Observations

September 26, 2012

“But for children, there would be no need of any institution concerned with sex… it is through children alone that sexual relations become of importance to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.”

– Bertrand Russell, Marriage and Morals


Observations

August 6, 2012

I personally find it refreshing when there are brief moments of honesty and clarity from gay marriage advocates on their true intentions with regard to marriage:

“It’s a no-brainer that we should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist.

That causes my brain some trouble. And part of why it causes me trouble is because fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there—because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie. The institution of marriage is going to change, and it should change. And again, I don’t think it should exist. And I don’t like taking part in creating fictions about my life. That’s sort of not what I had in mind when I came out thirty years ago. I have three kids who have five parents, more or less, and I don’t see why they shouldn’t have five parents legally….

[After my divorce,] I met my new partner, and she had just had a baby, and that baby’s biological father is my brother, and my daughter’s biological father is a man who lives in Russia, and my adopted son also considers him his father. So the five parents break down into two groups of three…. And really, I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality. And I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.”

Author and lesbian activist Masha Gessen at a recent Sydney Writers Festival panel discussion.


The Parenting Question

June 11, 2012

One of the issues concerning the current gay marriage debate has to do with the parenting that occurs in such relationships. I have often held that the primary value of marriage between a man and woman to a society has to do with the parenting that occurs within such relationships. The state has no interest in sanctioning our romantic relationships – but it does have a significant interest in sanctioning and supporting those relationships in which children are raised. It is in such homes our citizens are created and the nature of the home can determine the future health and wealth and happiness of children.

So it is no surprise that one of the critical factors in the debate has been to consider how well gay couples do as parents. It is already established that children do best with two parents, and that there are many benefits from having a father and mother in the household in a long-term relationship. Gay marriage advocates tend to agree that a plurality of parents is beneficial, but contend that the sex of the parents is irrelevant. In defending such claims they have cited a number of studies that have been done over the years which purport to show that there is no significant difference between children raised in the home of gay parents and those raised of the homes of heterosexual couples. Such studies that are becoming increasingly important as the courts begin to take up these issues.

Now there are two new studies that come to notably different conclusions than previous investigations. In a study by Professor Mark Regnerus using data from the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), one of the largest samples to date of the health and well-being of young Americans there is evidence of numerous differences between the social and emotional well-being of children raised by women in a lesbians relationship, and those who have grown up in a heterosexual family. Most notable were these findings:

According to his findings, children of mothers who have had same-sex relationships were significantly different as young adults on 25 of the 40 (63%) outcome measures, compared with those who spent their entire childhood with both their married, biological parents. For example, they reported significantly lower levels of income, more receipt of public welfare, lower levels of employment, poorer mental and physical health, poorer relationship quality with current partner, and higher levels of smoking and criminality.


A separate but related study by Dr. Loren Marks from Louisiana State University that previously widely cited study from 2005 regarding same-sex parenting fails to provide a sufficient basis to draw conclusions about same-sex parenting. As he puts it:

“The jury is still out on whether being raised by same-sex parents disadvantages children”, explains Marks. “However, the available data on which the APA draws its conclusions, derived primarily from small convenience samples, are insufficient to support a strong generalized claim either way.”

Like all published scientific studies, these findings will certainly be reviewed, debated, and further studied. What they seem to indicate now is that the data gathered so far on the subject of same-sex parenting don’t warrant the confidence advocates often attribute to them and that there is reasonable doubt about the efficacy of same-sex parenting when compared to the parenting of married heterosexual couples.

The question of course is whether those who are advancing a pro-gay marriage agenda will care about the data when it doesn’t support their position.

*Studies cited below*

How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study. by Mark Regnerus – Social Science Research Volume 41, Issue 4, July 2012, Pages 752–770

“Same-sex parenting and children’s outcomes: A closer examination of the American Psychological Association’s Brief on lesbian and gay parenting” by Dr. Loren Marks  – Social Science Research Volume 41, Issue 4, July 2012, Pages 735–751


Single Motherhood and the Importance of Two-Parent Families

June 4, 2012

A recent op-ed in the LA Times acknowledges what has been increasingly obvious the last few decades – single motherhood has been a catastrophe in the US:

The single-mother revolution has been an economic catastrophe for women. Poverty remains relatively rare among married couples with children; the U.S. census puts only 8.8% of them in that category, up from 6.7% since the start of the Great Recession. But more than 40% of single-mother families are poor, up from 37% before the downturn. In the bottom quintile of earnings, most households are single people, many of them elderly. But of the two-fifths of bottom-quintile households that are families, 83% are headed by single mothers. The Brookings Institution’s Isabel Sawhill calculates that virtually all the increase in child poverty in the United States since the 1970s would vanish if parents still married at 1970 rates.

Well, comes the response, maybe single mothers are hard up not because they lack husbands but because unskilled, low-earning women are likelier to become single mothers in the first place. The Urban Institute’s Robert Lerman tried to address that objection by studying low-income women who had entered “shotgun” unions — that is, getting married after getting pregnant — on the theory that they represented a population roughly similar to those who got pregnant but didn’t marry. The married women, he found, had a significantly higher standard of living than the unmarried ones. “Even among the mothers with the least qualifications and highest risks of poverty,” Lerman concluded, “marriage effects are consistently large and statistically significant.”

This social disaster is largely the result of our last social upheaval in the 60’s and 70’s when our society was convinced by the Left that the traditional family was unimportant to our society’s well being. In many ways this message is appealing – at least from the perspective of personal desire. If true it frees men to pursue sexual relationships with women without the responsibilities traditionally associated such pursuits, and it frees women from the dependence on the provision of a partner that having children has normally entailed.

And single motherhood not only impacts the well –being of mothers, but fathers as well:

Women and their children weren’t the only ones to suffer the economic consequences of the single-mother revolution; low-earning men have lost ground too. Knowing that women are now expected to be able to raise children on their own, unskilled men lose much of the incentive to work, especially at the sometimes disagreeable jobs that tend to be the ones they can get. Scholars consistently find that unmarried men work fewer hours, make less money and get fewer promotions than do married men.

The dynamics of marriage are more than just a legal arrangement, or one that confers government benefits – marriage is fundamental to the success of women, men, and children. This is perhaps one of the most completely demonstrated social claims thanks to our decades old social experiment in single motherhood. This is why the positive argument for traditional marriage isn’t merely a religious one, it is social, it is biological and it is economic. The best thing the government can do for our society is sanction and support traditional marriage – and as the data show, the worst thing it can do is pretend traditional marriage doesn’t matter.


The Sad Absurdity of Gender Neutrality

April 24, 2012

For the Christian the idea of gender is rather straight forward. The text of Genesis clearly delineates the origin of two genders:

Genesis 1:27
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

It is an understanding that is later reiterated by Jesus in Matthew 19 in his discussion on marriage. For most of history this has been perhaps the most mundane concept in the Bible; after all, the idea that humans fall into one of two genders on the face of it seems rather obvious, easily discernible at birth. Like many considerations though what was once mundane is now highly controversial.

Beginning in the latter part of the 20th century and continuing into the 21st, gender and its role in the organization of society has become the latest front in an ongoing war against tradition and faith in the West. Starting with the radical feminism in the ’60s through the gay marriage movement of today, there has been a sustained effort to reinvent our fundamental societal construct along egalitarian lines. This effort though is rapidly moving from equality of the sexes to elimination of gender distinctions.

Two recent stories highlight how such efforts fall out. The first story is out of Sweden where activists are pushing for an extreme form of gender-neutrality:

By most people’s standards, Sweden is a paradise for liberated women. It has the highest proportion of working women in the world, and women earn about two-thirds of all degrees. Standard parental leave runs at 480 days, and 60 of those days are reserved exclusively for dads, causing some to credit the country with forging the way for a new kind of nurturing masculinity. In 2010, the World Economic Forum designated Sweden as the most gender-equal country in the world.

But for many Swedes, gender equality is not enough. Many are pushing for the Nordic nation to be not simply gender-equal but gender-neutral. The idea is that the government and society should tolerate no distinctions at all between the sexes. This means on the narrow level that society should show sensitivity to people who don’t identify themselves as either male or female, including allowing any type of couple to marry. But that’s the least radical part of the project. What many gender-neutral activists are after is a society that entirely erases traditional gender roles and stereotypes at even the most mundane levels.

On this side of the pond, there is another gender battle occurring, namely the efforts of a young man to run for ‘Prom Queen’, a role typically reserved for females. He is doing so in an effort to expand awareness and presumably acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students:

An Arizona teen is crying foul after his high school barred him from running for prom queen.

As CBS 5 is reporting, McClintock High School student River Flanary, who says he is straight, claims he wants to run for queen in an effort to stand up “for those who maybe weren’t bold enough to stand up before and maybe putting that courage in their hearts a little.” By that, he says he means the school’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) students.

When taken together one quickly sees the contradictions that develop in the arbitrary nature of the secular left’s view of gender in our society. When the desire is to expand acceptance of alternate gender identities, activists utilize traditional roles to push the boundaries of our understanding of equality. Once equality is achieved, then the idea of gender is dismissed with all together.

Another contradiction arises when biology comes into the picture. Society is sold on the notion of accepting gays and bisexuals based on the claim that gender is not chosen individuals or imposed by society, but rather is product of certain inherent biological tendencies. “We are born this way!” is the mantra of the alternate lifestyle movement. And yet we see in in Sweden an attempt to eliminate gender distinctions by eradicating society’s imposition of gender roles. If our gender is a product of biology, then gender specific pronouns would merely be recognition of biology not an attempt at inequality. We could no more eliminate gender distinctions by striking ‘he’ and ‘she’ from the language than we could eliminate facial hair by declaring ‘beard’ and ‘moustache’ to be hurtful words.

Such contradictory thinking is of course the result of a secular mindset. As secularists see humans as merely biological, any notions of equality must be advanced by diminishing or ignoring biological differences. This notion of equality is quite different than that imagined by the American founders. Their notion of equality, which was later to expand to encompass our racial and sexual diversity rather than attempt to eliminate it, was predicated on the notion that we all have inherent worth. As persons we are ‘endowed’ by our Creator with equality and rights that transcends our physical distinctions. Unlike the secular concept this notion of equality is anchored in objective and unchanging truth, not the vagaries of language and societal roles.

In the end of course the secularists will fail because they are fighting against our inherent design. Our language and roles merely recognizes gender distinctions it doesn’t create them. The only real question is how much damage the secular left will do before it’s folly is made obvious?


Gay Marriage, Eviscerated

January 7, 2011

recent paper in the winter edition of Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy (you will have to download the PDF to read it) by Profs. Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan T. Anderson does a better job than any article to date in elucidating the importance of traditional marriage to our society, and why gay marriage has no part in it.

It begins by outlining the Conjugal view of marriage, a view I have touched on before:

Marriage is the union of a man and a woman who make a permanent and exclusive commitment to each other of the type that is naturally (inherently) fulfilled by bearing and rearing children together. The spouses seal (consummate) and renew their union by conjugal acts—acts that constitute the behavioral part of the process of reproduction, thus uniting them as a reproductive unit. Marriage is valuable in itself, but its inherent orientation to the bearing and rearing of children contributes to its distinctive structure, including norms of monogamy and fidelity. This link to the welfare of children also helps explain why marriage is important to the common good and why the state should recognize and regulate it.

They then contrast it with the currently considered Revisionist view of marriage:

Marriage is the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life. It is essentially a union of hearts and minds, enhanced by whatever forms of sexual intimacy both partners find agreeable. The state should recognize and regulate marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships and in the concrete needs of spouses and any children they may choose to rear.

Additionally the authors make this important point about the Conjugal view:

It has sometimes been suggested that the conjugal understanding of marriage is based only on religious beliefs. This is false. Although the world’s major religious traditions have historically understood marriage as a union of man and woman that is by nature apt for procreation and childrearing,3 this suggests merely that no one religion invented marriage. Instead, the demands of our common human nature have shaped (however imperfectly) all of our religious traditions to recognize this natural institution. As such, marriage is the type of social practice whose basic contours can be discerned by our common human reason, whatever our religious background. We argue in this Article for legally enshrining the conjugal view of marriage, using arguments that require no appeal to religious authority.

They then go on to argue in the most comprehensive and thorough manner for enshrining the Conjugal view in law. By way of conclusion they offer this intriguing thought experiment:

A thought experiment might crystallize our central argument. Almost every culture in every time and place has had some institution that resembles what we know as marriage. But imagine that human beings reproduced asexually and that human offspring were self-sufficient. In that case, would any culture have developed an institution anything like what we know as marriage?

It seems clear that the answer is no.

Marriage exists for deep biological, psychological, and sociological reasons. It is not just a construct the state came up with to confer benefits. The Conjugal view is not only worth protecting, it is absolutely critical that we protect it.

As the authors conclude:

So the view laid out in this Article is not simply the most favorable or least damaging trade-off between the good of a few adults, and that of children and other adults. Nor are there “mere arguments” on the one hand squaring off against people’s”concrete needs” on the other. We reject both of these dichotomies.

Marriage understood as the conjugal union of husband and wife really serves the good of children, the good of spouses, and the common good of society. And when the arguments against this view fail, the arguments for it succeed, and the arguments against its alternative are decisive, we take this as evidence that it serves the common good. For reason is not just a debater’s tool for idly refracting arguments into premises, but a lens for bringing into focus the features of human flourishing.

I would have to conclude that eviscerates the any notions that gay marriage advocates have that their view of marriage is equal to this one.


We Did It to Ourselves

December 10, 2010

I have always been a fan of the dystopian novel, a genre of books that depicts the future as bleak place where human thought is controlled, overwhelmed by some conspiratorial government agency. Popular examples of such stories include Brave New World, 1984, and a personal favorite, Fahrenheit 451. I think my attraction to these novels is that they depict in the starkest terms what it means to lose essential aspects of our humanity – our freedom to think, create and interact with others as we choose. One element these stories share is the idea that at some level we brought on the oppression ourselves. Our desire for an easier life or to have someone else think for us rather than go through the difficulty of thinking for ourselves led to the eventual submission to a controlling power. Take this conversation in Fahrenheit between Montag, an agent of the government who burns books yet has rebellious feelings, and an older professor (Faber) talking about why society stopped reading books:

Remember the firemen are rarely necessary. The public stopped reading of its own accord. You firemen provide a circus now and then at which buildings are set off and crowds gather for the pretty blaze, but its a small sideshow indeed, and hardly necessary to keep things in line. So few want to be rebels anymore. And out of those few, most, like myself, scare easily. Can you dance faster than the White Clown, shout louder than ‘Mr. Gimmick’ and the parlor ‘families’? If you can, you’ll win your way, Montag. In any event, you’re a fool. People are having fun.

I have thought about this in terms of the gay marriage debate. The reality is such a debate would have been unthinkable just ten years ago – the idea that after a few thousand years of culture and few hundred years of settled law, not only would homosexual relationships be generally acceptable but that the government would sanction such relationships and require them to be seen as no different than the heterosexual marriages. It is important to consider how we got to this point, and I think two recent essays come to the same conclusion about gay marriage many dystopian novels have – we did it to ourselves.

In the first piece, writer Cheryl Wetzstein details the decay of marriage over the 2oth century, how it went from an institution defined by, “commitments to childbearing, religious attendance, distinctive sex roles and lifelong sexual fidelity” to “the most convenient way to get insurance, employment and government benefits”. It always interests me that this is how most pro-gay marriage advocates see marriage – not as a lifelong commitment between two people joining together to form a home and family, but as a legal arrangement meant to mutually benefit the participants of the arrangement. This isn’t too surprising as many if not most heterosexuals now see marriage this way as well. Once we allowed marriage to become merely a legal arrangement, there was little basis for making it exclusive to heterosexual couples. Ms. Wetzstein concludes with thoughts from Bryce Christensen, a professor at Southern Utah University:

I spoke with Mr. Christensen recently to get an update. He sees no signs of a “Great Awakening” in religion and only inklings of a revival of home-based “cottage industries.” He remains confident that America’s path to gay marriage started not with gay couples wanting to marry, but with heterosexuals who wanted new rules of engagement for themselves.

The second essay by Ron Sider, titled Bearing Better Witness rightly pinpoints how our own actions have weakened the case we have made for the importance of marriage:

Worst of all, we have failed to deal honestly with the major threat to marriage and the family: heterosexual adultery and divorce. Evangelicals divorce at the same rate as the rest of the population. Many evangelical leaders have failed to speak against cheap divorce because they and their people were getting divorced just like everyone else. And yet we have had the gall to use the tiny (5 percent or less) gay community as a whipping boy that we labeled as the great threat to marriage.

By accepting these as norms for marriage, we have opened the doors wide for the state to modify marriage however it sees fit – and it is very difficult at this juncture to stop an avalanche that we ourselves helped set in motion.

Nonetheless, while this undermines our case against homosexual marriage, it does not make gay marriage right. Like a smoker seeking treatment for lung cancer, we might have brought the condition on ourselves but that doesn’t mean we are required to merely lie down and die. The first steps is to acknowledge we were wrong to weaken the institution of marriage and begin to live out marriages as they were designed to be lived out – as sacredly committed to lifelong partnerships and parenting, seeing marriage as an essential cornerstone to the health and wealth of our society. But we also need to continue to fight those who would undermine marriage even more – those who would turn it into, by force of law, a mere contractual arrangement that any two or more people can enter into regardless of their intents or purposes.

Despite our own complicity in eroding marriage we must ultimately realize that the gay lobby does not want gays to be allowed to marry; the gay lobby wants to change what marriage is. Our society cannot long endure such a radical re-definition of a fundamental building block of our culture. We can and should stop doing this to ourselves.