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Pfft. What do the French know about freedom? After all, was it a Frenchman who said: “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death your right to say it?” No! It was an English woman!

    Um… Huh. Where was I going with this?

  20. grumpy realist says:

    @JKB: Yeah, we heard that argument with anti-miscegenation laws as well. “There’s no discrimination of black people or white people. Each is free to marry, providing that it’s a member of the same race.”

    Do you nitwits EVER read your history books?!

  21. grumpy realist says:

    @PD Shaw: What no one has cottoned on to is that we don’t necessarily use marriage for procreation any more. It used to be that if you were a female, you were expected to keep popping out kids, simply because you ended up losing a high percentage of them, what with the childhood sicknesses etc. Second, having more and more kids was a Good Thing, because we all farmed and more kids meant more people to work the land.

    We. Don’t. Need. That. Any. More. We’re living much longer and have a much better chance of living through any sickness, plus we don’t need all those strong backs to lift bales and weed the fields.

    We’ve now found other reasons to get and stay married, or we would if the bloody trads would stop poking their bloody noses into the mess. If you want to remain with a procreation-oriented marriage system, please move to somewhere in Africa and stop using any medicine or technology. Go back to living as subsistence farmers. That’s the tradition that your marriage customs came from.

  22. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: You are quite correct that young Ross isn’t terribly bright. However, I suspect that when the NYT was forced to recruit a conservative to replace Bill Kristol, Douthat really was the best available. Respectable Conservative Pundit does not seem to be a field with a deep bench.

    Douthat’s core omission, which I haven’t seen mentioned up thread, is that once we had widely available, reliable, birth control; much of what he complains about was inevitable.

    I suppose young Douthat, with his lack of temporal discrimination, or perhaps it’s a belief in the Hawaiian birth certificate time machine, blames Obama for the pill, too.

  23. Anderson says:

    This issue was foreclosed and foreordained when divorce became routine. Once marriage is regarded as a contract that can be terminated by one or both parties, none of the traditionalist arguments makes any sense. It doesn’t help that divorce, unlike gay marriage, is expressly condemned by Jesus in the gospels.

    Anyone claiming to have a principled stand vs. gay marriage, who doesn’t also opposed legalized divorce, can be safely disregarded as a hack.

  24. PD Shaw says:

    @sam: Systems or rules can have overinclusiveness and underinclusiveness issues without necessarily undermining the system. At some point, of course, the degree of variation will undermine the system. I support same – sex marriage through legislative change; I am strongly opposed to “marriage” being redefined as whatever consenting adults agree to because it will eliminate any shared sense of what “marriage” is and will undermine the system.

  25. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    There is no denial of marriage to certain classes of people. Heterosexuals and homosexuals have the same right to marry a person of the opposite gender.

    So you have no problem denying the pursuit of happiness to gays/lesbians?

  26. Al says:

    @Anderson:

    It doesn’t help that divorce, unlike gay marriage, is expressly condemned by Jesus in the gospels.

    Just for the record, that implies that Jesus was in favor of wives being beaten or killed and women committing suicide.

  27. anjin-san says:

    marriage is always about the risks and responsibilities of procreation. I don’t know how one could argue otherwise

    My wife and I got married when we were in our 40s, and we decided ahead of time that children were not part of the plan. 14 years later, we have a successful marriage. (unlike countless couples who have children)

    No kids, but we are happier, healthier, and wealthier than we were as single adults.

    So no, marriage is not always about the risks and responsibilities of procreation.

  28. JKB says:

    @anjin-san: So you have no problem denying the pursuit of happiness to gays/lesbians?

    The divorce courts would indicate that marriage != happiness.

    Many of those who marry may be happy in the union but it does not mean that the happiness is a product of the marriage.

    But as I said in my comment, we must look at marriage as it is practiced today and see if there is any compelling State interest that the economic arrangement should be limited to opposite-gender unions.

  29. Anderson says:

    “Just for the record, that implies that Jesus was in favor of wives being beaten or killed and women committing suicide.”

    … Uh, no. But you are welcome to take it up with him.

    FWIW, the usual “liberal” interpretation is that divorce in Jesus’s day was pretty much a male prerogative, so Jesus’s opposition to divorce is supposedly to be read in that light. Much the same argument has been made about biblical opposition to homosexuality, which it’s said was really motivated by hostility to pederasty. People back in the day supposedly couldn’t grok a mutually respectful gay relationship, any more than they could imagine a woman’s divorcing her husband and having a productive life alone.

  30. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    The divorce courts would indicate that marriage != happiness.

    So what you are saying is that you don’t know what the word “pursuit” means?

    Many of those who marry may be happy in the union but it does not mean that the happiness is a product of the marriage.

    I think you are entitled to speak for yourself and your marriage (if any) in this matter – but not for anyone else.

    we must look at marriage as it is practiced today and see if there is any compelling State interest that the economic arrangement should be limited to opposite-gender unions.

    Why?

    Marriage equality is about equal protection under the law. Either it is a cornerstone of our nation, or it is not. Pick one.

    Face it. All conservatives have left to argue with on the matter of marriage equality is pretzel Logic and outright bigotry.

  31. PD Shaw says:

    @anjin-san: The risk of procreation is not the same as procreation.

  32. C. Clavin says:

    At least the viewpoints of Tsar and JKB make this interesting…like watching Laurel and Hardy is interesting.

    This lady from Georgia is at about the same intellectual level as those two:

    “…“You may be as straight as an arrow, and you may have a friend that is as straight as an arrow,” Everhart said. “Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”
    “Lord, I’m going to get in trouble over this, but it is not natural for two women or two men to be married,” Everhart said. “If it was natural, they would have the equipment to have a sexual relationship.”

  33. anjin-san says:

    The risk of procreation is not the same as procreation.

    Concerns about the risk of procreation were not part of our equation either.

    Keep dancing fellas. You can’t admit that this is about equal protection under the law, because you know you will lose that argument.

  34. stonetools says:

    Douthat isn’t dumb–he’s just a conservative Catholic. He would go all the way and forbid routine divorce, too, if he could. In that way, he is consistent.
    Traditional marriage’s doom was sealed back when The Pill severed sex, marriage, and procreation. Making divorce difficult is actually a defensible moral position if sex, marriage, and procreation is linked-it ensures the children will be supported by the male. Once women could choose to have sex without getting pregnant, forcing marriage on the male becomes less of a moral imperative. Also hurting traditional marriage is workplace equality for women. Its just a lot easier for “sisters to do it for themselves.” Marriage has steadily moved to an institution where LOVE, not procreation or economics, is central. Once that happens, there really is no good argument against gay marriage-which sucks for conservative intellectuals, I guess.Douthat in the NYT sounds like Clemente before SCOTUS-desperately reaching for decent arguments that don’t sound like “We’ve always practiced this kind of bigotry, so let us continue.”

  35. PD Shaw says:

    angin-san thinks it is good argument against gun control that at an individual commentor has not shot anybody.

  36. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB:

    There is no denial of marriage to certain classes of people. Heterosexuals and homosexuals have the same right to marry a person of the opposite gender.

    JKB, that you can write this with honest belief speaks only to the stupidity of one who thinks being able to marry someone you can’t stand is the same as marrying the one you love. You have absolutely nothing of value to say and I now consign things you write to me to the same trash bin of everything else you write: Skipped.

  37. anjin-san says:

    @ PD Shaw

    marriage is always about the risks and responsibilities of procreation. I don’t know how one could argue otherwise

    angin-san thinks it is good argument against gun control that at an individual commentor has not shot anybody.

    So what you are saying is that you do not know what the word “always” means?

  38. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PD Shaw:

    I read enough comparative anthropology across various cultures to believe that marriage is always about the risks and responsibilities of procreation. I don’t know how one could argue otherwise,

    Really PD? You don’t know how one could argue otherwise? Marraige is about creating a life together around shared values in a financially advantageous way. That is why my wife and I got married. Procreation had nothing to do with it. We have done enough of that to last us a lifetime.

  39. anjin-san says:

    Really PD? You don’t know how one could argue otherwise?

    It’s a rather remarkable admission of small-mindedness, that’s for sure.

  40. PD Shaw says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: I’m confused by why by my mentioning comparative anthropology, as in the study of different human cultures, people are responding with personal anecdotes; its pretty much the opposite of what I was saying. Human societies, not just Christian or post-Christian, form systems to control, direct and respond to the risk of procreation.

    As to the money, let me give a true life example. There were two sisters who lived with their parents, never marrying, perhaps never dating. They were closer than most siblings, enjoying each other’s company without any sense of competitiveness. They each worked and shared everything they earned. One by one their parents died and they stayed in the house, never really gaining title to all of their parent’s belongings, together paying bills regardless of whose name they were against, and in any event, never “splitting” property since it was all shared anyway. As they approached 90, they went to a lawyer to see about donating their belongs to their church when they died. The lawyer told me that he found the whole matter much more complicated than the small estate deserved — “it would be easier if they were married.”

    Should they be allowed to marry?

  41. stonetools says:

    @Anderson:

    FWIW, the usual “liberal” interpretation is that divorce in Jesus’s day was pretty much a male prerogative, so Jesus’s opposition to divorce is supposedly to be read in that light. Much the same argument has been made about biblical opposition to homosexuality, which it’s said was really motivated by hostility to pederasty. People back in the day supposedly couldn’t grok a mutually respectful gay relationship, any more than they could imagine a woman’s divorcing her husband and having a productive life alone.

    Bingo. Technology, culture, and society has moved on, so the rules have to be changed in order to love tenderly and to do justice (Micah 6:8). Also too, the ” Letter of the law killeth, but the Spirit giveth life”.

  42. PD Shaw says:

    @anjin-san: Personal insults are the last vestige of the lazy and unserious.

  43. anjin-san says:

    Personal insults

    It’s not an insult, it’s an observation.

    At any rate, a person who publically declares that they “don’t know how one could argue otherwise” when stating their own view on an issue should use caution when calling others “unserious”…

    (or lazy, for that matter 🙂

  44. anjin-san says:

    Took a second look at this:

    we must look at marriage as it is practiced today and see if there is any compelling State interest that the economic arrangement should be limited to opposite-gender unions.

    It sounds like you are saying that in the matter of marriage, the interests of the state are paramount, outweighing the interests of mere citizens.

    Or you are just spewing any nonsense that comes to mind to avoid talking about equal protection…

  45. swbarnes2 says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Should they be allowed to marry?

    I don’t see why when the one sister dies, her Social Security payments should not be allowed to go to her sister with whom she shared her life, as they would go to a spouse.

    So yes, they should have access to all the legal and financial ties that marriage bestows. Perhaps the “marriage” label isn’t appropriate, as the two sisters are family, and the law already gives family members certain legal ties, and part of the point of marriage is to establish those ties between people who are not kin at all, but I would never let labeling reluctance stand in the way of getting people help they really need.

  46. JKB says:

    @anjin-san: the interests of the state are paramount, outweighing the interests of mere citizens.

    This whole SSM is all about gaining the advantage of the State’s interest in privileging marriage over other relationships. In fact, in CA where Prop 8 is the issue, the only matter before the court is whether the state can afford all rights except the label marriage to groups while privileging one union with the label, “marriage”. CA’s civl unions differing from marriage in name only.

    I do not set the interest of the State over that of the individuals except where the entire interest of the individual is to gain the favor of the State. As the entire issue of SSM hinges on State recognition not State prohibition, whether the State has an interest in privileging opposite-gender unions by designating them marriages for reasons not applicable to same-gender unions is applicable.

    So you can keep trying to misunderstand what I wrote but your comments reveal your failure.

  47. JKB says:

    @PD Shaw:

    If SSM is legal, then why should they not be able to marry. The incest laws are/were in place to avoid adverse outcomes on children who would be issue from a close relationship marriage. Such interest is not a concern in same-gender marriages. Assuming same-gender is limited to those whose biological gender prevents the possibility of sperm and egg achieving fertilization. Otherwise, what is the overall governmental interest in prohibiting such economic unions?

    Now one could see that permitting such unions will undermine the social programs that permit spousal inheritance of interest but the same is possible through same-gender marriages by those not closely related.

  48. anjin-san says:

    So you can keep trying to misunderstand what I wrote

    I understand you perfectly. You don’t seem to grasp the concept of equal protection under the law. Or perhaps you do, but you know it’s an argument conservatives will lose, so you are avoiding it.

  49. anjin-san says:

    I’m curious JKB, are you married?

  50. PD Shaw says:

    @swbarnes2: As a practical matters, it would seem that the sisters are religious enough that they would never agree to marriage, the idea would be abhorrent. To make marriage the answer would require resocializing people like them about the the meaning of marriage, reducing its qualities to one of a financial arrangement devoid of eros or agape.

    I personally do not believe most, if not all, same-sex couples want to marry for pecuniary reasons or have the meaning of their relationship reduced in order for the door to be opened for them. I think their advocates tend to use whatever tool as at hand regardless.

  51. swbarnes2 says:

    @PD Shaw:

    As a practical matters, it would seem that the sisters are religious enough that they would never agree to marriage, the idea would be abhorrent.

    I don’t understand your argument. I thought you were asking what we as a society and government ought to offer to those women, but now you are making it all about what label they will or will not accept applied to their relationship.

    If we make marriage available to those sisters, they will have options to protect themselves legally and financially that they would not otherwise have. If you are saying that some couples who would desire those benefits will not accept them because of a label, that doesn’t make it wrong for society to offer them anyway. If you are trying to argue that marriage should not be a one-size-fits all, but there should be a variety of legal arrangements, I don’t think anyone here will think that’s a bad argument. But that doesn’t mean that gay people are somehow wrong for pressing for marriage now.

    I personally do not believe most, if not all, same-sex couples want to marry for pecuniary reasons or have the meaning of their relationship reduced in order for the door to be opened for them.

    Who is doing that? Why does it demean anyone’s relationship if an old lady gets her sister’s SS checks?

    Why is it so important to you that you be able to say “No, those people can’t be married”? You want a treefort you can exclude people from, go do that. That’s not how government institutions should work.

  52. PD Shaw says:

    @swbarnes2:” Why is it so important to you that you be able to say “No, those people can’t be married”?”

    Never said that. Wrote the opposite. Continue your argument with whomever you wish, just don’t bring me into it, please.

  53. grumpy realist says:

    @PD Shaw: It really does look like we need to have something to allow people to create a “family” and to allow them a whole set of protections that we only allow to married couples.

    There’s intestacy, right to make decisions for the other if the other is in medical danger and unconscious, privilege of not testifying against the other, confidentiality of communications….

  54. matt bernius says:

    As the resident Anthropologist, PD’s original claim that “that marriage is always about the risks and responsibilities of procreation” isn’t totally off base. Based on my own readings and research (though this isn’t my primary focus) I’d call into question the use of “always.”

    Procreation of line/tribal unit is critical to marriage (and “marriage like institutions”) across cultures. But what’s important to note is that, while marriage is a key tool for kinship creation, the specifics of the procreation of lines/tribes can take radically different forms than how we think about it in the western sense. In many cases, procreation involves the literal exchange of children, based on familial lines established through marriage (i.e. inlaws swap kids or exchange them with other tribes).

    This gets to the broader point about what’s wrong with arguments like “across all cultures, marriage has been between a man and a woman.” These arguments typically ignore all the specifics about those forms of “marriage” which are *nothing* like the modern western institution.

  55. Pharoah Narim says:

    @C Clavin: You laugh but this will happen–especially in the senior citizen age groups. May not happen enough to care about by addressing it legislatively but it WILL happen. Why let your benefits go to waste if a close friend can take advantage of it after you’re gone? Or you can have a backend deal with the sham spouse for them to pass on the majority of a benefit to an adult child or grandchild and keep a piece for themselves. Ive seen the chuckle melt off the faces of people joking about this as a light flickers on.

  56. Pharoah Narim says:

    Marriage was changed by the family court system—period. No fault divorce wounded it and the child support/visitation process shot it right between the eyes. You can have whatever opinion you want about those things but the fact remains that we all benefit from American hegemony created by men and women reared by marriages formed under those legal conditions. Sure, no fault divorce created problems–but so does “divorce for $199”. Where is the middle path that allows flexibility to exit problem relationships without providing an enticement to up and leave and have someone finance your lifestyle with someone else? Why get married or better yourself to be the best potential spouse possible when you can get the State to confiscate your mate’s paycheck for supplemental income if a child is produced? If you’re a young woman with children living with one or both parents and mom and dad enforce some house rules like being home by 12 or 1a —you can say you’re battered and get an apartment for a week or two for free and low cost after that. Where this road takes us? Who knows? But I think its pretty obvious that without in-sourcing we don’t have enough home grown human capital to duplicate our space mission to the moon. Cutting edge engineering has always been the wealth of a nation. We’ll see where this ride ends up.

  57. anjin-san says:

    But I think its pretty obvious that without in-sourcing we don’t have enough home grown human capital to duplicate our space mission to the moon.

    I know some people that work for NASA. They are chomping at the bit for Lunar (and Mars) missions. But the budget is not there.

    I wonder what the trillions we spent on Iraq might have bought us…

  58. Mikey says:

    @anjin-san:

    I wonder what the trillions we spent on Iraq might have bought us…

    Well, depending on how you calculate the dollar cost of the Iraq war, probably around 50 manned missions to Mars.

  59. Ben Wolf says:

    @JKB: Any two consenting humans should be able to marry. If that includes the nine people in America who want to marry their brother, why should I give a damn?

  60. ptfe says:

    @Ben Wolf: The only realistic legal complication — and the only one that I believe states should be able to assert as a compelling interest — is direct guardian/ward marriage{*,**}, simply because there are assumed benefits and responsibilities in those relationships already. Note this does not enable polyamorous marriage, which is excluded by the two-party nature of the marriage contract.

    Other forms of kinship — uncle marries nephew, sister marries brother, cousin marries cousin — don’t have any particular attributes under the law already, which means they should not be excluded. And there are plenty of first cousins out there who would love to get married, if only there weren’t laws against it. Well, ok, the social taboo also plays into it, but that’s not in and of itself a legal problem.

    Basically, if your only argument against a particular marriage is “I think it’s icky”, it should probably be legal.

    * I can’t come up with a rationale against grandparent/grandchild marriages that doesn’t just throw it out as being a bit weird. Then again, maybe there are rights conferred in that relationship that I’m not aware of.

    ** This would not exclude a genetic parent with no guardianship responsibilities marrying their own child, for example, an adopted child who meets a genetic parent. And it’s actually shockingly non-rare for adopted children to enter into potentially sexual relationships with genetic parents upon meeting them as adults.

  61. anjin-san says:

    PD’s original claim that “that marriage is always about the risks and responsibilities of procreation” isn’t totally off base.

    Of course not. But when he threw “always” into the mix, it became clear that he was more interested in supporting his position that arguing in good faith – and he clinched the deal by saying he did not see how anyone could argue otherwise. That’s either a laughable debate tactic or an admission to having remarkably limited vision.

    That aside, I am not sure how germane all this talk of 2000 year old traditions is to the matter at hand. Romantic love as a primary driver for marriage is a fairly recent event. Does that lessen its legitimacy? The institution evolves as the needs of society and its members change. The institution of marriage should be serving us, not the other way around.

  62. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Should they be allowed to marry?

    If you have to ask…. You have already lost.

  63. Pharoah Narim says:

    @anjin-san: I cross paths with NASA folks occasionally and used to work for a former Astronaut–we can’t do the precision manufacturing here in America to produce the vehicles needed for those missions. Sure we could pull a successful mission off–but not without cooperation from other countries that do have the experts needed to do the manufacturing. I never thought about it in those terms but manufacturing techniques are a perishable skill. Right now the only thing keeping us in the game is our semiconductor and integrated circuit manufacturing techniques. Nobody does it better for the high end super computers—if we lose that–hello second world. Nobody needs us for high-end design and manufacturing of anything else (save a few pieces of military gear…but who’s buying that besides us???)

  64. al-Ameda says:

    Married middle class women were far more likely to have careers in Western Europe well before their American counterparts.

    … and in many European countries – Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, to name some – those governments defray much of the expense of childcare and pre-school so that women can have children and return to their careers in a timely manner.

    America still has religious ‘baggage’ to work through.

  65. al-Ameda says:

    @anjin-san:

    I wonder what the trillions we spent on Iraq might have bought us…

    What? You weren’t happy with what the 2 Bush tax cuts bought us? Those tax cuts gave us some great free stuff: two deficit-funded wars and one deficit-funded Medicare Plan D program.

    Not to worry though! The $4 trillion we wasted in Iraq would probably have been returned to us in more tax cuts rather than invested in the infrastructure, scientific research and development, or human capital.