Monday, January 20, 2014

Defining Marriage

A week ago the Indiana House Judiciary Committee met, discussing the state’s marriage law. Most of the day was spent talking about the emotional civil rights argument pressuring for “same-sex marriage.” Then the committee was schooled by a young man named Ryan Anderson. He’s the William E. Simon fellow at the Heritage Foundation, which is a non-partisan (but conservative) think tank in Washington, DC, which I often turn to for data and opinion. Anderson is also a doctoral candidate at the University of Notre Dame in political science. As an undergrad at Princeton, he co-authored a book—part of which was published as an article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy—along with another undergrad and Constitutional Law professor Robert George. The title of the book/article is What Is Marriage? [I found a pdf here, 43 pages, so I think this is either the article or a summary of the book.]
Man/woman, exclusive, permanent marriage
is still a beautiful public good
His brief speech was organized with a lawyer’s mind, but with clarity for regular people. Most of his points are arguments I have made myself [see my Defense of Marriage collection], but I always admire someone who finds yet clearer ways to tell the truth. So today I’m going to just outline his speech, with occasional quotes.
The definition of marriage is necessary in the discussion:
Everyone in this room is in favor of marriage equality. The only way we can know whether or not any given state law is treating marriage equally or not is if we know what marriage is. Because every state law will draw lines between what is a marriage and what isn’t a marriage. If we want those lines to be drawn on principle, if we want those lines to be drawn on the truth, we have to know what sort of a relationship a marriage is as compared to other forms of consensual adult loving relationships.
He sets up the speech answering three questions:
                      What is marriage?
                      Why does marriage matter for public policy?
                      What are the consequences of redefining marriage? 

His definition argument for defining marriage as the permanent commitment between a man and a woman keys on the biological fact of offspring.  

Whenever a child is born, a mother will always be close by. That’s a fact of biology. The question for culture, and the question for law is, Will a father be close by? And if so, for how long? Marriage is the institution that different cultures and societies across time and place developed to maximize the likelihood that that man commits to that woman, and then the two of them take responsibility to raise that child. 

He offers up just a sampling of social science data, of which there is a mountain, that children are most likely to have best outcomes when raised by a mother and a father—one of each gender, not interchangeable. He quotes President Obama, showing this is not dismissible as a conservative anachronism:
We know the statistics that children that grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools, and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.
So, if we start with the premise that procreating and raising children are important to society, and that it is valuable to have the mother and father who bring life to the child stay together to raise the child, then public policy should, at the very least, not interfere with that preferred condition, and would be better to encourage that condition.
He referred to the change in the out-of-wedlock birthrate over the past 50 years (which I noted last week as well): “At one point in America virtually every child was given the gift of a married mother and father. Those numbers right now—more than 50% of Hispanic children are born outside of wedlock; more than 70% of African-Americans are born outside of wedlock. And the consequences for those children are really serious.” There’s no way out of poverty without turning this trend around.
He uses the language of the opposition to address the policy:
So everything that you can care about if you’re someone who cares about social justice and limited government—if you care about freedom and liberty and you care about the poor—is better served by having the state define marriage correctly to ensure that men and women commit to each other and take responsibility for their children, while then leaving other consenting adults to live and to love how they choose, without redefining the institution—the fundamental institution of marriage.
Much of the rest of the speech addresses the results of redefining marriage, using not presupposition, but actual outcomes from changes that have happened.
First is the reorientation of “the institution of marriage away from the needs and rights of children and towards the desires of adults.”  This point ties back in to the social science argument: “If the biggest social problem we face right now in the United States is absentee dads, how will we insist that fathers are essential when the law redefines marriage to make fathers optional?” Redefining marriage would multiply the likelihood of fatherless children.
Second concerns the three basic components of the traditional definition: man/woman, exclusivity, and permanence. If you declare these three attributes of marriage to be “irrational,” what do you replace them with to delimit a definition?
He refers to three new words, invented to refer to sexual relationship combinations that are claiming comparable value.
·        Throuple—a three-person couple. If you remove the importance of the one man and one woman who come together to parent a child, then you remove the principle that limits the number of participants in the “marriage,” without adding anything of value to society.
·        Wedlease—a temporary arrangement, removing the permanence of the relationship that has been of value to children, who take a long time to raise to adulthood.
·        Monogamish—more or less retaining the two-person marriage, but removing the exclusivity, so that sex with partners outside the marriage is accepted as part of the marriage.
The third result of redefining marriage concerns liberty, specifically religious liberty. He points out that in Massachusetts, in Washington, DC, and in neighboring Illinois, Christian adoption agencies were forced to stop offering their services.
These agencies said, We have no problem with same-sex couples adopting from other agencies, but we only want to place our children with a married mom and a dad. We have religious liberty interests. We also have social science that suggests children do better with a married mom and a dad. In all three jurisdictions they were told they could not do that.
Because of the redefinition of marriage, it became illegal for anyone to purposely prefer to place orphans with a mother and father—the best situation those innocent, voiceless unfortunate could have had.
Additionally, there have been court cases against photographers, bakers, florists, and innkeepers—individuals who presumably still have their First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion—who are coerced by activist judges to act against their conscience. In none of these cases have the accused attempted to deprive the plaintiffs of services; they have only reserved the right not to accept their business. Courts have ruled that they can and should be deprived of their religious liberty and be forced to take on business they find objectionable—or else close their businesses and serve no one.
This coercion can only happen in a tyranny. If such cases are allowed to stand, we no longer have Constitutional guarantees of freedom.
What we do not find is an example of a place where redefining marriage has not resulted in loss of religious liberty. So those who argue, “That would never happen here,” are either lying or blinded.
So, what do we get if we redefine marriage? A small segment of the population (of the approximately 3% of the population that is homosexual, the even smaller percentage who choose to commit to one other person) can call their romantic relationship equivalent to marriage, with no benefit to society as a whole.
What is the cost? Fatherhood and motherhood are declared irrelevant. Children are abandoned and left in poverty. People who for religious or social science reasons value man/woman parenting, permanence, and exclusivity are coerced by the brute force of government (not to mention a fair amount of media and peer bullying) to behave against their beliefs. By any measure, it’s not a fair exchange.
Here is the video, if you’d like to hear the whole speech.

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