Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Should government get out of the marriage business?

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse

Dina sent me three articles by Jennifer Roback Morse, post on The Public Discourse. The articles answer the charge from social liberals and libertarians that we should “get the government out of marriage”.

Here’s the first article which talks about how government will still be involved in marriage, even if we get rid of the traditional definition of marriage, because of the need for dispute resolution in private marriage contracts. She uses no-fault divorce as an example showing how it was sold as a way to get government out of the divorce business. But by making divorce easier by making it require no reason, it increased the number of disputes and the need for more government to resolve these disputes.

Here’s the second article which talks about how the government will have to expand to resolve conflicts over decisions about who counts as a parent and who gets parental rights. With traditional marriage, identifying who the parents are is easy. But with private marriage contracts where the parties are not the biological parents, there is a need for the state to step in and assign parental rights.

Here’s the third article which talks about how marriage is necessary in order to defend the needs and rights of the child at a time when they cannot enter into contracts and be parties to legal disputes.

The third article was my favorite, so here is an excerpt from it:

The fact of childhood dependence raises a whole series of questions. How do we get from a position of helpless dependence and complete self-centeredness, to a position of independence and respect for others? Are our views of the child somehow related to the foundations of a free society? And, to ask a question that may sound like heresy to libertarian ears: Do the needs of children place legitimate demands and limitations on the behavior of adults?

I came to the conclusion that a free society needs adults who can control themselves, and who have consciences. A free society needs people who can use their freedom, without bothering other people too much. We need to respect the rights of others, keep our promises, and restrain ourselves from taking advantage of others.

We learn to do these things inside the family, by being in a relationship with our parents. We can see this by looking at attachment- disordered children and failure-to-thrive children from orphanages and foster care. These children have their material needs met, for food, clothing, and medical care. But they are not held, or loved, or looked at. They simply do not develop properly, without mothers and fathers taking personal care of them. Some of them never develop consciences. But a child without a conscience becomes a real problem: this is exactly the type of child who does whatever he can get away with. A free society can’t handle very many people like that, and still function.

In other words I asked, “Do the needs of society place constraints on how we treat children?” But even this analysis still views the child from society’s perspective. It is about time we look at it from the child’s point of view, and ask a different kind of question. What is owed to the child?

Children are entitled to a relationship with both of their parents. They are entitled to know who they are and where they came from. Therefore children have a legitimate interest in the stability of their parents’ union, since that is ordinarily how kids have relationships with both parents. If Mom and Dad are quarreling, or if they live on opposite sides of the country, the child’s connection with one or both of them is seriously impaired.

But children cannot defend their rights themselves. Nor is it adequate to intervene after the fact, after harm already has been done. Children’s relational and identity rights must be protected proactively.

Marriage is society’s institutional structure for protecting these legitimate rights and interests of children.

I recommend taking a look at all three articles and becoming familiar with the arguments in case you have to explain why marriage matters and why we should not change it. I think it is important to read these articles and to be clear that to be a libertarian doctrine does not protect the right of a child to have a relationship with both his or her parents.  Nor does libertarianism promote the idea that parents ought to stick together for their children.

The purpose of marriage is to make adults make careful commitments, and restrain their desires and feelings, so that children will have a stable environment with their biological parents. We do make exceptions, but we should not celebrate exceptions and we should not subsidize exceptions. It’s not fair to children to have to grow up without a mother or father just so that they adults can make poor, emotional decisions and have fun.

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Study: children of same-sex couples do less well than those of married couples

The Public Discourse reports on a recent study out of Canada.

Excerpt:

A new academic study based on the Canadian census suggests that a married mom and dad matter for children. Children of same-sex coupled households do not fare as well.

There is a new and significant piece of evidence in the social science debate about gay parenting and the unique contributions that mothers and fathers make to their children’s flourishing. A study published last week in the journal Review of the Economics of the Household—analyzing data from a very large, population-based sample—reveals that the children of gay and lesbian couples are only about 65 percent as likely to have graduated from high school as the children of married, opposite-sex couples. And gender matters, too: girls are more apt to struggle than boys, with daughters of gay parents displaying dramatically low graduation rates.

Unlike US-based studies, this one evaluates a 20 percent sample of the Canadian census, where same-sex couples have had access to all taxation and government benefits since 1997 and to marriage since 2005.

While in the US Census same-sex households have to be guessed at based on the gender and number of self-reported heads-of-household, young adults in the Canadian census were asked, “Are you the child of a male or female same-sex married or common law couple?” While study author and economist Douglas Allen noted that very many children in Canada who live with a gay or lesbian parent are actually living with a single mother—a finding consonant with that detected in the 2012 New Family Structures Study—he was able to isolate and analyze hundreds of children living with a gay or lesbian couple (either married or in a “common law” relationship akin to cohabitation).

So the study is able to compare—side by side—the young-adult children of same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples, as well as children growing up in single-parent homes and other types of households. Three key findings stood out to Allen:

children of married opposite-sex families have a high graduation rate compared to the others; children of lesbian families have a very low graduation rate compared to the others; and the other four types [common law, gay, single mother, single father] are similar to each other and lie in between the married/lesbian extremes.

Employing regression models and series of control variables, Allen concludes that the substandard performance cannot be attributed to lower school attendance or the more modest education of gay or lesbian parents. Indeed, same-sex parents were characterized by higher levels of education, and their children were more likely to be enrolled in school than even those of married, opposite-sex couples. And yet their children are notably more likely to lag in finishing their own schooling.

[...]The truly unique aspect of Allen’s study, however, may be its ability to distinguish gender-specific effects of same-sex households on children. He writes:

the particular gender mix of a same-sex household has a dramatic difference in the association with child graduation. Consider the case of girls. . . . Regardless of the controls and whether or not girls are currently living in a gay or lesbian household, the odds of graduating from high school are considerably lower than any other household type. Indeed, girls living in gay households are only 15 percent as likely to graduate compared to girls from opposite sex married homes.

Thus although the children of same-sex couples fare worse overall, the disparity is unequally shared, but is instead based on the combination of the gender of child and gender of parents. Boys fare better—that is, they’re more likely to have finished high school—in gay households than in lesbian households. For girls, the opposite is true. Thus the study undermines not only claims about “no differences” but also assertions that moms and dads are interchangeable. They’re not.

With a little digging, I found the abstract of the study:

Almost all studies of same-sex parenting have concluded there is “no difference” in a range of outcome measures for children who live in a household with same-sex parents compared to children living with married opposite-sex parents. Recently, some work based on the US census has suggested otherwise, but those studies have considerable drawbacks. Here, a 20% sample of the 2006 Canada census is used to identify self-reported children living with same-sex parents, and to examine the association of household type with children’s high school graduation rates. This large random sample allows for control of parental marital status, distinguishes between gay and lesbian families, and is large enough to evaluate differences in gender between parents and children. Children living with gay and lesbian families in 2006 were about 65 % as likely to graduate compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families. Daughters of same-sex parents do considerably worse than sons.

The author of the study is a professor of economics at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia. His PhD in economics is from the University of Washington. A previous study had shown that gay relationships typically have far more instability (they last for more shorter times). That’s not good for children either. Another study featured in the Atlantic talked about how gay relationships have much higher rates of domestic violence. That’s not good for children either. So we have three reasons to think that normalizing gay relationships as “marriage” would not be good for children.

The reason I am posting this is because I want people to understand why social conservatives like me propose these laws defining and promoting marriage. We do favor natural marriage for the same reason that we oppose no-fault divorce, and for the same reason why we oppose welfare for single mothers (it encourages single motherhood). We don’t want to encourage people to deprive children of their mother or their father. We look at the research, and we decide that children need their mother and father. Given the choice between the needs of the child and restraining the freedom of the adults, we prefer the child’s need for her mother and father. It’s not just arbitrary rules, there is a reason behind the rules.

But children are not commodities. They have certain needs right out of the box. Adults should NOT be thinking about how to duct-tape a child onto any old relationship that doesn’t offer the same safety and stability that opposite sex marriage offers. We should be passing laws to strengthen marriage in order to protect children, not to weaken it. Libertarians don’t want to do that, because they want adults to be free to do as they please, at the expense of children.  Libertarians think that the adults should be able to negotiate private contracts and have no obligations to any children who are present, or who may be present later.

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Daughter sues parents for private school and college tuition

When reading this story from leftist CNN, I think it’s possible to decide who is lying and who is telling the truth based on whether the claims can be verified. Not every claim made by each side can be verified, but I am inclined to belief entirely the side that makes testable claims.

Excerpt:

A high school senior’s lawsuit against her mother and father for financial support and college tuition hit a hurdle Tuesday when a New Jersey judge denied the teenager’s request for immediate financial assistance from the parents.

Rachel Canning, 18, alleges in her lawsuit that her parents forced her out of their Lincoln Park, New Jersey home, and that she is unable to support herself financially. The lawsuit asks that her parents pay the remaining tuition for her last semester at her private high school, pay her current living and transportation expenses, commit to paying her college tuition and pay her legal fees for the suit she filed against her parents.

Her parents say she left home because she didn’t want to obey their rules.

Here are the daughter’s claims:

Canning, an honor student and cheerleader at Morris Catholic High School in Denville, says in court documents she had to leave her parents’ home because of emotional and psychological mistreatment, alleging, among other things, that her mother called her “fat” and “porky” and that her father threatened to beat her.

“I have been subjected to severe verbal and physical abuse by my mother and father,” Canning wrote in a court certification. “I am not willingly and voluntarily leaving a reasonable situation at home to make my own decisions. I had to leave to end the abuse.”

Here are some facts not in dispute:

Canning left her parents’ home at the end of last October. After spending two nights at her boyfriend’s home, she moved into the home of her friend in a nearby town, where she has been staying ever since, according to court documents written by the parents’ attorney.

And here are her parent’s claims:

Canning’s parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning, claim that allegations of abuse are completely unfounded.

“We were always her support team, cheering her on or defending her whenever she had a problem,” wrote Elizabeth Canning in a court certification. She claims that her daughter was never forced out of the family’s home, but rather “took it upon herself to run away so that she could live her life without any parental supervision and without any rules.”

Canning was suspended from school for truancy last October, according to court documents filed by her parents’ attorney, Laurie Rush-Masuret. Her parents told the teen that she could no longer see her boyfriend, who was also suspended from school. Car and phone privileges were also taken away. Once she learned of the punishment, Canning cut school again and then decided to run away, her father said in court documents.

Once she left home, her parents notified Morris Catholic High School that they would no longer pay for their daughter’s tuition, the documents state.

Now it seems to me that her parents are now on record making testable claims in court documents – claims that can be verified. Why would they do that if they knew those claims were not true? So I’m inclined to believe them, and I’m glad that this woman’s mother is sticking by her man in this fight. That is not always the case when daughters sue fathers.

So, I’m going to assume that the parents are telling the truth. But even if they aren’t, do you think that it’s normal for a child to sue her parents for disciplining her? I find it astonishing that a child could be so stupid as to prefer her boyfriend and her friends’ parents to her own parents. Doesn’t she know that long after the boyfriend and the other couple are gone, that her parents will still be there for her? What they’ve provided her with already in terms of sending her to a private school shows me that they must care about her. Parents don’t shell out money for private schools unless they have some interest in their child’s success.

So I guess I’m shocked by this story, and I’m wondering what young women are coming to when they do things like this. They seem to be so rebellious, making wrong decisions and then turning to abortion, social programs and no-fault divorce to get out of their own poor choices. It really is scary. Speaking as a man, the fact that this trial even happened makes me not want to bother with marriage and children. Don’t people realize how it looks to men when they see things like this? No man is working and saving up for marriage to be treated like this. We don’t get married to have MORE rebellion and disorder.

By the way, I had to search several stories to find the details about the suspensions and the boyfriend, and CNN was the only source that had it. Color me surprised.

UPDATE: A lot more on what the daughter did to drive the parents crazy in the UK Daily Mail.

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State of Utah lists 15 consequences to redefining marriage in appellate brief

This is from National Review.

Excerpt:

In an historic opening brief filed yesterday before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, the state of Utah identified at least 15 consequences of redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. You can read the full text, which justifies more fully why each of these reasons are valid.

Here are some of their reasons:

1. “First, as many commentators have observed, because procreation is an inherently gendered affair, redefining marriage in genderless terms would break the critical conceptual link between marriage and procreation. . . . Given the manifest ills of fatherless parenting, the State has a compelling interest in sending a powerful message to women that, whenever possible, marriage to the fathers of their children is very important to the welfare of those children and to society itself.”

5. “Fifth, and most obviously, a genderless definition of marriage would likely increase the number of children being raised by same-sex parents. That could happen because the couple decides to raise together an existing child of one of the partners. Or it could result from the conception of a new child through surrogacy or sperm-donation. Either way, such children will not benefit from the State’s preferred mother-father parenting model; often they will have no way of knowing even the identity of both biological parents. And recent evidence on same-sex parenting, while not conclusive, indicates that same-sex parenting arrangements are less effective than married biological mothers and fathers in producing positive outcomes in the lives of their children.

8. “[The] correlation between genderless marriage and lower birthrates. . . . It is also striking that fertility and birthrates tend to be markedly lower in nations and states that have embraced same-sex marriage.”

12. “Governments would likely be pressured—and perhaps agree—to revoke the tax-exempt status of churches or other non-profit religious organizations that refuse on religious grounds to recognize same-sex marriages or to provide benefits to same-sex couples on the same terms as husband-wife couples.”

13. “Governments would likely be pressured—and perhaps agree—to investigate, prosecute and punish people in wedding-related businesses for refusing on religious conscience grounds to assist with same-sex weddings.”

14. “Government licensing agencies would likely be pressured—and perhaps agree—to investigate and punish counselors for refusing on religious conscience grounds to counsel same-sex married couples on the same terms as heterosexual couples.”

15. “Religion-based conflicts between public schools and parents would likely increase as children are taught about sexuality and marriage in ways that contravene parents’ and students’ deeply held religious beliefs.”

These reasons are all of interest to the state, but what about the other social consequences of redefining marriage?

Ryan T. Anderson wrote about that a while back.

Excerpt:

The Norm of Monogamy. New York University Professor Judith Stacey has expressed hope that redefining marriage would give marriage “varied, creative and adaptive contours,” leading some to “question the dyadic limitations of Western marriage and seek…small group marriages.”[5] In their statement “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage,” more than 300 “LGBT and allied” scholars and advocates call for legal recognition of sexual relationships involving more than two partners.[6]

University of Calgary Professor Elizabeth Brake thinks that justice requires using legal recognition to “denormalize[] heterosexual monogamy as a way of life” and “rectif[y] past discrimination against homosexuals, bisexuals, polygamists, and care networks.” She supports “minimal marriage” in which “individuals can have legal marital relationships with more than one person, reciprocally or asymmetrically, themselves determining the sex and number of parties, the type of relationship involved, and which rights and responsibilities to exchange with each.”[7]

And:

The Norm of Exclusivity. Andrew Sullivan, who has extolled the “spirituality” of “anonymous sex,” also thinks that the “openness” of same-sex unions could enhance the bonds of husbands and wives:

[A]mong gay male relationships, the openness of the contract makes it more likely to survive than many heterosexual bonds.… [T]here is more likely to be greater understanding of the need for extramarital outlets between two men than between a man and a woman.… [S]omething of the gay relationship’s necessary honesty, its flexibility, and its equality could undoubtedly help strengthen and inform many heterosexual bonds.[11]

“Openness” and “flexibility” are Sullivan’s euphemisms for sexual infidelity. Similarly, in a New York Times Magazine profile, gay activist Dan Savage encourages spouses to adopt “a more flexible attitude” about allowing each other to seek sex outside their marriage.[12] The New York Times recently reported on a study finding that exclusivity was not the norm among gay partners: “‘With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,’ said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, ‘but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.’”[13]

We really need to think about the consequences of these decisions before we jump into them. The last time we redefined marriage, it was no-fault divorce. That worked out great for selfish adults who wanted to make marriage about their own happiness and feelings, but it didn’t work out well for the children who were impacted.

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Stephen Baskerville: five myths about no-fault divorce

From the Catholic News Agency.

Introduction:

Almost four decades after the “no-fault” divorce revolution began in California, misconceptions abound. Even the many books about divorce, including myriad self-help manuals, are full of inaccurate and misleading information. No public debate preceded the introduction of no-fault divorce laws in the 1970s, and no debate has taken place since.

Yet divorce-on-demand is exacting a devastating toll on our children, our social order, our economy, and even our constitutional rights. A recent study estimates the financial cost of divorce to taxpayers at $112 billion annually. Recent demands to legitimize same-sex marriage almost certainly follow from the divorce revolution, since gay activists readily acknowledge that they only desire to marry under the loosened terms that have resulted from the new divorce laws. Divorce also contributes to a dangerous increase in the power of the state over private life.

Here are the five myths about no-fault divorce:

  • No-fault divorce permitted divorce by mutual consent, thus making divorce less acrimonious
  • We cannot force people to remain married and should not try
  • No-fault divorce has led men to abandon their wives and children
  • When couples cannot agree or cooperate about matters like how the children should be raised, a judge must decide according to “the best interest of the child”
  • Divorce must be made easy because of domestic violence

And the details about number three:

Myth 3: No-fault divorce has led men to abandon their wives and children.

Fact: This does happen (wives more often than children), but it is greatly exaggerated. The vast majority of no-fault divorces — especially those involving children — are filed by wives. In fact, as Judy Parejko, author of Stolen Vows, has shown, the no-fault revolution was engineered largely by feminist lawyers, with the cooperation of the bar associations, as part of the sexual revolution. Overwhelmingly, it has served to separate large numbers of children from their fathers. Sometimes the genders are reversed, so that fathers take children from mothers. But either way, the main effect of no-fault is to make children weapons and pawns to gain power through the courts, not the “abandonment” of them by either parent.

Al Mohler wrote about the history of no-fault divorce a while back, and I think it’s worth reviewing why we have this lousy law.

The story behind America’s love affair with no-fault divorce is a sad and instructive tale. As Baskerville documents, no-fault divorce laws emerged in the United States during the 1970s and quickly spread across the nation. Even though only nine states had no-fault divorce laws in 1977, by 1995, every state had legalized no-fault divorce.

Behind all this is an ideological revolution driven by feminism and facilitated by this society’s embrace of autonomous individualism. Baskerville argues that divorce “became the most devastating weapon in the arsenal of feminism, because it creates millions of gender battles on the most personal level.” As far back as 1947, the National Association of Women Lawyers [NAWL] was pushing for what we now know as no-fault divorce. More recently, NAWL claims credit for the divorce revolution, describing it as “the greatest project NAWL has ever undertaken.”

The feminists and NAWL were not working alone, of course. Baskerville explains that the American Bar Association “persuaded the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws [NCCUSL] to produce the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act.” Eventually, this led to a revolution in law and convulsions in society at large. This legal revolution effectively drove a stake into the heart of marriage itself, with inevitable consequences. In effect, no-fault divorce has become the catalyst for one of the most destructive cultural shifts in human history. Now, no-fault divorce is championed by many governments in the name of human rights, and America’s divorce revolution is spreading around the world under the banner of “liberation.”

And note that Democrats oppose any effort to reform laws that make it easy to break up marriages:

A basic dishonesty on the question of divorce pervades our political culture. Baskerville cites Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm as referring to divorce as a couple’s “private decision.” Granholm’s comments came as she vetoed a bill intended to reform divorce law in her state. The danger and dishonesty of referring to divorce as a couple’s “private decision” is evident in the fact that this supposedly private decision imposes a reality, not only on the couple, but also on children and the larger society. Indeed, the “private decision” is really not made by a couple at all–but only by any spouse demanding a divorce.

So, no-fault was pushed by two groups: feminists and trial lawyers.

There’s a lot of talk these days about gay marriage and how it undermines marital norms and normalizes raising children without either their biological father or biological mother. But before there was gay marriage, there was no-fault divorce, which deprives children of their biological father. There is no provision for no-fault divorce in the Bible, so it seems to me that Christians should be against frivolous divorce just like we are against same-sex marriage.

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