Same-sex advocates sometimes accuse marriage defenders of Chicken Little alarmism. Is the sky really falling? they ask rhetorically. Same-sex “marriage” has been legally recognized in the Netherlands since 2001, and a handful of other countries have followed suit. In the United States, a handful of states, most recently New York, have recognized same-sex “marriage,” either by judicial fiat or through legislative means. Have these changes oppressed heterosexual couples or families in any way, or had other harmful consequences?
To this challenge there are several points that must be made, not all of which I can discuss in this post. The first point is that after only ten years at most, direct evidence on the social consequences or fallout of same-sex “marriage” is still very much in the early stages. We have yet to see how marriage and the family will fare in the long term as generations are raised in societies with officially gender-blind marriage laws.
Second, we are already seeing same-sex “marriage” laws used as a stick to beat those with traditional marriage views:
Thus, we now live in a world where the state attempts to force Catholic charities to place children in same-sex families, college students are punished for speaking against same-sex parenting, graduate students are thrown out of college for refusing to morally affirm homosexual sex, tax exemptions are denied when churches don’t make their property available for gay weddings, and social work licenses threatened merely because a school counselor supported a state marriage amendment.
Such pressure is certain to increase over time. Same-sex “marriage” laws will also continue to reshape public education. In the name of combating discrimination, every effort will be made not only to normalize homosexuality but also to marginalize and ostracize those with traditional marriage beliefs.
There is a much larger issue, though—an issue that goes far beyond the same-sex marriage debate, which I’ve been arguing is only a consequence of a larger cultural erosion of marriage. Divorce and remarriage, cohabitation, illegitimacy, abortion, pornography and contraception remain the larger threats—threats not only to the marriage ideal, but to the health of society, in very practical ways.
Is the sky falling in connection with the decline in marriage and family? In some real and measurable ways, yes. True, many people will quarrel over the real moral character of many of the social ills I mentioned in my last post, from serial polygamy to cohabitation. However, one unavoidable and growing consequence of all these issues must be reckoned on by society as a whole: the decline of fatherhood.
The United States is swiftly becoming a society without fathers. From the 1960s, when my parents married, to the 1990s, when I married, the percentage of children living apart from their biological fathers more than doubled. If current trends continue, by the end of this century as many as half of all American children could be growing up without a present father.
The absence of a father in a household is not merely a matter of conservative moral handwringing. The social consequences are undisputed, measurable and devastating. Poverty and welfare dependency, childhood sickness and mortality, poor school performance and dropout rates, substance abuse, crime and imprisonment all dramatically increase where a father is not present.
Where fathers are absent, young men are more likely to be violent, to lack empathy, to mistreat women. Young women are more prone to eating disorders and other psychological problems, to unhealthy relationships with men. Both are more likely to become parents out of wedlock, and to perpetuate the cycle of fatherlessness.
Same-sex marriage advocates may bristle at this: What has this to do with them and their issue? Nothing, at least directly. That’s actually my point.
I’ve been saying all along that the ongoing decline of marriage is much larger than the same-sex issue and that heterosexual behavior, not homosexual behavior, is the real problem. At the same time, the social ills related to bad heterosexual behavior are, precisely, marriage problems: problems for which marriage has always been mankind’s solution and salvation. The fact that same-sex “marriage” is even thinkable, that it is increasingly defined to be a “right,” is both a symptom of our culture’s worsening marriage problem and an obstacle toward recovering a healthy marriage culture.