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Archive for January, 2014

Marriage Matters, and Redefining It Has Social Costs

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

By: Ryan Anderson

Originally posted on January 15th, 2014

(Family Honor Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good”, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, NJ.  It is being re-posted here with permission.)

What is marriage, why does marriage matter for public policy, and what are the consequences of redefining marriage? Adapted from testimony delivered on Monday, January 13, 2014 to the Indiana House Judiciary Committee.

[You can watch video of this testimony here.]

I will be speaking today from the perspective of political science and philosophy to answer the question “What Is Marriage?” I’ve co-authored a book and an article in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy with a classmate of mine from Princeton, Sherif Girgis, and with a professor of ours, Robert George. Justice Samuel Alito cited our book twice in his dissenting opinion in the Supreme Court case involving the Defense of Marriage Act.

The title of that book is “What Is Marriage?” An answer to that question is something we didn’t hear today from people on the other side. It’s interesting that we’ve had a three-hour conversation about marriage without much by way of answering that question.

Everyone in this room is in favor of marriage equality. We all want the law to treat all marriages equally. But the only way we can know whether any state law is treating marriages equally is if we know what a marriage is. Every state law will draw lines between what is a marriage and what isn’t a marriage. If those lines are to be drawn on principle, if those lines are to reflect the truth, we have to know what sort of relationship is marital, as contrasted with other forms of consenting adult relationships.

So, in the time I have today, I’ll answer three questions: what is marriage, why does marriage matter for public policy, and what are the consequences of redefining marriage?

Marriage exists to unite a man and a woman as husband and wife to then be equipped to be mother and father to any children that that union produces. It’s based on the anthropological truth that men and women are distinct and complementary. It’s based on the biological fact that reproduction requires a man and a woman. It’s based on the sociological reality that children deserve a mother and a father.

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 whether a father will 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 would commit to that woman and then the two of them would take responsibility to raise that child.

Part of this is based on the reality that there’s no such thing as parenting in the abstract: there’s mothering, and there’s fathering. Men and women bring different gifts to the parenting enterprise. Rutgers sociologist Professor David Popenoe writes, “the burden of social science evidence supports the idea that gender-differentiated parenting is important for human development and the contribution of fathers to childrearing is unique and irreplaceable.” He then concludes:

We should disavow the notion that mommies can make good daddies, just as we should the popular notion that daddies can make good mommies. The two sexes are different to the core and each is necessary—culturally and biologically—for the optimal development of a human being.

This is why so many states continue to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, many doing so by amending their constitutions.

So why does marriage matter for public policy? Perhaps there is no better way to analyze this than by looking to our own president, President Barack Obama. Allow me to quote him:

We know the statistics: that children who 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 school, and twenty 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.

There is a host of social science evidence. We go through the litany and cite the studies in our book, but President Obama sums it up pretty well. We’ve seen in the past fifty years, since the war on poverty began, that the family has collapsed. At one point in America, virtually every child was given the gift of a married mother and father. Today, 40 percent of all Americans, 50 percent of Hispanics, and 70 percent of African Americans are born to single moms—and the consequences for those children are quite serious.

The state’s interest in marriage is not that it cares about my love life, or your love life, or anyone’s love life just for the sake of romance. The state’s interest in marriage is ensuring that those kids have fathers who are involved in their lives.

But when this doesn’t happen, social costs run high. As the marriage culture collapses, child poverty rises. Crime rises. Social mobility decreases. And welfare spending—which bankrupts so many states and the federal government—takes off.

If you care about social justice and limited government, if you care about freedom and the poor, then you have to care about marriage. All of these ends are better served by having the state define marriage correctly rather than the state trying to pick up the pieces of a broken marriage culture. The state can encourage men and women to commit to each other and take responsibility for their children while leaving other consenting adults free to live and to love as they choose, all without redefining the fundamental institution of marriage.

On that note, we’ve heard concerns about hospital visitation rights (which the federal government has already addressed) and with inheritance laws. Every individual has those concerns. I am not married. When I get sick, I need somebody to visit me in the hospital. When I die, I need someone to inherit my wealth. That situation is not unique to a same-sex couple. That is a situation that matters for all of us. So we need not redefine marriage to craft policy that will serve all citizens.

Lastly, I’ll close with three ways in which redefining marriage will undermine the institution of marriage. We hear this question: “how does redefining marriage hurt you or your marriage?” I’ll just mention three in the remaining time that I have.

First, it fundamentally reorients the institution of marriage away from the needs of children toward the desires of adults. It no longer makes marriage about ensuring the type of family life that is ideal for kids; it makes it more about adult romance. If one of the biggest social problems 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?

Much of the testimony we have heard today was special interest pleading from big business claiming that defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman would make it hard for them to appeal to the elite college graduates from the East and the West coasts. We heard no discussion about the common good of the citizens of Indiana—the children who need fathers involved in their lives. Redefining marriage will make it much harder for the law to teach that those fathers are essential.

Second, if you redefine marriage, so as to say that the male-female aspect is irrational and arbitrary, what principle for policy and for law will retain the other three historic components of marriage? In the United States, it’s always been a monogamous union, a sexually exclusive union, and a permanent union. We’ve already seen new words created to challenge each and every one of those items.

Throuple” is a three-person couple. New York Magazine reports about it. Here’s the question: if I were to sue and say that I demand marriage equality for my throuple, what principle would deny marriage equality to the throuple once you say that the male-female aspect of marriage is irrational and arbitrary? The way that we got to monogamy is that it’s one man and one woman who can unite in the type of action that can create new life and who can provide that new life with one mom and one dad. Once you say that the male-female aspect is irrational and arbitrary, you will have no principled reason to retain the number two.

Likewise, the term “wedlease” was introduced in the Washington Post in 2013. A wedlease is a play on the term wedlock. It’s for a temporary marriage. If marriage is primarily about adult romance, and romance can come, and it can go, why should the law presume it to be permanent? Why not issue expressly temporary marriage licenses?

And lastly, the term “monogamish.” Monogamish was introduced in the New York Times in 2011. The term suggests we should retain the number two, but that spouses should be free to have sexually open relationships. That it should be two people getting married, but they should be free to have sex outside of that marriage, provided there’s no coercion or deceit.

Now, whatever you think about group marriage, whatever you think about temporary marriage, whatever you think about sexually open marriage, as far as adults living and loving how they choose, think about the social consequences if that’s the future direction in which marriage redefinition would go. For every additional sexual partner a man has and the shorter-lived those relationships are, the greater the chances that a man creates children with multiple women without commitment either to those women or to those kids. It increases the likelihood of creating fragmented families, and then big government will step in to pick up the pieces with a host of welfare programs that truly drain the economic prospects of all of our states.

Finally, I’ll mention liberty concerns, religious liberty concerns in particular. After Massachusetts, Illinois, and Washington, DC, either passed a civil union law or redefined marriage, Christian adoption agencies were forced to stop serving some of the neediest children in America: orphans. These agencies said they had no problem with same-sex couples adopting from other agencies, but that they wanted to place the children in their care with a married mom and dad. They had a religious liberty interest, and they had social science evidence that suggests that children do best with a married mom and dad. And yet in all three jurisdictions, they were told they could not do that.

We’ve also seen in different jurisdictions instances of photographers, bakers, florists, and innkeepers, people acting in the commercial sphere, saying we don’t want to be coerced. And that’s what redefining marriage would do. Redefining marriage would say that every institution has to treat two people of the same sex as if they’re married, even if those institutions don’t believe that they’re married. So the coercion works in the exact opposite direction of what we have heard.

Everyone right now is free to live and to love how they want. Two people of the same sex can work for a business that will give them marriage benefits, if the business chooses to. They can go to a liberal house of worship and have a marriage ceremony, if the house of worship chooses to. What is at stake with redefining marriage is whether the law would now coerce others into treating a same-sex relationship as if it’s a marriage, even when doing so violates the conscience and rights of those individuals and those institutions.

So, for all of these reasons, this state and all states have an interest in preserving the definition of marriage as the union—permanent and exclusive—of one man and one woman.

Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and the Editor of Public Discourse. He is co-author, with Sherif Girgis and Robert George, of the book What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, and is a doctoral candidate in political science at the University of Notre Dame.

Five Marks of a Catholic Family

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

(Family Honor Editor’s Note: This article is being re-posted with permission from the author, Dr. Gregory Popcak.  It originally appeared on the Catholic Exchange website.  You can read that original posting here.)

By: Dr. Gregory Popcak on January 7, 2014

In part one of this series, I looked at the challenge of articulating the uniquely Catholic vision of family life that is spelled out in documents like Gaudium et Spes,  Familiaris Consortio, and other post-conciliar documents.  In other words, “Should Catholic families be different in some way from other families (other than in the ways we pray and the rules we follow) and, if so, what does that look like?” 

Most Catholics, I think would answer “yes, we should be different.”  But at the same time, most Catholics, I think, would be hard-pressed to say whether or not the particular secular or Protestant experts they were relying on for advice on how to build their marriage or raise their kids were actually articulating ideas that were consistent with a Catholic view of marriage and family life.   In my experience, most Catholics think that as long as they say Catholic prayers in their home and go to Church on Sunday, they can rely on whatever sources they choose to tell them how to treat each other.  But nothing could be further from the truth.

The Church cares deeply how we treat one another especially in our marriages and families.  The problem is that it can be difficult to translate theory into practice.  You shouldn’t have to have a degree in theology to know how to be a Catholic couple or family.  There needs to be some kind of articulation of the Catholic vision of marriage and family life that even the simplest, poorest-formed Catholic (or non-Catholic for that matter) can point to as the ideal Catholic couples and parents should be striving for.

In my response to the survey for the Extraordinary Synod on the Family, I suggest 5 Marks of a Catholic Family.  I don’t suggest that this is a complete list.  There may be some glaring omissions. The point is to get a conversation going about what a practical guide to Catholic family life (as articulated by the relevant post-conciliar documents on family life) should look like.  Here are my modest suggestions.

The Five “Marks” of a Catholic Family

1.  Catholic Families Worship Together–The Eucharist is the source of our love and the sign of the intimacy to which we are called.  Therefore, as a family, we attend Sunday mass weekly (and Holy Days and at other times as we are able) and we actively participate in parish life–our spiritual home away from home.   We also recognize that as fallen persons, we struggle to be the loving community we are called to be.  Therefore, as a family, we regularly go to confession (recommended: monthly) to seek God’s healing and grace so we might better live his vision of love in our lives and homes.

2. Catholic Families Pray Together–As “domestic church” we recognize that we cannot love one another as God loves us unless we ask him, together, to teach us what this means.  Therefore, in addition to our individual prayer life, we gather together as husband and wife and also as a family for prayer each day.  In that time, we praise and thank God for his blessings, we ask him for the grace to love each other and the world better, we seek his will for our lives, and we pray for both our needs and the needs of the Family of God. We recognize in the words of Servant of God, Fr. Patrick Peyton, “the family that prays together, stays together.”

 3. Catholic Families are Called to Intimacy–Tertullian once proclaimed, “The world says, ‘Look at those Christians, see how they love one another!’”  The Christian life is first and foremost a call to intimate communion. We recognize that families are “Schools of Love.”  Therefore, as a family, we constantly challenge ourselves to seek to discover new ways to be even more open with and loving to each other as husband and wife, parents and children.  We recognize that children are to be a visible sign of the loving union between husband and wife and we work to make this a reality in our homes both in the quality of our relationships and in our openness to life.  Further, we cultivate marriage and parenting practices that make each member of the family–husband and wife, parents and children– willingly open up to one another and seek to freely give themselves to create a deeper “community of love” and practice all the virtues that help us live life as a gift.

4.  Catholic Families Put Family First–We recognize that– because our family relationships are the primary vehicle God uses to perfect us and challenge us to become everything we were created to be–family life, itself,  is the most important activity.  To protect the intimacy we are called to cultivate as the domestic church, we recognize the importance of regular family rituals  and we are intentional about creating and protecting those activities such as family dinner, family prayer and worship, a game night and/or “family day”, and regular time for one-on-one communication and relationship-building.  We hold these activities as sacred rituals of the domestic church and value them over all other activities that would seek to compete with them.

 5.  The Catholic Family is a Witness and Sign–God wants to change the world through our families.  We allow ourselves to be part of his plan for changing the world in two ways.  First, by striving to exhibit– in every way possible in our daily interactions as husband and wife, parents and children– the love and intimacy that every human heart longs for. We must show the world that this love is a possible dream worth striving for.   Second, we will carry this love outside the home by serving the world-at-large in a manner that is responsible and respectful of the integrity of the family unit. We do this by committing ourselves and our families to the intentional practice of all the corporal and spiritual works of mercy within the home and outside of it.  To this end, the ways we, as a family, are trying to fulfill this responsibility will be a regular topic of conversation in our homes.

As I said above, I have no doubt that this may be an incomplete list.  Nevertheless, I believe it represents the kind of effort that must be undertaken by the Church to evangelize families.  People do not know how to be a family anymore much less what it means to be a “Catholic family.”  I think the faithful deserve concrete, practical recommendations  (drawn from the relevant documents)  that can serve as an effective launching point for delving more deeply into the Catholic vision of marriage and family life.

My hope is that this post can start the discussion of what this may look like.

For more thoughts and ideas on raising a Catholic family, check out Parenting with Grace:  The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.