Have Anti-SSM Folks Changed Their Tune?

Almost two years ago, I pointed out that same-sex marriage opponents appear to be fitting their views of marriage around their opposition to SSM. SSM opponents often suggest that the only purpose for marriage that matters is marriage’s “generative” function. But as recently as 2000, SSM opponent David Blankenhorn’s think tank published a “statement of principles” – signed by many current SSM opponents, including Maggie Gallagher – which clearly took a much broader view of marriage’s purposes and benefits.

Yesterday Andrew Sullivan, who recently debated David Blankenhorn (audio file here), mentioned this seemingly shifting view of marriage among SSM opponents. David responded:

…Anyone who reads the statement, The Marriage Movement: A Statement of Principles, to which Andrew refers, will see quite clearly that the statement views marriage as a social institution as intrinsically linked to bearing and raising the next generation. My colleagues and I have been making this point with great emphasis for many years.

David has missed the point.

The question isn’t if SSM opponents have been saying that marriage is linked to bearing the next generation – of course it is, and people have been saying so for ages. (No one in the marriage equality movement denies that marriage involves children, and is important to children; that children raised by same-sex couples should be raised by married parents is one of the most important arguments for SSM).

But that’s not what SSM opponents have been saying, by and large. They’ve seen saying that the state’s only interest in regulating marriage is supporting heterosexual childbearing. And that’s simply not what David and other SSM opponents were saying five years ago.

The “Statement of Principles” David links to includes a section entitled “Is Marriage a Private Matter? The Public Costs of Divorce,” which argues that supporting marriage is a legitimate goal of government. (I agree with David about that). Here’s part of what it says:

Is strengthening marriage a legitimate public goal?

We believe that the answer is yes, for at least four reasons:

1. Marriage protects the well-being of children;

2. Divorce and unwed parenting generate large taxpayer costs;

3. Marriage is a unique generator of social and human capital, as important as education in building the wealth of individuals and communities; and

4. Only marriage creates a reasonable hope of permanence.

Does this involve children? Yes, of course it does.

Does this support the view that the generative capacity of fertile heterosexual couples is the government’s only interest in marriage? Obviously not; the “Statement of Principles” makes it clear that the government has multiple interests in supporting marriage. The argument that heterosexual childrearing is the one and only reason for government to have an interest in marriage – so popular among SSM opponents today – contradicts what the marriage movement was saying just five years ago.

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22 Responses to Have Anti-SSM Folks Changed Their Tune?

  1. 1
    Richard Bellamy says:

    See, I thought after her Volokh debacle that Maggie G. just gave up and embraced SSM.

    “I too share your hope that we can have SSM and simultaneously figure out how to increase the likelihood that children in this country are born to and raised by their own married mom and dad.”

    http://www.marriagedebate.com/mdblog/2005_10_23_mdblog_archive.htm#113029527963698404

  2. 2
    emjaybee says:

    That’s because they figured out, hey, none of those other principles require a male and a female to operate, and dropped them. Only natural conception does. Which means they also have to oppose gay adoption or kids being raised by their bio mom and her partner without their bio dad around.

    Really, it’s pitiful. There is no argument for marriage as man/woman only that cannot be contradicted by common occurences, such as widowed single parent, adopted children, and other situations that no one finds objectionable. The only argument you can make is religious, they just don’t want to admit that.

  3. 3
    NancyP says:

    As an adoptee, I get riled by all this “children must be with their biological mother and father” crap. Even if I didn’t care about equal rites, I’d be offended by the anti-SSM arguments.

  4. 4
    Aggie says:

    I wonder how long it’s going to take for anti-SSM activists to start attacking heterosexual marriages in which the couple cannot, or chooses not, to have children. Is there going to be a constitutional amendment in the future barring infertile couples from marrying, or forcing couples who haven’t produced or adopted children within a certain number of years to divorce? Because if you take the “marriage is for the purpose of raising children” argument to the extreme, that’s the logical outcome.

  5. 5
    Raznor says:

    Frankly – I suspect this is too subtle a point for people like David Blankenhorn to grasp. If the center of one’s arguments is the Burkean handwaving “SSM will devastate marriage somehow therefore must be banned” then the difference between acknowledging that childrearing is an important part of marriage and that it is the only important part of marriage becomes a semantic point that seems unlikely to be grasped by SSM opponents.

    What it does show to intellectuals on the fence is that the arguments against SSM tend to collapse under their own internal logic.

  6. 6
    Cathy Young says:

    Barry, I’m going to have to disagree with you on this one. I do think the totality of that 2000 document shows that ensuring that most children are raised by both biological parents is the central concern. Also, let’s not forget that Blankenhorn comes to the marriage movement via an interest in promoting fatherhood.

  7. 7
    Jesurgislac says:

    Cathy Young: . I do think the totality of that 2000 document shows that ensuring that most children are raised by both biological parents is the central concern.

    If that were so, they wouldn’t let themselves be distracted into opposing same-sex marriage.

  8. 8
    Ampersand says:

    I do think the totality of that 2000 document shows that ensuring that most children are raised by both biological parents is the central concern. Also, let’s not forget that Blankenhorn comes to the marriage movement via an interest in promoting fatherhood.

    I don’t doubt the sincerity of David’s commitment to fatherhood (unless the fathers are gay, of course), but that’s not the point.

    The point is, folks like Maggie Gallagher – who, I just learned, drafted the 2000 statement – claim that biological reproduction (what she now calls “generativity “) is the ONLY interest the state has in marriage, and no other state interest in marriage can be justified.

    Did they consider “generativity” important five years ago? Yes. But I don’t think it’s possible to read this report as saying that they considered “generitivity” the sole government interest in marriage, and the sole justiification for marriage – not when they explicitly listed other, non-generative justifications.

    The claim that generativity is the one and only justification for civil marriage simply wasn’t what the marriage movement was saying five years ago.

  9. 9
    gengwall says:

    There is no argument for marriage as man/woman only that cannot be contradicted by common occurences, such as widowed single parent, adopted children, and other situations that no one finds objectionable.

    I think the argument is “man/woman best” not “man/woman only”. I used to work with a gay man who had been with his partner for a long time. They were very committed to each other and had been trying to adopt a child. They were prevented from doing so because they were caught in the ongoing catch 22 of gay couples – you can’t adopt if your not married and you can’t get married if your gay so too bad.

    Now this is a guy I considered a friend. I had been to his house many times and, of course, worked with him directly on a dialy basis. I happen to think that he and his partner would have been very devoted parents. He stated repeatedly that he would not try to influence their child toward (or against) a gay lifestyle and I took his word for it. My only question for him was: “is it better generically for a child to grow up in a heterosexual home or a homosexual home”. He agreed that hetorosexual homes generically provide the better environment. I concurred then that until such time as we have run out of heterosexual couples to bring up children, my position would be that it would not be good for them to adopt.

    The only argument you can make is religious, they just don’t want to admit that.

    I freely admit it. I agree that the most valid argument against SSM is a religious one. That is certainly the perspective I would come from. Although I am thankful because of my own religious objection to SSM that the country seems overwhelmingly against it, I find it difficult at the same time since I generally think religious arguments are bad for policy making.

    If I were to make a societal argument against SSM, it wouldn’t be from the “generativity” position but from the “parental” position. i.e. if SSM means allowing SS couples to freely adopt (I know it’s possible currently – Rosie O. – but I assume it’s near impossible) then I would be against it because, despite the best intentions and sincerity from gay couples, the better environment to raise children in is a heterosexual one.

  10. 10
    Jesurgislac says:

    gengwall: I concurred then that until such time as we have run out of heterosexual couples to bring up children, my position would be that it would not be good for them to adopt.

    Surely – surely – you’re aware that there are far, far more children in institutions, in the US, right now, needing adoptive parents, than there are adoptive parents available to adopt them? I thought this was a widely available fact: there are far more children who need adoption than there are prospective adopters.

    Newborn babies being put up for adoption are outnumbered by couples who want to adopt a baby, but older children need parents just as much, and don’t get them.

    if SSM means allowing SS couples to freely adopt (I know it’s possible currently – Rosie O. – but I assume it’s near impossible) then I would be against it because, despite the best intentions and sincerity from gay couples, the better environment to raise children in is a heterosexual one.

    Actually, studies show that there is either no difference between a same-sex couple rearing children, or if anything, there is a slight difference in the same-sex couples’ favor. There’s no reason in the world for you to oppose same-sex adoption, and certainly no reason to oppose same-sex marriage because it will mean same-sex couples can adopt as couples (in every state in the US but Florida, same-sex couples can already adopt children, but legally they are treated as an unmarried couple* and therefore only one of the couple becomes the child’s legal parent). It’s better for an adopted child to have two legal parents than one legal parent and one parent in a legal limbo.

    *Except in Massachusetts, of course.

  11. 11
    gengwall says:

    Thanks for some of the clarifications on adoption laws. I am not well versed in them at all.

    I’m sure that for every study you might find that same sex parents are as capable of rearing children as opposite sex couples I could find one that says the opposite. In this case studies don’t impress me. From a common sense perspective, I can’t imagine any better environment that a heterosexual one. The child needs the perspective from both sexes to properly mature.

    Now, having said that, I know the real world is very poor at providing that environment. For example, I think children would be better off growing up in a home with a committed same sex married couple than with a single parent for similar common sense reasons. I’m not bashing single parents – I am in awe of the job they do under the circumstances. But generically, two provide a better environment and a man/woman pair provide an even better environment for the child’s development.

    As far as adoption goes – yes, I understand there are large numbers of non-infant children who are available for adoption but not, for lack of a better word, desired (by heterosexual couples). In fact, that is the type of adoption my friend and his partner were looking at. And I would have to agree that, as opposed to staying institutionalized, the prospect of growing up in a two parent home regardless of “sexuality” of the parents is greatly preferred.

  12. 12
    Jesurgislac says:

    gengwall Writes: I’m sure that for every study you might find that same sex parents are as capable of rearing children as opposite sex couples I could find one that says the opposite.

    I’m sure you couldn’t.

  13. 13
    Jesurgislac says:

    gengwall: From a common sense perspective, I can’t imagine any better environment that a heterosexual one. The child needs the perspective from both sexes to properly mature.

    That “common sense” idea is not borne out by any studies of child development looking at children brought up by same-sex couples as opposed to children brought up by mixed-sex couples.

  14. 14
    Ampersand says:

    Gengwall writes:

    I’m sure that for every study you might find that same sex parents are as capable of rearing children as opposite sex couples I could find one that says the opposite.

    I know Jesu already replied to this, but I can’t resist responding as well.

    You’re simply wrong – at least, assuming that by “study” you mean “studies published in legitimate peer-reviewed journals.” Studies have consistantly failed to find evidence that being raised by same-sex parents causes any harm to children (see this earlier post on “Alas”).

    At some point, so-called “common sense” has to be willing to bend in response to facts. If the advantage to being raised by a mother and a father, as opposed to by two moms or two dads, is so important and essential, why doesn’t it show up on any legitimate peer-reviewed studies?

  15. 15
    gengwall says:

    I am not imply that being raised by same sex parents is harmful to children. I’m simply saying that, on average, a child’s development is better served by the perspective of both sexes.

  16. 16
    Robert says:

    Amp -

    I have no reason to think that same sex couples would be (on average) any more or less loving, protective, nurturing, and so on towards their children. Other than maybe some very tangential issues of social adjustment owing to difficulties on the playground yard, that sort of thing, I would be very surprised to see any study that showed any negative outcome for same-sex-parented kids.

    Not everything worthwhile shows up on a study.

  17. 17
    mythago says:

    I am not imply that being raised by same sex parents is harmful to children

    Then there’s really no reason for supporting OSM-only laws, is there?

  18. 18
    Josh Jasper says:

    A child’s wellbeing is best served by health care that’s always available. If republicans really gave a fuck about children, they’d be giving the ones who’s parent’s cant afford it health care, housing, and food. In stead, we get cuts to food stamps and other welfare beacause of a hurricane that affected poor people worse than anyone else.

    I call bullshit. Conservatives demonstrably care less about childrens actual welfare, and more about the possibly fake orders of some mythical invisible Sky Beast who’s well known for acts of genocide.

  19. 19
    Jesurgislac says:

    gengwall Writes: I am not imply that being raised by same sex parents is harmful to children. I’m simply saying that, on average, a child’s development is better served by the perspective of both sexes.

    Okay. Cite a study from a peer-reviewed journal that shows this. Put up or shut up.

  20. 20
    David Jackson says:

    I just love it! In the best of all possible words, where the father and mother are
    well adjusted and earn, at least, a “middle class” wage and where there is no abuse or drug use or drinking or smoking or lack of “quality” time, in a neighborhood that is safe and clean and the schools are wonderful and the parents love and care for each otheras well as the kids and all have the best of heath care and there is no war or famine or natural disasters and everyone worships the same god with the same devotion, it would be better to have a mom and dad instead of 2 dads or 2 moms…

    When you wake up from your Utopian dreams I think you can be invited to the discussion! Until then….

    Whatever Becky!!!

  21. 21
    Myca says:

    Whatever Becky!!!

    Who?

  22. 22
    Thene says:

    He agreed that hetorosexual homes generically provide the better environment. I concurred then that until such time as we have run out of heterosexual couples to bring up children, my position would be that it would not be good for them to adopt.

    That’s just plain illogical. Even if there was some measurable way in which an average heterosexual couple was more suited to raising children than an average homosexual couple, the best of the homosexual homes would still rate as ‘better’ than the worst of the heterosexual homes.

    Yet you’re saying you’d sooner see a parentless child raised by (to pluck an extreme example) two heterosexual crack addicts than by your friend and his partner. That makes no sense at all.