Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Why Democrat policies discourage men from marrying, part 2

This article is the second of a three-part series on how Democrat policies discourage marriage and child-rearing. Part 1 is here and Part 3 is here.

How same-sex marriage separates marriage from procreation and child-rearing

This time we’ll look at an article from the Weekly Standard by Stanley Kurtz. He looks at the death of marriage in Scandinavia and concludes that the policy of same-sex marriage encourages people to separate the concept of marriage from the need to provide a stable environment in which to raise children. This results in fewer people getting married.

Let’s take a look at his conclusion, first.

A majority of children in Sweden and Norway are born out of wedlock. Sixty percent of first-born children in Denmark have unmarried parents. Not coincidentally, these countries have had something close to full gay marriage for a decade or more. Same-sex marriage has locked in and reinforced an existing Scandinavian trend toward the separation of marriage and parenthood.

…More precisely, it has further undermined the institution. The separation of marriage from parenthood was increasing; gay marriage has widened the separation. Out-of-wedlock birthrates were rising; gay marriage has added to the factors pushing those rates higher. Instead of encouraging a society-wide return to marriage, Scandinavian gay marriage has driven home the message that marriage itself is outdated, and that virtually any family form, including out-of-wedlock parenthood, is acceptable.

Basically, same-sex marriage, and especially no-fault divorce, undermines the purpose of marriage. Marriage is for children. But when you ask same-sex marriage proponents why it should be legal, they say: because getting married is what people do when they love each other. So, the purpose of marriage for them is the happiness for adults, not bringing up children.

But if Democrats make marriage policy in order to make adults happy, then when adults aren’t happy, they can break those marriages up. The vision of providing an environment for children who are biologically linked to the parents has been lost. Children will not get a stable environment if people do not put happiness second, and commitment to a serious relationship first!

Kurtz continues:

The family dissolution rate is different from the divorce rate. Because so many Scandinavians now rear children outside of marriage, divorce rates are unreliable measures of family weakness. Instead, we need to know the rate at which parents (married or not) split up. Precise statistics on family dissolution are unfortunately rare. Yet the studies that have been done show that throughout Scandinavia (and the West) cohabiting couples with children break up at two to three times the rate of married parents. So rising rates of cohabitation and out-of-wedlock birth stand as proxy for rising rates of family dissolution.

By that measure, Scandinavian family dissolution has only been worsening. Between 1990 and 2000, Norway’s out-of-wedlock birthrate rose from 39 to 50 percent, while Sweden’s rose from 47 to 55 percent. In Denmark out-of-wedlock births stayed level during the nineties (beginning at 46 percent and ending at 45 percent). But the leveling off seems to be a function of a slight increase in fertility among older couples, who marry only after multiple births (if they don’t break up first). That shift masks the 25 percent increase during the nineties in cohabitation and unmarried parenthood among Danish couples (many of them young). About 60 percent of first born children in Denmark now have unmarried parents. The rise of fragile families based on cohabitation and out-of-wedlock childbearing means that during the nineties, the total rate of family dissolution in Scandinavia significantly increased.

…And now that married parenthood has become a minority phenomenon, it has lost the critical mass required to have socially normative force. As Danish sociologists Wehner, Kambskard, and Abrahamson describe it, in the wake of the changes of the nineties, “Marriage is no longer a precondition for settling a family–neither legally nor normatively. . . . What defines and makes the foundation of the Danish family can be said to have moved from marriage to parenthood.”

What is the effect of this weakening of marriage on the children?

In 2000, Danish sociologist Mai Heide Ottosen published a study, “Samboskab, Aegteskab og Foraeldrebrud” (“Cohabitation, Marriage and Parental Breakup”), which confirmed the increased risk of family dissolution to children of unmarried parents, and gently chided Scandinavian social scientists for ignoring the “quiet revolution” of out-of-wedlock parenting.

Despite the reluctance of Scandinavian social scientists to study the consequences of family dissolution for children, we do have an excellent study that followed the life experiences of all children born in Stockholm in 1953. (Not coincidentally, the research was conducted by a British scholar, Duncan W.G. Timms.) That study found that regardless of income or social status, parental breakup had negative effects on children’s mental health. Boys living with single, separated, or divorced mothers had particularly high rates of impairment in adolescence. An important 2003 study by Gunilla Ringbäck Weitoft, et al. found that children of single parents in Sweden have more than double the rates of mortality, severe morbidity, and injury of children in two parent households. This held true after controlling for a wide range of demographic and socioeconomic circumstances.

Now the question is, is same-sex marriage really viewed as a weapon against traditional marriage by left-wing radicals?

Well, it certainly is in Europe:

Kari Moxnes, a feminist sociologist specializing in divorce, is one of the most prominent of Norway’s newly emerging group of public social scientists. As a scholar who sees both marriage and at-home motherhood as inherently oppressive to women, Moxnes is a proponent of nonmarital cohabitation and parenthood. In 1993, as the Norwegian legislature was debating gay marriage, Moxnes published an article, “Det tomme ekteskap” (“Empty Marriage”), in the influential liberal paper Dagbladet. She argued that Norwegian gay marriage was a sign of marriage’s growing emptiness, not its strength. Although Moxnes spoke in favor of gay marriage, she treated its creation as a (welcome) death knell for marriage itself. Moxnes identified homosexuals–with their experience in forging relationships unencumbered by children–as social pioneers in the separation of marriage from parenthood. In recognizing homosexual relationships, Moxnes said, society was ratifying the division of marriage from parenthood that had spurred the rise of out-of-wedlock births to begin with.

A frequent public presence, Moxnes enjoyed her big moment in 1999, when she was embroiled in a dispute with Valgerd Svarstad Haugland, minister of children and family affairs in Norway’s Christian Democrat government. Moxnes had criticized Christian marriage classes for teaching children the importance of wedding vows. This brought a sharp public rebuke from Haugland. Responding to Haugland’s criticisms, Moxnes invoked homosexual families as proof that “relationships” were now more important than institutional marriage.

…Months before Moxnes clashed with Haugland, social historian Kari Melby had a very public quarrel with a leader of the Christian Democratic party over the conduct of Norway’s energy minister, Marit Arnstad. Arnstad had gotten pregnant in office and had declined to name the father. Melby defended Arnstad, and publicly challenged the claim that children do best with both a mother and a father. In making her case, Melby praised gay parenting, along with voluntary single motherhood, as equally worthy alternatives to the traditional family. So instead of noting that an expectant mother might want to follow the example of marriage that even gays were now setting, Melby invoked homosexual families as proof that a child can do as well with one parent as two.

At the center of the Democrat defense of same-sex marriage and single motherhood is the idea that children do not deserve the stability of a two parent family, with parents who are strongly linked to the children genetically. Democrats believe that children are playthings for adults, like pets, and therefore the happiness of adults is of primary concern.

But traditional marriage isn’t about adults having their needs met. Traditional marriage is explicitly for the the purpose of creating a next generation of people. And people who marry for this purpose, especially people who go through pre-marital counseling, know that children are little monsters, and they expect to be sacrificing their happiness for the children.

Men engage in risky, demanding, self-sacrifical behaviors, like joining the army or marrying, because of the social respect they get for doing something hard that not everyone can do. Making a firm commitment is a hard thing to do, and raising children is a hard thing to do. That’s why we invented marriage and we attach so much social respect to this institution.

But if we divorce marriage from commitment, stability and sacrifice for the sake of the children, then men will not get involved in this higher calling. If “marriage” is just two or more people living together and children are an accident, then why should men bother sacrificing their childish irresponsibility and selfishness when this sacrifice means nothing special to society?

Kurtz concludes:

If America is to avoid being forced into a similar choice, we’ll have to resist the separation of marriage from parenthood.

…AMERICANS take it for granted that, despite its recent troubles, marriage will always exist. This is a mistake. Marriage is disappearing in Scandinavia, and the forces undermining it there are active throughout the West. Perhaps the most disturbing sign for the future is the collapse of the Scandinavian tendency to marry after the second child. At the start of the nineties, 60 percent of unmarried Norwegian parents who lived together had only one child. By 2001, 56 percent of unmarried, cohabiting parents in Norway had two or more children. This suggests that someday, Scandinavian parents might simply stop getting married altogether, no matter how many children they have.

This series will be continued tomorrow with another scholar and another data point.

UPDATE: Another good essay on traditional marriage is here, courtesy of Hot Air.

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