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Recent News, U.S. Politics

In Defense of Marriage

On Monday, during his second inaugural address, President Barack Obama took time to parallel the gay rights movement with the Civil Rights movement. At the core of this civil rights argument is the need for same-sex marriage equality, according to the Associated Press. “Never before Monday had an inaugural address conveyed support for marriage equality, and activists now hope the Obama administration will take concrete steps to follow up, including escalated engagement in pending Supreme Court cases,” reports the AP on January 23. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments regarding the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 this March. “The Obama administration already has said those DOMA provisions are unconstitutional and is no longer defending them, leaving that task to a legal team hired by Republicans in the House,” reports the AP.

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” said President Obama during his inaugural address.

Heritage scholars, speaking earlier this month about their book, What is Marriage?, argue that this emphasis on a romantic marital relationship undermines the core meaning of marriage as a conjugal union between a man and a woman, with presupposed permanence and sexual exclusivity.

Sherif Girgis, J.D. Candidate, Yale Law School, and co-author of What is Marriage?, gave what seems like a direct response to President Obama’s description of these romantic unions. “In order to say what you are applying on an equal basis, you have to know what marriage is first,” asserted Girgis. “That’ll tell you when what’s being recognized, or not recognized, is a marital relationship, that the state owes a certain recognition–if it’s going to recognize any at all. And when it’s just something else entirely, which it doesn’t violate equality or fairness to leave out, because it’s not what marriage is and it’s not why the state is involved in the first place.”

“If you see [What is marriage?] as the central question, the whole debate shifts,” Girgis asserts. “If it’s an emotional union, three people can be emotionally united as well as two. If it’s an emotional union, then the union should only last as long as the emotion does.”

“Everybody has an interest in making sure that as many marriages as possible are permanent and exclusive in practice, and not just in principle, because on that kind of stability depends children, depend whole new human beings and their own well-being–and therefore every aspect of the common good that you could care about,” said Girgis. This new life gets the state apparatus involved because new lives are new citizens–and potential voters. Life is also weighed more as more burdensome in terms of cost to the welfare state when children are due to be born outside of marriage. Thus, the government assumes a stake in the outcome of abortions, as well.

Currently, “Less than 10 percent of the births to college-educated women occur outside marriage, while for women with high school degrees or less the figure is nearly 60 percent,” according to Jason DeParle for the New York Times. More than half of births among American women younger than thirty occur outside marriage, as well, according to the UK Daily Mail. “And with two-thirds of children in the U.S. born to mothers under the age of 30, it appears the majority of births across the country are out of wedlock.” This leads to increased social pressure on Uncle Sam to provide programs which help feed and rear these children.

“There are two ways in which the state can handle reproduction: it can promote the marriage culture, and relatively non-coercively, non-intrusively, incentivize adults to commit to each other and to the kids that their union makes, or it can pick up the pieces of a broken marriage culture,” asserted Ryan Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, at the event. The latter action makes the state “father to the fatherless” and “discipliner to the misbehaving,” he said. Anderson argued that same-sex marriage will “undermine the rational foundations of what marriage is and the intelligibility of marital norms.”

“The sexual desire that creates kids isn’t strong enough to create the institutions and the frameworks to care for those kids,” said Anderson.

However, gay rights activists argue that marriage between gay couples will boost the economy by promoting marriages and will provide additional stable homes for children, should those couples choose to adopt. Anderson, conversely, argued that “…it’s very difficult for the law to send a message that fathers matter when it’s redefined marriage to make fathers optional.”

You can read more about marriage here:

Perverse Welfare Incentives

For Richer or Poorer

No Trial for Marriage

Marital Have-Nots?



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