Friday, June 09, 2006

Traditional Marriage Studied And Supported

In a message left on the Article6blog comment forum, "CarlH" refers to a problem in conservative rhetoric, which he describes as
the strange difficulty that conservatives seem to have had in clearly articulating a reasoned basis for society's interest in and protection of traditional family structures (at least without resort to what the left consistently slams as arguments from religious belief).
Carl also alerts us to a report by The Witherspoon Institute entitled "Marriage and The Public Good: Ten Principles." The Witherspoon report articulates a comprehensive, scholarly, yet accessible argument for the societal interest to which Carl refers. The Executive Summary of the document is here. An excerpt:
In recent years, marriage has weakened, with serious negative consequences for society as a whole. Four developments are especially troubling: divorce, illegitimacy, cohabitation, and same-sex marriage.

The purpose of this document is to make a substantial new contribution to the public debate over marriage. Too often, the rational case for marriage is not made at all or not made very well. As scholars, we are persuaded that the case for marriage can be made and won at the level of reason. Marriage protects children, men and women, and the common good. The health of marriage is particularly important in a free society, which depends upon citizens to govern their private lives and rear their children responsibly, so as to limit the scope, size, and power of the state. The nation's retreat from marriage has been particularly consequential for our society's most vulnerable communities: minorities and the poor pay a disproportionately heavy price when marriage declines in their communities. Marriage also offers men and women as spouses a good they can have in no other way: a mutual and complete giving of the self. Thus, marriage understood as the enduring union of husband and wife is both a good in itself and also advances the public interest.

We affirm the following ten principles that summarize the value of marriage- a choice that most people want to make, and that society should endorse and support.

Ten Principles on Marriage and the Public Good

  • Marriage is a personal union, intended for the whole of life, of husband and wife.
  • Marriage is a profound human good, elevating and perfecting our social and sexual nature.
  • Ordinarily, both men and women who marry are better off as a result.
  • Marriage protects and promotes the wellbeing of children.
  • Marriage sustains civil society and promotes the common good.
  • Marriage is a wealth-creating institution, increasing human and social capital.
  • When marriage weakens, the equality gap widens, as children suffer from the disadvantages of growing up in homes without committed mothers and fathers.
  • A functioning marriage culture serves to protect political liberty and foster limited government.
  • The laws that govern marriage matter significantly.
  • "Civil marriage" and "religious marriage" cannot be rigidly or completely divorced from one another.
Our thanks to Carl for bringing the report to our attention. If you think traditional marriage is a serious matter, the Witherspoon report is an excellent document to print out, ponder, and keep in your library.


Anonymous DL said...

Excellent post.

I reject the anti-God's argument that you cannot discuss a point of view that happens to also be associated with God. Just because Christ ate fish and lamb, does that mean we must ban it in order to have the (lie)separation of Chruch and State?

The purpose is obvious:drive all discussion about God out of our culture so tht we don't have to think about anything we do as sinful and deserving of the punishment due to it. Simply put. They not only - "will not serve" but they will die trying to make sure no one else is allowed to serve either.

What is it about the creator - by definition -all goodness and all love, that these people hate?_ 

Posted by DL

Saturday, June 10, 2006 4:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your readers would benefit from the explaination of the legal consequences of same-sex marriage given by family law attorney Bruce C. Hafen in his book "Covenant Hearts." Following is an excerpt:

. . . Same- sex marriage blurs the distinction between what society tolerates and what it endorses. Opinion polls show that a majority of the American people have grown more tolerant of gay lifestyles, just as they have grown more tolerant of personal choices on many lifestyle issues.

Most people today would not consider adult homosexual behavior a crime. But the polls typically show that roughly one- third favor same-sex marriage. The public draws a clear distinction between tolerating gay lifestyles and promoting them by the legal endorsement inherent in marriage.

Said another way, Americans draw a clear line between “passive toleration” and “active support” of homosexual conduct.

Our laws distinguish between toleration and endorsement by maintaining three broad categories of conduct: (1) conduct that is “prohibited,” such as robbery; (2) conduct that is “permitted,” such as making a contract; and (3) conduct that is especially “protected” (as by special constitutional rights), such as worshipping God or giving a political speech.

The Constitution’s Bill of Rights gives such high preference to protected conduct that the state may regulate it only if the state can show a truly compelling need for regulation.

Civil rights advocates worked successfully and admirably during the past generation to move the choices of racial minorities and women from being merely “permitted” to being legally “protected” by potent antidiscrimination laws. During the early part of this same era, gays and lesbians were working to convince state legislatures to change the classification of their behavior from being “prohibited” to being “permitted” by repealing laws that had made homosexual acts a crime.

There is a natural line of “tolerance” between prohibited and permitted, and another natural line of “endorsement” between permitted and protected:

For example, the United States Supreme Court has held that family and kinship- based interests, such as the right to direct the upbringing of one’s own children, are constitutionally protected rights. The Constitution therefore not only “tolerates” these choices but affirmatively endorses and protects them — because, the Court has said, the obligations of parenthood, marriage, and biological kinship are fundamental to preserving a civilized order. Such weighty societal obligations are worthy of being highly protected, not merely being tolerated or permitted.

One consequence of the law’s protecting marriage is that the state is a party to the marriage; and the state must legally approve both starting and ending it. That’s why a state license and ceremony are required to create a legal marriage, and a state court judgment is required to end a marriage. These formalities are not required to create or dissolve other legal contracts. Society actually has a greater stake in the creation and survival of each marriage than it does in the survival of each business agreement, even though a healthy economy obviously needs stable businesses.

Society is now more willing than in the past to tolerate homosexual behavior between adults. Does that mean that same- gender marriage should now move to the “permitted” range, or even the “protected” range?

The question is not whether the legal system should no longer consider homosexual acts a crime. That has already happened. The United States Supreme Court now “permits” homosexual relations, but it has stopped short of endorsing them with a protected constitutional right. What makes gay marriage such a big next step is that its official formality not only permits gay conduct but the nature and protocol of state sponsorship also have the effect of endorsing and even promoting that conduct.

The credibility of this endorsement arises from the place of marriage in both our law and culture as an important — actually our most important — social institution. . .

Perhaps because they realize that the public is not really ready to give them that much state support, many gay rights advocates insist that marriage is not really a social institution but a strictly individual choice. That is one reason why the 2003 Massachusetts case that protected gay marriage grounded its reasoning on “principles of respect for individual autonomy.” “Autonomy” does not claim to have high social value. Indeed, autonomy arguments often thrive on challenging society’s established order. So these advocates urge that the state should disengage from the role of promoting society’s interest in marriage and family life.

In the most forceful statement yet by a Supreme Court justice in support of gay rights, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in 1986 that he would protect homosexual behavior not because it promotes any social value but precisely because it dissents from the established social order: “We protect these rights not because they contribute... to the general public welfare, but because they form so central a part of an individual’s life,” including one’s “right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.”

Ironically, however, the Massachusetts judges in the 2003 gay marriage case cited several instances in which homosexual couples who wanted the right to marry already had children in their homes. This little- noticed element in those cases was going a very different direction from Justice Blackmun’s assumption that homosexual relationships may not benefit society but should be protected anyway. Once adopted or surrogate children are in the home of gay parents, the parent- child relationship means the marriage is no longer a simple matter of adult personal autonomy.

Though they didn’t say so, I believe the lawyers for the Massachusetts gay couples, and the judges who agreed with them, thought that by showing that these couples were raising children (with no comment on how that experience affects children), they hoped to establish same- gender marriage as an acceptable enough childrearing environment to serve society’s interest in how children are raised.

However, the empirical research makes clear that a child’s being with both father and mother is clearly the optimal environment for childrearing, which is why our social policies have always given that environment such high priority.

In 2001, for example, the New York Times reported a “powerful consensus” in the social science research that “from a child’s point of view... the most supportive household is one with two biological parents in a low- conflict marriage.” Further, one of the principal goals of the diverse groups who support the current national “marriage movement” is to “make the case that each child has a right to grow up with his or her own mother and father who love the child and love each other, and that supporting [hetereosexual] marriage is society’s main way of giving children this right.”

Even though this ideal is not always possible because of deaths and unavoidable divorces, children need the stability and role- modeling of being raised by their two biological parents. The further society chooses to depart from the ideal, the greater will be the risk to children and their future . . . When a mother and father work at it, this pattern warmly invites both boys and girls to grow up understanding the equal but distinct gifts and roles of men and women who “honor marital vows with complete fidelity.”

The power of the law to communicate society’s endorsement tells us that our system does not and should not protect everything it tolerates. If we merge tolerance with protection, our system will end up removing marriage and childrearing from the most protected legal sphere, because the lowest common denominator effect of “individual autonomy” denies the possibility that some relationships are more significant to society than others. That’s what happens when we confuse the distinction between what the law merely “permits” and what it “protects.”

So, the closer our society comes to approving gay marriage, the more we will actually reduce our expectation that married people owe anything at all to society, including their utmost effort to succeed in their marriages. That is how gay marriage undermines the sense of personal and social obligation that is fundamental to our thinking about what marriage is and what it means.

Therefore, Robert Bork believes, acceptance of the Massachusetts court’s same- gender marriage theory “would ratify, in the most profound way, the anarchical spirit of extreme personal... autonomy that is the driving force behind much of our [current] cultural degradation.” If that happens, marriage will be “just one more sexual arrangement among others. The symbolic link between marriage, procreation, and family is broken, and there is a rapid and persistent decline in heterosexual marriages.”

Marriage was historically understood in American law, even from a secular viewpoint, as a three- party arrangement, with the state as a conscious party. This understanding has reflected society’s high stake in each marriage. Indeed, it is precisely the public part of marriage — the high degree of social interest involved in its very concept and function — that distinguishes it from all other relationships and contracts. To marry is to accept a public responsibility to the community and its basic social values, especially its values about what is best for children.

For this reason, the society itself, through its legislatures, has retained the primary role in determining which relationships, which privileges, and which duties reflect the kind of marriage that satisfies society’s long- term interest in creating the culture of the future.

Our present legal definition of marriage has not yet really altered this time- honored understanding, but our recent public conversations have obscured it, and the outcome of the same- sex marriage debate could obliterate it. 

Posted by Virginia

Saturday, June 10, 2006 5:19:00 AM  
Anonymous nash said...

Conservatives don't have a problem articulating their position. People understand the conservative position on marriage all too well. It's just that they reject the assumptions and the conclusions of those arguments.

"Marriage is a joke" is a statement that many people in their 30's on down would agree with when divorce is the rule and lifelong commitment is the exception. This makes it hard for conservatives to argue that marriage is somehow sacred when people--including religious conservatives--treat it so casually in their personal lives.


Posted by nash

Saturday, June 10, 2006 9:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's law. I have learned a great deal from you and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God's Laws and how to follow them:

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not to Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev.1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath Exodus 35:2 clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that, even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree.
Can you settle this? Are there "degrees" of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27 How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Leviticus 24:10- 16)? Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev. 20:14)?

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging. 

Posted by Mark Will

Thursday, November 30, 2006 4:04:00 PM  

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