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"Beyond Gay Marriage"

The stated goal of these prominent gay activists is no longer merely the freedom to live as they want.

12:00 AM, Aug 17, 2006 • By RYAN T. ANDERSON
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Although initial reactions focused almost exclusively on the report's position on same-sex marriage, the Principles are concerned with much more. The authors highlight several threats to marriage: a culture of divorce (afflicting even low-conflict marriages), widespread cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births, same-sex marriage, and the unregulated fertility industry. While in the past, threats to marriage were understood as failures of an enduring institution, today there is a coordinated effort, as "Beyond Gay Marriage" demonstrates, to fundamentally redefine the institution's nature and purpose. Today's attack seeks to recreate marriage in a way that ignores and devalues the sexual complementarity of men and women, the interpersonal union spouses form in marital sex, their procreative potential, and child's need for--and right to--his biological mother and father. In other words, all of the "alternative family choices" that "Beyond Gay Marriage" celebrates, the Princeton Principles decry as irreparably damaging the health of the body social.

The Principles further argue that in marriage, spouses pledge to give themselves entirely to each other, to share all aspects of their lives, to truly live as one. On the subject where "Beyond Gay Marriage" is most surprisingly silent, the Principles are explicit: marriage is critically important for providing children with the care and protection they need. For it is marriage that brings together men and women as husbands and wives to raise children as fathers and mothers. And make no mistake, the Principles assert: children do need both a mother and a father.

Many noted think tanks and sociologists, regardless of political persuasion, have affirmed the findings of the scholars who contributed to the Principles. The Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University and the left-of-center Brookings Institution, for example, confirmed the Principles' claims regarding child well-being. In a 2005 issue of their jointly produced journal, The Future of Children, titled, "Marriage and Child Wellbeing," the editors write in their introduction, "The articles in this volume confirm that children benefit from growing up with two married biological parents." Likewise, the left-leaning research organization Child Trends echoed these conclusions in a research brief summing up the scholarly consensus:

Research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps the most is a family headed by two-biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes. . . . There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents.

Of course, this conclusion flies in the face of the claims of "Beyond Gay Marriage." As the Principles make clear, the breakdown of marriage has been disastrous for many Americans. Consider spouses abandoned through avoidable divorce. Consider adults who suffer fleeting flings rather than the protection, resources, and care of a spouse. Consider, above all, children hurt by their parents' divorce, born without the protection and love of a father, or, perhaps most appalling, artificially conceived (more accurately, produced) without the commitment of both parents merely to satisfy adult desires. As the authors note, "Marriage is losing its preeminent status as the social institution that directs and organizes reproduction, childrearing, and adult life."

Marriage policy is a particularly important social and political issue because the health of marriage as a social institution has a disproportionately large effect on the wellbeing of children, the poor, and minority populations. Hence, building a culture in which marriage can flourish is a matter of social justice. Yet cultural elites who purport to have compassion for the marginalized have for the most part looked the other way--or worse. The Principles point out:

The products of Madison Avenue and Hollywood often appear indifferent to, if not hostile towards, the norms that sustain decent family life. . . . The nation's retreat from marriage has been particularly consequential for our society's most vulnerable communities. Out-of-wedlock birth, divorce, and single motherhood are much more common among lower-income African Americans and, to a lesser extent, Hispanic Americans, in large part because they often do not have as many material, social, and personal resources to resist the deinstitutionalization of marriage. The latest social scientific research on marriage indicates that minorities and the poor pay a disproportionately heavy price when marriage declines in their communities, meaning that the breakdown of the family only compounds the suffering of those citizens who already suffer the most.

Our nation's cultural elites, as evidenced most recently by "Beyond Gay Marriage," promote institutions that are hostile to the advancement of underprivileged Americans. To counter this, the Princeton Principles present a holistic understanding of the importance of marriage as a social-justice institution, and closes with five principles to guide marriage policy and legislation.

Legislation, however, though important, is not the primary means of reform. In the words of the statement: "Creating a marriage culture is not the job for government. Families, religious communities, and civic institutions--along with intellectual, moral, religious, and artistic leaders--point the way. But law and public policy will either reinforce and support these goals or undermine them. We call upon our nation's leaders, and our fellow citizens, to support public policies that strengthen marriage as a social institution."

And they are careful to note that marriages cannot survive on their own, for no man--or marriage--is an island: "But a marriage culture cannot flourish in a society whose primary institutions--universities, courts, legislatures, religions--not only fail to defend marriage but actually undermine it both conceptually and in practice."

The vision described in "Beyond Gay Marriage" is not supported by the majority of Americans. Yet our cultural elites--wielding considerable political influence--disagree. Thus, it is imperative that every candidate for elected office declare if he supports the vision of family life set forth in "Beyond Gay Marriage"--polygamous and polyamorous "marriages" and the creation of children raised by multiple queer households--or the model defended in the Princeton Principles--one man and one woman coming together exclusively and permanently as husband and wife to become father and mother to any children their marital love may bring. This is the question at the heart of the modern marriage debate. And voters need to know where their elected officials stand.

You can read the entire statement of the Princeton Principles here.

Ryan T. Anderson is a Junior Fellow at First Things. Previously he was the executive director of the Witherspoon Institute.