Friday, March 05, 2004

Ramble on SSM

One of the best arguments against same-sex marriage from a secular standpoint is the harm it will do to children by dissasociating marriage from parenthood. Usually those arguing for SSM argue back that "gays make good parents, too" and that not all heterosexual couples want to/have children. Both of which are missing the point: a society in which marriage is only about the feelings of two people for each other is a society in which marriage is meaningless. And that is a society that is bad for children. In a recent Weekly Standard article, Stanley Kurtz demonstrates is not merely a theoretical one: This is in fact what has happened in Scandinavia, where gay marriage has been lawful for a decade.

In Scandinavia, half or nearly half of children are born out of wedlock. A decade ago the thing to do was get married when the second child came along; now it's not even worth bothering about then. And non-marital families are as proportionally unstable there as they are everywhere else in the world. Certainly this trend was already occurring, but gay marriage has been openly used to reinforce the idea that children do not particularly need both the man and woman who made them as a permanent part of their lives.

Obviously gay marriage does not even arise as an issue until social mores have already slid to a certain point. In America, we're still one step behind where most Scandinavian countries were a decade ago--it's still considered proper to marry before having children, although of course you will live together first. (DOB and I did not realize how common this assumption was in the wider culture until he started introducing me as his fiancee and people would make comments indicating this. He finally resorted to casually mentioning my residence in another state, although I'm sure this didn't change their assumptions much. Little did they know we weren't even allowed to sleep under the same roof during visits, no matter how many inquisitive siblings that roof also sheltered.)

However, Norway was at a similar level of social mores when gay marriage was imposed by the politicians--and it thereafter rapidly overtook the other Scandinavian countries in decline of the family, as well as decline of religious influence.

Apparently, then, attempting to stop the imposition of gay marriage now is a worthwhile endeavor, at least preventing the decline of morals from accelerating. But it will only be a temporary measure unless we can also rebuild the status of marriage. Obviously this cannot be done by laws alone, or even primarily through laws, since most of it has happened independent of law.

But how do we do it? Somehow goodness isn't as contagious as badness. Sure, being married is right and benefits us and our child(ren), as did waiting to act married until we actually were. But when a friend announces he is now engaged to his live-in girlfriend, do we respond? Bragging about one's morality seems as vulgar as bragging about immorality. And if one never says anything, how does one's marriage differ from anyone else's lifestyle choices?

It is vital to upholding the proper place of marriage for people to see and know about good marriages. Living well is the greatest force for changing the world. But how do you make it apparent to people that one's marital success is not due to a fortuitous coincidence of personalities, or of an extraordinary genetic endowment of martyrdom, but because one has tapped into the power of a universal principle?

Whatever it takes to be an example of good marriage, I'm sure it takes more than a successful six months. Unfortunately, those who should be examples are not. Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had an article on seniors living together. If Mom and Dad are divorced and Grandma lives with her boyfriend, where do you learn? At the end, a grandmother offered her prepared answer for when her nine-year-old grandson asked why she wasn't married: "Grandmom and Grandpop love each other and love you. We're all committed to each other. We don't need that in writing to be a family."

But any nine-year-old can see through that. If you meant it, you'd be willing to cross your heart and hope to die. We all know how the promise is made--and if you won't make it, all your other words don't mean a thing.

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