Tag archives: Defining Marriage

Defining Marriage—What Harm Would It Do to Redefine Marriage?

by Peter Sprigg

March 25, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I am running a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue. Today I look at what is perhaps at the crux of the debate—the question of what harm marriage redefinition would do.

Q—What harm would it do to the institution of marriage if we redefine it to include same-sex couples?

At the outset, it is worth noting that this question is often framed in a rather misleading way: “What harm would a same-sex couple getting married do to your opposite-sex marriage?” The issue, however, is not how any one couple’s marriage would affect any other specific couple’s marriage—the issue is how changing the definition of marriage under the law would change the social institution of marriage.

Giving unique privileges and a unique status to the only type of relationship that can ever result in the natural creation of another human being sends an important message to society. Contrary to the charges of those who would redefine marriage, that message has nothing to do with “sexual orientation” as such. It simply sends the message that relationships of a type which can result in natural reproduction are unique, and are uniquely valuable to society; and it further sends the message that children benefit uniquely from being raised by their own mother and father (as well as the message that a man and woman should take responsibility for children produced by their union).

If “marriage” is redefined to include same-sex couples, it will of course not abolish civil marriage as an institution, or prevent opposite-sex couples from marrying and having children. However, it will effectively negate—and indeed, reverse—the social message that privileging “marriage” over other relationships would send.

Instead of sending the message that potentially procreative relationships are uniquely valuable and that children being raised by their mother and father is uniquely valuable, the message to society will be the exact opposite. Since same-sex relationships, which are intrinsically infertile and can never result in natural procreation, would be treated as identical under the law to opposite-sex relationships which are the only type that can ever result in natural procreation, the explicit message to society would be that there is nothing uniquely valuable about the very reproduction of the human race. This would be a shocking denial of a reality that is literally fundamental to human existence.

By the same token, same-sex couples never provide a child with a home that includes the care of both their mother and father, and on the contrary deliberately and permanently deny a child such a home. Treating such couples—which are deliberately motherless or fatherless—in a way identical to couples that provide both a mother and father would send the message to society that there is nothing uniquely valuable about a child being raised by his or her own mother and father.

Sending these messages—officially denying, as a matter of public policy, the unique value and importance of reproduction, and of mothers and fathers—would inevitably have an impact on the behavior of people in society.

The following harms would be the predictable results (these are adapted and updated from my 2010 Family Research Council booklet, The Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex “Marriage):

  • Fewer children would be raised by a married mother and father.

The greatest tragedy resulting from the legalization of homosexual marriage would not be its effect on adults, but its effect on children. For the first time in history, society would be placing its highest stamp of official government approval on the deliberate creation of permanently motherless or fatherless households for children.

There simply cannot be any serious debate, based on the mass of scholarly literature available to us, about the ideal family form for children. It consists of a mother and father who are committed to one another in marriage. Children raised by their married mother and father experience lower rates of many social pathologies, including:

  • premarital childbearing;[i]
  • illicit drug use;[ii]
  • arrest;[iii]
  • health, emotional, or behavioral problems;[iv]
  • poverty;[v]
  • or school failure or expulsion.[vi]

These benefits are then passed on to future generations as well, because children raised by their married mother and father are themselves less likely to cohabit or to divorce as adults.[vii]

In a perfect world, every child would have that kind of household provided by his or her own loving and capable biological parents (and every husband and wife who wanted children would be able to conceive them together). Of course, we don’t live in a perfect world.

But the parent who says, “I’m gay” is telling his or her child that he or she has no intention of providing a parent of both sexes for that child. And a homosexual who “marries” someone of the same sex is declaring that this deprivation is to be permanent—and with the blessing of the state.

Homosexual activists argue that research on homosexual parenting has shown no differences among the children raised by homosexuals and those raised by heterosexuals. Even leading professional organizations such as the AmericanAcademyof Pediatrics, under the influence of homosexual activists, have issued policy statements making such claims.[viii]

A close examination of the actual research, however, shows that such claims are unsupportable. The truth is that most research on “homosexual parents” thus far has been marred by serious methodological problems.[ix] However, even pro-homosexual sociologists Judith Stacey and Timothy Biblarz report that the actual data from key studies show the “no differences” claim to be false.

Surveying the research (primarily regarding lesbians) in an American Sociological Review article in 2001, they found that:

  • Children of lesbians are less likely to conform to traditional gender norms.
  • Children of lesbians are more likely to engage in homosexual behavior.
  • Daughters of lesbians are “more sexually adventurous and less chaste.”
  • Lesbian “co-parent relationships” are more likely to break up than heterosexual marriages.[x]

The most comprehensive study of children raised by parents who had homosexual relationships, conducted by University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus and published in 2012, showed that such children suffered numerous disadvantages—relative to children raised in an “intact biological family,” but also in comparison to other family forms.[xi]

Critics of the Regnerus study questioned its relevance to the marriage debate, because some of the children of homosexual parents never lived with that parent and a partner, and almost none were raised by a same-sex couple from birth. (This illustrates, in part, how rare such “stable” same-sex households are in the real world). However, a 1996 study by an Australian sociologist compared children raised by heterosexual married couples, heterosexual cohabiting couples, and homosexual cohabiting couples. It found that the children of heterosexual married couples did the best, and children of homosexual couples the worst, in nine of the thirteen academic and social categories measured.[xii]

As scholar Stanley Kurtz says,

If, as in Norway, gay marriage were imposed here by a socially liberal cultural elite, it would likely speed us on the way toward the classic Nordic pattern of less frequent marriage, more frequent out-of-wedlock birth, and skyrocketing family dissolution. In the American context, this would be a disaster.[xiii]

  • More children would grow up fatherless.

This harm is closely related to the previous one, but worth noting separately. As more children grow up without a married mother and father, they will be deprived of the tangible and intangible benefits and security that come from that family structure. However, most of those who live with only one biological parent will live with their mothers. In the general population, 79% of single-parent households are headed by the mother, compared to only 10% which are headed by the father.[xiv] Among homosexual couples, as identified in the 2000 census, 34% of lesbian couples have children living at home, while only 22% of male couples were raising children.[xv] The encouragement of homosexual relationships that is intrinsic in legalization of same-sex “marriage” would thus result in an increase in the number of children who suffer a specific set of negative consequences that are clearly associated with fatherlessness.

Homosexual activists say that having both a mother and a father simply doesn’t matter—it’s having two loving parents that counts. But social science research simply does not support this claim. Dr. Kyle Pruett of YaleMedicalSchool, for example, has demonstrated in his book Fatherneed that fathers contribute to parenting in ways that mothers do not. Pruett declares, “From deep within their biological and psychological being, children need to connect to fathers … to live life whole.”[xvi]

Children—both sons and daughters—suffer without a father in their lives. The body of evidence supporting this conclusion is large and growing.[xvii] For example, research has shown that “youth incarceration risks in a national male cohort were elevated for adolescents in father-absent households,” even after controlling for other factors.[xviii] Among daughters, “father absence was strongly associated with elevated risk for early sexual activity and adolescent pregnancy.”[xix] Even researchers supportive of homosexual parenting have had to admit that “children raised in fatherless families from infancy,” while closer to their mothers, “perceived themselves to be less cognitively and physically competent than their peers from father-present families.”[xx]

President Obama has also acknowledged the importance of fathers. In a speech during his 2008 campaign for President, he said this:

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 schools 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.”[xxi]

Some lesbian couples are deliberately creating new children in order to raise them fatherless from birth. It is quite striking to read, for example, the model “Donor Agreement” for sperm donors offered on the Human Rights Campaign website, and to see the lengths to which they will go to legally insure that the actual biological father of plays no role in the life of a lesbian mother’s child.[xxii] Yet a recent study of children conceived through sperm donation found, “Donor offspring are significantly more likely than those raised by their biological parents to struggle with serious, negative outcomes such as delinquency, substance abuse, and depression, even when controlling for socio-economic and other factors.” [xxiii] Remarkably, 38% of donor offspring born to lesbian couples in the study agreed that “it is wrong deliberately to conceive a fatherless child.”[xxiv]

  • Birth rates would fall.

One of the most fundamental tasks of any society is to reproduce itself. That is why virtually every human society up until the present day has given a privileged social status to male-female sexual relationships—the only type capable of resulting in natural procreation. This privileged social status is what we call “marriage.”

Extending the benefits and status of “marriage” to couples who are intrinsically incapable of natural procreation (i.e., two men or two women) would dramatically change the social meaning of the institution It would become impossible to argue that “marriage” is about encouraging the formation of life-long, potentially procreative (i.e., opposite-sex) relationships. The likely long-term result would be that fewer such relationships would be formed, fewer such couples would choose to procreate, and fewer babies would be born.

There is already evidence of at least a correlation between low birth rates and the legalization of same-sex “marriage.” At this writing [from March 2011 publication—update pending], five U.S. states granted marriage licenses to same-sex couples. As of 2007, four of those five states ranked within the bottom eight out of all fifty states in both birth rate (measured in relation to the total population) and fertility rate (measured in relation to the population of women of childbearing age).[xxv]

Even granting marriage-related benefits to same-sex couples is associated with low birth and fertility rates. As of March 2011 there were sixteen states which offered at least some recognition or benefits to same-sex relationships.[xxvi] Twelve of these sixteen states ranked in the bottom twenty states in birth rate, while eleven of them ranked in the bottom seventeen in fertility rate. Vermont, the first state in the U. S. to offer 100% of the rights and benefits of marriage to same-sex couples through passage of its “civil unions” law in 2000[xxvii], ranked dead last in both birth rate and fertility rate.[xxviii]

Similar data are available on the international level. In March 2011 there were ten countries which permitted same-sex “marriage.”[xxix] Six of these ten fell well within the bottom quarter in both birth rates and fertility rates among 223 countries and territories. All ten fell below the total world fertility rate, while only South Africa had a birth rate that was higher (barely) than the world rate.[xxx]

It could be argued that the widespread availability and use of artificial birth control, together with other social trends, has already weakened the perceived link between marriage and procreation and led to a decline in birth rates. These changes may have helped clear a path for same-sex “marriage,” rather than the reverse.[xxxi] Nevertheless, legalization of same-sex “marriage” would reinforce a declining emphasis on procreation as a key purpose of marriage—resulting in lower birth rates than if it had not been legalized.

Of course, there are some who are still locked in the alarmism of the 1960’s over warnings of over-population.[xxxii] However, in recent years it has become clear, particularly in the developed world, that declining birth rates now pose a much greater threat. Declining birth rates lead to an aging population, and demographers have warned of the consequences,

… from the potentially devastating effects on an unprepared welfare state to shortages of blood for transfusions. Pension provisions will be stretched to the limit. The traditional model of the working young paying for the retired old will not work if the latter group is twice the size of the former… . In addition, … healthcare costs will rise.[xxxiii]

The contribution of same-sex “marriage” to declining birth rates would clearly lead to significant harm for society.



[i] Kristin A. Moore, “Nonmarital School-Age Motherhood: Family, Individual, and School Characteristics,” Journal of Adolescent Research 13, October 1998: 433-457.

[ii] John P. Hoffman and Robert A. Johnson, “A National Portrait of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 60, August 1998: 633-645.

[iii] Chris Coughlin and Samuel Vucinich, “Family Experience in Preadolescence and the Development of Male Delinquency,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 58, May 1996: 491-501.

[iv] Debra L. Blackwell, “Family structure and children’s health in the United States: Findings from the National Health Interview Survey, 2001–2007,” Vital and Health Statistics, Series 10, No. 246 (Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, December 2010). Online at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_246.pdf

[v] Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, America’s Children: Key Indicators of Well-Being 2001,Washington,D.C., p. 14.

[vi] Deborah A. Dawson, “Family Structure and Children’s Health and Well-Being: Data from the 1988 National Health Interview Survey on Child Health,” Journal of Marriage and the Family 53, August 1991: 573-584.

[vii] Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth, A Generation at Risk: Growing Up in an Era of Family Upheaval, Cambridge,Massachusetts:HarvardUniversity Press, 1997, pp. 111-115.

[viii] Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, American Academy of Pediatrics, “Policy Statement: Promoting the Well-Being of Children Whose Parents Are Gay or Lesbian,” Pediatrics Vol. 31, No. 4, April 2013, pp. 827-830 (Reaffirmed May 2009; online at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/03/18/peds.2013-0376.full.pdf+html

[ix] Loren Marks, “Same-sex parenting and children’s outcomes: A closer examination of the American Psychological Association’s brief on lesbian and gay parenting,” Social Science Research Vol 41, Issue 4 (July 2012), pp. 735-751; online at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X12000580

[x] Judith Stacey and Timothy J. Biblarz, “(How) Does the Sexual Orientation of Parents Matter,” American Sociological Review 66 (2001), pp. 159-183.

[xi] Mark Regnerus, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study,” Social Science Research Vol 41, Issue 4 (July 2012), pp. 752-770; online at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049089X12000610

[xii] Sotirios Sarantakos, “Children in three contexts: Family, education and social development,” Children Australia 21, No. 3 (1996): 23-31.

[xiii] Stanley Kurtz, “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia: The ‘conservative case’ for same-sex marriage collapses,” The Weekly Standard 9, No. 20 (February 2, 2004): 26-33.

[xiv] Rose M. Kreider, “Living Arrangements of Children: 2004,” Current Population Reports P70-114 (Washington, DC: U.S. Census Bureau), February 2008, Figure 1, p. 5.

[xv] Simmons and O’Connell, op. cit., Table 4, p. 9.

[xvi] Kyle D. Pruett, Fatherneed: Why Father Care is as Essential as Mother Care for Your Child (New York: The Free Press, 2000), p. 16.

[xvii] A good recent summary is Paul C. Vitz, The Importance of Fathers: Evidence and Theory from Social Science (Arlington,VA: Institute for the Psychological Sciences, June 2010); online at:

http://www.profam.org/docs/thc.vitz.1006.htm

[xviii] Cynthia C. Harper and Sara S. McLanahan, “Father Absence and Youth Incarceration,” Journal of Research on Adolescence 14(3), 2004, p. 388.

[xix] Bruce J. Ellis, John E. Bates, Kenneth A. Dodge, David M. Fergusson, L. John Horwood, Gregory S. Pettit, Lianne Woodward, “Does Father Absence Place Daughters at Special Risk for Early Sexual Activity and Teenage Pregnancy?” Child Development Vol. 74, Issue 3, May 2003; abstract online at:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1467-8624.00569/abstract.

[xx] Susan Golombok, Fiona Tasker, Clare Murray, “Children Raised in Fatherless Families from Infancy: Family Relationships and the Socioemotional Development of Children of Lesbian and Single Heterosexual Mothers,” Journal of Child Psychologyc and Psychiatry Vol. 38, Issue 7 (October 1997); abstract online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-7610.1997.tb01596.x/abstract.

[xxi] “Obama’s Speech on Fatherhood,”June 15, 2008; online at:

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/06/obamas_speech_on_fatherhood.html

[xxii] Human Rights Campaign, Donor Agreement; online at:

http://www.hrc.org/Template.cfm?Section=Search_the_Law_Database&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=18669

[xxiii] Elizabeth Marquardt, Norval D. Glenn, and Karen Clark, My Daddy’s Name is Donor: A New Study of Young Adults Conceived Through Sperm Donation (New York: Institute for American Values, 2010) p. 9.

[xxiv] Ibid., Table 2, p. 110.

[xxv] Joyce A. Martin, Brady E. Hamilton, Paul D. Sutton, Stephanie J. Ventura, T. J. Mathews, Sharon Kirmeyer, and Michelle J. K. Osterman, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, “Births: Final Data for 2007,” National Vital Statistics Reports Vol. 58, No. 24, August, 2010, Table 11. Rankings calculated by the author.

[xxvi] Human Rights Campaign, “Marriage Equality and Other Relationship Recognition Laws,” April 2, 2010; online at: http://www.hrc.org/documents/Relationship_Recognition_Laws_Map.pdf

[xxvii] “An Act Relating to Civil Unions,” H. 847, adoptedApril 26, 2000. Online at:

http://www.leg.state.vt.us/docs/2000/bills/passed/h-847.htm

[xxviii] Martin et al., op. cit.

[xxix] The Netherlands, Spain, Canada, Belgium, South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Portugal, Iceland, and Argentina. See Dan Fastenberg, “A Brief History of International Gay Marriage,” Time, July 22, 2010; http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2005678,00.html

[xxx] “Country Comparison: Birth Rate,” The World Factbook (Central Intelligence Agency); online at:

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2054rank.html; and “Country Comparison: Total Fertility Rate,” The World Factbook (Central Intelligence Agency); online at:

https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2127rank.html?countryName=Burma&countryCode=bm&regionCode=eas#bm

[xxxi] Note, for example, that in 2007, the last year for which final birth rate and fertility rate data are available, only one state (Massachusetts) had legalized same-sex “marriage.”

[xxxii] The most well-known representative being Paul R. Ehrlich, The Population Bomb (New York: Ballantine Books, 1968).

[xxxiii] Jonathan Grant and Stijn Hoorens, “Consequences of a Graying World,” The Christian Science Monitor, June 29, 2007; online at: http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0629/p09s02-coop.html; see also Jonathan Grant, Stijn Hoorens, Juja Sivadasan, Mirjam van het Loo, Julie DaVanzo, Lauren Hale, Shawna Gibson, William Butz, Low Fertility and Population Ageing: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Options (Santa Monica, Calif.: TheRAND Corporation, 2004).

Defining Marriage—When a Loved One is “Gay”

by Peter Sprigg

March 25, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I am running a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue. Today, I look at the suggestion that support for redefining marriage is growing because more people have a loved one—a colleague, friend, or relative—who is openly homosexual. This was recently in the news because of the announcement by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) that he will now support marriage redefinition because his college-age son has said he is gay.

Here, we reprint an op-ed that I wrote last year with Regina Griggs of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays.

How Can I Oppose Same-Sex Marriage When Someone I Love Is Gay?

Regina Griggs and Peter Sprigg

The Christian Post

Monday, November 5, 2012

Voters in 32 out of the 32 states where it has appeared on the ballot have upheld marriage as the union of a woman and a man. Advocates of same-sex marriage are holding out hope that their long losing streak will end on Election Day in Minnesota, Washington, Maryland or Maine.

Increasingly, advocates of same-sex marriage are abandoning legalistic arguments about “equality” and “civil rights,” and appealing to emotion and personal relationships instead. “We (gays and lesbians) are your neighbors, your friends, your co-workers, your classmates and your relatives,” the argument goes. “If you respect and care about us, how can you deny us what we want?” (namely, to have their same-sex relationships affirmed by the state through marriage licenses).

Polls suggest this approach is having an effect. People who know someone who self-identifies as “gay” or “lesbian” are more likely to support the redefinition of marriage than people who do not.

Is this connection a logical one? We argue it is not. How a person feels about their personal relationship with a gay friend, acquaintance, or relative should not dictate their position on the public policy issue of whether to change the definition of marriage.

We are both affiliated with Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), which spreads the truth that it is possible for sexual orientation to change, and defends the civil rights of ex-gays. Note, however, that the title of our organization includes the phrase, “and Gays.” Many of those who look to PFOX for support are parents and/or friends of people who still self-identify as “gay” and engage in homosexual relationships. This is true of us personally as well. One of us (Regina) has an adult child who is openly gay. Peter and his wife have relatives and family friends who are gay as well.

It is a myth that disapproval of homosexual conduct equals “hate” toward homosexuals. If you are a parent, ask yourself – have you ever disagreed with your child? Have you ever disapproved of the behavioral choices she or he has made? The answer is surely “yes.” Those experiences are not inconsistent with sincere love, and can actually be a manifestation of it.

I (Regina) continue to have a warm and loving relationship with my child and gay friends despite the fact that we disagree about whether homosexual relationships should be called “marriages.”

My wife and I (Peter) had guests at our wedding who were divorced and who had children outside of wedlock. I do not approve of those actions any more than I do of homosexual conduct, but that does not interfere with my love for those people.

The myth that disapproval equals rejection stems from the myth that “being gay” is an intrinsic and immutable identity. Yet the decades-long search for a genetic or biological determinant of homosexuality has been a dismal failure.

This is not to say, however, that people “choose to be gay.” Sexual orientation is an umbrella term for a person’s sexual attractions, behavior and self-identification. People do not “choose” to experience homosexual attractions – but they do choose their behavior and self-identification.

Some people with same-sex attractions (SSA) choose to abstain from homosexual sex. Others seek professional help to change their sexual orientation, and many have succeeded. For a loved one to encourage those responses, rather than to affirm homosexual behavior, is just as loving as a parent or friend trying to encourage other choices they believe are in the person’s best interest. Legalization of same-sex marriage would place an official stamp of approval on homosexual relationships, so any person who thinks that such homosexual attractions are changeable and that homosexual behavior is unhealthy will logically oppose this redefinition of marriage – no matter how much they may love a gay person.

However, opposition to the redefinition of marriage need not even rest on disapproval of homosexuality itself. The fundamental reason why marriage is treated as a public institution – and the reason it has always been defined as a male-female union – is the recognition that there is a unique role of heterosexual unions in reproducing the human race, and to keep the mother and father who create a child together to raise that child. Men and women are complementary in a way two persons of the same sex can never be. One need not consider homosexual relationships to be inferior in order to recognize that heterosexual ones are unique in their potential for natural procreation and the well-being of a child. While some same-sex couples raise children, such households are – by design – either motherless or fatherless. This is why even some openly gay people, like Maryland political activist Doug Mainwaring, oppose same-sex marriage.

We at PFOX urge everyone to love their gay friends and relatives unconditionally, and never to cut them out of your life just because they are gay. But personal relationships should not dictate the definition of our most fundamental social institution.

Defining Marriage—Children of Same-Sex Couples

by Peter Sprigg

March 23, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I am running a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue. Today, we look at the claim that we should redefine marriage to protect the children already being raised by same-sex couples.

Q—How normal is “the new normal” (children being raised by homosexual couples)?

This week there was a flurry of news coverage of a new “Policy Statement” (that’s what it was, by its own labeling—it wasn’t a “study”) from theAmericanAcademy of Pediatrics, which endorsed the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples.

The impression which advocates for marriage redefinition seek to create in the public’s mind is that children of homosexual parents are essentially in exactly the same position as children of heterosexual parents, and children raised by same-sex couples are in the same position as children raised by married opposite-sex couples, except regarding the gender of the parents.

Yet some data reported in the AAP’s own Policy Statement tend to undermine that message. Consider this quote:

The US 2010 Census reported that 646,464 households included 2 adults of the same gender. These same-gender couples are raising ~115,000 children aged ≤18 years and are living in essentially all counties of theUnited States. When these children are combined with single gay and lesbian parents who are raising children, almost 2 million children are being raised by gay and lesbian parents in the United States.”

If the estimate of 2 million children with “gay and lesbian parents” is correct, then comparing it with the figure of 115,000 being raised by same-sex couples indicates that only 1 in every 17 children of “gay” parents actually lives with a same-sex couple. Thus, the model of “gay parenting” held up by homosexual activists in the marriage debate—that of children being raised in a stable household by a loving and committed same-sex couple—is extraordinarily rare in the real world, even as a fraction of the already small minority of children who have a homosexual parent.

Last summer, University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus published a groundbreaking study of homosexual parents in the journal, Social Science Research. It showed that children of homosexuals suffered disadvantages in numerous areas—both when compared with children raised in an intact biological family, and when compared with other, less stable (but heterosexual) parenting situations. (I summarized its findings and responded to critiques of it in a series of blog posts.)

One of the chief criticisms of his work (and really, one of the only criticisms of any substance) was that many of the 236 subjects he identified—young adults whose parent had a homosexual relationship while they were growing up—had never actually lived with the parent and the parent’s same-sex partner. Therefore, it was argued, the Regnerus findings could not be considered relevant to debates about children being raised by same-sex couples.

The reason for the paucity of children raised by same-sex couples in the Regnerus study was simple—they could hardly be found in a representative, population-based sample. The data-gathering group hired for Regnerus’ New Family Structures Study screened 15,000 young adults—and found only two who had been raised by a same-sex couple from birth to age 18. In both cases, the couple was a lesbian one—they found no one who had been raised by a homosexual male couple from birth.

In other words, what some liberal activists (and Hollywood) like to refer to as “the new normal”—kids being raised by homosexual couples from birth—is not normal at all, even for kids with a parent who has homosexual relationships.

While the ideal—the “new normal”—of the family revisionists is not normal, what about the “old normal?” Advocates for maintaining the definition of marriage as the union of a woman and a man uphold an ideal also—the married couple household in which a child is raised by a mom and dad (and in particular the natural family, wherein a child is born to and raised by his or her own biological mother and father, who are committed to one another in a lifelong marriage).

Revisionists, however, scoff at this ideal, relegating it to the outdated, “Ozzie and Harriett,” “Father Knows Best” world of 1950’s sitcoms. When you consider the high rates of cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births, and divorce, along with singles adopting and “gay parents,” the old-fashioned nuclear family hardly exists any more—or does it?

The answer to that question can also be found in the AAP Policy Statement, which reports, “In 2010, married adults were raising 65.3% of all children in this country.” Even if the Census Bureau (source of this figure) defied the federal Defense of Marriage Act and chose to include some of the 646,464 same-sex couples in this number, it is still clear that the overwhelming majority of these 48 million married couples are of the opposite-sex.

To summarize, only 1 in every 17 children of “gay” parents is living with a same-sex couple. So the “new normal” isn’t normal.

On the other hand, nearly 2 out of every 3 children of heterosexual parents are living with a married couple. The number of children being raised by a married heterosexual couple is more than 400 (four hundred) times higher than the number being raised by a same-sex couple.

The “old normal” is still the norm.

Defining Marriage: What Polls Say

by Peter Sprigg

March 22, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I am offering a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue. Today, we look at the question of whether recent polls indicating growth in support for redefining marriage mean that such a redefinition is “inevitable.”

How should we interpret recent polls on redefining marriage to include homosexual couples?

The lead story in the Washington Post on March 19 was headlined “Record support for gay marriage.” It trumpeted that a new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 58% of Americans now support redefining marriage to include homosexual couples, including 81% of those between the ages of 18 and 29.

Although I was quoted in the story, a lot of my points did not make it in. Here are some important considerations:

1) The wording of the poll was horribly biased. The first question asked, “Do you think it should be legal or illegal for gay and lesbian couples to get married?”

Americans have enough of a visceral streak of libertarianism that they shy away from making things “illegal,” whether it is Big Gulps or “gay marriage.” The word “illegal” may even conjure up images of criminal sanctions.

The fact is, most of what homosexual couples want in their relationships is already perfectly legal. It is legal for them to have sex; it is legal for them to live together; it is legal for them to raise children in their household; it is legal for them to protect their legal and financial interests using private contractual arrangements, such as a health care proxy, power of attorney, and a will; it is legal for them to celebrate their relationships in a private commitment ceremony; it is legal for places of worship to conduct such ceremonies if they wish to; it is legal for them to purchase and wear wedding rings; etc.

It is also worth noting that in California, whose constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman is currently being challenged in the Supreme Court, same-sex couples have access, through “domestic partnerships,” to every legal benefit available to married couples under state law. The dispute over the California marriage amendment known as Proposition 8 is entirely over the use of the word “marriage” by the state.

Questions which frame the issue as one of equality or rights will tend to generate a sympathetic response, especially from young people. Logically however, there is a question prior to that of “Who has the right to marry”—and that is the question, “What is marriage.” Poll questions asking about the definition of marriage taken in May 2011, July 2011, and in September and November 2012 have shown that anywhere from 57% to 64% of Americans still believe that marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman.

The second poll question asked, “Do you think each state should make its own law on whether same-sex marriage is legal or illegal there, or do you think this should be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution?”

Sixty-four percent said it “should be decided for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution.” The Post seems to interpret this as support for the Supreme Court redefining marriage for all fifty states in the marriage cases it is now considering. Note, though, that the question did not ask about the Court—it asked about the Constitution.

Americans believe in the Constitution—obviously, states should not be allowed to do things that violate it. But the Constitution clearly includes no explicit “right” to same-sex “marriage,” and whether it includes an implicit one is precisely the issue that is sharply in dispute. Furthermore, opponents of marriage redefinition (such as FRC) have also supported the idea of “deciding this for all states on the basis of the U.S. Constitution”—by amending the Constitution to define marriage nationwide as the union of one man and one woman. A question that allows people on diametrically opposed sides to give the same answer is not very useful.

The third question in the poll was: “Do you think that being homosexual is just something that people choose to be, or do you think it’s just the way they are.” This is a classic “have you stopped beating your wife”question, because it offers no good choice.

The meaning of “being homosexual” is not as clear as it may seem. “Sexual orientation” is actually an umbrella term for three quite separate things—a person’s sexual attractions, their sexual behavior, and their sexual self-identification. We tend to assume all three will be congruent, but research shows that there are many exceptions.

Sexual attractions are largely not something people “choose.” However, people obviously do choose their sexual conduct and choose how they identify themselves. Is a person who experiences same-sex attractions, but does not engage in homosexual conduct and does not self-identify as “gay,” a “homosexual?”

Also unclear is the meaning of “just the way they are.” If “the way they are” is taken to mean that homosexuality is an innate and immutable trait present from birth, then even the fact that same-sex attractions may not be “chosen” does not necessarily prove that “it’s just the way they are.” If developmental forces in childhood influence the development of homosexual attractions (as considerable evidence suggests), then they would neither be a “choice” nor an inborn identity.

2) Young people are not as unanimous on the issue as is believed. It’s not surprising that younger voters are somewhat more likely to support marriage redefinition than their elders. After all, they have been subjected to a drumbeat of support for it from the news media, entertainment media, and higher education for literally as long as they can remember. Nevertheless, when they have the opportunity to experience a full debate in which both sides are fully aired, even the younger generation is far more sharply divided on the issue than the Post’s 81% figure would suggest. In North Carolina, where a constitutional amendment defending marriage as the union of a man and a woman was adopted last May, a comparison of pre-election polls with the results on Election Day led to the conclusion that while younger voters opposed the amendment, it was only by the narrowest of margins (51%-49%).

3) Ultimately, the only poll that counts is the one taken on Election Day. Although last November, voters in three liberal states (Maine, Maryland, and Washington) voted to redefine marriage, only six months earlier voters in North Carolina overwhelmingly approved the thirtieth state constitutional amendment to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. A team losing by a score of 30-3 can hardly be said to be winning the game.

4)  Ironically, these polls may actually reduce, rather than increase, the likelihood that the Supreme Court will decide to redefine marriage. The advocates for marriage redefinition (and the Obama Justic Department) are arguing that the natural definition of marriage is discriminatory on the basis of sexual orientation, and that classifications which disadvantage homosexuals should be subjected to a legal principle known as “strict scrutiny.” One of the usual criteria for applying strict scrutiny, however, is that the group in question suffers from “political powerlessness”—an argument that is becoming harder and harder to make with any credibility.

Defining Marriage: Do Infertile Couples Undermine the “Procreation Argument” One-Man-One-Woman Marriage?

by Peter Sprigg

March 20, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I am offering a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue. Today, we look at the question of whether the fact that not all opposite-sex couples reproduce undermines the argument that the public purpose of marriage is related to procreation.

Are you saying that married couples who don’t have children (whether by choice, or because of infertility or age) aren’t really married? If we deny marriage to same-sex couples because they can’t reproduce, why not deny it to those couples, too?

A couple that doesn’t want children when they marry might change their minds. Birth control might fail for a couple that uses it. A couple that appears to be infertile may get a surprise and conceive a child. The marital commitment may deter an older man from conceiving children with a younger woman outside of marriage. Even a very elderly couple is of the structural type (i.e., a man and a woman) that could theoretically produce children (or could have in the past). And the sexual union of all such couples is of the same type as that which reproduces the human race, even if it does not have that effect in particular cases.

Admittedly, society’s tangible interest in marriages that do not produce children is less than its interest in marriages that result in the reproduction of the species. However, we still recognize childless marriages because it would be an invasion of a heterosexual couple’s privacy to require that they prove their intent or ability to bear children.

There is no reason, though, to extend “marriage” to same-sex couples, which are of a structural type (two men or two women) that is incapable—ever, under any circumstances, regardless of age, health, or intent—of producing babies naturally. In fact, they are incapable of even engaging in the type of sexual act that results in natural reproduction. And it takes no invasion of privacy or drawing of arbitrary upper age boundaries to determine that.

Another way to view the relationship of marriage to reproduction is to turn the question around. Instead of asking whether actual reproduction is essential to marriage, ask this: If marriage never had anything to do with reproduction, would there be any reason for the government to be involved in regulating or rewarding it? Would we even tolerate the government intervening in such an intimate relationship, any more than if government defined the terms of who may be your “best friend?” The answer is undoubtedly “no”—which reinforces the conclusion that reproduction is a central (even if not obligatory) part of the social significance of marriage.

Indeed, the facts that a child cannot reproduce, that close relatives cannot reproduce without risk, and that it only takes one man and one woman to reproduce, are among the reasons why people are barred from marrying a child, a close blood relative, or a person who is already married. Concerns about reproduction are central to those restrictions on one’s choice of marriage partner—just as they are central to the restriction against “marrying” a person of the same sex.

Although not every opposite-sex couple reproduces, most do—and those that don’t are still able to provide both a mother and a father to any children they may adopt. Same-sex couples, on the other hand, can never reproduce as a natural result of their sexual intercourse, and deliberately deny either a mother or a father to any child they may raise. These undeniable and immutable differences provide clear, bright lines which easily justify classifying such couples differently under the law.

Defining Marriage: Is Same-Sex “Marriage” Like Interracial Marriage?

by Peter Sprigg

March 19, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I am offering a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue. Today, we look at the question of whether laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman are comparable to the laws some U.S.states once had which banned interracial marriage.

Isn’t prohibiting homosexual “marriage” just as discriminatory as prohibiting interracial marriage, like some states used to do?

This analogy is superficially appealing, since both such laws involve some restriction on one’s choice of marriage partner. But no one has an unlimited choice of marriage partner, because no one can marry a child, a close blood relative, or a person who is already married. The differences between laws limiting marriage based on race and laws defining marriage based on the complementarity of the sexes are much greater.

Laws against interracial marriage served only the purpose of preserving a social system of racial segregation. This was both an unworthy goal and one utterly irrelevant to the fundamental nature of marriage.

Bridging the divide of the sexes by uniting men and women, on the other hand, is both a worthy goal and a part of the fundamental purpose of marriage, common to all human civilizations.

Ironically, this means that in one key respect, it is the supporters of marriage redefinition who resemble the opponents of interracial marriage. Both merely exploited the institution of marriage to advance a social goal that has nothing to do with the purpose of marriage, which is to promote responsible procreation. Virtually everyone now opposes the goal of one (racial segregation), whereas society remains sharply divided on the other (the forced affirmation of homosexual relationships), but this is ultimately irrelevant. Neither of these goals is related to the public purposes of marriage.

Allowing a black woman to marry a white man does not change the definition of marriage, which requires one man and one woman.  Allowing two men or two women to marry would change that fundamental definition.

Defining Marriage: The “Right” to Marry

by Peter Sprigg

March 18, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I am offering a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue. Today, we look at the question of whether laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman deprive some people of the “right” to marry.

Q—Doesn’t defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman deprive homosexuals of a fundamental right?

The fundamental “right to marry” is a right that rests with individuals, not with couples. Although most states do not permit couples of the same sex to marry, homosexual individuals already have exactly the same “right” to marry as anyone else. Marriage license applications do not inquire as to a person’s “sexual orientation.”

Those who are dubious of such an argument may be operating on the false assumption that homosexuality is and inborn and immutable trait. However, many people who now identify themselves as homosexual have previously been in legal (opposite-sex) marriages. On the other hand, many people who previously had homosexual relationships have now renounced that behavior and married persons of the opposite sex. If we define a “homosexual” as anyone who has ever experienced homosexual attractions, then both of these scenarios represent “homosexual” individuals who have exercised their right to be legally married.

(Indeed, one of the principal plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 court case—a woman named Sandra Stier, who seeks to “marry” her partner, a woman named Kristin Perry—testified at trial that she had been legally married—to a man—for twelve years; and had two biological children with him. Stier testified that she only “learned” she was a lesbian “in my mid-thirties.” Even when pressed further by her own lawyer, at no time did she testify that she is now a lesbian in the sense of having an enduring pattern of sexual attraction to women in general—instead, the only evidence she offered of her current “sexual orientation” was the statement, “I have fallen in love one time and it’s with Kris.”)

Because, in our culture, sexual attraction is generally considered an important factor in one’s choice of marriage partner, there is no question that defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman has a “disparate impact” on the ability of a person sexually attracted to the same sex to marry the person of his or her choice. (Legally, the question of “disparate impact” is separate from the issue of “facial discrimination,” which is absent from the marriage laws).

However, while every individual person is free to get married, no person, whether heterosexual or homosexual, has ever had a legal right to marry simply any willing partner. Every person, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is subject to legal restrictions as to whom they may marry. To be specific, every person, regardless of sexual preference, is legally barred from marrying a child, a close blood relative, a person who is already married, or a person of the same sex. There is no discrimination here, nor does such a policy deny anyone the “equal protection of the laws” (as guaranteed by the Constitution), since these restrictions apply equally to every individual.

Some people may wish to do away with one or more of these longstanding restrictions upon one’s choice of marital partner. However, the fact that a tiny but vocal minority of Americans desire to have someone of the same sex as a partner does not mean that they have a “right” to do so, any more than the desires of other tiny (but less vocal) minorities of Americans give them a “right” to choose a child, their own brother or sister, or a group of two or more as their marital partners.

Those who choose not to enter into a male-female union—whether because of their sexual orientation, or from any other reason—are not being denied the “right” to marry. They are, like those who choose celibacy, singleness, cohabitation, or polyamory, simply choosing not to marry—that is, choosing not to enter the type of relationship that is rationally defined as a “marriage.” They have every right to choose a non-marital lifestyle, even if it is one (like heterosexual cohabitation) that resembles marriage in some respects. What they do not have is a “right” to change the essential definition of marriage itself.

Defining Marriage: What Marriage Is

by Peter Sprigg

March 15, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I am running a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue. Today, we look sociological and anthropological definitions of what marriage is, across all times and cultures.

If marriage is not just about the law, or companionship, or a sexual relationship—what is marriage, then?

Some aspects of marriage—particular rituals and traditions surrounding it, and particularly the roles played by the wife and the husband—have been subject to variation and change in different times and places. However, until the political correctness of the last decade or two pushed it underground, there was a virtually universal consensus that a male-female union was not an optional aspect of marriage, but was essential to it. Following are some statements on marriage from key scholars through the years that reinforce this:

Marriage is generally used as a term for a social institution… Marriage always implies the right to sexual intercourse: society holds such intercourse allowable in the case of husband and wife… At the same time, marriage is something more than a regulated sexual relation… It is the husband’s duty…to support his wife and children… That the functions of the husband and father in the family are not merely of the sexual and procreative kind, but involve the duty of protecting the wife and children, is testified by an array of facts… . 

Edward Westermarck, The History of Human Marriage, Vol. I, (New York: The Allerton Book Company, 1922), p. 26, 46, 27.

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The family is a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation, and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults. The family is to be distinguished from marriage, which is a complex of customs centering upon the relationship between a sexually associating pair of adults within the family.”

Three distinct types of family organization emerge from our survey of 250 representative human societies. The first and most basic, called herewith the nuclear family, consists typically of a married man and woman and their offspring, although in individual cases one or more additional persons may reside with them.

George Peter Murdock (Yale anthropologist), Social Structure, (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1949), p. 1-2.

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 “The family….is based on marriage, which is defined as a union between a man and a woman such that children borne by the woman are recognized as the legitimate offspring of both partners.”

A Committee of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Notes and Queries on Anthropology, 6th ed. (London: Routledge & Keegan Paul, 1951) p. 71.

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Thus seen, marriage is a contractual union of a man and a woman and involves sexual privilege, economic cooperation, cohabitation, the production of children, and responsibility for the children’s care, socialization, and education. If the marriage is fruitful, the resulting social unit is a nuclear or elementary family. Marriage is thus the social transaction that establishes a nuclear family. Other definitions of marriage – variously phrased as a union of a man and woman in which they are the jural father and mother of the children born to the woman or in which the woman’s children are regarded as their legitimate offspring imply the same thing: marriage establishes the jural basis for a group consisting of a man, a woman, and their children…”

Ward Hunt Goodenough, Lewis Henry Morgan Lectures at the Universityof Rochester, Description and Comparison in Cultural Anthropology, (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Co., 1970), p. 4.

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All known human societies recognize the existence of the sexual pair-bond and give it formal sanction in the form of marriage. With only a handful of exceptions presently to be examined, married pairs are not only expected to copulate with each other, but to cooperate in the raising of offspring and to extend to each other material help. …[M]arriage is nevertheless the cultural codification of a biological program. Marriage is the socially sanctioned pair-bond for the avowed social purpose of procreation.”

Pierre L. van den Berghe, Human Family Systems: An Evolutionary View, (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1979, 1990) pp. 45, 46.

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Marriage is a relationship within which a group socially approves and encourages sexual intercourse and the birth of children… Marriage is not usually a transaction confined to the bride and groom. It extends beyond them, to include members of their own families or kin group.”

 

Suzanne G. Frayser, Varieties of Sexual Experience: An Anthropological Perspective on Human Sexuality, (New Haven, Conn: Human Relations Area Files Press, 1985), p. 248, 269.

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The universality of kinship terminologies provides a further case of cultural reflection or recognition of cultural fact. A kinship terminology is that linguistic domain (discrete set of terms) found among every people, in which domain most or all terms are translatable by the terms required for sexual reproduction, or combinations of them: father, mother, son, daughter…Marriage – which is distinct from procreation, per se – so regularly impinges on kinship terminologies that it is usually counted as one of the two fundamental building blocks of kinship. Accordingly, the father and mother of an individual are normally husband and wife.”

Donald Brown, anthropologist, Human Universals, (Boston: McGraw Hill, 1991), p. 93.

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In an overwhelming majority of human societies, marriage is the mechanism which provides for the legitimation of children and defines their status in relationship to the conjugal family and the wider kin group.”

Alan Barnard, “Rules and Prohibitions: The Form and Content of Human Kinship,” in Companion Encyclopedia of Anthropology, ed. Tim Ingold (London: Routledge, 1994),

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Because heterosexuality is directly related to both reproduction and survival, and because it involves much more than copulation, every human society has had to promote it actively (although some have also allowed homosexuality in specific circumstances). And marriage is the major way of doing so. It has always required a massive cultural effort involving myths or theologies, rituals, rewards, privileges, and so on. Heterosexuality is always fostered as a cultural norm, in other words, not merely allowed as one “lifestyle choice” among many. Some norms vary greatly from one society to another, to be sure, but others—-along with the very existence of norms—-are universal. So deeply embedded in consciousness are these that few people are actually aware of them. The result, in any case, is a “privileged” status for heterosexuality. Postmodernists are not wrong in identifying it as such, but they are wrong in assuming that any society can do without it. Not surprisingly, comparative research reveals a pattern: Marriage has universal or nearly universal features and variable ones.

Its universal features include the fact that marriage (a) encourages procreation under specific conditions; (b) recognizes the interdependence of men and women; (c) defines eligible partners; (d) is supported by authority and incentives; (e) has a public dimension; and (f) provides mutual support not only between men and women but also between them and children. Its nearly universal features are (a) an emphasis on durable relationships between biological parents; (b) mutual affection and companionship; (c) family (or political) alliances; and (d) an intergenerational cycle (reciprocity between young and old). These features assume the distinctive contributions of both sexes, transmit knowledge from one generation to another, and create not only “vertical” links between the generations but also “horizontal” ones between allied families or communities.

 . . .

We conclude that every society needs a public heterosexual culture, specifically marriage, to foster five things: (a) the birth and rearing of children (at least to the extent necessary for demographic continuity) in culturally approved ways; (b) the bonding between men and women in order to provide an appropriate setting for maturing children and to ensure the cooperation of men and women for the common good; (c) the bonding between men and children so that men are likely to become active participants in family life; (d) some healthy form of masculine identity—-that is, an identity based on at least one distinctive, necessary, and publicly valued contribution to society (responsible fatherhood being one obvious example); and (e) the transformation of adolescents into sexually responsible adults.”

Katherine K. Young and Paul Nathanson [note: Nathanson is himself openly homosexual], Marriage a la mode: Answering the Advocates of Gay Marriage, 2003

[Note: Most of the quotations here are drawn from a compilation by Glenn Stanton of Focus on the Family:

Glenn T. Stanton, Differing Definitions of Marriage and Family: Comparing and Contrasting Those Offered by Emerging Same-Sex Marriage Advocates and Classic Anthropologists, Focus on the Family,March 10, 2008]

Defining Marriage: What Marriage Is Not

by Peter Sprigg

March 15, 2013

On March 26 and 27, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases challenging the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. In Hollingsworth v. Perry, they will consider the constitutionality of the definition as enshrined in the California state constitution by voters in that state when they adopted “Proposition 8” in 2008 (effectively reversing the decision of the California Supreme Court to impose same-sex “marriage” earlier that year). In Windsor v. United States, they will consider the constitutionality of the same definition of marriage being adopted for all purposes under federal law through the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

In anticipation of those oral arguments, I will here begin a series of blog posts with questions and answers related to the issue.

First, it is important to recognize that while many people describe this as a debate over who has the “right” to marry, it is actually about something much more fundamental—the definition of what “marriage” is.

First, let’s look at what marriage is not.

Isn’t marriage whatever the law says it is?

No. Marriage is not a creation of the law. Marriage is a fundamental human institution that predates the law and the Constitution. At its heart, it is an anthropological and sociological reality, not a legal one. Laws relating to marriage merely recognize and regulate an institution that already exists.

But isn’t marriage just a way of recognizing people who love each other and want to spend their lives together?

If love and companionship were sufficient to define marriage, then there would be no reason to deny “marriage” to unions of a child and an adult, or an adult child and his or her aging parent, or to roommates who have no sexual relationship, or to groups rather than couples. Love and companionship are usually considered necessary for marriage in our culture, but they are not sufficient to define it as an institution.

All right—but if you add a sexual relationship to love and companionship, isn’t that what most people would consider “marriage?”

It’s getting closer but is still not sufficient to define marriage.

In a ruling handed down June 26, 2003, the U. S. Supreme Court declared in Lawrence v. Texas that sodomy laws (and any other laws restricting private sexual conduct between consenting adults) are unconstitutional. Some observers have suggested that this decision paves the way for same-sex “marriage.” But in an ironic way, the Court’s rulings that sex need not be (legally) confined to marriage undermine any argument that sex alone is a defining characteristic of marriage. Something more must be required.

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