Ethics News

News: Marriage, Polygamy

(Same-sex “Marriage” on a separate file)


>> = Important Articles

** = Major Articles


>>Court to decide if polygamy laws conflict with rights charter (National Post, 101121)

>>Survey Examines Protestant Preaching on Marriage, Abortion (Christian Post, 091124)

**Co-Habitation in America Jumps Up 13% (zcp, 100927)

**Marry Outside the Faith? The Logic of Christian Marriage (Christian Post, 100729)

**Evangelical: ‘Separation’ for Married Couples Can be a Good Thing (Christian Post, 100604)

**The Church Needs A Marriage Apologetic (Christian Post, 090506)

Churches in deal over moral code (London Times, 000316)

Marriage in England (London Times, 010209)

Unwed couples not entitled to asset split: court (Ottawa Citizen, 021220)

Common law not equal to marriage (Ottawa Citizen, 021220)

Church lifts ban on remarriage of divorcees (London Times, 021112)

Marriage Under Attack in California (Coral Ridge Ministries, 030410)

The End Of Marriage? (WorldNetDaily, 030902)

Divorce lawyers see a new marriage-killer – Viagra (National Post, 031115)

Marriage Promoted as Cure to Social Woes (Foxnews, 031119)

Dad sues to teach daughter about polygamy (World Net Daily, 031208)

Love and...Marriage and the meaning of sex (National Review Online, 031217)

Fruitful Love: Marriage and infertility (National Review Online, 031218)

Marriage Amendment Jitters: The social Right tries to get it together (National Review Online, 031124)

The Right Amendment: Democracy and marriage (National Review Online, 040126)

Conservatives Differ Over Marriage Amendment (Foxnews, 040114)

Government Of Canada Reaffirms Its Position On Supreme Court Reference (Department of Justice, 040128)

Bush Comes Through (NRO, 040206)

Defending Marriage: The president endorses a constitutional amendment (National Review Online, 040225)

Public Divided On Marriage Amendment (Barna Report, 040621)

Defining Marriage Down: We need to protect marriage (National Review Online, 040709)

Power to the People: The FMA vote is coming up soon — and you can bet your senators are listening (NRO, 040701)

Missouri Marriage Vote Bodes Well for Bush (Foxnews, 040805)

Dutch ‘marriage’: 1 man, 2 women: Trio becomes 1st officially to tie the knots (WorldNetDaily, 050930)

Marriage makes monetary sense, analysis finds (Washington Times, 060119)

Polygamy: Red Herring or Real Threat? (, 060123)

Here Come the Brides: Plural marriage is waiting in the wings (Weekly Standard, 060105)

Hollywood family values (, 060307)

FRC Launches Petition to Protect Marriage, Pass Federal Amendment (Christian Post, 060308)

Big Love, from the Set: I’m taking the people behind the new series at their word. (National Review Online, 060313)

SOCIETY: Polygamy, Polyamory, and the Future of Marriage (Mohler, 060310)

ETHICS: “Marriage is for White People”—The Decline of Marriage among African Americans (Mohler, 060329)

Marriage—A Social Justice Issue (Christian Post, 060331)

Top U.S. Religious Leaders Sign Joint Statement to Protect Marriage (Christian Post, 060424)

Face it: Marriage is in trouble (, 060602)

Interreligious unions on the rise (National Post, 061003)

Are Married Couples Becoming An ‘Endangered Species’? (Christian Post, 061024)

Marriage Only for a Minority? Not Hardly (Mohler, 061017)

Canada criticized over polygamy: International human rights law violated: report (National Post, 061023)

U.S. out of love with marriage? (Washington Times, 061226)

Selling couples on marriage (Washington Times, 061227)

Work making way for family life (Washington Times, 061228)

‘For better or for worse’ takes a lot of work (Washington Times, 061229)

Survey: Real-Life ‘Desperate Housewives’ Have Regrets About Husbands (Foxnews, 070103)

Getting Hitched: Who is? Who’s not? Who splits? Kay Hymowitz takes a look. (National Review Online, 070123)

Cheerleading for Divorce: Socially irresponsible reporting. (National Review Online, 070123)

How Wives Can Kill Their Marriage: Part One (, 070324)

How Wives Can Kill Their Marriage: Part Two (, 070331)

How Wives Can Kill Their Marriage: The Final Straw (, 070331)

‘Family values’ won’t get help from immigration: Study: Out-of-wedlock births among Hispanics rise from 19% to 42% (WorldNetDaily, 070424)

Criminal act or religious right? (National Post, 070810)

Would Jane Austen Settle? Challenging Our Definition of Love (BreakPoint, 080401)

Single in the City? Why Are So Many Christian Women Growing Old Alone? (BreakPoint, 080429)

Getting What You Wished For: The Demise of Marriage in Britain (BreakPoint, 080415)

Costly Substitutes: The Price of Family Fragmentation (BreakPoint, 080416)

Church Attendance Key to Marriage Success, Researcher Says (Christian Post, 080703)

‘Bride’ and ‘Groom’ to be Restored to Calif. Marriage Forms (Christian Post, 081007)

Of Voles and Men (BreakPoint, 081006)

Bountiful case likely to stir up religious freedoms debate (National Post, 090107)

Tories prepared to stand ground on polygamy: documents (National Post, 090324)

Ottawa urged to play a role in educating Canadians about marriage (National Post, 090603)

Barbara Kay: Sticking it out in marriage is a good thing (National Post, 091119)

Tiger Woods: wife Elin Nordegren moves out (National Post, 091211)

Heterosexuals are the greatest threat to marriage (National Post, 100728)

Marriage Highlights an Interfaith Trend (Foxnews, 100730)

Should I Marry My Non-Christian Pregnant Girlfriend? (Christian Post, 101028)

Marriage Is Not Obsolete, Family Expert Says (Christian Post, 101119)





>>Who Needs Marriage? (Christian Post, 101129)

By R. Albert Mohler, Jr.


“When an institution so central to human experience suddenly changes shape in the space of a generation or two, it’s worth trying to figure out why.” Belinda Luscombe of TIME magazine made that observation in the course of reporting on a major study of marriage undertaken by TIME and the Pew Research Center. In the cover story for the magazine’s November 29, 2010 edition, Luscombe summarizes their findings with a blunt statement: “What we found is that marriage, whatever its social, spiritual, or symbolic appeal, is in purely practical terms just not as View Full Image


Without doubt, marriage has been utterly transformed in the modern world. In Western nations, the concept of marriage as a sacred covenant has given way to the idea that marriage is merely a legal contract. The limitation of sexual intercourse to marriage went the way of the Sexual Revolution, even as the ideal of permanence gave way to no-fault divorce and serial monogamy. And as for monogamy, that may be on shaky ground, too. These days, you can’t take anything for granted.


The debates over the legitimization and legalization of same-sex marriage have, among other things, revealed the fact that far too many Americans (and that includes a frightening number of American Christians) are simply unarmed for any intellectual conflict on any question related to marriage.


And the demographics? Brace yourselves. In 1960, 70% of all American adults were married. Now, that number is just over half. Eight times as many children are born out of wedlock as compared to that same year. In the 1960s, two-thirds of all young adults in their twenties were married. Now, only 26% of twenty-somethings are married.


Statistics can inform or misinform, and it is possible to find statistical support that puts a happier face on the health of marriage. But in order to find these happier statistics, it is necessary to redefine the question. For example, some marriage defenders will assert, accurately, that most Americans will at some point be married. But that fact lowers the question of marriage to the minimalist level of “at some point.” By any honest measure, marriage is in big trouble.


When Belinda Luscombe argues that marriage is “in purely practical terms just not as necessary as it used to be,” she has a rationale to back up her argument. “Neither men nor women need to be married to have sex or companionship or professional success or respect or even children.” All that is true — when marriage is viewed on the canvas of American culture. Marriage no longer regulates sex. The Sexual Revolution severed sex from marriage in a social sense, and the arrival of The Pill offered a pharmaceutical means of severing sex from reproduction. No-fault divorce arrived as a legal accommodation to marital impermanence, effectively redefining both marital and family law in the process. Social status and professional expectations were liberated from the question of marriage, and many feminists declared that marriage itself was an impediment to the full liberation of women.


And yet, Luscombe ends her argument about the “not as necessary as it used to be” status of marriage with these words — “yet marriage remains revered and desired.” Really? Well, that all depends on how you define reverence and desire.


TIME reports that 40% of Americans believe that marriage is now obsolete, up from 28% in 1978. Cohabitation is now the norm for American adults — not just before marriage, but increasingly instead of marriage. And American cohabitation is an exceedingly weak arrangement. As Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University explains, Americans “have the shortest cohabiting relationships of any wealthy country in the world.” Less than half of all Americans believe that cohabitation is morally wrong.


Divorce is now an institutionalized part of American life, complete now with an industry putting out divorce announcements, greeting cards, and party plans. The American divorce rate, though now somewhat stable, is so disastrously high that even social scientists are shocked. As Professor Cherlin remarked: “One statistic I saw when writing my book that floored me was that a child living together with unmarried parents in Sweden has a lower chance that his family will disrupt than does a child living with married parents in the U.S.”


That statistic should floor all of us.


The TIME/Pew study also revealed more visible contours of the “marriage gap” that has emerged with respect to income and education levels. For most of the twentieth century, the age of one’s first marriage rose for those young adults pursuing a college education, while those without a college education married earlier. That is no longer the case. Now, it is those marked by lower incomes and educational levels who are marrying late — if at all. In a stunning reversal of social patterns, it is the more highly educated who are now more likely to marry. Economic factors are most often cited as the reason for this reversal, but this is not fully convincing. In far more desperate economic times, couples have managed to get married, stay married, and raise a family. Furthermore, as TIME notes, this pattern becomes a formula for disaster, since marriage uniquely provides the stability needed to escape poverty and many social pathologies.


TIME’s cover asks the question straightforwardly — “Who Needs Marriage?” The magazine and its team sought to answer that question “in purely practical terms,” doing their best to leave questions of morality and theology aside. But Christians, who rightly see the practical benefits of marriage as exemplars of common grace, cannot stop there. We believe that humanity needs marriage. God created the institution of marriage — defined on his terms — as the central institution of human society. Marriage was given to us by our Creator as the central institution for sexual relatedness, procreation, and the nurture of children. But, even beyond these goods, God gave us marriage as an institution central to human happiness and flourishing. Rightly understood, marriage is essential even to the happiness and flourishing of the unmarried. It is just that central to human existence, and not by accident.


There is much more to the Pew Research Center’s report, but TIME’s cover story put the most crucial questions before its readers. The question on its cover demands a faithful answer.


Who needs marriage? I do. You do. We all do — and for reasons far more fundamental than can be explained “in purely practical terms.”




>>Court to decide if polygamy laws conflict with rights charter (National Post, 101121)


Canada’s anti-polygamy laws are relics of a bygone era when “Christian norms and values were deemed appropriate,” a British Columbia Supreme Court judge will hear during a much-anticipated constitutional reference hearing that begins on Monday.


Such values are outdated and conflict with today’s multicultural attitudes and with Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. So argues Vancouver lawyer George Macintosh, appointed to challenge this country’s 120-year-old polygamy ban. The Charter and the ban are irreconcilable, he says.


Not at all, insist counsel representing the Attorneys General of Canada and of B.C. And besides, the latter intends to warn Chief Justice Robert Bauman, decriminalizing serial marriage will inevitably lead to an “influx of polygamist families who are presently barred from the country,” including “immigrants from Muslim countries and African cultures.”


These are the broad strokes, outlined in opening statements and filed in court before the special hearing, which Mr. Macintosh describes as “the first cousin to a trial.”


Section 293 of the Criminal Code is seriously flawed, he will argue. Is it even valid?


The challenge springs from B.C.’s trouble with Bountiful, the fundamentalist Mormon community deep in the province’s interior, where polygamy has been practised, virtually unfettered, for decades.


In Bountiful, men have taken multiple wives, in some cases dozens of them, including girls under the age of 16. In Bountiful, the B.C. government has had a longstanding problem.


Polygamy is definitely illegal in Canada. But rarely — only twice, in fact — has the law ever been successfully applied. And never in Bountiful.


Last year, the province tried and failed to prosecute a pair of Bountiful’s leaders, both of them practising polygamists. James Oler and Winston Blackmore control competing fundamentalist Mormon factions that divide the community of 1,000.


But their charges were quashed in September 2009 by another B.C. Supreme Court justice, on the grounds that the province’s Attorney General had earlier lacked authority to seek a charge recommendation from a special prosecutor.


The province had already sought recommendations from two special prosecutors; both had replied that charges might not stick.


Rather than drop the matter, the province settled on a court “reference” to determine the law’s validity. In a reference, opposing positions are put forward, usually before an appellate court that examines matters narrowly confined to law. This case was put before a lower court, so that raw evidence can be heard.


And there will be a lot of it. Forty binders of evidence will be stacked inside a downtown Vancouver courtroom on Monday. On one side of the room will sit lawyers for the Attorneys General. On the other will sit Mr. Macintosh, acting as Amicus Curiae, or “friend of the court.” It’s his job to argue that Section 293 is not consistent with Canada’s Charter.


He will also defend the interests of four interveners in the matter, parties with intimate concerns for the outcome. They include the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), the religious organization that Mr. Oler represents.


A number of FLDS women from Bountiful will appear. The court has agreed to a publication ban request; the women may not be identified, and they will be allowed to testify from behind a screen. They have already filed affidavits with the court that describe their happiness with polygamous life, and how it is a requirement of their particular faith.


Mr. Oler’s leadership rival at Bountiful, Winston Blackmore, has chosen not to participate in the case.


A total of 11 interveners will represent both sides of the debate. They make an eclectic lot. Among the groups challenging the law as it stands is the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association, which supports the practice of having multiple relationships. It has filed supporting affidavits in which middle-aged members extol the virtues of sharing their bedrooms with more than one other. One polyamorist insists that her teenaged children don’t mind her two-male arrangement at all.


Intervening on the opposite side are groups including the Catholic Organization for Life and Family, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation and REAL Women of Canada. The Attorneys General have also retained a number of experts to argue that polygamy causes intolerable harm. In its opening statement to the court, filed earlier this month, the Attorney General of Canada presented this bleak picture:


“Women in polygamous marriages suffer increased psychological, physical and sexual reproductive health harms. They also face material harms including economic and educational deprivation… women in polygamous unions suffer increased family stress, depression, jealousy, low self-esteem, feelings of disempowerment and an increased risk of physical and mental abuse.”


Children of polygamous marriages, meanwhile, “experience lower levels of socioeconomic status, reduced academic achievement, and psychological problems … Early marriage and pregnancy have a number of negative, serious, long-term consequences on girls …”


That may be, says Mr. Macintosh, the Amicus Curiae, but he counters that similar harm can occur in monogamous marriages as well.


Besides arguing that the polygamy ban was originally “aimed at defending a Christian view of proper family life,” and that this view is now obsolete, Mr. Macintosh argues that multiple-marriage can actually benefit practitioners.


One of his experts is Mc-Gill University law professor Angela Campbell; she has made close study of Bountiful women and has recently made research field trips to the community, where she has interviewed dozens of residents, almost all of whom belong to the unrepresented Blackmore faction.


To be sure, these women endure hardships, she writes, but their extent may be exaggerated, particularly in mainstream media and feminist academia. Children of polygamists have been at risk, particularly in the past, she concedes; however, Prof. Campbell notes the practice of Bountiful men taking child brides, girls under the age of legal consent, seems to be a thing of past, albeit not too distant.


Moreover, it would be a mistake “to believe that all polygamous marriages are abusive,” Prof. Campbell asserts in an affidavit she made for the court.


“Women from Bountiful have spoken out publicly in support of their lifestyle, firmly maintaining that they have made enlightened and active choices in regard to marriage and family relationships and responsibilities.”


“Sister wives” help one another and keep a firm grip on household finances, among other things. The “guy” in the relationship, one Bountiful woman told Prof. Campbell, just goes out and works.


But the Attorney General of B.C. points out that its argument “does not rely on proof that the negative experiences of wives and children of polygamy are present in every case.”


In his opening statement, Crown lawyer Craig Jones “concedes there can be purely consensual, adult polygamy that involves no discernible harm to the participants (and presumably confers some advantages upon them).”


However, he adds, “the harms do exist, and the possibility that the vulnerable persons will suffer harm from an activity even if many or most do not is sufficient to permit Parliament to invoke the criminal law power.”


And he adds this: “The fact that socially imposed monogamy is so deeply imbedded in the moral fabric of our society cannot be dismissed lightly.”


Even if it is an old-fashioned notion.


The hearing is scheduled to finish at the end of January.




>>Survey Examines Protestant Preaching on Marriage, Abortion (Christian Post, 091124)


NASHVILLE, Tenn. – With last Friday’s release of the Manhattan Declaration – a 4,700-word statement from evangelical, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox signers declaring their commitment to the sanctity of human life, biblical marriage and religious liberty – newly released data from LifeWay Research describe the beliefs of Protestant pastors on these issues, and how often they discuss them in church.


In a telephone survey of 1,002 senior church leaders conducted in October 2008, Protestant pastors who identified themselves as politically conservative or very conservative are more likely to speak to their churches on homosexuality and the unborn than their liberal counterparts, according to Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research.


Eighty-nine percent of very conservative Protestant pastors said they speak to their churches at least once a year on the unborn, and 79% indicated they address the topic of homosexuality about once a year or more often. This compares with 25% of liberal or very liberal pastors who address the issue of the unborn at least annually, and 53% who speak on the topic of homosexuality.


“When you use the language ‘the unborn’ in your question, it impacts your answer,” said Stetzer. “Sixty-five percent of all Protestant pastors, regardless of political ideology, talk about the unborn at least once a year. When you filter out the number who would be pro-choice but perhaps would not use that language, 80% are speaking on it at least once a year.”


Most Protestant pastors whose political ideology is conservative do not believe gay marriage should be legal, but almost half of liberal pastors do. Ninety-nine percent of very conservatives surveyed strongly disagree with the statement, “I believe gay marriage should be legal,” compared with 16% of pastors who are liberal or very liberal.


“It appears that Protestant pastors are much more vocal about the unborn than about the issue of homosexuality,” said Stetzer. “It is interesting to note that in many cases their fervency of belief does not line up with their frequency of comments. For example, 42% of all Protestant pastors rarely or never speak on the subject.”


On the issue of the unborn, 98% of very conservative pastors describe themselves as pro-life, compared with 14% of pastors who are liberal or very liberal.


When forced to choose, three-fourths of all Protestant pastors surveyed said they are pro-life, and 13% said they are pro-choice.


Stetzer noted, “Although the self-identified liberal clergy indicate different views, the vast majority of Protestant pastors consider themselves pro-life.”


More than politics


Among pastors who speak to their congregations on homosexuality several times a year or more, 84% also speak on poverty that often. This is significantly higher than among pastors who rarely or never speak on homosexuality, of whom 78% speak on poverty several times a year or more.


Likewise, among pastors who speak to their church on the unborn several times a year or more, 85% also speak on poverty that often.


“Many will debate which is the driving force: the political beliefs or religious beliefs of these pastors,” Stetzer said. “The fact is that most pastors who speak up on the unborn and homosexuality also speak up on poverty and consider Scripture their authority.”


Among pastors who strongly disagree that gay marriage should be legal, 98% strongly agree with the statement “Our church considers Scripture to be the authority for our church and our lives.” In contrast, among pastors who do not strongly disagree that gay marriage should be legal, 71% strongly agree that Scripture is their authority.


Similar differences occur between pro-life and pro-choice pastors. Ninety-seven percent of pro-life pastors, compared to 65% of pro-choice pastors, strongly agree with the above statement regarding Scriptural authority. Also, 97% of pastors who speak to their church on the unborn several times a year or more strongly agree Scripture is their authority.




**Is Cohabitation the Modern Version of Marriage? (, 101122)

Janice Shaw Crouse


According to the latest Census report, the number of cohabiting couples escalated from 6.7 million in 2009 to 7.5 million just one year later in 2010. Living together has become today’s “normative experience,” with nearly 50% of young adults aged twenty to forty cohabiting. Moreover, the percentage of women in their late 30s who said that they had cohabited at least once reached 48% in 1995. While increasingly common among college students and young professionals — even Prince William and Kate Middleton, who have just announced their engagement, have been living together in Wales — cohabitation is significantly more prevalent among those who are less well-educated and poor.


For many American young people, cohabitation is considered to be a low-cost, no-hassle alternative to marriage, a “test-drive” in some cases, or more often merely an exciting fling of no great consequence. Sadly, they have bought into the seductive cohabitation mythology. It is commonplace to hear them parroting the following specious arguments: (1) Living together is a “trial marriage” to “test the waters” to see if the couple is “compatible.” (2) Young couples cannot afford to get married; they need to wait until they are financially secure and their careers are well-established. (3) A girl should be able to have the big, expensive wedding that fulfills her childhood dreams. And on and on the deceptive fable gets spun.


Many blame the current economy for the drastic increase (a 13% rate that will double the numbers in only 6 years) in cohabitation — and it is true that there was a 10%age point increase in the number of unemployed men who chose to cohabit instead of get married (14% in 2009 vs. 24% in 2010). However, the problem began long before today’s recession. There has been a dramatic increase (skyrocketing nearly 1,000% since 1970) in couples who live together without marriage and currently nearly two-thirds of couples who get married have already lived together prior to their wedding.


The trend toward cohabitation is producing a cultural transformation that has profound ramifications for both individuals and communities. Young people have been told that having sex is “no big deal,” therefore, moving in and living together without a commitment (a.k.a., no strings attached) is more prevalent, as is an accompanying casual acceptance of recreational sex. Of American women born before the 1960s, a little less than half (48%) experienced premarital sex by age twenty. But among those born in the 1990s who had had sex before marriage by age twenty, the proportion had risen to nearly 3 out of 4 (75%).


The truth is that only a fraction — barely 10% — of cohabiting couples are able to move on to build a strong, happy marriage that lasts a lifetime. More typically, cohabitation is preparation for divorce, rather than training for marriage. The two household arrangements (cohabitation and marriage) are decidedly different, and that is why the vast majority of couples who live together before getting married end up divorced; the divorce rates of women who cohabit are nearly 80% higher than the rates of those who do not. Consequently, the majority of cohabiting relationships do not end in marriage, as was previously the case. During the 1970s, about 60% of cohabiting couples married each other within three years, but this proportion has since declined to less than 40%. The research shows that cohabiting relationships in the United States tend to be fragile and relatively short in duration; less than half of cohabiting relationships last five or more years. Typically, living-together relationships last about eighteen months.


There are those who see no problem with this change in household arrangement and family structure. They argue that the quality of relationships in a household is more important than the “piece of paper” that constitutes, in their minds, the only difference between marriage and cohabitation. Family structure, in other words, is irrelevant in their view. But they fail to take into account the interaction that exists between the forms of relationship — particularly the degree of commitment expressed from the beginning — and the quality of the relationship that the couple builds based on their commitment to each other.


Our present situation is a product of a tangle of factors that have brought us to the point where more and more young people, because they have seen too much divorce and too many miserable marriages, do not believe in lasting love or in marriage. Dr. Neil Clark Warren interviewed 500 individuals, asking them to tell him about the marriage they most admired. Nearly half could not recommend even one single healthy, exemplary marriage. Little wonder today’s youth are trying to find an alternative to bad marriages, but they need to look at the evidence. University of Michigan researcher Pamela Smock warns: “Premarital cohabitation tends to be associated with lower marital quality and increased risk of divorce.”


Marriage Savers, founded by Mike and Harriett McManus, is having incredible success in changing community attitudes and teaching young people the value of embracing marriage rather than settling for living together with its predictable negative outcomes. In the first 114 cities where they have worked with local pastors to change attitudes, cohabitation rates have fallen by one-third, compared to similar cities in that state. In addition, marriage rates have gone up, and divorce rates have declined. As the world focuses on the upcoming marriage of Britain’s Prince William and Catherine Middleton, young people would do well to look at the evidence and agree that marriage is the best, time-tested household arrangement for both men and women, and especially for children. Within the committed bonds of marriage, couples have their best hope for the kind of close and fulfilling relationship that most young people say that they want.




**Co-Habitation in America Jumps Up 13% (Christian Post, 100927)


The number of unmarried couples living together rose 13% from the previous year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.



This year, there are 7.5 million opposite-sex unmarried couples living together – up from 6.7 million in 2009, reported the bureau on Thursday. The year before had witnessed a two percent drop after a five percent rise in co-habiting couples between 2007 and 2008.


Demographers say a poor job market is likely a factor in the rise of co-habiting couples in 2010.


According to 2010 data, unmarried couples who recently began living together usually have one partner unemployed. Only 49% of cohabiting couples this year are ones where both partners are employed. This figure is down from 59% in 2008 and 52% in 2009.


“Pooling resources by moving in together may be one method of coping with extended unemployment of one of the partners,” said Rose Kreider, a demographer in the Housing and Household Economic Statistics Division at the Census Bureau, according to Agence France-Presse.


Kreider noted the sharp rise in co-habiting this year – three years after the official beginning of the Great Recession, is likely due to people “exhausting” other ways to stay financially afloat – unemployment benefits, saved money, available credit, or assistance from friends and family.


For many churches, the rise in the cohabiting trend is troubling given their belief that couples should live together after marriage.


To combat the trend, some churches have offered free mass weddings to cohabiting couples.


Trinity Fellowship Church, a megachurch in Amarillo, Texas, organized a nearly $3,000 event called “The Big Summer Wedding” last year designed to get couples who are living together to the altar. In total, 32 couples were married by the senior elder at the church.


“Our goal was pretty simple – we wanted to help couples,” said Matt Spears, executive pastor of Ministry Development at Trinity, to The Christian Post. “We believe in marriage – one man and one woman – living in covenant with one another.”


Spears lamented over how so many people are living together and having kids together while also, for whatever reason, running away from marriage


“Many couples are not getting married for fear of failure; others are not getting married simply because they do not have the means to do so,” he said.


According to the Census Bureau’s latest data there is a much higher rate of cohabiting couples in the South (38%) than in the West (23.2%), the Midwest ( 15.8%), or in the Northeast (15.8%). And newly formed cohabiting couples were younger than already established ones.


Meanwhile, the number of same-sex couples living together this year wasn’t statistically different from a 2008 estimate.




**Marry Outside the Faith? The Logic of Christian Marriage (Christian Post, 100729)

By R. Albert Mohler, Jr.


Statistics indicate that a growing number of Americans are marrying someone from outside their own religious commitments. Is this a trend we should encourage? Not if you are committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


The statistical trend is clear enough, but the question is more complex than may first appear. The Washington Post reported on June 6, 2010 that 25% of American households were mixed-faith in 2006, according to the General Social Survey. That represents a significant increase from the 15% of such households in 1988.


But, what does mixed-faith mean? It could mean the mixing of relatively similar Christian denominations, or it might mean the mixing of two very different systems of belief.


As Naomi Schaefer Riley reported, “In a paper published in 1993, Evelyn Lehrer, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that if members of two mainline Christian denominations marry, they have a one in five chance of being divorced in five years. A Catholic and a member of an evangelical denomination have a one in three chance. And a Jew and a Christian who marry have a greater than 40% chance of being divorced in five years.”


That paper by Professor Lehrer is truly interesting. In “Religious Intermarriage in the United States: Determinants and Trends,” published in the journal Social Science Research, Lehrer acknowledged that the span of differences “corresponds to a continuous variable.” In other words, there is a huge difference between a marriage where a Presbyterian marries an Anglican and one in which a Baptist marries a Mormon.


Lehrer defined a couple as religiously intermarried if, for example, an Evangelical marries a Roman Catholic, or a spouse allied with a liberal Protestant denomination marries someone from “an exclusivist group.” She then allowed, “Unions involving members of two ecumenical Protestant denominations are treated as homogamous.”


All this points to a very interesting pattern. Part of the rise in the statistics about mixed-faith marriages is due to the increasing secularization of the liberal Protestant churches and denominations. To that must be added the huge increase in interfaith marriages among liberal Jews, and the more ecumenically minded among other religious bodies.


Lehrer documented the fact that the more conservative faiths were not intermarrying at rates anywhere near the more liberal groups - and for understandable reasons. When the level of doctrinal commitment is low, the barriers to interfaith marriage are correspondingly far less significant.


Nevertheless, even with all this taken into account, it turns out that marrying outside the faith is one of the most significant risk factors for divorce. Citing the American Religious Identification Survey of 2001, Riley reported that “people who had been in mixed-religion marriages were three times more likely to be divorced or separated than those who were in same-religion marriages.” Riley referred to this fact as “an open secret among academics.”


Professor Lehrer described what she called the “large destabilizing effects” associated with mixed-faith marriages. Why is an interfaith marriage at such risk? The answer, in terms of the academic perspective of Professor Lehrer, is that “religion influences many activities that husband and wife perform jointly.”


Or, as Naomi Schaefer Riley observed, “The differences between husband and wife start to add up.” Seen in the context of the decisions that couples have to make in the course of life together, this is surely an understatement.


Putting all this together, it is clear that theological differences really do matter. These belief systems develop into worldviews that do have real consequences. It is not primarily a matter of which holidays the family observes, but how the children are raised, how the major decisions of life are framed, how the priorities of the couple are aligned.


The sociological evidence points in one clear direction - toward the inherent instability of true mixed-faith marriages. Even among the more liberally minded, the tensions remain.


For Christians, the issue is not settled by sociological data, however. In 2 Corinthians 6:14, the Apostle Paul commands that Christians must “not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.” This command reaches far beyond marriage, but it certainly includes the covenant of marriage within its span. Paul’s principle is clear: The Christian’s commitment to Christ is determinative of his or her other commitments. A believer must not marry an unbeliever, for this violates the very logic of the Gospel and the believer’s union with Christ.


The believer in Christ acknowledges him as Savior and Lord, with an allegiance that exceeds any earthly commitment. When two believers are married, they share this mutual commitment and are commonly dedicated to the Lordship of Christ. Their worldviews and allegiances merge into the strength of mutual discipleship, and the big questions of life are answered by their common faith in Christ.


In contrast, the mixed-faith marriage lacks this mutuality of faith and commitment. Worldview divergences and issues of contrasting beliefs are almost surely to hit where they matter most - in relation to the most significant questions of life.


The sociological research presents a clear case for social concern, but the Christian case against mixed-faith marriage emerged long before the academic discipline of sociology. That case is rooted in the logic of the Gospel itself, and in the reality of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The Christian case against mixed-faith marriage does not end with the question of marital survival or divorce. To the contrary, the Christian concern about marriage has nothing less than eternity in view.




**Evangelical: ‘Separation’ for Married Couples Can be a Good Thing (Christian Post, 100604)


“Separation” for the Gores may serve as the “salvation” for their marriage as they take a breather, said an evangelical marriage expert.


Though Focus on the Family marriage expert Glenn Stanton says it’s becoming clearer that the trajectory of Al and Tipper Gore’s marriage is more in the divorce direction, he pointed out that the famous couple hasn’t used the D-word just yet.


“It’s important to understand the difference, not necessarily that separation doesn’t lead to divorce but that separation is not necessarily divorce,” he told The Christian Post Wednesday. “Divorce is the absolute death of marriage.


“Separation can sometimes be the salvation of a marriage to give the relationship some intensive emergency breathing time to allow the couple to take a second look at their marriage ... and to intentionally work on the problems that are facing the couple.”


After being together for 40 years, the Gores announced to family and friends this week that “after a great deal of thought and discussion” they “decided to separate.”


The decision was mutual, they said, and they do not intend to comment further on it.


As some try to speculate the cause of the Gores’ separation after decades of a seemingly solid marriage, Stanton believes the former U.S. vice president’s tremendous success financially and professionally following his political career may be a factor.


“Success in some sense can be a very dramatic failure to a marriage,” he said. “One of the things that brings couples close together is working together to achieve what they want to achieve. There’s a bonding mechanism when you’re trying to find success in what you’re trying to find success in.


“Once they’ve achieved, or one or the other has achieved it, that’s when marriages can fall apart.”


“Looking at the biblical side of things ... that is caring for the success of your career, your financial world more than the marriage itself,” he added.


Stanton, who has been with Focus on the Family since 1993, made clear that the Scriptural justifications for divorce is when the covenant of the relationship has been broken – that is through sexual infidelity or desertion.


“Beyond that, you’d have to be pretty creative with Scripture to justify [divorce],” he said.


But in light of the Gores’ much-talked-about announcement, Stanton wants to relay what he feels is a very important but rarely stated message to Christians.


Separation, he said, “can actually be a very pro-marriage action.”


Largely, the decision among couples has usually come down to either you’re happy in your marriage or you divorce. And people haven’t really appreciated the pro-marriage value that separation can be, he lamented.


The church community hasn’t helped much either in this matter.


Traditionally in churches, couples have had to put on a happy face and hide marriage troubles, the long-time marriage expert noted. But many churches and Christians are beginning to take a more realistic view of marriage and “they’re more dissatisfied with the ‘let’s just act like everything’s OK’ attitude,” he said.


Announcing to the community that everything’s not hunky-dory allows friends and family to step up and help couples cross the finish line, he noted.


“There’s no shame in admitting that ‘our marriage is less than we’re putting on,’” Stanton commented.


And being open and transparent does not set out for more failed marriages. Rather, it could lead to more successful marriages, he stressed.


“When a marriage is plagued with a kind of illness, we just kind of cover over it and pretend it’s not there ... [and] it’s going to get worse.”


Since Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson left the ministry earlier this year, the Colorado Springs-based organization has noticeably taken on a softer and less divisive image.


Stanton said there has been “no change whatsoever” in how they’re doing things and addressing issues but there is a change in tone.


“It’s not that we’re running away from things. In fact, quite the opposite,” he said. “There are a lot of issues that we have always been about but we will do it more in a conversational way, that we will engage our opponents in a more conversational way.”


“It really comes down to two different callings. Dr. Dobson clearly had a prophetic calling and there is a place for that in the Kingdom of God and Focus on the Family. But God is really taking Focus on the Family to its next stage and that is where Jim Daly (president) is more of a pastoral and evangelistic [leader].”


After transferring the leadership of Focus on the Family to Daly, Dobson started a new radio ministry called Family Talk last month. He told supporters that he has no intention of taking a “softer, gentler” approach and will continue to speak out boldly on issues such as abortion and marriage.




**The Church Needs A Marriage Apologetic (Christian Post, 090506)


Since the election of President Obama, marriage has been under a relentless assault as proponents of same-sex marriage sense the tide of public opinion turning in their favor. The new White House website, which was posted on the day of President Obama’s inauguration, calls for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. In relatively quick succession, the Iowa and Connecticut state supreme courts declared same-sex marriage legal and Vermont became the first state to pass same-sex marriage through their legislature. The people of Iowa have yet to have their say in the matter and it is likely, if the legislature will allow it, there will be a constitutional amendment protecting marriage on a future Iowa ballot that will pass with plenty of votes to spare.


While it is true same-sex marriage activists suffered a major setback in California with the passage of Proposition 8, they haven’t lost heart because recent national poll numbers suggest traditional marriage may be on the way out. Two very biased polls, one conducted by CBS News and the other conducted by Newsweek, suggest that support for same-sex marriage is surging. The CBS poll reported forty-two percent believed same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry while only twenty-eight percent said they should have no legal recognition. The poll also revealed twenty-five percent would support civil unions. What CBS fails to mention is that those who favor no legal recognition and those who favor civil unions both agree that same-sex couples should not be allowed to legally marry. That means the split is actually forty-two percent in favor of same-sex marriage and fifty-three percent opposed. But of course the reader comes away from the presentation of the date believing the majority favor same-sex marriage.


The Newsweek poll skews the numbers in a similar way, combining those who approve of civil unions with those who approve full marriage benefits to create the illusion that a majority of Americans are now favor of full marriage rights for homosexual couples. But a close look at the numbers shows those who are in favor of civil unions oppose full marriage rights.


The latest and most extensive polling data comes from Quinnipiac University and offers some encouragement for those who believe in biblical marriage. The poll, released last Thursday, is based on a survey of 2,041 registered voters nationwide and claims to be one of the most comprehensive polls ever on the attitudes of Americans on a variety of gay-rights questions. The poll found strong support for the protection of traditional marriage with fifty-five percent favoring a ban on same-sex marriage in their state and only thirty-seven percent approving.


But other questions concerning homosexuals did not turn out so well for those who hold to traditional, biblical values. Fifty-six percent said the ban on gays in the military should be repealed while just thirty-seven percent supported the current ban. Perhaps the most disappointing result came in the form of the answer to the question about gay adoption. Fifty-three percent believed homosexual couples should be allowed to adopt while forty percent support a ban against same-sex adoptions.


How did we get to this point in our culture? Just twenty-five years ago almost eighty-percent of Americans were opposed to homosexual unions of any kind and homosexual couples adopting children was unthinkable. How have we strayed so far, so fast from God’s Word on homosexual behavior?


I believe there are two causes for this incredible shift in cultural attitudes toward sexual behavior. First, people are bombarded today with pro-homosexual images in the culture through movies, television, the Internet, and through the mainstream news media. The public school system is busy teaching future generations about Heather’s two mommies and what it means to have two dads. The end result is being gay is now cool to a whole generation of Americans.


The second fault for shifting values on sexuality falls squarely on the teaching of the local church. Many churches have abandoned their “watchman on the wall” roll in the culture leaving their leaders fearful of preaching the whole counsel of God’s Word concerning the sin of homosexuality. Many have abandoned the defense of the traditional family and therefore, the defense of marriage for fear of alienating the lost people they are trying to reach. While radical homosexual advocates continue to shout down those like Carrie Prejean, (Miss California) who dare to publically express their support for the traditional family, the pulpits of America barley speak above a whisper when it comes to a biblical defense of traditional marriage.


For now, a slim majority of Americans still believe biblical marriage should be protected by law. However, there is a strong and disturbing trend toward the acceptance of same-sex marriage. If that trend is going to be reversed, the reversal must begin with a powerful, Spirit-filled, and spirited defense of marriage from the churches. Christian pastors, teachers, and other church leaders need to find their prophetic voice, speaking the truth in love to a generation that is on the verge of embracing a lie.




Churches in deal over moral code (London Times, 000316)


TEACHERS will have a duty to tell pupils about the importance of both marriage and “stable relationships” under a compromise between ministers and bishops over the scrapping of Section 28.


Under the deal to be announced today, schools will for the first time also have a statutory responsibility to encourage teenagers to abstain from sexual activity. Parents will win the right to be consulted over how their children are taught about sex, and inappropriate and over-explicit material will be banned.


The package is designed to assuage the fears of both Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches over the abolition of the Section 28 ban on councils promoting homosexuality in schools. But it is is not expected to satisfy many peers who want greater protection for children.


They voiced concerns last night that the phrase “stable relationships” could allow teachers to promote homosexuality. And they said that while the House of Lords might accept the compromise next week, it could still reject any attempt to repeal Section 28.


Ministers and church leaders have been negotiating over the issue since the Lords threw out the repeal of Section 28 last month. The Churches have succeeded in placing a statutory duty on the Government to issue guidance on sex education and on schools to teach the importance of marriage.


But a Cabinet row has forced David Blunkett, the Education and Employment Secretary, to add that that “stable relationships” - as well as marriages - are “key building blocks of society”.


Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary, and Baroness Jay of Paddington, the Minister for Women, were both concerned that the amendment might undermine efforts to use effective sex education to combat teenage pregnancies, and Chris Smith, the homosexual Culture Secretary, is understood to have felt that the amendment placed too much emphasis on heterosexuality.


The compromise will be contained in an amendment to the Learning and Skills Bill and a new set of guidance for schools on sex education. Both will be considered by peers next Thursday when the Bill has its third reading. Ministers hope that they will satisfy peers’ concerns about the loss of Section 28 so that they accept the Government’s next attempt to repeal the measure when it returns to the Lords.


Today’s amendment will set out five broad objectives for sex education in schools. It is expected to say that pupils should learn about “the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and for the bringing up of children”, and “the significance of marriage and stable relationships as key building blocks of community and society”. Other objectives include the need for children to “learn to respect themselves and others”, to have “accurate information for the purposes of enabling them to understand difference and prevent or remove prejudice”, and to be “protected from inappropriate teaching and materials”.


The amendment will also contain three wider objectives for secondary schoolchildren: that they should learn to understand human sexuality, the reasons for delaying sexual activity, and about obtaining appropriate advice on sexual health.


Sources close to Mr Blunkett said the amendment would ensure that schools could play their part in cutting thousands of unwanted teenage pregnancies.


But it would also reassure parents that they would have a say in what their children are taught. The amendment is expected to say: “Inappropriate images should not be used, nor should explicit material not directly related to explanation. Governors and head teachers should discuss with parents and take on board concerns raised.”


Stonewall, the gay lobby group, welcomed the amendment because it acknowledged the need to respect different family backgrounds. “To us, family life is as much gay and lesbian family life as it is anything else,” a spokeswoman said. “The most important thing is that they acknowledge respect for difference and the removal of prejudice.”




Marriage in England (London Times, 010209)


Ruth Gledhill Click “Back tomain index”, top left, to read recent Q&As and to see who is coming next to Talking Point


Q: Marriage is still the only relationship that is worth the effort. I think that the churches are in fact losing. The reason, I believe, is that marriage is a relationship looked on more as an economic unit now, than as the joining of two people in the eyes of God. Rod Trice, Australia


A: On the marriage front the churches are losing out to economics, it is true. But in Britain, more so since the abolition of the married couple’s tax allowance, marriage is no longer looked upon as an economic arrangement either. In fact it is difficult today to see why anyone should bother to get married. It is no longer considered sinful to have a child out of wedlock. The Church of England has recommended that the phrase “living in sin” be abandoned.


However, there is still an incentive in some cases for people to marry. Where marriage as an economic unit is still going strong is in the arrangements between wealthy men in their dotage and very young women. Of course these women marry these men for “love”, but when did you ever see a beautiful teenage girl married to an 80-year-old retired bus driver?


Q: Are the churches saying anything against the attack on marriage? The Church of England condones the actions of Prince Charles, the future Defender of the Faith, and rarely speaks up in favour of marriage. Why? David Hargreaves (address withheld)


A: Although a few individuals have voiced opinions, the Church of England as a body has never condoned the actions of the Prince of Wales in regard to his marital endeavours, but neither has it condemned him. Recently, the church has published some significant new reports which argue forcibly in favour of marriage. There are even indications that it might take the unprecedented step of allowing second marriages after divorce in church where a former spouse is still living. These reports can be read on the church’s website


Q: How long can the churches hold the line against allowing divorcées to remarry in church? Paul Jones, Swansea, Wales


A: Not long at all. Vicars used to complain constantly that couples only wanted to marry in their churches to obtain pretty photographs, and never subsequently darkened the door. Now these complainants have had their just deserts because the new Marriage Act has made it possible to marry in many beautiful and extraodinary locations such as castles and stately homes. Church weddings are at a rock bottom low as a result. The church is considering all kinds of changes to try and get couples walking up the aisles again - second marriages after divorce and changing the residentiary requirements among them.


Q: Should the Catholic church abandon the vow of celibacy for parish priests and allow them to marry? Would that not be the best guard against sexual scandal, and the attraction to the church by those of deviant sexual persuasion? John Battle, Maidestone, England


A: The Roman Catholic Church in England already has a significant number of married priests. They are former Anglicans who left the Church of England after it voted to ordain women priests. They were ordained as Catholic priests and were permitted to keep their wives and children. In the Orthodox church also priests, but not bishops, are allowed to marry. Clearly the Catholic church should adopt an Orthodox model at least. Priests should be allowed to choose.


The link between sexual scandal and celibacy is unproven. A more legitimate link could be made between the celibacy requirement and the huge fall in priestly vocations in the West.


Q: How far is the Church of England from sanctioning gay marriage? I believe blessings of gay unions are now performed by some priests. Marjorie Blakestone, West London, England


A: A few bishops and a significant number of priests believe the Church of England should at least provide a service of blessing for gay “marriages”. Some are already doing them on the qt. An official service of blessing for gay unions might not be too far away but it is unlikely to come up during the present quinquennium, as the newly-elected General Synod is pretty conservative.


However, to sanction gay marriage as a legal entity itself is a different order altogether. The Church would only consider doing so if a lead were to be set by the State.


Q: As someone who is “co-habiting” (a horrible term), what can the church offer me that I don’t have already? I am happy in my relationship, have commitment and have children. I don’t need a religious body to endorse my relationship. The church, as far as I’m concerned, has lost the battle. Katherine Jennings, Chester, England


A: Yes co-habiting is a horrible term. My parents always preferred the phrase “living in sin” because it meant they could make jokes about their four sins-in-law. In any case, all four of us did eventually marry. A friend of mine has just, reluctantly, got married two months before her first baby is due. As a communist, she was, in principle opposed to marriage. But she and her partner were persuaded when her father pointed out that if she died in an accident or, say, found herself on life support in a hospital, it would create fewer legal complications for the baby and the baby’s father if they were married.


Q: The coming National Marriage Week surely denigrates long-term relationships. Don’t you think that politicians, latching on to such a concept, will make the same mistake as John Major in his “back to basics” campaign? People don’t want to be dictated to about “values”. By giving tax incentives to married couples and concentrating on the issue of stability for children, they’re barking up the wrong tree. Stable relationships, not just marriage, should be promoted. John Greenberg (address withheld)


A: There are many confused messages coming from the Government at present. There is pressure on mothers both to stay at home and to go out to work. There is pressure on fathers to be both providers and house-husbands. There is pressure to be in a married relationship and there is pressure to regard all relationships as equally valid. What is not being addressed in all this is the question of love. All any indidivual can do, in the current morass of moral confusion, is follow their hearts.


Q: What choice do I have now? My marriage was a four minute ceremony in a register office. I’m 26, I have my whole life ahead of me, but there is a child. Should I stick with her for the sake of another life? (Name and address withheld)


A: It would be best to seek advice from your local social services department. They make every attempt to keep birth families together, but could provide some respite care while you make up your mind, or simply to help you cope. There are many brilliant foster carers out there, unsung heros and heroins of society who fulfil basic need such as that which you describe for parents and children throughout the country. Social workers have had a bad press recently, but most are wonderful people who do all they can to put the needs of both children and their birth parents first. In addition, under new Human Rights legislation, birth parents have significant rights and it would be worth checking these out at your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by asking for help.




Unwed couples not entitled to asset split: court (Ottawa Citizen, 021220)


Common-law partners don’t have to be included in provincial matrimonial law


Unlike married couples, common-law partners do not have a guaranteed right to a 50-50 split of assets when their relationships collapse, says the Supreme Court of Canada.


Estranged cohabitants can duke it out in court, but provincial matrimony property laws do not have to be expanded to automatically cover people who don’t tie the knot, the court ruled in an 8-1 decision.


Justice Michel Bastarache concluded “choice must be paramount” for couples who have not legally wed.


“With married couples there is a permanent and reciprocal life commitment,” Judge Bastarache wrote for the majority. “Unmarried couples do not make that same commitment, and rights and duties akin to marriage should not as a result follow.”


The province of Nova Scotia won its challenge against Susan Walsh, who spent several years in court fighting for half of her ex-partner’s assets when their 10-year union fell apart.


The case could have high stakes for a growing number of common-law relationships because most provinces do not have laws guaranteeing an automatic right to shared assets.


“This totally disenfranchises literally hundreds of thousands of people,” said Kathy Briand, Ms. Walsh’s lawyer. “I think it is going to have a very negative effect on women and children, for sure, because they are, by and large, the parties in common-law relationships who don’t have any assets when the relationship breaks down.”


The case was the last for Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé, who retired last summer, but wound up her career with a trademark spirited dissent.


A staunch advocate for society’s most vulnerable, she stressed a crucial flaw in the majority’s logic: that many people are stuck in common-law relationships because their partners refuse to marry.


“To deny them a remedy because their partner chooses to avoid certain consequences creates a situation of exploitation,” wrote Judge L’Heureux-Dubé.


Judge Bastarache acknowledged that inequities exist among some cohabitants that can result in unfairness at the end of the relationships. But that is not enough to entitle common-law couples to win constitutional protection on the grounds they are less worthy of respect or less valuable members of society, he reasoned.


“All cohabitants are deemed to have the liberty to make fundamental choices in their lives,” he wrote.


In Canada, only the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and most recently Saskatchewan automatically include unmarried cohabitants in their matrimonial property laws.


Three other provinces — British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Quebec — allow cohabitating couples to register their unions and include a plan for property division in the event of separation.


In the rest of the provinces, an equal division of assets applies only to married couples. However, common-law couples are not excluded from federal and provincial benefits’ packages.


The Supreme Court’s decision overturns the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, which sided with Ms. Walsh by ruling that excluding her from the province’s Matrimonial Property Act was a violation of her Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee to equality.


In response, Nova Scotia modernized laws in 2000 by allowing common-law couples who have lived together for one year, including same-sex partners, to decide whether they want to register their relationships to have the same benefits and responsibilities as married couples.


B.C. and Quebec have the same system, and several other provinces are considering the prospect.


Ms. Walsh’s road to the Supreme Court of Canada began in 1984 when she was an outreach worker in Dartmouth, N.S. and met Wayne Bona, a community support worker.


They moved in together a year later and had two children, Edwin in 1988 and Patrick in 1990.


When the couple moved to rural Nova Scotia in 1988 for Mr. Bona’s new job, Ms. Walsh quit work to raise their children.


The couple split up in 1995 and Ms. Walsh was stunned to learn she was excluded from the province’s Matrimonial Property Act, which she argued deprived her family of financial protection.




Common law not equal to marriage (Ottawa Citizen, 021220)


Unmarried couples denied right to 50/50 asset split


OTTAWA - The Supreme Court has ruled that common-law partners do not have a guaranteed right to a 50-50 split of assets when their relationships end, a decision critics say will have a devastating effect on hundreds of thousands of women and children.


In an 8-1 decision, the court found estranged cohabitants can fight it out in court, but provincial matrimony property laws do not have to be expanded to automatically cover people who are not married.


Justice Michel Bastarache concluded “choice must be paramount” for couples who have not legally wed.


“With married couples there is a permanent and reciprocal life commitment,” Justice Bastarache wrote for the majority. “Unmarried couples do not make that same commitment and rights and duties akin to marriage should not as a result follow.”


The province of Nova Scotia won its challenge against Susan Walsh, who spent several years in court fighting for half of her former partner’s assets when their 10-year union fell apart.


The case could have high stakes for a growing number of common-law relationships because most provinces do not have laws guaranteeing an automatic right to shared assets.


“This totally disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of people,” said Kathy Briand, Ms. Walsh’s lawyer. “I think it is going to have a very negative effect on women and children, for sure, because they are, by and large, the parties in common-law relationships who don’t have any assets when the relationship breaks down.”


The case was the last one ever for Justice Claire L’Heureux-Dubé, who retired last summer but wound up her career with a trademark spirited dissent. An advocate for society’s most vulnerable, she said there is a crucial flaw in the majority’s logic: that many people are stuck in common-law relationships because their partners refuse to marry.


“To deny them a remedy because their partner chooses to avoid certain consequences creates a situation of exploitation,” wrote Justice L’Heureux-Dubé.


Judge Bastarache acknowledged that inequities exist among some cohabitants that can result in unfairness at the end of the relationships. But that is not enough to entitle common-law couples to win constitutional protection on the grounds they are less worthy of respect or less valuable members of society, he reasoned.


“All cohabitants are deemed to have the liberty to make fundamental choices in their lives,” he wrote.


In Canada, only the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and, most recently, Saskatchewan automatically include unmarried cohabitants in their matrimonial property laws.


Three other provinces — British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Quebec — allow cohabitating couples to register their unions and include a plan for property division in the event of collapse.


In the rest of the provinces, an equal division of assets only applies to married couples. However, common-law couples are not excluded from federal and provincial benefits packages.


The Supreme Court’s decision overturns the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, which sided with Ms. Walsh by ruling that excluding her from the province’s Matrimonial Property Act was a violation of her Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee to equality.


In response, Nova Scotia modernized laws in 2000 by allowing common-law couples who have lived together for one year, including same-sex partners, to decide whether they want to register their relationships to have the same benefits and responsibilities as married couples.


British Columbia and Quebec have the same system and several other provinces are considering the prospect.


Ms. Walsh’s road to the Supreme Court of Canada began in 1984 when she was an outreach worker in Dartmouth, N.S., and met Wayne Bona, a community support worker.


They moved in together a year later and had two children, Edwin in 1988 and Patrick in 1990.


When the couple moved to rural Nova Scotia in 1988 for Mr. Bona’s new job, Ms. Walsh quit work to raise their children.


The couple split up in 1995, and Ms. Walsh was stunned to learn she was excluded from the province’s Matrimonial Property Act, which she argued deprived her family of financial protection.


The couple have since settled their dispute, so the ruling does not affect them.


Ontario and Alberta, which intervened in the case, agreed with Nova Scotia that marriage is the reasonable marker for who should be included in matrimonial property laws.




Church lifts ban on remarriage of divorcees (London Times, 021112)


By Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent


DIVORCEES will be able to remarry in Anglican churches from this weekend after bishops and clergy both voted yesterday to lift a ban on traditional marriage services for those whose former partners are still alive.


In an overwhelming vote at the start of the General Synod, meetings of bishops, clergy and laity chose to rescind church law. Although they did not mention the Prince of Wales, the move would make it easier for him to marry Camilla Parker Bowles in church if they wished.


Traditionalist clergy said that the vote would make it appear as if traditional teaching that marriage was for life was being eroded, but church leaders insisted that teaching on marriage was unchanged and that traditionalists would be able to opt out of marrying divorcees. The Bishop of Winchester, the Right Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, said: “Bishops will continue to respect and uphold the position of clergy in their dioceses who refuse to conduct further marriage on the grounds of conscience.”


The General Synod voted last July to relax the rules, but the existing ban had to be lifted before the change could be implemented. Final approval for remarriages “in exceptional circumstances” will be given at the end of this week. Bishops will then issue advice to the clergy, after which the change will come into effect.


Under secular law, clergy are entitled to remarry divorcees in church but many felt unable to do so because of the church ban, which dates from 1957. Yesterday the Bishop of Chichester, the Right Rev John Hind, was the only bishop in the Canterbury convocation to vote to keep the ban, saying the Church could lose more than it would gain.


But the Bishop of Guildford, the Right Rev John Gladwin, said that simply revoking the Act did not mean the Church was changing its doctrine.


The Rev Richard Seabrook, of Hockley, Essex, said that the teaching on marriage was being eroded. This was unjust to many divorced people who had lived “faithful Christian lives” and accepted that they could not have a second church wedding. For the Church to change its mind would “give out all the wrong signals”. The synod vote in July was to permit second marriages only in “exceptional” _circumstances, but yesterday the Rev Stephen Trott, of Broughton, Cambridgeshire, said: “In a very short space of time, exceptional will become routine.”


He called for a separate service to be designed for those marrying after divorce. “The Book of Common Prayer is explicit about the state of holy matrimony. I would find it very difficult to use that again in the case of someone with a former partner still living.” he said. Traditionalist clergy who still refused to marry divorcees would find it hard to move around in the Church because few parishes would be prepared to accept such a vicar.


The Rev Hugh Lee, of Oxford, said it was imperative that the Church changed its stance. “Our sister churches offer marriage to divorced people in certain circumstances. The message that the Church gives at the moment is that it is unforgiving,” he said. “We need to give the message that Jesus gave, that it is possible to be forgiven.”




Marriage Under Attack in California (Coral Ridge Ministries, 030410)


Even though California residents overwhelmingly voted in 2000 to keep marriage solely as an institution between one man and one woman, pro-homosexual legislators continue to chip away at this institution.


As recently as last week, the California State Assembly Judiciary Committee passed AB 205, sponsored by lesbian Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg. According to The Los Angeles Times, this bill would give homosexual couples the right to file joint tax returns, have joint ownership of property, and joint authorization for medical treatment for their partner’s child.


Also passed was AB17, which would fire state contractors who refused to pay for the medical insurance of homosexual employees’ so-called “domestic partners.”


“There is a widening gulf…between California’s voters and the Legislature, which has been moving leftward in recent years,” said Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters, a longtime observer of California politics who is well-regarded for his evenhandedness.


“Nowhere is the liberal orientation of the Legislature more evident…than on cultural issues, and the cutting edge is a package of bills that would enhance the legal standing of gay and lesbian relationships,” Walters added.


Goldberg responded, “This is not a marriage bill. We’re going to get closer to that goal of equality. … It’s a great step along the road. It’s not the last step.”


However, Campaign for California Families, a pro-family organization, points out that the language of Goldberg’s bill flatly contradicts her statement. AB 205 states, “domestic partners shall have the same rights…as are granted to…spouses in a civil marriage.”


Randy Thomasson, director of Campaign for California Families, added, “In the past, the author has publicly said that she wants to overturn the people’s vote on marriage and usher in gay ‘marriage.’”


Dr. D. James Kennedy, founder and president of the CENTER FOR RECLAIMING AMERICA, declared, “This bill is an outright deception and a clear attempt to thwart the will of the people of California. When the people make as dramatic a statement as they did in defense of marriage when they passed Proposition 22 with 61.4% of the vote, that should send a very clear message to the legislators not to tinker with this institution. Instead, some radicals are brazenly forcing their morality upon the people of California.”


He concluded, “I strongly encourage our partners in California to call Governor Gray Davis today, and urge him to vote against AB 205, and AB 17.”


Thomasson commented, “We appreciate the CENTER FOR RECLAIMING AMERICA for caring not just about what goes on in Washington, D.C., but partnering with us in California, the world’s sixth largest economy, for the protection of marriage.”




The End Of Marriage? (WorldNetDaily, 030902)


WND special report exposes campaign to radically redefine, destroy family


The September issue of WorldNetDaily’s acclaimed monthly Whistleblower magazine is a powerfully insightful look at the institution of marriage – and the rapidly expanding movement to radically redefine, and many say, destroy it.


“This wonderful issue of Whistleblower is both a celebration of real marriage, and a devastating expose of what’s wrong with same-sex marriage,” said WorldNetDaily and Whistleblower Editor Joseph Farah.


Indeed, titled “THE END OF MARRIAGE?,” the September edition takes an unusually fresh and penetrating look at the “divine institution,” going well beyond the usual arguments in defense of marriage and in opposition to same-sex unions.


Included in the issue:


# “Nuking the nuclear family,” by Joseph Farah, which gives a disturbing glimpse of America’s future if same-sex marriage becomes legal.


# “The tragedy of love American-style,” citing how and why so many young people today are seeking, as one study put it, “sex without strings, relationships without rings,” by Joseph Farah


# “Marriages made in heaven – and in hell,” a thought-provoking exploration of the mystery of man and woman becoming “one flesh,” by David Kupelian


# “The end of marriage?” by Alan Sears and Craig Osten, a comprehensive and definitive look at the ‘gay-union’ juggernaut and the radical agenda behind it.


# “Talking points on marriage,” by Robert H. Knight, distilling the powerful reasons marriage shouldn’t encompass any arrangement other than “one man marrying one woman.”


# “In their own words” – homosexual activists’ own statements about redefining marriage and family, revealing more clearly than anyone else could, what’s at the root of the effort to redefine marriage.


# “Homosexual relationships average 1-1/2 years,” about a European study revealing that even “committed” same-sex unions tend to be short-lived.


# “Bush, Vatican vow to block ‘gay’ marriage,” laying out the positions of both the American president and the pope with regard to homosexual marriage.


# “2 out of 3 Americans reject ‘gay’ marriage,” by Jon E. Dougherty, showing that America’s courts are far out of step with its citizens on same-sex marriage.


# “Bridal magazine promotes homosexual weddings,” revealing how America’s premiere bridal magazine is now promoting homosexual marriage – a shift that occurred following inclusion of same-sex ceremony notices in the New York Times.


# “U.S. ‘gay’ activist touts Canadian ‘marriage,’” describing a radical campaign to encourage homosexuals to get “married” in Canada and then challenge U.S. courts.


# “Trifling with eternal justice - inviting impeachment and obscurity,” by Jan LaRue, a pro-family lawyer’s look at a landmark Massachusetts case that may herald the era of same-sex marriage throughout the nation.


# “Ain’t nothin’ like the real thing,” in which a former homosexual explains, from personal experience, how same-sex “unions” and “committed relationships” are “just playing house,” a sad “counterfeit” of real marriage.


Each month, Whistleblower focuses on one topic – typically a topic of great, even crucial, importance to Americans, yet one all-but-ignored by the mainstream press. It is also the prime source of support for


“‘THE END OF MARRIAGE,’” said Farah, “is a beautiful, powerful journalistic blockbuster on perhaps the most important — and now, the most threatened — institution known to man.”




Divorce lawyers see a new marriage-killer – Viagra (National Post, 031115)


Technicians sort through Viagra pills at a Pfizer factory in Egypt. U.S. divorce lawyers have begun to notice a surprising connection between use of the little blue pill and marital discord.


Viagra, the little blue pill that works wonders for impotent men, has also contributed to marital breakdown for some couples, say professionals who have witnessed the drug’s effect on relationships.


Divorce lawyers, particularly in the United States, say Viagra is a factor in a surprising number of their cases. Most involve men older than 50 who, spurred on by their new sense of manhood, cheat on their wives.


Raoul Felder, a New York City divorce lawyer, said Viagra was a factor in at least 70 cases his firm has handled. “Older men are able to perform, so they are going elsewhere — they’re seeking younger, greener pastures. They don’t put Viagra down as the reason for divorce, but it is certainly one of the factors,” he said.


“I have had it the other way too — where, with older couples, the woman does not want sex. They have gone into some other stage of the marriage and the husband is now performing. So they go to a lawyer,” Mr. Felder said.


Kenneth Raggio, a divorce lawyer in Dallas, represented a woman whose husband, a church elder with four adult children, was leading a double life, taking Viagra to spice up an extramarital relationship. His wife found out he had a prescription for the drug and counted the pills before he went out of town one day. He left with eight and returned with one. “That was the deciding factor for her pulling the trigger,” Mr. Raggio said.


“In some cases it has been great for relationships. In others, it has been terrible because it broke the truce — the kind of, ‘I don’t bother you, you don’t bother me.’ If one side becomes sexually interested and the other isn’t and if it’s the guy who is the one who becomes interested, it is like he has a new toy and he has to play with it.”


A new book, The Viagra Myth, explores the largely unstudied impact of the drug on relationships. It finds Viagra has helped some marriages but has highlighted problems in others.


“This is definitely what you could call the Viagra Age,” said Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, the author of the book, who grew up in Montreal and is now a urologist and associate clinical professor at Harvard Medical School.


“It has become accepted not only in North America but worldwide — it is second in brand name recognition next to Coca-Cola. Nobody had bothered to ask, might there be a downside, a dark underbelly to Viagra?”


In his book, he talks about one man for whom he had prescribed Viagra but who stopped taking the pills. He quotes the 55-year-old, who had been married for more than 20 years, telling him, “My wife and I decided to separate. All this time, I’d thought that if I could have sex with her again, everything would work out fine. But it turns out that our problems are bigger than the sex thing. So we’re splitting up.”


Dr. Morgentaler — whose father is Dr. Henry Morgentaler, the abortion doctor — writes that some patients realize solving their erectile dysfunction problem only made things worse because they had to deal with more serious issues in their marriage.


“As I listened to my patients, I came to see that our culture had taken Viagra and created a legend out of it that went far beyond its actual pharmacological properties. People had come to expect that taking a little blue pill could solve their personal and relationship problems ... I heard variations on this theme almost daily. Men or their partners requested prescriptions for Viagra for all sorts of problems, sometimes with the barest of sexual symptoms: a lack of desire, struggles in existing relationships, fear of intimacy, or a desire to be a sexual superstud,” he writes.


He said he has also seen patients who come into his office whistling and beaming like the men in the Viagra ads, but he notes the refill rate for Viagra has been less than 50% in the U.S., suggesting, he concludes, that it has not been a wonder drug for all couples.


Viagra, which has generated an estimated $184-million in sales in Canada alone and has been used by 16 million men worldwide since it was introduced in 1998, is not designed to create sexual desire — it only allows a man to perform. Yet observers say it is having an effect on sex drive and behaviour.


Given the vast demand for Viagra, the market for this sort of product is expected to get crowded. There is a new erectile dysfunction drug dubbed “Le Weekend” for its apparent 36-hour effectiveness, and a nasal spray for impotence is in the trial phase.


Dr. Morgentaler said a number of men are using Viagra as a sex tool rather than as a medical aid, as it was intended. Teenagers are buying it over the Internet, and at countless parties in Los Angeles there are bowls of Viagra sitting out next to the chips and dip, he said. Close to 15% of the people he sees in his office do not suffer from erectile dysfunction but want access to Viagra.


In his book, he talks about a 38-year-old patient whom he describes as a Boston boy who made the big time producing hit records in L.A. He was taking Viagra to give him “an edge in bed,” but had fallen in love and was worried about disappointing his new girlfriend who had come to enjoy their active sex life. She found the pills in his coat jacket and nearly ended their relationship.


Mr. Felder said some elderly men who are using Viagra to recapture their youth are paying a serious price. “In Florida, a big retirement area, men are getting venereal diseases — these old men. And the reason is they are picking up prostitutes, whereas before they never would have done it. They can perform now. The AIDS rate in Florida is going up because of that.”


Sometimes these men “go crazy” for a period of time, Mr. Raggio said. “It’s a reaction to having a marriage without sex. A guy decides he wants to trade in his 40-year-old wife for two 20-year-olds but then finds he isn’t wired for two 20-year-olds. And so then he sometimes seeks Viagra to make him feel like he is a stud.”


Charles Shainberg, a Philadelphia divorce lawyer and president of the International Association of Marital Lawyers, said he is aware of one case where the unrealized potential of Viagra ended the marriage — the husband refused to use Viagra despite his wife’s desire to help their sex life, leading to divorce.


He believes men who are the cheating type will run around regardless of a pill — Viagra may simply give then an added inducement, he said. “The mere fact that Viagra is around is facilitating that part of their personality.”


Stephen Grant, a Toronto lawyer who specializes in family law, said he has not seen any divorce cases in Canada in which men are on Viagra and committing adultery on their wives. “Oh God, no,” he said. “We’re much too polite a country.”




Marriage Promoted as Cure to Social Woes (Foxnews, 031119)


Editor’s note: This is part two of a three-part series investigating the issues currently surrounding marriage in America.


Two simple words may not only increase family income, but ensure that children have the best shot at happy, healthy lives.


“I do” can really help domestic stability, according to most, if not all, research conducted over the last decade on the effects of marriage.


That research has helped prompt support for the Bush administration’s proposal to spend more than $200 million annually over five years — half in the form of matching state grants — to encourage couples to reverse the decades-old decline in marriage.


“Everyone who studies this issue knows that the breakup of the family is the major cause of welfare dependency and child poverty,” said Robert Rector, a child and family researcher for the Heritage Foundation.


“We must support the institution of marriage and help parents build stronger families,” President Bush said in his October proclamation for Marriage Protection Week 2003.


The Senate is expected to act this session on the $1 billion pro-marriage initiatives as part of its reauthorization of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, also known as welfare reform. A similar bill passed the House on a partisan vote in February.


The bill includes funds for marriage education in schools and for adults as well as divorce reduction programs. It also earmarks cash to help states reduce disincentives for marriage in means-tested assistance programs. Currently, welfare payments, food stamps and health benefits for children are largely reduced after a woman legally marries.


The package stems from the Bush administration’s Healthy Marriage Initiative, untested at the national level but supported in family research fields as the first public foray into promoting marriage as an institution.


“It is a bold step forward,” said Rector, who asked why money should not be spent on strengthening whole families as well as aiding those that are broken. “Either you pick up Humpty-Dumpty after he falls off the wall or try to prevent him from falling in the first place.”


Detractors say government should spend more time and money on helping people get education and employment rather than rushing them into marriage.


“It’s a gimmick to make a political statement,” said Tom Coleman, lawyer and founder of Unmarried America, a civil rights organization for singles and domestic partners. “This whole idea of pressuring people to marry is going to backfire.”


“I don’t have any quarrel with the research. The problem I have with the government’s approach is it is not treating this as a complex issue,” said Ron Walters, director of the African-American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland. Walters said much of his problem with the proposal centers on its failure to address other challenges facing men and women in low-income and minority communities.


According to 2000 census data, the rate of married households in the United States declined by nearly 30% since 1950. Married couples now make up an estimated 50% of households.


Meanwhile, the number of unmarried partners living together has risen from 523,000 in 1970 to approximately 4.9 million in 2000.


Nearly one-third of all children today are born outside of marriage, and more than half of U.S. children will spend all or part of their childhood in a broken family, according to statistics.


The percentage of children living with mothers who have never married increased to 36% in 1996 from 7% in 1970, said Mary Parke, a researcher at the Center for Law and Social Policy.


Rector added that a child raised by a mother who has never married is seven times more likely to live in poverty than a child raised by his biological parents in an intact marriage.


Many researchers agree that married couples have a better chance not only of staying together, but of providing a stable home for children.


“The hardship is less in the case of married couples,” said Robert Lerman, a researcher with the Urban Institute who has studied financial hardships on two nearly identical, low-income families, one married, the other with two cohabitating adults.


“I think there is a body of pretty persuasive evidence that the tendency to marry, itself, provides some enhancement to economic well-being,” he said.


But not everyone falls into the neat package of what qualifies for a legally married couple, critics point out. Many homosexuals, for example, are fighting for the right to marry and want to start families, either with biological children from a previous union or adoption. The administration’s initiative does not cover those partnerships.


Mark Shields, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, which promotes the legalization of civil unions for same-sex couples, of which there is an estimated 594,000 in the U.S. today, calls this hypocrisy.


“Our take on it is the rest of the country has a choice — to be married or remain single. For gay people, there is no choice. In the eyes of the law, they are strangers,” Shields said.


In addition, marriage rates have plummeted far more among black men and women than whites. The percentage of black women who are married dropped from 62% to 36% between 1950 and 2000, according to the census, while the percentage of married white women went from 67% to 57% in the same period.


“Looking at the statistics, we are the least likely group in America to get married, and we have a higher divorce rate,” said Carlis Williams, regional director of the Aid to Children and Families division of the Department of Health and Human Services, which has planned a series of Healthy Marriage Forums in U.S. cities to air issues unique to African-American families.


Critics say the administration’s proposal is not necessarily the key to resolving the African-American community’s problems. Adding to the decline in marriage an increase in higher poverty and lower education rates for African-Americans, a triple threat hovers over the vibrancy of this community.


“This is not an easy problem; a whole series of things have happened to damage the quality of the black male pool in regards to marriage,” said Walters, who added that like many women, black women look for financial stability in a potential husband, a quality that is hard to come by in low-income communities.




Dad sues to teach daughter about polygamy (World Net Daily, 031208)


Stanley Shepp wants the right to teach his daughter about polygamy and his religious beliefs.


HALLAM, Pennsylvania (AP) — Tracey L. Roberts isn’t trying to stop her ex-husband from voicing his support of polygamy, a belief that broke up their marriage.


But she doesn’t want him teaching their 10-year-old daughter, Kaylynne, about the practice or exposing her to it in any way. She’s won her point in a lower court but now her ex-husband, Stanley M. Shepp, has taken the case to the state Supreme Court.


“Religious discussion in the home between a parent and a child has got to be the most sacred freedom-of-speech issue ever,” Shepp said.


Counters Roberts: “It’s not an organized religion — it’s in his mind. Polygamy’s illegal everyplace, and it’s illegal for a whole lot of reasons.”


A judge in May 2002 granted Roberts and Shepp joint custody, saying Kaylynne would continue being raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


But Common Pleas Judge Stephen P. Linebaugh prohibited Shepp from “teaching (Kaylynne) about polygamy, plural marriages, or multiple wives,” at least until she is 18.


Shepp’s belief in polygamy, Linebaugh wrote, “if he would follow through with it, would be not only illegal in Pennsylvania, but would also be immoral and illogical. The issue is not having such a belief, but his interest in pursuing that belief, which the testimony indicates he clearly would.”


Shepp’s lawyer, Dann S. Johns, filed an appeal November 12 to the state Supreme Court. Roberts must respond by December 15.


Shepp and Roberts met in 1991 at a Mormon church in York — both had converted to the religion as adults. They married the following year.


As Shepp’s interest in polygamy grew, Roberts brought the matter to the attention of church elders. Eventually, the couple split, and the church excommunicated Shepp for his views.


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints renounced polygamy in 1890 as part of a deal to grant Utah statehood, and the church now excommunicates those who practice or advocate it. But some fundamentalist Mormons continue to believe in polygamy, and an estimated 30,000 in the West practice it.


Tracey Roberts, shown with her daughter, Kaylynne, does not want her 10-year-old exposed to information about polygamy.


Shepp, who remarried after splitting with Roberts, said he is not currently seeking another wife or wives. But he says he is convinced his status in the afterlife depends on it and does not believe state law prohibits it.


The state Superior Court panel based its decision in part on a finding that exposing Kaylynne to polygamy posed a substantial threat to her.


Roberts’ lawyer, Richard K. Konkel, said learning about polygamy from her father could put Kaylynne at risk of “child abuse and sexual abuse and whatever else.”


“In a custody case, the best interests of the child is always paramount,” Konkel said.


Shepp said if he loses in the state Supreme Court, he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case. Johns wrote that he was unable to find a U.S. Supreme Court precedent directly addressing parent-child religious speech in a custody case.


Pennsylvania’s law against bigamy bars married people from entering into an additional marriage. Among other things, Shepp’s brief contends that taking a second wife in an informal “spiritual marriage,” lacking legal documentation, would not run afoul of the bigamy statute.




Love and...Marriage and the meaning of sex (National Review Online, 031217)


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two part series.


The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has opined that “government creates marriage.” Therefore, government can recreate marriage, if it so chooses, or if the Supreme Court orders the other branches of government to do so. But surely, even the Massachusetts high court would not be so bold as to claim that government invents sex. And the meaning of human sexuality is really at the heart of the conflict over the judicial attempt to recreate marriage in its own image.



So, what is the meaning of human sexuality anyhow? Sexual activity has two natural, organic purposes: procreation and spousal unity. Babies are the most basic and natural consequences of sexual activity. “Spousal unity” means simply that sex builds attachments between husband and wife.


Spousal unity is the feature of human sexuality that makes it distinct from purely animal sexuality. As far as I know, humans are the only animals that copulate face to face. Shakespeare described the sexual act as “making the two-backed beast.” Both the Hebrew and the Christian Bible describe the sexual act as uniting the spouses in the most literal sense: “the two become one flesh.” Two people become, if only for a short while, one flesh. Evolutionary psychology observes the survival value to spousal cooperation. Males and females who attach themselves to each other, have a better chance of seeing their offspring survive long enough to produce grandchildren. Science can now tell us how the hormones released during sex help to create emotional bonds between the partners.


Both of these organic purposes, procreation and spousal unity, have something in common: They build up the community of the family. Procreation literally builds the community by adding new members to the family. Spousal unity builds up the community of the family because it contributes to the stability of the marriage relationship.


But for many people in modern America, sex has little or nothing to do with building community of any kind. Sex is a purely private matter, in the narrowest sense of private. Sex is a recreational activity, and a consumer good. My consumption of this good, my enjoyment of this activity, is a completely private matter that should be viewed analogously with other goods and activities.


Many people celebrate the uncoupling of sexual activity from both of its natural functions, procreation and spousal unity. But by doing so, we have capsized the whole natural order of sexuality. Instead of being an engine of sociability and community building, sex has become a consumer good. Instead of being something that draws us out of ourselves and into relationship with others, our sexual activity focuses us inward, on ourselves and our own desires. A sexual partner is not a person to whom I am irrevocably connected by bonds of love. Rather, the sexual partner has become an object that satisfies me more or less well.



This difference in worldview is at the heart of the culture wars. One side believes the meaning of human sexuality is primarily individual. Sex is a private activity whose purpose is individual pleasure and satisfaction. The alternative view is that sex is primarily a social activity. Sex builds up community, starting with the spousal relationship and adding on from there.


A significant subset of heterosexuals share with homosexuals a common view of the meaning of human sexuality. Some heterosexuals believe they are entitled to unlimited sexual activity without pregnancy. (Pregnancy introduces an obvious third party into the sexual activity. The argument for sex as a completely private activity goes out the window when a baby appears.) Some homosexuals, particularly the professional activists, find it incomprehensible that sexual activity could be anybody’s business but the two parties involved. So these activists can make common cause with heterosexuals who hold these views.


It is hard to understand the political alliances without seeing this. For instance, the average homosexual has no personal interest in the availability of either contraception or abortion. Avoiding pregnancy is not a particularly urgent matter for those who engage exclusively in homosexual sex. While there are some pro-life homosexuals, the vast majority of politically active gays and lesbians are deeply committed to the pro-choice position.


Seeing this difference in worldview also helps understand why it isn’t unusual for people to become more conservative when they become parents. They might move from the lifestyle Left, like Harry Stein, (author of How I Joined the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and found Inner Peace) or from the Libertarian Right, as I did. Whatever their political past might have been, many new parents become aware that very personal, very private actions have significant spillover effects to other people. Babies draw us out of ourselves in a new way.


The family creates a social sphere beyond the reach of either politics or economics. But this social space is almost completely hidden from us, even though it is literally right under our noses. Sexual activity and childrearing take place inside the private spaces of the home, far outside the reach of the public-enforcement power of the state. Therefore, the preferred political policies of the Left can’t work very well in this sphere. Nor can contracts, the favorite tool of the Right, fully cover the necessary ground, either to regulate behavior inside the family or to define the family. Sexuality and the family are not simply special cases of political institutions, or of markets based on contracts.


The world view issue also helps us to see why so many heterosexuals have trouble articulating their discomfort with gay marriage: Straight people have already given away the store on the crucial issue of what sex is all about. Unilateral divorce has transformed marriage from a life-long covenant to contract renegotiated on a case-by-case basis. When gay people want to add on their claim that same-sex marriage is just as good as any other, straight people don’t even have a vocabulary with which to respond. (How many gay people would be demanding marriage on terms that included fault-based divorce?)


Likewise, when gay people demand access to marriage in the name of equality, straight people are tongue-tied, because we have already redefined the social context of marriage in the name of equality for women. But equality is a political concept. Rights and entitlements are the vocabulary of politics. By contrast, human sexuality is about gift and gratitude: the mutual gift of self to one’s partner, the gift of life that results, and the gratitude tinged with awe that is the only reasonable response to both. Using political concepts, such as equality or freedom, to describe marriage obscures this crucial connection between sex and gift.


We are going to have trouble understanding marriage, much less defending it, until we reopen this question of what human sexuality is all about. Is human sexuality an engine of sociability that calls us out of our self-centeredness? Or is it one more arena for the exercise of our self-centeredness? And if it is the latter, are there any automatic correction mechanisms that check our excesses the way market competition directs our self-interest into socially responsible channels?


We can construct, deconstruct and reconstruct our sexuality any way we want: it is our privilege as thinking creatures. However, human sexuality has a specific nature, regardless of what we believe or say about it. We are more likely to be satisfied with the outcome, if we work with our biology rather than against it. We will be happier if we face reality on its own terms.


The law of marriage is not the only social structure that creates the context for socially acceptable sexual behavior. But the law does play a key part. This is why it is utterly reasonable for the law of marriage to take into account the natural purposes of human sexuality. And it is utterly unreasonable for the law to treat all sexual unions as though they were equivalent.


— Jennifer Roback Morse is author of Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn’t Work.




Fruitful Love: Marriage and infertility (National Review Online, 031218)


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series.


In my previous column, I argued that procreation and spousal unity are the natural, organic purposes of human sexuality. If this is so, what about the infertile couple? Our moral intuition, as well as the long-standing practice of our society, dictates that the law make no distinction between infertile or post-menopausal couples and young, fertile couples.


The problem of the infertile couple is often treated as an afterthought. Those who defend the organic concept of marriage sometimes treat the infertile couple as a rare occurrence that requires little attention in the overall scheme of things. Those who defend the consumer-based approach to married life, raise the infertile couple as a counterexample designed to silence all talk of “natural” purposes of sexuality.


As a matter of fact, the law, at least the law of divorce, tacitly recognizes a difference between divorcing couples with or without children. But how the law views the infertile couple isn’t what most interests me. I am more interested in how the infertile couple should view itself. I am convinced that understanding the natural, organic purposes of marriage provides the key insight for helping them navigate the difficulties ahead of them. For merely having sex is not the measure of their marriage, and neither is successful procreation. Appreciating spousal unity, the other natural purpose of sexuality, has the potential to direct them toward a fruitful love, even if children are not among the immediate fruits.


In this light, the question of the infertile couple becomes much more than a throw-away argument, or an afterthought. The infertile married couple faces tremendous challenges, and indeed a heightened probability of divorce. Their openness to each other, and their willingness to let go of controlling outcomes largely determines whether they are going to stay married, even in the legalistic sense, much less in any deeper emotional or spiritual sense.



My husband and I experienced infertility, after years of contracepting. I was one of those career women who planned to wait until I got tenure and have a baby during the summer. Imagine my surprise when a year went by with no baby.


For me, infertility created a whole spiritual crisis. This was the first time in my adult life that I couldn’t achieve my goals by working harder and longer. In fact, as every sensible Old Wife knows, trying harder to conceive is counterproductive. I was not going to achieve my reproductive plans on my own terms. And I didn’t like it one bit.


Infertility turned out to be only one of many ways in which I was not in the driver’s seat as much as I had imagined. My husband had thoughts and feelings of his own. While I was frantic for a baby, he was basically content with our child-free life.


This baby project was our first truly joint project. We weren’t doing very well with it either. Our lives had been built on our separate identities. No self-respecting modern career woman could allow herself to lose her identity in marriage. We had two last names, two jobs, two bank accounts, one house, one bed and a few shared activities. Even the dog was privately owned: Newton was my dog. I was becoming dimly aware that parenthood couldn’t be like that, although I didn’t have a clue what the alternative would look like.


Then we found that we did have a possible explanation for not getting pregnant: a low sperm count. He was devastated. All at once, I was concerned about him and his feelings in a way I had not been before. I had never seen him so vulnerable. I felt like an idiot for being hysterical, because I finally saw that my grief had an impact on him.


He was lukewarm about adoption, which for me had always been the back-up position. But he was willing to support me in a sperm-donor pregnancy, if it would finally shut me up. Through our infertility support group, I had a phone conversation with a woman who had had sperm donor pregnancies. She was an ecstatic stay at home mom. I could hear the chattering of her children in the background. But in the course of the conversation she said, “my husband loves the kids, but he is still sad. Every once in a while, he says wistfully, ‘the kids don’t look like me.’” She resolved her infertility issue, but her husband didn’t.


I didn’t like the sounds of this. I had a visceral, negative reaction to the idea of sperm donation.


I couldn’t articulate it at the time, but in the years that have passed, I came to realize that a sperm-donor baby would have changed our marriage relationship in a fundamental way. The baby would have been my baby, with my husband as a bystander. He would have been supportive, like a good Sensitive New Age Guy. But he would have been a wallet and an assistant mom.


What about the baby? She is person; she has the right to be loved as for her own sake. I was reducing a Someone, the baby, to a Something, a project that satisfies and gratifies me. In the process, I was using my husband, a Someone, to get Something I wanted.



As we went through the infertility process, my husband and I saw other couples struggling with the same issues. Watching them made it clearer how tight a rein I had been holding on my life. I saw women obsessed with pregnancy, and who in the process, became obsessed with themselves. Instead of being drawn out of themselves into concern for a new baby, their thwarted desire sucked them into themselves. They had to have their own way.


I became dimly aware of how my “self-actualization,” and “self-esteem” was really just garden-variety selfishness. My self-esteem depended on getting my own way, to a far greater extent than I had ever realized. I wasn’t much fun for my husband to be around. Every disagreement took on life and death dimensions, because my self-worth was always on the line.


Some of our friends finally made peace with infertility, came to accept it and moved on with their lives. Some never found peace. Some divorced. One of our dearest friends ultimately committed suicide.


The key to whether they found peace was not whether they eventually had children. The key wasn’t whether their children came through assisted reproductive technology, or by adoption. The crucial issue was whether they let go of controlling all outcomes. The need to “have it your way,” so deeply imbued in our consumer culture, is positively destructive to married life.


In our case, we became parents after four and a half years of infertility. I had finally let go of ever getting pregnant. We filed our papers for a Romanian adoption at Thanksgiving time in 2000. We received a phone call in January, “we have a little boy for you. We know his name, his birthday, and that he is in good health. What do you say?” We said “yes.” Ten days later I went to the doctor with a head cold and found out I was pregnant. Our daughter was born six months after our son arrived from Romania. In the years that have passed, the children have taught us even more about loving and letting go of the outcome.


More recently, we opened ourselves in another way: we became foster parents. Part of the reason we wanted to become foster parents is that we admired our Catholic friends with large families. We were long past the age when we could have the size family they have. But they had one thing we could have: open heartedness. We would have gladly accepted children lovingly from God. Since he hasn’t been sending them directly, we accept children from the San Diego County Department of Child Welfare.



What does this have to do with the meaning of marriage and sexuality? Just this: We are more married now than when we were contracepting and keeping separate checkbooks, even though our sexual drive was more intense. Our sexuality is directed toward the unity and fruitfulness of our family. We don’t fulfill those purposes perfectly; we never did. But at last, we’ve gotten out of our own way so we can finally make some progress.


Of course, the law does not recognize the concept of “more married.” The law believes we were married in the State of Connecticut, on February 25, 1984. Yet most experienced adults can easily understand me when I say “more married.” More married means more willing to give, and more willing to ask for help; more willing to listen, and more willing to tell the truth; more appreciative of his strengths and more tolerant of his faults. We quit asking ourselves, “what’s in it for me?” and started asking each other, “how can I help?”


The question isn’t whether the law can create life-giving, self-giving love, because of course, it can’t. The question is whether it will point us in the right direction. Redefining marriage to include homosexual unions will actively lead us astray.


The natural purposes of sexuality exist independently of our wishes or definitions. It is no disrespect to infertile couples to say so. Indeed, they are more painfully aware of it than most married couples. Yet the natural, organic reality of marriage is still open to them. A lifetime of self-giving, fruitful love has a life-transforming power of its own.


— Jennifer Roback Morse is author of Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn’t Work.




Marriage Amendment Jitters: The social Right tries to get it together (National Review Online, 031124)




Sandy Rios, the president of Concerned Women for America, was pounding the table. She was at an October 1 meeting of social-conservative activists and the leading Republicans in the House and Senate. Some Republicans were worried about the activists’ project: amending the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage and, possibly, civil unions as well. Rios said that social-conservative groups were energized as never before. “The grassroots will get motivated and members will have to vote for it,” she said. “We will take out squishy Republicans.”


Now that’s confidence. Passing a constitutional amendment is difficult in the best of circumstances. Supporters of a Federal Marriage Amendment will have to get two-thirds of the House, two-thirds of the Senate, and three-quarters of the state legislatures to vote for it. If all the Republicans in Congress vote for the amendment, it will still need the support of 16 Senate Democrats and 61 House Democrats. That’s a tall order. Especially when you consider that, until recently, social conservatives had not even been able to get two-thirds of their own organizations on the same page.


The social-conservative groups have been united in the belief that something must be done to prevent state and federal judges from imposing same-sex marriage on the country. They were alarmed when the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws in the spring — not so much because they supported those laws, although many of them did, as because they thought that the Court’s reasoning would in time lead it to redefine marriage. They expected that the Massachusetts supreme court would impose same-sex marriage on that state over the summer (although it has not yet ruled).


Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, gave the social Right a boost by coming out for a marriage amendment right after the Supreme Court’s ruling. But social conservatives spent the summer and early fall arguing with one another about what the amendment should try to do. The Alliance for Marriage, which has been leading the campaign for an amendment since the Vermont courts established civil unions, had proposed specific language — but the social conservatives could not agree on what the language meant. Marilyn Musgrave, a Republican congressman from Colorado who had agreed to sponsor the Alliance’s amendment, thought that it left civil unions alone. Two of the drafters of the amendment, Gerard Bradley of Notre Dame Law School and Robert George of Princeton University, thought to the contrary that it nullified some civil-union laws.


Some conservatives, especially those in Congress, were in the Musgrave camp: They thought that the amendment did not touch civil unions and were happy that it didn’t. (They thought either that states should make their own decisions about civil unions or that an amendment banning civil unions could not be enacted.) Other people agreed that the amendment left civil unions alone, but objected to that silence. They wanted an amendment that would ban gay marriage and civil unions. Bill Bennett, Rios, and the Family Research Council, among others, argued strongly that it would be pointless to fight for an amendment that allowed gay marriage in all but name. The amendment had to “protect an institution, not a word.”


So the objectors toyed with different wording. But they again ran into trouble. Everyone agreed that it did not make sense for a constitutional amendment to go into great detail about what benefits would and would not be available to gay couples. Another idea was to try to strengthen a 1996 law called the Defense of Marriage Act. That act defined marriage as heterosexual for purposes of federal law, and attempted to safeguard the ability of states to refuse to recognize other states’ same-sex marriages. Rep. John Hostettler, an Indiana Republican, wanted to pass a law to block federal courts from hearing challenges to the act.


There were problems with this approach, too. If the courts are prepared to impose gay marriage as soon as they can get away with it, as social conservatives worry, the Defense of Marriage Act will not stop such judicial activism. If, for example, Justice Kennedy and four colleagues decided that current marriage laws constituted unconstitutional discrimination (or an unconstitutional infringement on liberty), state laws would have to change even if the Defense of Marriage Act stayed on the books. If 50 state judiciaries imposed same-sex marriage, that would be the policy all over the country, and, again, it wouldn’t matter whether the Defense of Marriage Act was still theoretically in force.


As the debate over wording continued, the White House and Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, were urging the amendment’s supporters to make it clear that they would not eliminate civil unions. In the four years since Vermont adopted civil unions under court order, support for them has become, in some respects, the moderate position (which is evidence of how badly the social Right has been losing). The social-conservative groups took to holding meetings without including anyone from Capitol Hill — not even Musgrave was allowed in, or social-Right stalwarts such as Rep. Joe Pitts of Pennsylvania. Conservative activists were pulling the amendment right while the Republican establishment was pulling it left. It looked as though the amendment would fall apart.


It fell to Chuck Colson, the leader of Prison Fellowship and perhaps the most unifying figure among social conservatives today, to find a solution. On October 15, he succeeded in getting more than 20 groups to come up with a common position. They agreed that the amendment would prohibit gay marriage. It would also prohibit the states and the federal government, including both the courts and the legislatures, from providing any benefits to people that were contingent on their being involved in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. The amendment would, however, allow state legislators to extend the particular privileges of marriage to gay couples — just not as gay couples. People not in gay relationships would also have to be eligible.


Say, for example, a state had made co-signing for loans a privilege of marriage. The state legislature could decide, under the amendment, to extend that privilege to any two people who share a home: a lesbian couple, or an unmarried heterosexual couple, or two sisters who share the rent, or whoever. The legislature could come up with a bundle of privileges formerly reserved to married couples — bereavement leave, hospital-visitation rights, the ability to make joint adoptions, and so on — and provide them more widely.


Whether the amendment agreed upon by the groups at Colson’s meeting would ban “civil unions,” then, is not a yes-no question. It would allow civil unions so long as eligibility for them is not based, even in part, on the fact, supposition, or presumption that the people involved are having sex. The amendment would thus make it theoretically possible for gay couples — and cohabiting straight couples — to have any of the benefits of marriage, except for governmental recognition of their relationships as equivalent to those of married people.



That’s what Bradley and George thought the original text of the Alliance for Marriage’s proposed amendment did. It read: “Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that marital status or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups.” At Colson’s meeting, it was decided to add a third, clarifying sentence: “Neither the federal government nor any state shall predicate benefits, privileges, rights, or immunities on the existence, recognition, or presumption of sexual conduct or relationships.” The groups did not decide that this language had to stay in all its particulars, but all remain committed to the concept they think it embodies.


Roman Genn


There is still controversy about the meaning of the second sentence, the one about “legal incidents.” In this case, the controversy has been public and the arguments have come from the social Left rather than the social Right. Liberals and libertarians have complained that this sentence would radically restrict the powers of state legislatures. They envision a scenario in which, say, the Ohio legislature passed a law allowing joint tenants, rather than just married people, to co-sign loans. Courts would not be able to enforce that law, they argue, because they would have to “construe” the new law to confer “incidents of marriage” on unmarried people.


Bradley and George make a good case that this criticism is simply a misunderstanding. The “legal incidents” of marriage are whatever state laws say they are. If the legislature says that only married people can automatically co-sign loans for each other, co-signing loans is an incident of marriage. If the legislature passes a new law saying all joint tenants can co-sign loans, it’s not an incident of marriage anymore. What the second sentence says is that when a state legislature has reserved some benefit for married couples, the courts cannot force that benefit to be extended more broadly.


Let’s say that the amendment has passed and that the Virginia legislature has left co-signing loans as an incident of marriage. Further, let’s say a gay couple (or an unmarried heterosexual couple) go to court and say they have a right to co-sign each other’s loans. The Fourteenth Amendment requires states to treat people equally, they say, and that means the state has to grant them the benefit. Under the Federal Marriage Amendment, the court would have to send these plaintiffs home unsatisfied. The court would not be able to “construe” the Fourteenth Amendment to “require” that the state provide a benefit it has reserved to married couples — a “legal incident” of marriage — to the unmarried. If, on the other hand, the legislature had extended this privilege more widely, the court would have no trouble going along with that.



Proponents of the amendment realize that they will have to address the argument that it violates federalist principles, a point that makes many conservatives who are sympathetic to it hesitate. The proponents have four responses. First, they say, marriage law is not exclusively a state concern. The federal government got rid of polygamy and forced states to allow interracial marriage. Second, some of the reasons federalism is valuable do not apply here — not, at least, if gay marriage is, in fact, a bad idea. Federalism is often defended because the states are “laboratories of democracy” and because different policies are appropriate for different states. Most social conservatives don’t think that we need state experimentation to find out whether gay marriage is a good idea or to prove that it may be a good idea for some places. Third, they note that almost all the state governments would have to approve the amendment for it to be enacted. The states would not, in practice, be trampled on. Fourth, they argue that the alternative to their amendment is not federalism, but a judicially imposed national regime of gay marriage.


If that’s true, then the amendment would provide states greater leeway than they would otherwise have. It would remain up to state legislatures to decide which benefits should be reserved for marriage, and which should be more widely available. The social-conservative supporters of the amendment stress that the amendment does not represent a grand compromise in which they give in on the question of benefits for gays. They figure they will fight over that issue state by state.


The social conservatives think that their amendment is politically viable. True, it would force a substantial modification of the few existing civil-union laws, and many of the existing domestic-partnership laws. People who believe that equality demands that the government recognize gay relationships as on a par with marriages will oppose the amendment. But proponents think that it would put Republicans in the position of supporting the traditional definition of marriage without necessarily denying any benefits to gays. “The outcome of this debate will depend on the extent to which conservatives are seen as pro-marriage rather than anti-gay,” says a senior Republican congressman. Some proponents of the amendment think they have found a useful line: The amendment isn’t against civil unions, they say, only against “discriminatory” civil unions that are for gays only (or gays and unmarried straight couples only).


It isn’t clear that the White House and most congressional Republicans will agree that the amendment is doable. Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, has sometimes said he is against amending the Constitution at all. The White House has been waiting for the Massachusetts court to act. It still has not, even though its decision was expected months ago. If the court brought full-fledged gay marriage to an American state for the first time, there might be a strong public reaction against it — and the president would have a clear reason to come out for an amendment to prevent gay marriage. But the court may decide to opt for civil unions, or some other dodge, in order to avoid a political reaction.


I’m skeptical of the amendment’s chances. The rules for democratically enacting constitutional amendments are such that amendments can be easily defeated. If one of the two major parties uniformly opposes an amendment, the amendment is dead. If a wing of a party opposes it and commands any significant support in the country, the amendment will probably go down. All of the Democratic presidential candidates have come out against the marriage amendment.


Many amendment supporters seem resigned to fighting a long, difficult battle for it over the course of several elections. “There is more passion than any issue I have experienced,” says Colson. “This is a very significant wedge issue in my opinion.”




The Right Amendment: Democracy and marriage (National Review Online, 040126)


By NR Editors


EDITOR’S NOTE: This editorial appears in the January 26, 2004, issue of National Review.


In 1998, Hawaii’s supreme court attempted to foist gay marriage on that state. The voters amended the state constitution to preserve the definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In 2001, gay activists found a more hospitable venue. Vermont’s constitution is very hard for voters to amend. So the state courts could force civil unions on the state with little real danger of reversal. At the time, National Review suggested that it was pretty clear where things were headed. The courts, both state and federal, were going to keep pushing gay marriage and gay marriage lite until they succeeded somewhere. Further legal actions would force the recognition of one state’s gay marriages by all the other states. Or federal courts would, at some point, find the ground prepared for the national imposition of gay marriage. Whatever the precise methods, the courts would go as far in the direction of gay marriage as they could get away with. Each discrete step would be something that the public did not favor (and hence could not be enacted democratically) but also did not oppose so vehemently that it would be overturned.


We thought that the proper response to this campaign by legal activists and their judicial accomplices was a constitutional amendment. The Massachusetts high court’s decision in favor of gay marriage in November 2003 has reinforced our view.


The public is beginning to see the danger that gay marriage will be brought to them without a vote. A New York Times poll in December found that 55% of Americans favor a constitutional amendment to define marriage in the traditional way. That is not a large enough number to ensure passage, but it is a strong one given how new the amendment is in the political debate.


Even among supporters of an amendment, however, there has been considerable disagreement about what precise form it should take. We have defended an amendment that would accomplish three things. First, it would reserve the word “marriage” for the union of one man and one woman: No court or legislature would be able to create “gay marriage.”


Second, it would ban the federal or state governments — again, whether directed by a court or a legislature — from granting benefits that are conditioned on non-marital sexual relationships. Legislatures would be free to make a benefit, or civil-union status, available to unmarried persons. But availability must not be limited only to homosexual couples or to cohabiting heterosexuals. Siblings, friends, and roommates who are not in sexual relationships would also have to be eligible. A person’s homosexuality would, in other words, not be of interest to the government when distributing any benefit.


Third, the amendment would block the courts, at both the federal and state levels, from second-guessing a legislature’s decision to reserve a benefit for married couples. If the legislature has said that only married couples have joint adoption rights, for example, no court may grant that benefit to unmarried couples.


Some supporters of an amendment have wanted it to do more, and others less. The maximalists have wanted to ban all civil unions and other forms of marriage lite, and to deny certain benefits to homosexual couples. To accomplish these goals, however, would require the amendment to list in detail what benefits must be reserved to marriage. That would be unwise. The precise set of benefits that should attend marriage is not something that can be deduced from first principles. Different state legislatures may legitimately decide on different packages, as they always have. A maximalist amendment would be unwieldy, would delve into minutiae unsuitable for the Constitution, and would unduly limit the power of state legislatures. It would also be next to impossible to pass.


Most of the maximalists have now come around. The greater danger now comes from the minimalists. They want the amendment only to reserve the word “marriage” for the union of a man and a woman. State legislatures would be able to do anything else, including create civil unions for gays only that are legally identical to marriage in everything but name. The courts would be free to impose such policies, as well.


The minimalists have the ear of senior Republicans, and they are lobbying the White House to come out for their version of the amendment. That would be a mistake. As important as it is to prevent gay marriage, it is not the most important goal that an amendment should have. That goal is the end of judicial meddling with the institution. The campaign for an amendment should be as much for democratic self-government (and against judicial usurpation) as for traditional marriage (and against gay marriage). The minimalists’ amendment, however, would allow the courts to impose Vermont-style civil unions on every state in the country.


We believe that it would be difficult, but possible, to pass the three-part amendment discussed above. Its proponents could say, truthfully, that the amendment would not keep gay couples from getting any particular benefit at all, except for governmental recognition of their sexual relationships. That should be defensible political ground for President Bush to hold.


If the amendment must be scaled back, however, the first and second parts of it are each more expendable than the third. It would be better, that is, to leave state legislatures free to create civil unions, any type of civil union, and even gay marriage at their own discretion — while banning judges from imposing either. It is not as though the public at large is clamoring for gay marriage in any state. If the public comes to do so of its own accord, and not under the tutelage of judges, then traditional marriage will be dead, and past the power of constitutions to save. The present danger is that the courts will push the country in a dangerous direction in which it would not otherwise go. It is that danger that a constitutional amendment should address.




Conservatives Differ Over Marriage Amendment (Foxnews, 040114)


WASHINGTON — With a tough campaign season ahead and division among Republican lawmakers over strategy, many are questioning whether a constitutional amendment defining marriage has a chance of passing the U.S. Congress this legislative session.


Despite polls showing a majority of Americans oppose granting legal rights to same-sex unions and gay marriages, skepticism — even among some social conservatives — remains whether an amendment could get the necessary two-thirds support in both the House and Senate to pass this year.


“It seems really evident to me that in an election year, there is no conceivable way that [a constitutional amendment] could get a two-thirds vote in either chamber,” said Michael Schwartz, vice president of government relations for Concerned Women of America, which has launched a staunch campaign against gay marriage and civil union laws.


“On the one hand, the far right has issued a threat saying that they want this to be the big issue in the upcoming election,” said Cheryl Jacques, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest U.S. gay rights group. “But if the Republicans were really united and ready for this to be the major ‘04 issue, it would be clear by now.”


Schwartz said that moderate members on either side of the aisle who could be convinced to support an amendment might be disinclined to cast such a controversial vote before the November election.


But conservative groups in favor of the amendment warn against underestimating the intensity of their lobby on Capitol Hill, and suggest voters will be taking their beliefs with them to the voting booth in the 2004 elections.


“I don’t believe that we will not be able to pass a constitutional amendment this year,” said Louisiana state Rep. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.


“I am really positive,” he said, adding, “a lot of this depends on the administration and the president, and how willing he is to get behind and support an amendment.”


President Bush said in December that he would support an amendment to the Constitution defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman if necessary. But the president suggested that he is not yet ready to stage a formal White House campaign behind such an amendment.


Bush is joined by House leaders and other members of Congress who have indicated they would support an amendment only if necessary. Sources on Capitol Hill say these Republicans want to see if the federal Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, will stand up to court challenge, before pursuing an amendment.


DOMA says that no state can be forced to pass same-sex marriage or civil union laws nor can they be compelled to recognize such unions sanctioned by other states.


“[House Speaker Dennis] Hastert has said he would probably support an amendment, and that it would be a long, hard fight. But I think he would like to see [DOMA] litigated in the courts first,” said Hastert spokesman Jonathan Feehery.


Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., chief sponsor of the amendment in the House, has earned the support of 100 bipartisan co-sponsors.


The Senate amendment proposal, introduced by Sens. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Sam Brownback, R-Kan., has the support of Majority Leader Bill Frist, but Senate GOP sources say that senators will be discussing their options, as well as alternative amendment language, when they return next week for the new session.


Both amendment proposals define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and seek the same provisions as DOMA. Neither proposal, however, precludes states from passing such rights and protections to gay couples.


“We are making sure that all of the benefits and everything that is conferred upon married couples is decided by the state,” said Guy Short, chief of staff for Musgrove.


Short pointed to the strong momentum behind passing an amendment this session, and said supporters believe this is the only remedy to a gay and lesbian movement that has chosen to pursue marriage and civil union rights through the courts rather than through decisions by state legislatures.


Court rulings in Vermont led to the first civil union laws in the United States in 2000. The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled in November that the state Legislature must legalize gay marriage in that state by May.


If passed by Congress, any constitutional amendment would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states in the union to be made official. Thirty-eight state legislatures have already passed their own DOMA laws. Supporters of a constitutional amendment say this indicates a willingness on behalf of states to ratify a marriage amendment.


Other conservatives, like House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said the number of state DOMA laws is reason enough to let the issue rest for now.


Schwartz is urging Republicans to support a bill ensuring that the federal courts would not have the authority to undercut the state or federal DOMA laws, and wait until an off-election year to pursue a constitutional change if necessary.


Rep. John N. Hostettler, R-Ind., has introduced the Marriage Protection Act, which would take DOMA out of the jurisdiction of certain federal courts.


“It doesn’t mean that progress on the issue would have to die,” said Schwartz. “It would take the emergency element out of this altogether and give us time to get support for the amendment.”


Other conservatives are uncomfortable with amending the Constitution, period.


“I don’t believe that the framers saw the constitutional process as being the check and balance over a run-away court system,” said Richard Lessner, executive director of the American Conservative Union.


Meanwhile, Democratic leadership sources acknowledge that an amendment might have its share of support from more conservative-leaning Democrats. But ranking members in both chambers say they are opposed to opening up the constitutional process, and don’t think that a constitutional amendment has a shot of passing this session.




Government Of Canada Reaffirms Its Position On Supreme Court Reference (Department of Justice, 040128)


OTTAWA, January 28, 2004 - The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Irwin Cotler, today issued this statement:


“May I begin by saying that the Government of Canada is reaffirming its position in the marriage reference, organized around two foundational principles - support for equality - and within that the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples - and support for religious freedom - and within that protection for religious officials from being forced to perform a marriage ceremony between two persons of the same sex where it is against their religious beliefs.


But there is a third important principle, and that is the importance of a full and informed debate before the court, in Parliament and in response to concerns of the public. It is to respect that third principle that the Government is seeking the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada on a new question in the reference on civil marriage and the legal recognition of same-sex unions.


In particular, the Government of Canada is seeking the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada on the question of whether the opposite-sex requirement for marriage for civil purposes is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


We understand that many Canadians are struggling with this question. And as a new administration, one of our key priorities is to address what some have termed “a democratic deficit”.


While the Government’s position on the reference has not changed, adding this question will allow for a more comprehensive opinion by the Court, and for those groups and individuals who do not agree with the Government’s approach to put their case to the Court.


As you may know, the Supreme Court ruled last Friday that 18 groups and individuals can intervene. So we are sure of a full range of views before the Court.


In making this decision to add a new question, the Government was guided by three principles - equality, religious freedom, and the importance of a full and informed debate before the court, in Parliament and in response to the concerns of Canadians on this important social issue.


In summary, the Government continues to believe that the best way to fully respect the two fundamental Charter rights involved here - equality and freedom of religion - is to provide equal access to civil marriage for same-sex couples seeking that degree of commitment as other couples, while ensuring the protection of religious officials who refuse to perform marriage ceremonies where it would be against their religious beliefs.


The final decision on this question will be made by Parliament in the spirit of open debate. But before that happens, we need clear advice from the Supreme Court on the legal framework within which choices must be made.”




Bush Comes Through (NRO, 040206)


David Frum


It is being reported that President Bush will give a full-throated and unequivocal endorsement to the Federal Marriage Amendment in the wake of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Council ruling. This is a very gratifying step; now it’s up to conservatives in the states to work hard to pass the amendment.


As they do, they need to keep in mind the president’s good advice about the manner in which this debate is conducted. The proponents of gay marriage accuse those us marital traditionalists of anger, hatred, obsession with homosexuality, etc. That’s of course false.


By and large, those of us on the traditionalist side welcomed the evolution toward greater understanding and sympathy for our fellow human creatures whose sexual constitution differs from the norm. Gay marriage is becoming an explosive national controversy not because of conservative emotionalism, because a small band of activists have bypassed the electoral process and tried to force an immense social change through the courts - all in order to avoid the open public discussion they otherwise say they want.


It is true, however, that whether traditionalists win this battle will depend very largely on whether they can keep their temper. This debate will be won by whichever side does the better job of convincing the public that it stands up for the deepest values of American life - and conservatives should remember at all times, as if they didn’t know, that any incidents of extremism or harshness or vilification will instantly be publicized nationwide. And they should remember, again as if they didn’t know, that the other side will not be held to the same standard.


So let’s fight hard - but let’s be careful to fight smart.




Defending Marriage: The president endorses a constitutional amendment (National Review Online, 040225)


An NRO Primary Document


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the text of a speech delivered by President George W. Bush on Feb. 24, 2004, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.


Good morning. Eight years ago, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage for purposes of federal law as the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.


The Act passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 342 to 67, and the Senate by a vote of 85 to 14. Those congressional votes and the passage of similar defensive marriage laws in 38 states express an overwhelming consensus in our country for protecting the institution of marriage.


In recent months, however, some activist judges and local officials have made an aggressive attempt to redefine marriage. In Massachusetts, four judges on the highest court have indicated they will order the issuance of marriage licenses to applicants of the same gender in May of this year. In San Francisco, city officials have issued thousands of marriage licenses to people of the same gender, contrary to the California family code. That code, which clearly defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, was approved overwhelmingly by the voters of California. A county in New Mexico has also issued marriage licenses to applicants of the same gender. And unless action is taken, we can expect more arbitrary court decisions, more litigation, more defiance of the law by local officials, all of which adds to uncertainty.


After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence, and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization. Their actions have created confusion on an issue that requires clarity.


On a matter of such importance, the voice of the people must be heard. Activist courts have left the people with one recourse. If we are to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America. Decisive and democratic action is needed, because attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country.


The Constitution says that full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts and records and judicial proceedings of every other state. Those who want to change the meaning of marriage will claim that this provision requires all states and cities to recognize same-sex marriages performed anywhere in America. Congress attempted to address this problem in the Defense of Marriage Act, by declaring that no state must accept another state’s definition of marriage. My administration will vigorously defend this act of Congress.


Yet there is no assurance that the Defense of Marriage Act will not, itself, be struck down by activist courts. In that event, every state would be forced to recognize any relationship that judges in Boston or officials in San Francisco choose to call a marriage. Furthermore, even if the Defense of Marriage Act is upheld, the law does not protect marriage within any state or city.


For all these reasons, the Defense of Marriage requires a constitutional amendment. An amendment to the Constitution is never to be undertaken lightly. The amendment process has addressed many serious matters of national concern. And the preservation of marriage rises to this level of national importance. The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honoring — honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith. Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society.


Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society. Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all. Today I call upon the Congress to promptly pass, and to send to the states for ratification, an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of man and woman as husband and wife. The amendment should fully protect marriage, while leaving the state legislatures free to make their own choices in defining legal arrangements other than marriage.


America is a free society, which limits the role of government in the lives of our citizens. This commitment of freedom, however, does not require the redefinition of one of our most basic social institutions. Our government should respect every person, and protect the institution of marriage. There is no contradiction between these responsibilities. We should also conduct this difficult debate in a manner worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger.


In all that lies ahead, let us match strong convictions with kindness and goodwill and decency.


Thank you very much.




Public Divided On Marriage Amendment (Barna Report, 040621)


(Ventura, CA) - The Southern Baptist Convention recently adopted a resolution supporting the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment. Senate Republicans expect to open floor debate on the issue in mid-July. Television talk shows and political pundits can’t seem to get enough of the issue. But a new nationwide survey conducted by The Barna Group, of Ventura, California, indicates that more than one-third of all adults are not even aware of the amendment. The survey of 1618 adults revealed that 37% of voting-age citizens have never heard of the amendment.


The people groups most likely to be unfamiliar with the existence of the proposed amendment are women (40% unaware), adults under the age of 40 (41%), parents of children under 18 (42%), residents of the South (42%), non-whites (51%), adults not registered to vote (51%), and individuals aligned with a non-Christian faith (45%).


Several population segments were acutely aware of the amendment. Those included gay and lesbian adults (94% aware), evangelicals (89%), Republicans (77%), conservatives (77%), people likely to vote in the November election (76%), college graduates (75%), and residents of California (75%).


There Is No Majority


When the amendment was described to adults, regardless of their prior awareness, opinions were nearly evenly divided. In total, 46% favored the amendment while 44% opposed it and the remaining 10% had no opinion. When people’s opinions were examined by the intensity of their opinion, 35% strongly favored the amendment, 11% possessed moderate support, 31% were strongly opposed and 13% were somewhat opposed.


The strongest support for the amendment came from evangelicals (83%), conservatives (58%), Republicans (56%), Protestants (49%), and non-evangelical born again Christians (47%). At the other end of the spectrum, the segments most fervently opposed to the amendment were liberals (55%), atheists and agnostics (51%), and college graduates (43%).


Among the 37% who were previously unaware of the amendment, upon hearing a description of the amendment 37% said they supported such a change to the Constitution, 45% opposed it, and 18% remained undecided.


The survey also showed that the adults most likely to vote in November favored the amendment by a comfortable margin, 52% to 43%. That margin may not be enough, however, to persuade two-thirds of the members in each house of the Congress to pass the proposal, and then to generate passage in three-quarters of the states.


People Don’t Want Gay Clergy


A similar division of public opinion is nowhere to be found, though, when it comes to the marital leanings of the clergy. By greater than a two-to-one margin, the public is opposed to ordaining practicing homosexuals as clergy. Less than one-quarter of adults (24%) support ordaining ministers who are actively gay, compared to 60% who oppose the idea. One-sixth of the public (16%) was not sure how they felt on this issue.


Generational differences were apparent on this matter. Among Baby Busters (ages 21 to 38) 52% opposed ordaining practicing homosexuals, compared to 63% opposition from Baby Boomers (ages 39 to 57) and 70% of Elders (ages 58 and older).


No segment was more uniformly opposed to gay ordination than evangelicals. Just 2% supported this practice. Among non-evangelical born again Christians, 11% favored ordaining practicing homosexuals. Catholics were nearly twice as comfortable with the idea as Protestants (28% versus 16%, respectively).


There was a substantial degree of inconsistency between people’s support for the Federal Marriage Amendment and its acceptance of ordaining active homosexuals. One out of every eight supporters of the marriage amendment (13%) favored ordaining practicing homosexuals. In a similar vein, almost half of the adults who opposed the amendment also opposed ordaining clergy who were actively gay (42%).


One of the unexpected survey outcomes was discovering that 12% of homosexuals and lesbians opposed ordaining gay clergy and another one-quarter (25%) were not sure how they felt about this matter. That left a surprisingly small majority of gay adults – 64% - in favor of ordaining homosexuals.


Political Points to Score


The survey showed that President Bush has more to gain from supporting the amendment and opposing the ordination of gay clergy than Senator Kerry does by opposing the former and supporting the latter.


Among people likely to vote in the election and who support the President, 54% strongly favor the marriage amendment and 17% strongly oppose it – a gap of 37%age points. Among Mr. Kerry’s supporters, a plurality (43%) strongly opposes the amendment and 20% are strongly in favor – a gap of 23 points. Among the undecided voters, 35% strongly support the amendment and 32% strongly oppose it – a difference that is not statistically significant.


Although neither candidate is likely to mention his views on the ordination of gay clergy, 65% of the President’s likely supporters in the November election strongly oppose the ordination of gay clergy while just 4% strongly support it. Among Mr. Kerry’s supporters, on the other hand, only 18% strongly favor gay ordinations while nearly twice as many (33%) strongly oppose it.


Loudest Voices Represent Small Niches


The most vocal constituencies in this battle represent relatively small segments of the population. For instance, the homosexual niche constitutes just 4% of the adult population, of whom 78% oppose the FMA. At the opposite end of the ideological continuum are Christian evangelicals, a group that is 7% of the population, 83% of whom strongly favor the amendment.


Similarly, conservative Republicans are only 15% of the national electorate, but 66% strongly favor the amendment. Likewise, conservative born again Christians – most, but not all of whom are Republican – are 18% of the population, and 72% of them strongly support the amendment. A counterpart niche is liberal Democrats, who number just 7% of the adult population, and among whom 64% strongly oppose the amendment.


Why Positions Seem Lukewarm


Although few Americans are homosexual, and most adults believe that marriage is a relationship between a man and woman, many Americans believe that this is a “gray area” of morality that is best left without tight legal definitions. George Barna, who directed the study, noted that even many born again Christians are not convinced that their definition of marriage should be codified into law.


“Evangelicals are strongly supportive of the marriage amendment, but only about half of the larger group of born again Christians – those who are not evangelical – strongly favor such an amendment,” the researcher and author explained. “Atheists and agnostics, who reject the Bible as truth, contend that there is no moral legitimacy to defining marriage as the amendment would do. The remaining half of the population – comprised of notional Christians and people associated with non-Christian faiths – lean toward letting people make their own choices, without any legal limitations or parameters.


“This issue is reminiscent of the battle over abortion.” Barna continued. “Millions of adults say they would never get an abortion, they would not want their children to have an abortion, and they believe that abortion is morally wrong – but that the decision ought to be left up to each individual as to what is right or wrong for them. In the same manner, millions of people now indicate that they are not gay and many even claim to be repulsed by homosexuality, yet they contend that moral and lifestyle choices such as homosexual marriage should be left in the hands of each individual. This is classic relativism – a philosophy that has taken the nation by storm in the last quarter century and is now restructuring every aspect of American society. The consequence is that many people are personally opposed to such behavior but feel compelled to allow that behavior to take place legally because they also contend that there are no moral absolutes.”


Research Source and Methodology


The data in this report are based on a nationwide survey conducted by The Barna Group among 1,618 randomly selected adults during the last week of May. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample of adults is ±2.4%age points at the 95% confidence level. In total, there were 1260 registered voters in the sample, which has a maximum margin of sampling error of ±2.9%age points at the 95% confidence level.




Defining Marriage Down: We need to protect marriage (National Review Online, 040709)


By Senator Sam Brownback


As the United States Senate debates the wisdom of a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman and protects against judicially-mandated same-sex unions, it is important to keep in mind the costs that we face as a society if we fail to protect traditional marriage.


Proponents of same-sex unions have pointed to a recent study showing federal revenues increasing by upwards of $1 billion a year as a result of redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships. Ironically, most of the increased revenue would result from the still-existing marriage penalty in the tax code, which taxes married couples at higher rates than individuals. Pro-family groups have been trying to eliminate the marriage penalty for years.


Some supporters of homosexual marriage have even cited a projected boon to the wedding industry as an argument for the economic benefits of mandating same-sex marriage.


But these shortsighted arguments miss the point entirely. The costs to our society should rogue federal judges force the states to recognize the legal equivalence of same-sex unions would be significant — even devastating — when measured in terms of the effects on our central social institution, the family.


Marriage is at the center of the family, and the family is the basis of society itself. The government’s interest in the marriage bond — and the reason it treats heterosexual unions in a manner unlike all other relationships — is closely related to the welfare of children. Government registers and endorses marriage between a man and a woman in order to ensure a stable environment for the raising and nurturing of children.


Social science on this matter is conclusive: Children need both a mom and a dad. Study after study has shown that children do best in a home with a married, biological mother and father. And the government has a special responsibility to safeguard the needs of children; the social costs of not doing so are tremendous. As Child Trends, a mainstream child-welfare organization, has noted, “research clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes... There is thus value for children in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents.”


Giving public sanction to homosexual “marriage” would violate this government responsibility to safeguard the needs of children by placing individual adult desires above the best interests of children. There is no reliable social-scientific data demonstrating that children raised by same-sex couples (or groups) do as well as children raised by married, heterosexual parents. Redefining marriage is certain to harm children and the broader social good if that redefinition weakens government’s legitimate goal of encouraging men and women who intend to have children to get married.


If the experience of the last 40 years tells us anything, it is that the consequences of weakening the institution of marriage are tragic for society at large. The movement away from traditional moral conventions left us with soaring divorce and out-of-wedlock birthrates, family breakdown on an unprecedented scale, and devastating consequences for children. Social science tells us that child poverty, child abuse, and child developmental problems increase with the decline of marriage. It also tells us that the children of intact, traditional marriages are much healthier in body, spirit, and mind, more successful in school and life, and much less likely to use illegal drugs, abuse alcohol, or engage in crime than are children from homes without a mother and a father. This is not to say that good children cannot be raised in other family settings. Many healthy children are raised in difficult circumstances and many single parents struggle heroically to raise good children. Still, the social science is clear. The best place for a child is with a mom and a dad. Both are needed.


Traditional marriage is a social good because it dramatically reduces the social costs associated with dysfunctional behavior: Supporting and strengthening marriage significantly diminishes public expenditure on welfare, raises government revenues, and produces a more engaged, responsible citizenry.


There is a real question about the future of societies that do not uphold traditional marriage. Once a society loses sight of the central importance of marriage in raising children, the institution can go into a tailspin. If marriage begins to be viewed as the way two adults make known their love for each other, there is no reason to marry before children are born rather than after. And if it is immaterial whether a couple should be married before the birth of a child, then why should they marry at all? In Europe, many parents have stopped marrying altogether because they no longer view marriage as having anything to do with parenthood or children. The legalization of same-sex marriage has been instrumental in fostering this change in perspective, leading most to think of marriage as simply the expression of mutual affection between two consenting adults. As a result, couples are marrying later and later after children are born, or simply foregoing marriage altogether. Rates of parental cohabitation have skyrocketed, and family dissolution has become endemic.


The experience of other nations demonstrates that the imposition of same-sex “marriage” and civil unions leads to a weakening of marriage. As scholar Stanley Kurtz has shown, in Scandinavia, the system of marriage-like same-sex registered partnerships established in the late 1980s has contributed significantly to the ongoing decline of marriage in that region. In the Netherlands, same-sex marriage has increased the cultural separation of marriage from parenthood, resulting in a soaring out-of-wedlock birthrate. Kurtz warns that same-sex “marriage” could widen the separation between marriage and parenthood here in the United States, and perhaps undo the progress we have made in arresting the once seemingly inexorable trend towards higher rates of illegitimacy among some communities in the United States.


The experience of Europe also shows that the decline of the institution of marriage goes hand in hand with a decline in married fertility, and a corresponding decline in population. Because of the birth dearth in Europe, many countries find themselves faced with the prospect of aging (soon to be shrinking) populations and an impending collapse of their social-welfare systems because of a declining ratio of workers to retirees. Two proposed means of keeping the social and economic systems of these countries afloat — enormous tax hikes and importing vastly increased numbers of laborers — are widely viewed as infeasible. Whatever might be said in favor of mandating homosexual marriage, it certainly cannot be argued that it would increase the married fertility rate.


Traditional marriage is a boon to society in a variety of ways, and government has a vital interest in encouraging and providing the conditions to maintain as many traditional marriages as possible. Marriage has economic benefits not only for the spouses but for the economy at large. Even in advanced industrial societies such as ours, economists tell us that the uncounted but real value of home activities such as child care, senior care, home carpentry, and food preparation is still almost as large as the “official” economy. Not least of the reasons heterosexual marriage is a positive social good is the fact that, in a married state, adults of both sexes are vastly healthier, happier, safer, and wealthier, and live longer lives.


It is ironic, then, that the very governments that stand to benefit in so many ways from intact, traditional unions have, in recent years, seemed determined to follow policies that have the effect of weakening marriage.


If the movement for civil unions and same-sex marriage succeeds, we may well be dealing a fatal blow to an already vulnerable institution. It is possible to lose the institution of marriage in America. And that is precisely the hidden agenda of many in this cultural battle: To do away entirely with the traditional definition of the family. An influential organization of lawyers and judges, the American Law Institute, has already recommended sweeping changes in family law that would equalize marriage and cohabitation, extending rights and benefits now reserved for married couples to cohabiting domestic partners, both heterosexual and homosexual.


Once the process of “defining marriage down” begins, it is but a short step to the dissolution of marriage as a vital institution.


— The Honorable Sam Brownback is a Republican senator from Kansas.




Power to the People: The FMA vote is coming up soon — and you can bet your senators are listening (NRO, 040701)


If you believe the core purpose of marriage is to bind children to their mothers and fathers, you might want to contact your senators. Sometime in the middle of July, the Senate will take its first vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment. Your help is needed.


Marriage is not meant solely, or even mainly, for husbands and wives. Marriage exists as a public institution because children need mothers and fathers. Once marriage is treated as a mere celebration of the love of two adults, there is no reason for it to necessarily happen before children are born instead of after. And if marriage could just as well happen after children are born, it doesn’t really need to happen at all. European parents have increasingly stopped marrying because they no longer think of marriage as an institution meant to bind children to their mothers and fathers.


Gay marriage helps Europeans see it that way, making them consider marriage nothing more than the expression of mutual affection between two adults. But this view translates into marrying long after children are born — if parents don’t break up first. It means rising rates of parental cohabitation, and higher rates of family dissolution. That’s what’s happening in Europe. Do we want it to happen in America?


Last week, Maggie Gallagher reported on an important new development in Massachusetts. State documents are now referring to husbands and wives as “Party A” and “Party B,” and to mothers and fathers as “Parent A” and “Parent B.” Is this going to help us drive home the idea that children need mothers and fathers? Is this going to help us convince single teen fathers to marry? And this is only the first of a long series of legal consequences that will pull us down the slippery slope, to a place where marriage has effectively been eliminated.



We hear a lot from folks who deny that gay marriage has harmed European marriage, or who dismiss the dangers of the slippery slope. But my guess is that you see what I’m saying, and believe me only too well. That’s the problem: Because it is in fact so easy to see the harmful effects of gay marriage, it’s easy to feel discouraged.


With the mainstream media determined to tell only one side of the story, you probably haven’t even heard about the opposition gay marriage has stirred around the world. Australian Prime Minister John Howard has asked parliament to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Last week, the British House of Lords successfully blocked the government’s plan for same-sex civil unions. The press plays up news favorable to gay marriage, yet downplays stories like these.


In America, there has been a tremendous amount of opposition to same-sex marriage on the state level, little of which has been reported by the national media. Many states are strengthening DOMAs, and several states are expected to vote this fall on constitutional amendments defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. With the upcoming vote in the U.S. Senate, the action now moves to the federal level.


Ultimately, the marriage issue is going to be resolved nationally. Either the Supreme Court will nationalize gay marriage, or we shall have a Federal Marriage Amendment. The states have always had the power to regulate the specifics of marriage. Yet the fundamental definition of marriage has always been a matter for the nation: That’s why Utah’s admission to the union was conditioned on its abandonment of polygamy. (For more on the federalism issue, see my “National Nuptials.”)



This will be the first time Congress has voted on the Federal Marriage Amendment, but it won’t be the last. The ultimate showdown will come sometime in the next few years, probably after a lawsuit attempting to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act makes it clear that the issue is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court. But this vote is an essential step in building long-term support for the Federal Marriage Amendment. It’s time for senators to go on record on this issue, and to be held accountable for their views by the voters.


Opponents of FMA say the issue shouldn’t be “politicized.” But it wasn’t the president or the Republicans who ordered Massachusetts to legalize same-sex marriage on May 17. The advocates of same-sex marriage controlled the timing of this issue. In any case, how odd to argue that a fundamental change in society’s central institution should not be a matter for democratic decision-making! The problem with this issue is that gay-marriage advocates have been using the courts — and even deliberate and systematic violation of the law — to get around democracy. It’s high time that this debate was put back into the hands of the American people. So let the Senate go on record, and let senators justify their positions to the public.


You’d be amazed how much you can do to affect the outcome of this vote. The press may do its best to keep you in the dark about the depth of opposition to this fundamental redefinition of marriage, but you can bet that opposition is out there. If even a portion of those who actually oppose same-sex marriage take the time and trouble to contact their senators, it could make a real difference in the outcome of the vote. If you don’t already realize it, senators carefully count up constituent mail and phone calls. If you call, it will matter.



It’s tough to think of an issue more important to society than marriage. But now there’s even more at stake than marriage itself. The extralegal tactics of the mayor of San Francisco — and his imitators in New Mexico, New York, and New Jersey — have not been forgotten. Even in socially liberal France, a mayor who performed illegal marriages was punished. Yet in America, nothing has happened to those who took the law into their own hands. And again, in Massachusetts, mayors and town clerks deliberately and systematically broke the law restricting marriages to in-state couples. We know that gay-marriage advocates have tolerated — even loudly supported — this sort of law breaking. And we know that the courts are watching and waiting to see if their usurpation of democratic prerogatives is rebuked by the public.


If the public doesn’t move to show that it disapproves not only of gay marriage but also of judicial activism and open flouting of the law, then the Left will never have reason to hold back. If judges, and activists willing to break the law, can force a change on the American people against their will, they will know that they can do it again and again. So it’s not just marriage that’s at stake here, it’s the role of the courts in society — even the rule of law itself.


Sending a thoughtful e-mail to your senators asking them to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment is a good idea. But it’s often just as powerful — or more so — to phone your senators through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. You can also call your senators’ district offices to ask them to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment. If you use snail mail, you’d better write quickly: Senate security screening can delay mail, and the vote is coming up soon.




Missouri Marriage Vote Bodes Well for Bush (Foxnews, 040805)


Record Number of Signatures for Gay Marriage Ban in Oregon


CHICAGO — President Bush’s re-election bid could be helped by the controversy over same-sex marriage, an issue that is on the ballot in several states this November.


The topic is believed to be behind the very high voter turnout in Missouri’s primary election on Tuesday. Seventy percent of Show Me State voters approved a change to the state constitution, allowing it to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman only.


The turnout is the highest for a primary vote in a quarter century.


That has political analysts suggesting that with a race as tight as the one between Bush and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, any small edge could be a big deal.


“In an election that looks to be as close as this one, you can say any issue swayed the thing,” said Fox News contributor and Almanac of American Politics author Michael Barone.


Missouri becomes the fifth state to have changed its state constitution. Another 10 states are set to vote on similar state constitutional changes. Ohio could be the eleventh. Petitions were turned in on Tuesday to put a marriage definition on the ballot.


If the constitutional amendment does make it onto the ballot, even those fighting for gay marriage in Ohio concede that the issue will help Bush with turnout.




Dutch ‘marriage’: 1 man, 2 women: Trio becomes 1st officially to tie the knots (WorldNetDaily, 050930)


Victor de Bruijn entered into the Netherlands’ first three-way civil union, ‘marrying’ Bianca and Mirjam (courtesty: Brussels Journal)


The Netherlands has legalized polygamy in all but name, granting a civil union to a man and two women.


Victor de Bruijn, 46, of Roosendaal “married” both Bianca, 31, and Mirjam, 35, in a ceremony Friday, the Brussels Journal reported.


“I love both Bianca and Mirjam, so I am marrying them both,” said de Bruijn who previously was married to Bianca.


The couple met Mirjam Geven two and a half years ago through an Internet chatroom, and eight weeks later Mirjam left her husband to live with Victor and Bianca.


After Mirjam’s divorce the threesome decided to marry, the Journal reported.


De Bruijn explained: “A marriage between three persons is not possible in the Netherlands, but a civil union is. We went to the notary in our marriage costume and exchanged rings. We consider this to be just an ordinary marriage.”


DeBruijn insisted there is no jealousy between the three partners because Mirjam and Bianca are bisexual.


“I think that with two heterosexual women it would be more difficult,” he said, noting he is “100% heterosexual.”


A fourth person would not be allowed in their marriage, de Bruijn said, emphasizing they want to take their marriage obligations seriously, “to be honest and open with each other and not philander.”


The Netherlands was the first country in the world to recognize same-sex partnerships. In 1998, registered partnerships, or civil unions, were introduced into law. Marriage and adoption was opened to same-sex couples in 2001


In the U.S., some opponents of same-sex marriage – including, notably, Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. – have argued acceptance of same-sex marriage will create a slippery slope, leading to the sanctioning of other types of relationships, including polygamy.


In June, the president of the American Civil Liberties Union said polygamy is among the “fundamental rights” her organization will continue to defend.


During a question-and-answer session after a speech at Yale University, ACLU president Nadine Strossen stated that her organization has “defended the right of individuals to engage in polygamy.”


Last year, a Utah polygamist, Rodney Holm, appealed convictions for sex offenses to the state Supreme Court, arguing the practice of polygamy is a constitutional right that never produced the social ills claimed by its opponents.


Monogamy is the minority way of life worldwide, the brief said.


“Current demographics, domestic relations law, and religious diversity all accommodate plural marriage,” attorney Rodney Parker wrote.


The appeal cites a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, Lawrence v. Texas, that struck down the sodomy convictions of two Houston men. A majority of the justices said a Texas anti-sodomy law violated the privacy rights of consenting adults.


Holm’s conviction for unlawful sex with a minor stemmed from his 1988 “spiritual” marriage to 16-year-old Ruth Stubbs, with whom he had two children. At the time, Holm was legally married to Stubbs’ sister and had another spiritual wife.


The three were members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which embraces plural marriage.


The Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints says it has no connection to the Fundamentalists and officially opposes polygamy.




Marriage makes monetary sense, analysis finds (Washington Times, 060119)


Weary of the ties that bind? Here’s another reason to buck up and stay married: Those who divorce lose 77% of their personal assets, according to a study released yesterday by the Ohio State University.


“If you really want to increase your wealth, get married and stay married. On the other hand, divorce can devastate your wealth,” said study author Jay Zagorsky, an economist with the university’s Center for Human Resource Research.


He analyzed annual surveys from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that tracked the financial and marital status of 9,055 young adults from 1985 to 2000; the respondents were in their 20s at the start.


The findings? Marriage is simply good business. Couples don’t need Wall Street savvy to get ahead: Their worth increases by 4% each year “just as a result of being married,” because they combine assets and share a household, Mr. Zagorsky said.


According to the statistics, single people had modest growth in wealth during the 15-year survey period. On average, they started with less than $2,000 and ended with $11,000.


People “showed a sharp increase in wealth accumulation” after tying the knot, Mr. Zagorsky said, averaging $43,000 after a decade of marriage.


Those who divorce, however, enter a dismal financial state even before the decree is final.


“Divorce causes a decrease in wealth that is larger than just splitting a couple’s assets in half,” Mr. Zagorsky said. He found that couples who part experience a steady decline in finances up to four years before their split, with assets averaging $3,500 in the year before divorce.


“People may have separated before the divorce became official, which would help explain why wealth starts falling so early,” Mr. Zagorsky said. “Some may also be working less and not trying as hard to build wealth, as they have marriage troubles. Divorce is often a long and messy process, and you can see this in the four-year decline in wealth.”


His analysis also revealed that divorce was hard on husbands and wives alike — neither made off with all the assets. Typically, men held 2? times the amount of wealth as their ex-wives after the break — a percentage deemed “relatively small” by Mr. Zagorsky in terms of cash — about $5,100.


“We can’t tell from these data the reasons why divorced people have so much less wealth than those who are married,” he said. “But the results are clear.”


The New York-based Association of Divorce Financial Planners cautions in a handbook: “If the matters of the heart seem complicated, they are nothing in comparison with the fiscal aspects involved with the legal dissolution of a marriage.”


Divorce also drains state funds. Utah state Rep. Peggy Wallace, a Republican, introduced legislation Friday to increase fees for divorces not involving domestic violence. Utah spends about $3 million processing divorces each year but collects less than $700,000 in fees.


“I don’t think the state should subsidize divorce. Period,” Mrs. Wallace told the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank in Salt Lake City.




Polygamy: Red Herring or Real Threat? (, 060123)


by Jennifer Roback Morse


Last week, a small storm erupted in Canada when the media discovered a government study, recommending that Canada legalize polygamy. The study was authored by three law professors at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. The government commissioned the $150,000 study into the legal and social ramifications of polygamy just weeks before it introduced divisive same-sex marriage legislation. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Canada last June.


Events in Canada have proven that the advocates of marriage are not being hysterical when they warn of the cultural and legal slide into polygamy. Defenders of marriage have been saying all along that legalizing same sex marriage would open the door to legalizing polygamy. Advocates of same sex marriage scoffed at that so much and so often that the term, “slippery slope,” denotes irony and derision, rather than a serious argument deserving serious consideration.


But no matter where they stand on the issue of same sex marriage, Canadians can see the connection between creating legal institutions to accommodate same sex couples and creating legal institutions to accommodate multiple spouses. For instance, Sayd Mumtaz Ali, president of the Canadian Society of Muslims said last year that he opposes same sex marriage, but if it is legalized in Canada, polygamists would be within their rights to bring legal challenges to legalize their choice of family life.


And this Canadian government study implicitly makes the same connection. A Status of Women Canada document recommended further study of the connection between legalizing same sex marriage and legalizing polygamy, saying “In order to prepare for possible debate surrounding Canada’s polygamy policy, critical research is needed.... It is vital that researchers explore the impacts of polygamy on women and children and gender equality, as well as the challenges that polygamy presents to society.”


Now you tell us. It would have been nice to conduct this research BEFORE legalizing same sex marriage, rather than studying the potential effects of legislation that has already been passed. Talk about closing the barn door after the horse is already out.

But even without a $150,000 study, I could tell you pretty simply the impact of polygamy on women, children and gender equality. Polygamy harms all three.


Women have to compete for their husbands’ attention, not just with the football game on TV, but with other women in their own homes. The competition for husbands’ attention does not increase the status of women. It makes them more subservient, more willing to do whatever their husbands want. Their husbands have a ready alternative immediately at hand.


Women don’t just have to compete for attention for themselves. They must also compete on behalf of their children. They have to compete for their husbands’ time, attention and resources.


Any woman who has experienced the serial polygamy of multiple divorce and remarriage knows what I am talking about. It’s not fun, whether you are the first wife who feels abandoned, or the second wife who feels that her nest is continually being raided. Needless to say, this is not a good situation for children.


Polygamy does not help make women more equal to each other, or to men. Quite the contrary. Polygamous societies are extremely common over the course of world history. I seriously doubt that even the most ardent defender of polygamy could not show a single, actually existing society, in which women are even close to being equal to men.


It is monogamy that as a matter of historical fact, has brought about equality between men and women. In cultures that insist upon lifelong monogamy, men and women have a much better chance of operating on equal footing inside the household. Each woman gets to be the queen bee of her own home.


Monogamy even increases the equality among men. To put it simply: in polygamous societies, the rich guys hog all the desirable women. Make no mistake. In all societies, rich guys have a better chance of getting younger, prettier and wealthier wives. The difference is that in a monogamous society, even the richest guy only gets one wife. The men who are less well-endowed still get a chance to compete. Polygamous societies have the problem of poor young men, who are not married and have no reasonable prospect of getting married.


Each man gets to have a wife. Each woman gets to have a husband. The institution of monogamy levels the playing field among men, among women, and between men and women. There is someone for everyone.


Don’t kid yourself about polygamy being “just another life-style choice.” That language is meant to stifle discussion. The Life-Style Choice argument is meant to imply that we should all be delighted to embrace within our society to demonstrate what open, tolerant and all-round good people we are. Polygamy is a bad thing. And it is not a small thing. It is not something that can be introduced into society as one item on a menu, with no impact on all the other choices on the menu. Permitting polygamy will change marriage for everyone, because it will change the terms under which competition in the “marriage market” takes place.


Don’t kid yourself. Polygamy is waiting in the wings of the same-sex marriage debate. If we lose the same-sex marriage debate, we better be prepared to defend monogamy. Because that’s next.




Here Come the Brides: Plural marriage is waiting in the wings (Weekly Standard, 060105)


ON SEPTEMBER 23, 2005, the 46-year-old Victor de Bruijn and his 31-year-old wife of eight years, Bianca, presented themselves to a notary public in the small Dutch border town of Roosendaal. And they brought a friend. Dressed in wedding clothes, Victor and Bianca de Bruijn were formally united with a bridally bedecked Mirjam Geven, a recently divorced 35-year-old whom they’d met several years previously through an Internet chatroom. As the notary validated a samenlevingscontract, or “cohabitation contract,” the three exchanged rings, held a wedding feast, and departed for their honeymoon.


When Mirjam Geven first met Victor and Bianca de Bruijn, she was married. Yet after several meetings between Mirjam, her then-husband, and the De Bruijns, Mirjam left her spouse and moved in with Victor and Bianca. The threesome bought a bigger bed, while Mirjam and her husband divorced. Although neither Mirjam nor Bianca had had a prior relationship with a woman, each had believed for years that she was bisexual. Victor, who describes himself as “100% heterosexual,” attributes the trio’s success to his wives’ bisexuality, which he says has the effect of preventing jealousy.


The De Bruijns’ triple union caused a sensation in the Netherlands, drawing coverage from television, radio, and the press. With TV cameras and reporters crowding in, the wedding celebration turned into something of a media circus. Halfway through the festivities, the trio had to appoint one of their guests as a press liaison. The local paper ran several stories on the triple marriage, one devoted entirely to the media madhouse.


News of the Dutch three-way wedding filtered into the United States through a September 26 report by Paul Belien, on his Brussels Journal website. The story spread through the conservative side of the Internet like wildfire, raising a chorus of “I told you so’s” from bloggers who’d long warned of a slippery slope from gay marriage to polygamy.


Meanwhile, gay marriage advocates scrambled to put out the fire. M.V. Lee Badgett, an economist at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and research director of the Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies, told a sympathetic website, “This [Brussels Journal] article is ridiculous. Don’t be fooled—Dutch law does not allow polygamy.” Badgett suggested that Paul Belien had deliberately mistranslated the Dutch word for “cohabitation contract” as “civil union,” or even “marriage,” so as to leave the false impression that the triple union had more legal weight than it did. Prominent gay-marriage advocate Evan Wolfson, executive director of Freedom to Marry, offered up a detailed legal account of Dutch cohabitation contracts, treating them as a matter of minor significance, in no way comparable to state-recognized registered partnerships.


In short, while the Dutch triple wedding set the conservative blogosphere ablaze with warnings, same-sex marriage advocates dismissed the story as a silly stunt with absolutely no implications for the gay marriage debate. And how did America’s mainstream media adjudicate the radically different responses of same-sex marriage advocates and opponents to events in the Netherlands? By ignoring the entire affair.


Yet there is a story here. And it’s bigger than even those chortling conservative websites claim. While Victor, Bianca, and Mirjam are joined by a private cohabitation contract rather than a state-registered partnership or a full-fledged marriage, their union has already made serious legal, political, and cultural waves in the Netherlands. To observers on both sides of the Dutch gay marriage debate, the De Bruijns’ triple wedding is an unmistakable step down the road to legalized group marriage.


More important, the De Bruijn wedding reveals a heretofore hidden dimension of the gay marriage phenomenon. The De Bruijns’ triple marriage is a bisexual marriage. And, increasingly, bisexuality is emerging as a reason why legalized gay marriage is likely to result in legalized group marriage. If every sexual orientation has a right to construct its own form of marriage, then more changes are surely due. For what gay marriage is to homosexuality, group marriage is to bisexuality. The De Bruijn trio is the tip-off to the fact that a connection between bisexuality and the drive for multipartner marriage has been developing for some time.


AS AMERICAN GAY-MARRIAGE ADVOCATES were quick to point out, the cohabitation contract that joined Victor, Bianca, and Mirjam carries fewer legal implications and less status than either a registered partnership or a marriage—and Dutch trios are still barred from the latter two forms of union. Yet the use of a cohabitation contract for a triple wedding is a step in the direction of group marriage. The conservative and religious Dutch paper Reformatorisch Dagblad reports that this was the first known occurrence in the Netherlands of a cohabitation contract between a married couple and their common girlfriend.


This is important because the Dutch campaign for same-sex marriage was famously premised on a “small step” strategy, with each small increment of recognition creating an impetus for further steps. As Israeli legal scholar Yuval Merin tells it in his 2002 book Equality for Same-Sex Couples, the popularity of cohabitation contracts among Dutch gays in the 1980s helped create laws in the early 1990s forbidding employer discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation—including discrimination between married and unmarried couples in the granting of benefits.


So the use of cohabitation contracts was an important step along the road to same-sex marriage in the Netherlands. And the link between gay marriage and the De Bruijns’ triple contract was immediately recognized by the Dutch. The story in Reformatorisch Dagblad quoted J.W.A. van Dommelen, an attorney opposed to the De Bruijn union, who warned that the path from same-sex cohabitation contracts to same-sex marriage was about to be retraced in the matter of group marriage.


Van Dommelen also noted that legal complications would flow from the overlap between a two-party marriage and a three-party cohabitation contract. The rights and obligations that exist in Dutch marriages and Dutch cohabitation contracts are not identical, and it’s unclear which arrangement would take precedence in case of a conflict. “The structure is completely gone,” said Van Dommelen, as he called on the Dutch minister of justice to set up a working group to reconcile the conflicting claims of dual marriages and multipartner cohabitation contracts. Of course, simply by harmonizing the conflicting claims of dual marriages and triple cohabitation contracts, that working group would be taking yet another “small step” along the road to legal recognition for group marriage in the Netherlands.


The slippery-slope implications of the triple cohabitation contract were immediately evident to the SGP, a small religious party that played a leading role in the failed battle to preserve the traditional definition of marriage in the Netherlands. SGP member of parliament Kees van der Staaij noted the substantial overlap between marriage rights and the rights embodied in cohabitation contracts. Calling the triple cohabitation contract a back-door route to legalized polygamy, Van der Staaij sent a series of formal queries to Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner, asking him to dissolve the De Bruijn contract and to bar more than two persons from entering into cohabitation contracts in the future.


The justice minister’s answers to these queries represent yet another small step—actually several small steps—toward legal and cultural recognition for group marriage in the Netherlands. To begin with, Donner reaffirmed the legality of multipartner cohabitation contracts and pointedly refused to consider any attempt to ban such contracts in the future. Donner also went so far as to assert that contracts regulating multipartner cohabitation can fulfill “a useful regulating function” (also translatable as “a useful structuring role”). In other words, Donner has articulated the rudiments of a “conservative case for group marriage.”


The SGP responded angrily to Donner’s declarations. In the eyes of this small religious party, Donner had effectively introduced a form of legal group marriage to the Netherlands. A party spokesman warned of an impending legal mess—especially if the De Bruijn trio, or others like them, have children. The SGP plans to raise its objections again when parliament considers the justice department’s budget.


It’s not surprising that the first English language report was a bit unclear as to the precise legal status and significance of the triple Dutch union. The Dutch themselves are confused about it. One of the articles from which Paul Belien drew his original report is careful to distinguish between formal marriage and the cohabitation contract actually signed by Victor, Bianca, and Mirjam. Yet the very same article says that Victor now “officially” has “two wives.”


Even Dutch liberals acknowledge the implications of the De Bruijn wedding. Jan Martens, a reporter and opinion columnist for BN/DeStem, the local paper in Roosendaal, wrote an opinion piece mocking opposition to group marriage by religious parties like the SGP. Noting the substantial overlap between cohabitation contracts and marriage, Martens said he agreed with the SGP that the De Bruijn triple union amounts to a “short-cut to polygamy.” Yet Martens emphasized that he “couldn’t care less if you have two, three, four, or sixty-nine wives or husbands.”


Minority religious parties and their newspapers excepted, this mixture of approval and indifference seems to be the mainstream Dutch reaction so far. Not only has Justice Minister Donner articulated the beginnings of a conservative case for group marriage, but Green party spokesman Femke Halsema, a key backer of gay marriage, has affirmed her party’s support for the recognition of multipartner unions. The public has not been inclined to protest these developments, and the De Bruijn trio have been welcomed by their neighbors.


Dutch fascination with the De Bruijn story appears to have made an impression on BN/DeStem. On November 19, less than two months after the triple wedding, the paper ran a story headlined “Remembering birthdays is a disaster,” about the family of a Belgian named Serge Régnier. Belgium is Holland’s neighbor and close cultural cousin. It became the second country to legalize gay marriage when it adopted the practice in 2003, two years after the Netherlands. In the Belgian town of Marcinelle, Serge Régnier lives with three women, only one of whom he is legally married to, but all three of whom he considers wives. The family has a total of 30 children (5 by one wife’s first husband), with another on the way.


Serge Régnier had been married to his wife Christine for four years when Christine’s unmarried sister Karine moved in with the couple. Karine wanted children, and after discussing the matter with her sister and brother-in-law, it was agreed that Serge would father children with Karine and live with the women as a threesome. Into this ménage à trois came Judith, a childhood sweetheart of Serge. Serge had told Christine when he married her that, if she were ever available, Judith would have to be welcomed into their house. When Judith divorced her first husband and showed up on the Régniers’ doorstep, all agreed to admit her. The result is one husband, three wives, and 30 children, with several more children hoped for by the wives. Serge is unemployed, and the entire family is supported by government subsidies. The women say there is no jealousy among them and they would even welcome a fourth wife if she was “nice.”


By early December, the Régnier story had been picked up by numerous Dutch bloggers and the national press. So the De Bruijn union seems to have opened up the Dutch public to the idea of multipartner marriage. News reports on the Régniers are filled with humor and fascination, with little concern for the potential legal ramifications. It’s this cultural response that counts.


When it comes to marriage, culture shapes law. (It’s a two-way street, of course. Law also influences culture.) After all, Dutch same-sex marriage advocates still celebrate the foundational role of symbolic gay marriage registries in the early 1990s. Although these had absolutely no legal status, the publicity and sympathy they generated are now widely recognized as keys to the success of the Dutch campaign for legal same-sex unions and ultimately marriage. How odd, then, that American gay-marriage advocates should respond to the triple Dutch wedding with hair-splitting legal discourses, while ignoring the Dutch media frenzy and subsequent signs of cultural acceptance—for a union with far more legal substance than Holland’s first symbolic gay marriages. Despite the denials of gay-marriage advocates, in both legal and cultural terms, Victor, Bianca, and Mirjam’s triple union is a serious move toward legalized group marriage in the Netherlands.


GIVEN THE STIR IN HOLLAND, it’s remarkable that not a single American mainstream media outlet carried a story on the triple Dutch wedding. Of course the media were all over the Dutch gay marriage story when they thought the experiment had been a success. In late 2003 and early 2004, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision, which ruled sodomy laws unconstitutional, and looming gay marriage in Massachusetts, several American papers carried reports from the Netherlands. The common theme was that Holland had experienced no ill effects from gay marriage, and that the issue was no longer contentious.


Unsurprisingly, the chief sources for these articles were themselves prominent advocates of gay marriage, who dismissed any notion that the reform might have had negative consequences. Had reporters for the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, the Philadelphia Inquirer, or the Chicago Tribune cared to check the Dutch demographic record, they might have discovered the substantial increases in out-of-wedlock births and parental cohabitation that emerged in the wake of the movement for same-sex marriage (see “Going Dutch?” The Weekly Standard, May 31, 2004).


Still, although opposition to same-sex marriage from religious parties like the SGP unquestionably remains, the American media are correct to report that the majority of Dutch citizens have accepted the innovation. The press has simply missed the meaning of that public shift. Broad Dutch acceptance of same-sex marriage means that marriage as an institution has been detached from parenthood in the public mind. That is why the practice of parental cohabitation has grown so quickly in the Netherlands. By the same token, the shoulder shrug that followed the triple wedding story shows that legalized group marriage in the Netherlands is now a real possibility. If the calm Dutch response to same-sex marriage is news, it’s tough to see why the Dutch public’s fascinated acceptance of a triple union isn’t also news. But, of course, the mainstream American press understands that the triple Dutch wedding cannot be spun in a way that helps the cause of same-sex marriage with the American public. Thus the silence.


ALTHOUGH THE TRIPLE Dutch union has been loosely styled “polygamy,” it’s actually a sterling example of polyamory. Polyamorists practice “responsible nonmonogamy”—open, loving, and stable relationships among more than two people (see “Beyond Gay Marriage: The Road to Polyamory,” The Weekly Standard, August 4 / August 11, 2003). Polygamous marriages among fundamentalist Mormons or Muslims don’t depend on a blending of heterosexuality and bisexuality. Yet that combination perfectly embodies the spirit of polyamory. And polyamorists don’t limit themselves to unions of one man and several women. One woman and two men, full-fledged group marriage, a stable couple openly engaging in additional shifting or stable relationships—indeed, almost any combination of partner-number and sexual orientation is possible in a polyamorous sexual grouping.


Polyamorists would call the De Bruijn union a “triad.” In a polyamorous triad, all three partners are sexually connected. This contrasts with a three-person “V,” in which only one of the partners (called the “hinge” or “pivot”) has a sexual relationship with the other two. So the bisexuality of Bianca and Mirjam classifies the De Bruijn union as a polyamorous bisexual triad. In another sense, the De Bruijn marriage is also a gay marriage. The Bianca-Mirjam component of the union is gay, and legalized gay marriage in Holland has clearly helped make the idea of a legally recognized bisexual triad thinkable.


More broadly, the worldwide campaign for gay marriage seems to have stirred up an active bisexual movement in its wake. Bisexuals have traditionally been one of the least visible components of the GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered) alliance. After a flurry of publicity in the 1970s, at the height of the sexual revolution, bisexuality faded from public view. Yet the 1990s brought new attention, with articles in Time and Newsweek touting the emergence of bisexuality as a distinctive and politically tinged identity (and linking bisexuality to nonmonogamous marriage). In recent years, websites, books, and academic studies devoted to bisexuality have proliferated, culminating in 2001 in the founding of one of the movement’s key organs, the Journal of Bisexuality.


One of the first issues of the Journal of Bisexuality featured an account of a Dutch man’s discovery of his own bisexuality. The story is presented as a model for public acceptance of bisexuality, the twist being that the narrative doubles as a political brief for polyamory. Married with two children, Koen Brand declared his bisexuality in 1999, at the height of the gay marriage debate in the Netherlands. Brand then joined the Dutch National Network for Bisexuality and took part in movement activities. Brand also met another married bisexual man. While both men remained married, the two wives agreed to allow their husbands to establish a public and steady sexual relationship. Friends, family, and coworkers also accepted the arrangement. So the two marriages were thus effectively merged into a larger entity, with the men serving as pivots in two overlapping polyamorous V’s.


One of the wives remains uncomfortable with this arrangement, while Brand’s own wife is at least open to Brand’s wish to form a threesome with his male partner. So the story ends with at least the prospect of one marriage breaking up, while the second converts to a polyamorous bisexual triad, as happened when Victor and Bianca de Bruijn met Mirjam Geven and her then husband.


None of this is to gainsay the power of Brand’s narrative. On the contrary, precisely because the personal challenges confronting bisexuals are profound, the emerging bisexual call for polyamorous marriage is going to take on formidable legal force. In a world fully accepting of gay marriage, it will be difficult to withhold equal standing from another organized sexual minority.


Brand explains the willingness of family, friends, and coworkers to accept his openly polyamorous marriage by pointing to the Netherlands’ social liberalism—to its legal soft drugs and its famous tolerance for sexual minorities. After all, Brand’s successful construction of a publicly polyamorous union came at precisely the moment when same-sex marriage was formally legalized in Holland. That is why the Journal of Bisexuality has put Brand’s case forward as a model for other countries. And Brand makes it clear that simple acceptance of a given individual’s bisexual orientation, however heartfelt, is not enough. Just as it’s often said that gays have not been truly accepted until same-sex marriage is legal, Brand maintains that true acceptance for bisexuality requires the social ratification of polyamory.


THE GERM OF AN ORGANIZED EFFORT to legalize polyamory in the United States can be found in the Unitarian Church. Although few realize it, the Unitarian Church, headquartered in Boston, played a critical role in the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts. Julie and Hillary Goodridge, lead plaintiffs in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health, were married at the headquarters of the Unitarian Universalists in a ceremony presided over by the Reverend William G. Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Hillary Goodridge is program director of the Unitarian Universalist Funding Program. And Unitarian churches in Massachusetts played a key role in the struggle over gay marriage, with sermons, activism, and eventually with marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples. Choosing a strongly church-affiliated couple like the Goodridges as lead plaintiffs was an important part of the winning strategy in the Goodridge case.


It’s a matter of interest, therefore, that an organization to promote public acceptance of polyamory has been formed in association with the Unitarian Church. Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness (UUPA) was established in the summer of 1999. At the time, the news media in Boston carried reports from neighboring Vermont, where the soon-to-be-famous civil unions case was about to be decided. And the echo effect of the gay marriage battle on the polyamory movement goes back even further. The first informal Unitarian polyamory discussion group gathered in Hawaii in 1994, in the wake of the first state supreme court decision favorable to same-sex marriage in the United States.


“Our vision,” says UUPA’s website, “is for Unitarian Universalism to become the first poly-welcoming mainstream religious denomination.” Those familiar with Unitarianism’s role in the legalization of gay marriage understand the legal-political strategy implicit in that statement. UUPA’s political goals are spelled out by Harlan White, a physician and leading UUPA activist, on the society’s website. Invoking the trial of April Divilbiss, the first American polyamorist to confront the courts, White says, “We are concerned that we may become the center of the next great social justice firestorm in America.”


White maintains that American polyamorists are growing in number. An exact count is impossible, since polyamory is still surrounded by secrecy. Polyamorists depend on the Internet to connect. Even so, says White, “attendance at conferences is up, email lists and websites are proliferating, and poly support groups are growing in number and size.” As for the Unitarian polyamorists, their email list has several hundred subscribers, and the group has put on well-attended workshops at Unitarian General Assemblies since 2002. And although the number of open polyamorists is limited, some Unitarian ministers already perform “joining ceremonies” for polyamorous families.


White featured prominently in a 2003 Associated Press story on the Unitarian polyamorists: “No one uttered a word when Harlan White walked into church one day with two women, one on each arm. They were, he says, accepted like any other family in his Unitarian congregation.” But it was a second article on Unitarian polyamory, in the April 20, 2004, San Francisco Chronicle, that rocked the Unitarian Church. What made waves was the impression that the church itself had formally embraced polyamory.


Shortly after the second article appeared, UUA president Sinkford circulated a statement among Unitarians acknowledging that press interest in Unitarian polyamory had “generated a great deal of anxiety” among the church’s leadership. “Many of us are concerned that such press coverage might impair our ability to witness effectively for our core justice commitments.” Sinkford appeared to be expressing a concern that had been stated more baldly in the original Chronicle article. According to the Chronicle, many of the students and faculty at the Unitarians’ key west-coast seminary, Starr King School for the Ministry, in Berkeley, see the polyamory movement as a threat to the struggle for same-sex marriage.


In other words, Unitarians understand that moving too swiftly or openly to legitimize polyamory could validate the slippery-slope argument against same-sex marriage. So with news coverage prematurely blowing the cover off the Unitarians’ long-term plan to legalize polyamory, President Sinkford took steps to hold UUPA at arm’s length. Sinkford issued a public “clarification” that distanced the church from any formal endorsement of polyamory, yet also left room for the UUPA to remain a “related organization.”


Meanwhile, Rebecca Ann Parker, president of the prestigious Starr King school, issued a very different and much less public clarification for Unitarians themselves. The Chronicle had quoted Parker in a way that made her seem opposed to polyamory. To correct this impression, Parker posted the following statement on a Unitarian website: “For the record: I support Unitarians for Polyamory Awareness and completely disagree with those who use their belief that monogamous heterosexual marriage is ordained by God as a basis for rejecting same-sex couples and polyamorous relationships.”


But the clearest statement of strategic intent came from Valerie White, a lawyer and executive director of the Sexual Freedom Legal Defense and Education Fund. A founder of UUPA along with her brother, Harlan White, Valerie White let Bi Magazine know in 2003 that UUPA planned to keep its quest for recognition on temporary hold: “It would put too much ammunition in the hands of the opponents of gay marriage. . . . Our brothers and sisters in the LGBT community are fighting a battle that they’re close to winning, and we don’t want to do anything that would cause that fight to take a step backwards.” In short, the Unitarians are holding the polyamorists at arm’s length only until gay marriage has been safely legalized across the nation. At that point, the Unitarian campaign for state-recognized polyamorous marriage will almost certainly begin.


The other fascinating angle in the San Francisco Chronicle’s coverage of the Unitarian polyamorists was the prominence of bisexuality. Most members of UUPA are either bisexual or heterosexual. One polyamorist minister who had recently come out to his congregation as a bisexual treated polyamory and bisexuality synonymously. “Our denomination has been welcoming to gays and lesbians and transgendered people,” he said. “Bisexuals have not received the recognition they deserve.” In other words, anything less than formal church recognition of polyamory is discrimination against bisexuals.


TWO DEVELOPING LINES of legal argument may someday bring about state recognition for polyamorous marriage: the argument from polyamory, and the argument from bisexuality. In a 2004 law review article, Elizabeth F. Emens, of the University of Chicago Law School, offers the argument from polyamory (see “Monogamy’s Law: Compulsory Monogamy and Polyamorous Existence,” New York University Review of Law & Social Change). Polyamory is more than the mere practice of multiple sexual partnership, says Emens. Polyamory is also a disposition, broadly analogous to the disposition toward homosexuality. Insofar as laws of marriage, partnership, or housing discriminate against polyamorous partnerships, maintains Emens, they place unfair burdens on people with “poly” dispositions. Emens takes her cue here from the polyamorists themselves, who talk about their “poly” inclinations the way gays talk about homosexuality. For example, polyamorists debate whether to keep their poly dispositions “in the closet” or to “come out.”


Emens’s case for a poly disposition was inspired by the radical lesbian thinker Adrienne Rich, who famously put forward a “continuum model” of lesbianism. Rich argued that all women, lesbian-identified or not, are in some sense lesbians. If women could just discover where they fall on the “lesbian continuum,” then even those women who remain heterosexually identified would abandon any prejudice against homosexuality.


Following Rich, Emens argues that all of us have a bit of “poly” inside. By discovering and accepting our own desires for multiple sexual partners, then even those who remain monogamous would abandon their prejudice against polyamorists. Of course some people fall at the extreme ends of these continuums. Some folks are intensely monogamous, for example. But by the same token, others are intensely polyamorous. Whether for biological or cultural reasons, says Emens, some folks simply cannot live happily without multiple simultaneous sexual partners. And for those people, Emens argues, our current system of marriage is every bit as unjust as it is for homosexuals.


It may seem that a case like this could never get to court, yet in a sense it already has. Emens offers an analysis of the 1999 case of April Divilbiss, who was forced by a court in Tennessee to choose between keeping custody of her child and continuing to live with two “husbands.” Yet it’s clear that the case could have turned out differently. The judge in the Divilbiss case ignored the findings of four court appointed experts, each of whom found in favor of the polyamorists. The judge also took a number of other liberties he would have been unlikely to get away with in a more closely watched and aggressively litigated case. So Emens’s brief in defense of polyamory is likely to be tested and developed in future court cases.


The second legal strategy available to the polyamorists is the argument from bisexuality. No need here to validate anything as novel-sounding as a “polyamorous disposition.” A case for polyamory can easily be built on the more venerable orientation of bisexuality. While no legal scholar has offered such a case, the groundwork is being laid by Kenji Yoshino, a professor at Yale Law School and deputy dean for intellectual life.


Yoshino’s 2000 Stanford Law Review article “The Epistemic Contract of Bisexual Erasure” has a bewildering title but a fascinating thesis. Yoshino argues that bisexuality is far more prevalent than is usually recognized. The relative invisibility of bisexuality, says Yoshino, can be attributed to the mutual interest of heterosexuals and homosexuals in minimizing its significance. But according to Yoshino, the bisexuality movement is on the rise, and bound to become more visible, with potentially major consequences for the law and politics of sexual orientation.


Defining bisexuality as a “more than incidental desire” for partners of both sexes, Yoshino examines the best available academic studies on sexual orientation and finds that each of them estimates the number of bisexuals as equivalent to, or greater than, the number of homosexuals. Up to now, the number of people who actively think of themselves as bisexuals has been much smaller than the number who’ve shown a “more than incidental” desire for partners of both sexes. But that, argues Yoshino, is because both heterosexuals and homosexuals have an interest in convincing bisexuals that they’ve got to make an all-or-nothing choice between heterosexuality and homosexuality.


Heterosexuals, for example, have an interest in preserving norms of monogamy, and bisexuality “destabilizes” norms of monogamy. Homosexuals, notes Yoshino, have an interest in defending the notion of an immutable homosexual orientation, since that is often the key to persuading a court that they have suffered discrimination. And homosexuals, adds Yoshino, have an interest in maximizing the number of people in their movement. For all these reasons and more, Yoshino argues, the cultural space in which bisexuals might embrace and acknowledge their own sexual identity has been minimized. Yoshino goes on to highlight the considerable evidence for the recent emergence of bisexuality as a movement, and predicts that in our current cultural climate—and given the numerical potential—bisexuality activism will continue to grow.


In addition to establishing the numerical and political significance of bisexuality, Yoshino lays down an argument that could easily be deployed to legalize polyamory: “To the extent that bisexuals are not permitted to express their dual desires, they might fairly characterize themselves as harmed.” Yet Yoshino does not lay out a bisexual defense of polyamory. Instead Yoshino attacks—rightly—the stereotype that treats all bisexuals as nonmonogamous. Yet the same research that establishes the monogamous preferences of many bisexuals also confirms that bisexuals tend toward nonmonogamy at substantially higher rates than homosexuals. (See Paula C. Rust, “Monogamy and Polyamory: Relationship Issues for Bisexuals” in Firestein, ed., Bisexuality: The Psychology and Politics of an Invisible Minority.) That fact could easily be turned by a bisexuality rights movement into an argument for legalized polyamory.


Yoshino, by the way, is no fringe figure. In addition to being a dean and professor at what is arguably the country’s most prestigious law school, Yoshino and his pioneering, identity-based approach to discrimination law were featured in a glowing profile in the New York Times in 2001. An early statement of Yoshino’s views on sexual identity was invoked at a critical point in Justice Stevens’s dissent in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, the case that permitted the Boy Scouts to refuse openly gay scoutmasters. And Yoshino’s treatment of bisexuality was recently invoked approvingly by Harvard professor Laurence Tribe in an article on the Lawrence v. Texas decision. So we are likely to see someone offer a bisexual-based defense of polyamory, loosely inspired by the Yoshino approach. That is especially so if Yoshino is right about prospects for a growing bisexual rights movement.


of course, the visibility of the bisexual rights movement is still limited. In fact, many bisexuals, or advocates for bisexuals, share a radically post-modernist sensibility that deliberately avoids identity-style politics. Yoshino himself is balanced between identity politics and a postmodern inclination to destabilize and transcend all sexual categories. Yet it is becoming increasingly clear that the polyamorists themselves are the “missing” bisexual liberation movement. Of course, not all polyamorists are bisexual. Victor de Bruijn reminds us that he is “100% heterosexual.” Yet Bianca and Mirjam are bisexual. And as in the De Bruijn threesome, the “connecting” function of bisexuals seems to make a great many polyamorous arrangements possible. Of all the sexual sub-groups that participate in polyamory, bisexuals are first among equals. In a certain sense, the movement is theirs.


In 2004, the Journal of Bisexuality published a special double issue on polyamory, also released as the book Plural Loves: Designs for Bi and Poly Living. It’s clear from Plural Loves that the polyamory movement now serves as the de facto political arm of the bisexual liberation struggle. As one contributor notes, “the large number of bi people in the poly movement provides evidence that bisexuality is one of the major driving forces behind polyamory. In other words, polyamory was created and spread partly to satisfy the need for bisexual relationship structures. . . . [T]he majority of poly activists are also bisexual. . . . Poly activism is bi activism. . . . The bi/poly dynamic has the potential to move both communities towards a point of culture-wide visibility, which is a necessary step on the road to acceptance.”


Clearly, visibility and acceptance are on the rise. This past summer, the Baltimore Sun featured a long, friendly article on the polyamorists’ national conference, held in Maryland. In September, the New York Times ran a long personal account of (heterosexual) polyamory in the Sunday Styles section. But the real uptick in public bisexuality/ polyamory began with the October 2005 release in New York of the documentary Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family.


Three of Hearts is the story of the real-life 13-year relationship of two men and a woman. Together for several years in a gay relationship, two bisexual-leaning men meet a woman and create a threesome that produces two children, one by each man. Although the woman marries one of the men, the entire threesome has a commitment ceremony. The movie records the trio’s eventual breakup, yet the film’s website notes their ongoing commitment to the view that “family is anything we want to create.”


Although Three of Hearts is in limited release in selected art houses across the country, the film is slated for airing on BRAVO in the spring of 2006. The movie’s New York premiere drew media attention to polyamory. Even the conservative New York Post ran a generally positive story on polyamory timed to coincide with the movie’s opening. The flurry of publicity was noticed by London’s Guardian, which reported in November that polyamory had reached a new level of visibility and acceptance in New York.


Three of Hearts was also discussed in a long, sympathetic investigative piece on polyamory in New York magazine. According to New York, the growing popularity of polyamory among New York-area straights is largely inspired by the increasing visibility of gay relationships, with their more “fluid” notions of commitment. New York also found that the most stable polyamorous groupings have as their core element a straight man and a bisexual woman who sticks to one man, rather like the De Bruijn trio.


Of course, many argue that true bisexuality does not exist. In this view—held by a variety of people, from some psychiatrists to certain pro-gay-marriage activists—everyone is either heterosexual or homosexual. From this perspective, so-called bisexuals are either in confused transition from heterosexuality to homosexuality, or simply lying about their supposedly dual sexual inclinations. Alternatively, it’s sometimes said that while female bisexuality does exist, male bisexuality does not. A recent and controversial study reported on by the New York Times in July 2005 claimed to show that truly bisexual attraction in men might not exist.


Whatever view we take of these medical/psychiatric/ philosophical controversies, it is a fact that a bi/poly rights movement exists and is growing. Whether Koen Brand and Bianca and Mirjam de Bruijn are “authentic” bisexuals or “just fooling themselves,” they are clearly capable of sustaining polyamorous bisexual V’s and triads for long enough to make serious political demands. Three of Hearts raises questions about whether the two men in the triangle are bisexual, or simply confused gays. But with two children, a 13-year relationship, and at one time at least a clear desire for legal-ceremonial confirmation, the Three of Hearts trio is a harbinger of demands for legal group marriage. Public interest in the De Bruijn triangle has already raised the visibility and acceptance of polyamorous bisexuality in the Netherlands. For legal-political purposes, acceptance is what matters. And given Yoshino’s numerical analysis, the growth potential for self-identifying bisexuals is substantial.


Americans today respond to gay and bisexual friends and family members in a variety of ways. Despite stereotypical accusations of “homophobia,” the traditionally religious generally offer a mixture compassion and concern. Many other Americans, conservative and liberal alike, are happy to extend friendship, understanding, and acceptance to gay and bisexual relatives and acquaintances. This heightened social tolerance is a good thing. Yet somehow the idea has taken hold that tolerance for sexual minorities requires a radical remake of the institution of marriage. That is a mistake.


The fundamental purpose of marriage is to encourage mothers and fathers to stay bound as a family for the sake of their children. Our liberalized modern marriage system is far from perfect, and certainly doesn’t always succeed in keeping parents together while their children are young. Yet often it does. Unfortunately, once we radically redefine marriage in an effort to solve the problems of adults, the institution is destined to be shattered by a cacophony of grown-up demands.


The De Bruijn trio, Koen Brand, the Unitarian Universalists for Polyamory Awareness, the legal arguments of Elizabeth Emens and Kenji Yoshino, and the bisexual/ polyamory movement in general have been launched into action by the successes of the campaign for gay marriage. In a sense, though, these innovators have jumped too soon. They’ve shown us today—well before same-sex marriage has triumphed nationwide—what would emerge in its aftermath.


Liberals may now put behind-the-scenes pressure on the Dutch government to keep the lid on legalized polyamory for as long as the matter of gay marriage is still unsettled. The Unitarian polyamorists, already conflicted about how much recognition to demand while the gay marriage battle is unresolved, may be driven further underground. But let there be no mistake about what will happen should same-sex marriage be fully legalized in the United States. At that point, if bisexual activists haven’t already launched a serious campaign for legalized polyamory, they will go public. It took four years after the full legalization of gay marriage in the Netherlands for the first polyamory test case to emerge. With a far larger and more organized polyamory movement in America, it might not take even that long after the nationalization of gay marriage in the United States.


It’s easy to imagine that, in a world where gay marriage was common and fully accepted, a serious campaign to legalize polyamorous unions would succeed—especially a campaign spearheaded by an organized bisexual-rights movement. Yet win or lose, the culture of marriage will be battered for years by the debate. Just as we’re now continually reminded that not all married couples have children, we’ll someday be endlessly told that not all marriages are monogamous (nor all monogamists married). For a second time, the fuzziness and imperfection found in every real-world social institution will be contorted into a rationale for reforming marriage out of existence. No flash in the pan, Victor, Bianca, and Mirjam are destined to be heroes of “the next great social justice firestorm in America.”


Stanley Kurtz is a fellow at the Hudson Institute.




Hollywood family values (, 060307)


by Maggie Gallagher


At the Oscars, George Clooney declared he was “proud to be out of touch.” Movies and TV, he suggested, can help change the world, one wicked human heart at a time.


So perhaps HBO is just doing its bit for human progress this Sunday (March 12) in bringing you “Big Love,” because as the promo says, “Polygamy Loves Company.” According to the Los Angeles Times, the show about “the polygamists next door” is “family values of the provocative kind.” ABC News called it “buzzed about.” Time magazine hailed it as “the next cool thing on TV.”


Just a TV show? Series co-creator Mark Olsen is unabashed about his intentions. “Big Love,” he told Newsweek, is “everything that every family faces, just times three. The yuck factor disappears and you just see human faces.”


There’s Hollywood family values for you: taking the yuck out of polygamy on national TV. This is just the latest salvo in what appears to be a nascent push for normalizing polygamy in this country. In January 2005 at Yale University (according to the Yale Daily News), Nadine Strossen, president of the American Civil Liberties Union, defended the ACLU’s fight for legal polygamy: “We have defended the right for individuals to engage in polygamy,” Strossen said. “We defend the freedom of choice for mature, consenting individuals.” (According to the Chicago Tribune, up to 40,000 Americans practice polygamy right now.) University of Chicago law professor Elizabeth Emens, in a series of legal journal articles (a.k.a. “Beyond Gay Marriage”) lays out a new strategy for defending polygamy as both a constitutional right and as a morally acceptable way of life, calling this historic moment a “unique opportunity to question the mandate of compulsory monogamy.”


Maybe her next essay will be called “Beyond Polygamy,” because when you think about it, polygamy is terribly old-fashioned, isn’t it? The latest cool thing is “polyamory”; the Chicago Tribune calls it “monogamy with more partners” and goes on to describe it like this:


“John and Sue have an offbeat marital arrangement. For the last five years of their marriage, Sue has spent three nights a week with her boyfriend, Fred. And that’s not even the strange part. As it turns out, John openly shares Sue — and their king-size marital bed — with Fred. Confused? Consider this: During the rest of the week, Fred sleeps at home with his wife, Peggy, and their male lover, Bill. John, a 71-year-old San Francisco-based researcher, also has relationships outside his marriage to Sue. He has three current girlfriends, Fred has two and John’s wife has four boyfriends.”


The main appeal of polygamy has historically been among straight people. But in the Southern Voice last April, one writer argued: “Gays should support polyamorist rights because many of us already participate in a kind of informal polyamory.”


The most disheartening telltale sign I spotted came from a grad student at the University of Wisconsin, writing unself-consciously in the Badger Herald earlier this year: “Over the past few years, the social stigma of engaging in polyamory has greatly subsided on college campuses — and this university is no exception.” She’s not very pleased with the trend (which in her retrograde way she calls “cheating without guilt”), but she’s hoping to learn more about it in her Close Personal Relationships academic seminar.


How powerful will the new push for polyamory prove, now that Hollywood, in its restless search for new ways to be “out of touch,” has thrown down the gauntlet on monogamy (never its favorite family value)? I don’t know. But I think we are going to find out.


Because after all, who but a hate-filled American could object to truly Big Love, right?




FRC Launches Petition to Protect Marriage, Pass Federal Amendment (Christian Post, 060308)


WASHINGTON – One of Washington’s top Christian lobbying groups has launched a petition aimed at getting “vulnerable” senators to pass a federal marriage amendment that would protect the traditional definition of marriage and prevent more states from legalizing gay “marriages.”


“Without this amendment, liberal courts are likely to mandate homosexual ‘marriage,’” an action alert from the Family Research Council read. “When that occurs, every institution in American society will be pressured to change and to accept, even honor, this new civil right.”


The petition, which FRC launched on Monday, comes three months before the Marriage Protection Amendment goes before Congress. The legislation is scheduled for a vote for the week of June 5, 2006.


According to Tom McClusky, FRC’s vice president for governmental affairs, the petition is only one part of an “all-out effort” planned before the vote.


“We will be holding conference, debates, rallies, seminars, and even another simulcast,” McClusky said. “This is an issue that our supporters are passionate about, and we want as many people to sign the petition as possible.”


Last year, a similar amendment failed to pass at the Senate by a 48 to 50 vote. McClusky said he hopes the petition will make the difference this year.


“The Senate and House doesn’t seem like they got the message yet,” he said. “We will be sending these petitions out to senators in red states, blue states, blue republicans and red democrats, and of course those senators who are in vulnerable positions facing tough races this year.”


The petition urges officials to “use the considerable power and influence” of their office and “preserve our nation’s Judeo-Christian values and heritage for future generations of Americans.”


It also tells Congressmen that “I will be praying for you in the days ahead, that you will serve in the Senate with wisdom, virtue and courage.”


To date voters in 19 states have passed constitutional amendments to protect marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The Family Research Council plans to deliver the petitions to local senators one week before the scheduled vote.




Big Love, from the Set: I’m taking the people behind the new series at their word. (National Review Online, 060313)


Stanley Kurtz


It’s getting tougher to laugh off the “slippery slope” argument — the claim that gay marriage will lead to polygamy, polyamory, and ultimately to the replacement of marriage itself by an infinitely flexible partnership system. We’ve now got a movement for legalized polyamory and the abolition of marriage in Sweden. (See “Fanatical Swedish Feminists.”) The Netherlands has given legal, political, and public approval to a cohabitation contract for a polyamorous bisexual triad. (See “Here Come the Brides.”) Two out of four reports on polygamy commissioned by the Canadian government recommended decriminalization and regulation of the practice. (See “Dissolving Marriage.”) And now comes Big Love, HBO’s domestic drama about an American polygamous family.


It has been argued that Big Love is just a harmless drama, no more likely to promote social acceptance of polygamy than the Sopranos is likely to promote crime. But we know that Big Love’s own creators and stars don’t see it this way. They clearly intend their show to challenge and change America’s way of thinking about the family.


Big Plans

Will Scheffer, co-creator of Big Love, wrote Falling Man and Other Monologues, a play about gay life, as a direct response to the public battle over same-sex marriage. Commenting on Falling Man, Scheffer said, “The voice from the conservative right is getting louder and louder, so I think we have to state who we are in our lives, especially with the reversal of the marriage thing in California.” Scheffer sees Falling Man as an entry into the gay marriage battle, and he and his co-creator, Mark Olsen clearly see Big Love the same way.


Speaking to The Washington Blade, Olsen said he and Scheffer wanted to address our culture war over the family by trying to “find the values of family that are worth celebrating separate of who the people are and how they’re doing it.” In other words, family structure shouldn’t matter as long as people love each other. Scheffer adds that what attracted him to the Big Love project was “the subversive nature of how we deal with family values....I think what’s really exciting about the show is the nonjudgmental look we have on our characters.” Now maybe cultural radicals are mistaken when they claim that they can change society just by shaping the movies, plays, and television we watch. But clearly this kind of cultural transformation is exactly what Scheffer and Olsen have in mind.


The one thing that doesn’t ring true is Scheffer’s claim that he had initially resisted Olsen’s idea for a show about polygamy because he thought the practice was “yucky.” Given the fact that Scheffer’s Falling Man and Other Monologues includes a scene in which noted serial killer, necrophiliac, and cannibal, Jeffrey Dahmer, gives cooking lessons from his “kitchen in heaven,” the idea that Scheffer found polygamy “yucky” is a bit hard to credit. In any case, it makes sense that Scheffer and Olsen like to tell that story. The notion they’re out to promote is that polygamy seems “yucky” at first, but is actually just fine once you get to know some really nice polygamists. Or, as Olsen told Newsweek. “The yuck factor disappears and you just see human faces.”


It isn’t just Big Love’s co-creators who think of it as something that will influence our cultural, legal, and political battles. Big Love’s actors seem to feel the same way. Ginnifer Goodwin, who plays one of the wives of Big Love, says that for many women, polygamy “is the answer to their problems, not a problem in and of itself.” Big Love lead, Bill Paxton, says: “This show talks about the freedom in this country. Are we free to choose who with want to live with? Well, yes, but we can’t have legal rights together.” Paxton seems to be pretty clearly arguing for decriminalization of polygamy, and probably for direct legal recognition as well.


In one episode, Big Love directly addresses the legal-political issues at stake. A polygamist leader explains to fictional reporters that judicial recognition of privacy rights for homosexuals would have to be extended to polygamists. “We’re just like homosexuals,” the man then explains to his shocked wives. As for the fictional Henrickson family (headed by Big Love star Paxton), Olsen and Scheffer “want people to fall in love with these characters and to root for this family.” Says, Olsen, “If people in the gay community want to embrace the show, identify with their struggle, so be it.”


So if conservatives treat Big Love as a serious attempt to deconstruct the American family, rather than as a harmless drama with no cultural, legal, or political implications, they are simply taking the creators and stars of the show at their word.


Public Support

But is it fair to treat a television show or a movie as something that can change public opinion, and through public opinion our laws? I think it is. Certainly such claims are not new. The Dutch gay community’s official history of the same-sex marriage movement notes how important a turning point it was when a gay couple appeared on a popular Dutch honeymoon show. That appearance helped pave the way for legal gay marriage in The Netherlands. So why shouldn’t we take Big Love as a significant breakthrough for polygamy?


We don’t need to talk about all the claims for the cultural significance of Will and Grace or Brokeback Mountain. Have a look at this fascinating piece from the Salt Lake City Tribune, “Will the polygamy debate ever be the same?” The Tribune draws an analogy between Big Love and the first appearance by a black in a television commercial. That appearance was arranged by Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, through his then intern, Ed Frimage. Now a law-professor emeritus at University of Utah’s law school, Frimage has long advocated the decriminalization and regulation of polygamy. Once you get an black on television to sell refrigerators, argues Frimage, “the game is over.” The Salt Lake Tribune wonders out loud whether, after Big Love, the same might now be true for polygamists. As the Tribune reports, there are already legal challenges to anti-polygamy laws based on the Supreme Court’s Lawrence v. Texas decision. It’s likely we’ll see more in the future. It’s hard to believe that changing public attitudes in the wake of Big Love won’t have an influence on those battles in years to come.



Some deny that Big Love “glamorizes” polygamy at all. It’s true that the show is frank about abuses. The Henrickson family is at odds with the polygamist “compound” where the show’s hero grew up. And the Henricksons obviously abhor abuses seen in the compound, like marrying off very young girls to much older men. But this hardly stops Big Love from being “pro-polygamy.” On the contrary, Big Love mimics the position of most polygamy advocates: prosecute individual abuses, but don’t attack the practice itself. By setting up a contrast between good polygamy and bad polygamy, Big Love puts forward a case for decriminalization, recognition, and regulation.


The last line of defense against the slippery-slope argument is the claim that there is no prospect of a national movement for polygamy that could match the movement for gay marriage in wealth, clout, or intensity. This claim, too, is getting tougher to credit. Polygamy is supported in principle by the American Civil Liberties Union, hardly an insignificant player on the national scene.


And that article from the Salt Lake Tribune makes it clear that serious legal challenges to anti-polygamy laws are already afoot. In 2004, when it looked as though a polygamy case might be headed for the supreme court, George Washington Law School professor Jonathan Turley called for decriminalization in USA Today. This past Saturday, New York Times columnist, John Tierney, endorsed polygamy and tied his endorsement to support for same-sex marriage. Just like Big Love star, Ginnifer Goodwin, Tierney argued that, for some women this is the answer to their problems, not a problem in and of itself.


More important than any of these individual responses is the advance critical acclaim for the show. Mostly we’ve seen rave reviews, even from conservative outlets. Actual objections to polygamy have been few and far between. This general chorus of praise for the show is a telling sign of change in a country that once viewed slavery and polygamy as the “twin pillars of barbarism.”


Collapsing Taboo

It’s also important to remember that support for polygamy and polyamory (approval of one is bound to help licence the other) cannot be tracked in a simple, linear fashion. This is not something that can be judged by open support, like public opinion during an election campaign. Polygamy is illegal, and polygamists are still afraid to identify themselves by name to reporters.


We are dealing, not with an election campaign, but with the possible collapse of a social taboo — something television is ideally suited to achieve. Social taboos may erode gradually over the very long haul, but up close, and especially toward the beginning, you get little collapses — the quick and unexpected falling away of opposition. What used to be hidden emerges with startling rapidity, because much of it was there all along. Polygamy, and especially polyamory, are already widespread on the Internet. Both practices are pushing toward a major public taboo-collapsing moment. We can’t know when “critical mass” might be reached, but Big Love has got to be getting us there a whole lot quicker than we were.


Deconstruction Crew

Even so, it would be a mistake to treat Big Love as fundamentally about polygamy. The truth is more complicated. Consider Martha Bailey, the professor who advocated the decriminalization and regulation of polygamy in Canada. Bailey herself does not “approve” of traditional “patriarchal” polygamy. On the contrary, Bailey is a radical feminist who would like to abolish marriage and replace it with an infinitely flexible relationship system, neutral with respect to gender, number, or even the presence or absence of a sexual relationship between partners. Although Bailey has forged a tactical alliance with practitioners of patriarchal polygamy among Canada’s Muslim immigrants, she is hardly a fan of patriarchy. Instead Bailey is using Muslim immigrants as a lever to achieve her long-term goal of deconstructing Canadian marriage.


I think something like this is going on with Big Love. Superficially, the show is a complex defense of polygamy. More deeply, Big Love wants to claim that, so long as people love each other, family structure doesn’t matter. So Big Love’s lovable polygamists also serve as subtle standard bearers for gay marriage, as the show explicitly notes from time to time. But that’s not all. Big Love’s pro-gay marriage message emphatically fails to echo the so-called “conservative case” for same-sex marriage. Big Love signals the surprisingly early re-emergence of a rift that split the gay community at the very start of the movement for same-sex marriage.


Behind the seemingly unanimous support for same-sex marriage in the gay community lies (at least) a three way split. “Conservative” gays say they favor marriage because they admire this bourgeois institution. Radical gays reject marriage as an outdated and oppressive patriarchal relic. These radicals favor gay marriage as a gesture of public approval for homosexuality, yet oppose the idea of actually getting married. Then there are gays who agree that marriage is outdated and oppressive, but who see a chance to radicalize the institution from within (say, by using sexually open unions to break the link between marriage and monogamy).


All indications are that Big Love is a product of this radical sensibility. The goal is not to adapt couples to an already existing institution but, in Scheffer’s words, to “subversively” transform the institution of marriage from within. So by highlighting the analogy between gay marriage and polygamy, Big Love simultaneously builds support for same-sex marriage, while also deconstructing the very notion of monogamous marriage itself. It’s a radical’s dream come true.


This means the real challenge we face is not from a huge, nationally based movement of so-called “Mormon fundamentalists.” (These renegade polygamists are emphatically not members of the mainstream, Mormon Church.) Instead, as in Canada, the challenge will come from a complex coalition: gay radicals who favor same-sex marriage but who also want to transform and transcend marriage itself, feminists (like Canada’s Martha Bailey) who feel the same way, Hollywood liberals like Tom Hanks (an executive producer of Big Love) who want to use the media to transform the culture, civil-rights advocates like the ACLU and ex-Humphrey aide Ed Frimage, libertarian conservatives like John Tierney and an ever-larger number of young people, fundamentalist “Mormon” polygamists, and the ever-growing movement for polyamory (which features both heterosexuals and large numbers of bisexuals), and perhaps someday (as in Canada) Muslim and other non-Western immigrants.


This complex coalition ranging from old-fashioned Humphrey-style liberals to anti-marriage feminist radicals, to libertarian conservatives, is what will power future efforts to radically deconstruct marriage. And we’re only at the very beginning of these efforts. For the most part, cultural radicals are holding back, knowing that anything they say may jeopardize the movement for same-sex marriage by validating slippery-slope fears. The remarkable thing is that, at this early stage, the radicals have forced themselves so openly into the cultural argument. That is a sure sign that if same-sex marriage were to be safely legalized nationally, the way would finally be open to a truly concerted campaign to transform marriage by opening it up to polygamy and polyamory, or by replacing it with an infinitely flexible partnership system. Whatever we’re seeing now is only the barest hint of what will happen once the coast is clear.




SOCIETY: Polygamy, Polyamory, and the Future of Marriage (Mohler, 060310)


“Think having three wives is a dream come true?” That is the question asked by HBO as it introduces its new series, “Big Love.” Set to begin March 12, the show is about a man named Bill Henrickson (played by Bill Paxton), who is described as “a modern-day Utah polygamist who lives in suburban Salt Lake City with his three wives, seven children, and a mounting avalanche of debt and demands.”


The executives at HBO obviously believe that the show will be a winner—and they are releasing it to great fanfare. The description of the series indicates something of how the show will combine elements of a soap opera with more serious drama. Of course, all this comes with a new twist, as HBO pledges to explore “the evolving institution of marriage through a typical atypical family.”


Is this really about marriage as an “evolving institution?” Consider how HBO describes the series’ plot development:


“The owner of a growing chain of home improvement stores, Bill struggles to balance the financial and emotional needs of Barb, Nicki and Margene (Jeanne Tripplehorn, Chloë Sevigny and Gennifer Goodwin), who live in separate, adjacent houses and take turns sharing their husband each night. While managing the household finances together and routinely sharing ‘family home nights,’ they try to keep simmering jealousies in check and their arrangement a secret—polygamy is illegal in Utah and banned by the mainstream Mormon Church. Adding to Bill’s woes are a series of crises affecting his parents . . . who live on a fundamentalist compound in rural Utah, and his ruthless father-in-law . . . the powerful head of the polygamist commune where his parents live.”


In one scene, Margene complains when “her night” finally arrives. “Three days can seem like such an eternity,” she laments. “Honey, I miss you, too,” he responds. “If I don’t say so, it’s ‘cause I don’t want Nicki and Barb to think I miss them any less.”


No one knows if “Big Love” will be a commercial success. Predicting the fickle tastes of the American public is a dubious endeavor. Still, the very fact that HBO has produced the series says a great deal about the cable network’s willingness to exploit virtually any opportunity for a story, and about the American public’s confusion over the institution of marriage.


In Utah, the series has unleashed considerable controversy, even before it hits the television screen. Responding to complaints from the Mormon church, the network added a disclaimer at the end of the program stating that the Latter Day Saints officially banned polygamy in 1890, a ban required in order for the state to be admitted into the Union. The statement also indicates that attorneys general in Utah and Arizona estimate that as many as 20,000 to 40,000 people in the United States currently engage in polygamous relationships. Others estimate that the number is far higher—perhaps as many as 100,000 or more.


That’s not all. Just last month, a judge in rural Utah was removed from the bench by the state’s Supreme Court when it was discovered that he was married to three women, with whom he had fathered thirty-two children. Even as he was removed from the bench, the judge, Walter Steed, indicated that he intended to continue his “plural marriage” arrangement. Currently, polygamy is considered a third-degree felony that can be punished by five years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines.


At the same time, there is a movement within the state to legalize polygamy. Some use the existence of wife abuse among polygamists as a rationale for legalizing the relationships.


Of course, in “Big Love,” HBO is attempting to present polygamy with a happy face. For some, the series may be viewed as comedy, others will see the program as a warning about the direction of the culture.


There is good reason to worry. The movement toward same-sex marriage will surely lead to the legalization of other forms of “marriage” as well. The logic is undeniable, as is increasingly recognized by legal scholars and public policy experts. In reality, if marriage can be redefined as anything other than the relationship between one man and one woman, it can mean virtually anything. As a matter of fact, a change in the understanding of gender related to marriage is, in a historical perspective, more significant than a change in number.


In Canada, the logic is already marching forward. After legalizing same-sex marriage, the Liberal Party (then leading the government) commissioned a $150,000 study in order to consider the question of polygamy. Those conducting the study came back with a startling recommendation—that Canada should repeal all laws banning polygamy.


“Why criminalize behavior?,” asked Martha Bailey, a professor of law who participated in the study. “We don’t criminalize adultery,” she added. She continued: “In light of the fact that we have a fairly permissive society . . . why are we singling out that particular form of behavior for criminalization?” The authors of the study also argue that Canada’s constitutional guarantee of religious freedom should protect polygamists who claim participation in plural marriages as a tenet of their faith.


In the Netherlands, polygamy has already gained much ground. In one highly publicized wedding, a man, Victor de Bruijn, married two women, Bianca and Mirgam. That union garnered a great deal of attention in Europe and in the United States, where advocates for same-sex marriage quickly rushed to insist that warnings against polygamy were merely scare tactics used by opponents of same-sex marriage.


Writing in The Weekly Standard, Stanley Kurtz suggests that plural marriage is “waiting in the wings.” Pointing to the De Bruijn wedding, Kurtz suggested a “heretofore hidden dimension” of the same-sex marriage reality. “The De Bruijn’s triple marriage is a bisexual marriage,” Kurtz explains. “And, increasingly, bisexuality is emerging as a reason why legalized gay marriage is likely to result in legalized group marriage. If every sexual orientation has a right to construct its own form of marriage, then more changes are surely due. For what gay marriage is to homosexuality, group marriage is to bisexuality. The De Bruijn trio is the tip-off to the fact that a connection between bisexuality and the drive for multipartner marriage has been developing for some time.”


Some homosexual activists also see the link between same-sex marriage and polygamy (or polyamory, multiple romantic and sexual relationships without legal marriage). Justin Michael, founder of the group “Polyamorous NYC,” says that efforts by homosexual activists to deny the link with polyamory is false and cowardly. “I’d encourage people to keep an open mind,” he asserted, “it wasn’t too long ago that gay relationships were completely ostracized. All movements have a tendency to build on the movements that have come before them.” He added: “It’s hypocritical for us as gays and lesbians to pretend we’re the only people who are treated differently because our relationships are not mainstream. Both communities are concerned with love, and forming lasting relationships, and with our own liberation.”


The Utah chapter of the ACLU argues that any personal relationship between consenting adults should be protected by the Constitution. Dani Eyer, executive director of the Utah ACLU told the homosexual newspaper, Southern Voice: “Criminal and civil laws prohibiting the advocacy or practice of plural marriage are constitutionally defective. Neither the polygamists nor the proponents of same-sex marriage are wild about the analogy, but we do see the two as similar concepts.”


Mathew Staver, a conservative attorney who heads the group Liberty Council agrees with the logic, even as he opposes both polygamy and same-sex marriage. “If you convert marriage to merely the placing of a license on consenting adults that are in a committed relationship, or who love each other, then there is no logical line that can be drawn between gay marriage and polygamy,” he insists. “Gay marriage clearly opens the door to polygamy.”


On Sunday, “Big Love” may draw a big audience. Of course, some will simply be drawn by the curiosity of it all. Yet, the existence of “Big Love” indicates that at least some Americans are willing to consider polygamy and polyamory as legitimate relationships for television dramas, if not yet for the culture at large.


The institution of marriage has survived for thousands of years, withstanding the tests of multiple wars, famines, plagues, and social upheavals. Now, marriage faces what might be its most severe question—whether it can survive the corrosive effects of America’s postmodern culture. We can be sure of this—the real drama about the subversion of marriage will not be accompanied by a laugh track.




ETHICS: “Marriage is for White People”—The Decline of Marriage among African Americans (Mohler, 060329)


“Marriage is for white people.” That’s what Joy Jones was told when she was teaching a career exploration class for sixth-graders at an elementary school in the nation’s capital. As a matter of fact, more than one student offered Jones this retort when she spoke of marriage and parenthood.


Joy Jones is author of Between Black Women: Listening with the Third Ear. In a recent article written for The Washington Post, Jones laments the decline of marriage among African Americans. It wasn’t always this way, she insists.


“I grew up in a time when two-parent families were still the norm, in both black and white America,” Jones explains. “Then, as an adult, I saw divorce become more commonplace, then almost a rite of passage. Today it would appear that many—particularly in the black community—have dispensed with marriage altogether.”


This nation has been witnessing (and allowing) the undermining of its marriage culture. Throughout the culture, marriage is simply not respected or expected as it once was, and the cult of personal autonomy and the rise of postmodern worldviews have only accelerated this process. Still, the decline of marriage as an institution is not uniform across the culture. As the statistics clearly indicate, marriage is losing ground among African Americans more quickly than within the society at large.


Jones’ experience at the Washington elementary school tells the story. A young black boy had expressed his belief that being a good father was a very important personal goal—”more meaningful than making money or having a fancy title.” Jones was pleased with the boy’s statement. “That’s wonderful!,” she told him. “I think I’ll invite some couples in to talk about being married and rearing children.”


“Oh, no,” the student objected. “We’re not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers.” Another boy quickly offered his own analysis, “speaking as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth,” Jones laments. “Marriage is for white people,” he said.


Considering the context, that boy’s statement is a tragedy in seven syllables. How could a young black boy come to the conclusion that marriage is only for white people?


In part, he is simply observing the reality. As Joy Jones confirms, the marriage rate for African Americans has been falling since the 1960s. At present, blacks have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. According to the 2001 U. S. census data, 43.3% of black men and 41.9% of black women have never been married. In contrast, only 27.4% of white men and 20.7% of white women have never been married.


Of all demographic groups, African American women are least likely ever to marry. While the marriage rate fell for all Americans by 17% in the thirty years between 1970 and 2001, the marriage rate for black Americans fell by 34%.


This has caught the attention of many observers. Howard University’s Audrey Chapman has referred to African Americans as “the most uncoupled people in the country.” Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin points out that a black child was more likely to grow up with two parents during the days of slavery than he or she is today.


The reference to slavery is very instructive. Jones understands the argument that slavery and its lingering effects explain today’s low marriage rate among African Americans. She rejects this with solid data. Indeed, she cites historian Eugene D. Genovese, who sets the record straight. Genovese, author of Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made, points to the incredibly strong and even sacrificial commitment to marriage that most often characterized slave families. He tells of slaves who mutilated themselves and put themselves at risk, just in order to save their marriages and to continue raising their children.


“What has shifted in African American customs, in our community, in our consciousness, that has made marriage seem unnecessary or unattainable?” Jones asks.


Her argument is that the African American world has lost sight of normal marriage. Their world has been transformed by cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births, divorce, and remarriage. “Sex, love and childbearing have become a la carte choices rather than a package deal that comes with marriage,” she advises. “Moreover, in an era of brothers on the ‘downlow,’ the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and the decline of the stable blue-collar jobs that black men used to hold, linking one’s fate to a man makes marriage a risky business for a black woman.”


Beyond this, Jones argues that African American women hold different expectations of marriage than African American men. “My observation is that black women in their twenties and early thirties want to marry and commit at a time when black men their age are more likely to enjoy playing the field. As the woman realizes that a good marriage may not be as possible or sustainable as she would like, her focus turns to having a baby, or possibly improving her job status, perhaps by returning to school or investing more energy in her career.”


In other words, marriage just doesn’t look like a very attractive proposition to women who have had to learn to make it on their own, and who are concerned that men really will not bring much to the marriage partnership anyway.


In an autobiographical passage, Joy Jones admits that this has been true for herself, as well as for others. She turned down a wedding proposal when it came quite late and when the man appeared to bring more problems from previous relationships than Jones was willing to accept.


“Most single black women over the age of 30 whom I know would not mind getting married, but acknowledge that the kind of man and the quality of marriage they would like to have may not be likely, and they are not desperate enough to simply accept any situation just to have a man,” she explains. “A number of my married friends complain that taking care of their husbands feels like having an additional child to raise.”


So why would a black woman get married? Jones argues that she marries when marriage is presented as more than a business alliance. “If it weren’t for the intangibles, the allure of the lovey-dovey stuff, I wouldn’t have gotten married,” said one black woman. “The benefits of marriage are his character and his caring. If not for that, why bother?” That’s a good question. The benefits of marriage extend to far more than character and caring, but marriage surely cannot demand less of a man as husband. The absence of character and caring, this woman is keen to suggest, reduces marriage to a matter of cost-benefit analysis.


From her analysis of the state of marriage among African Americans, Jones moves to the larger culture, pointing to what she calls “the new twist.” It seems that the rest of America is following the lead of African Americans in this regard. “Often what happens in black America is a sign of what the rest of America can eventually expect,” Jones asserts. She cites Andrew Hacker, author of Mismatch: The Growing Gulf Between Woman and Men, to the effect that “the structure of white families is evolving in the direction of that of black families of the 1960s.” As Hacker’s research indicates, “In 1960, 67% of black families were headed by a husband and wife, compared to 90.9% for whites. By 2000, the figure for white families had dropped to 79.8%. Births to unwed white mothers were 22.5% in 2001, compared to 2.3% in 1960.” As Jones then observes: “So my student who thought marriage is for white people may have to rethink that in the future.”


This kind of statistical analysis—with cold mathematical precision and veracity—tells only part of the story. Anyone who observes American society with care must notice that marriage is becoming more and more marginalized, both in terms of how it is conceived and in terms of how it is lived.


The acceptance of easy no-fault divorce, the delay of marriage far into adult years, the remarkable rise in rates of cohabitation, and the decline of marriage as a personal and social expectation all contribute to this phenomenon.


The recovery of a marriage culture demands the attention of all Americans, not just African Americans. Respect for marriage must be rebuilt group by group, couple by couple, and individual by individual. Young people must be shown that marriage is the covenant relationship that is conducive for human happiness, well being, and satisfaction and that it is the optimal context for the raising of children and for the sustenance of society.


In order for this to happen, couples of all ages, races, and ethnicities need to live out the fullness and fulfillment of marriage before the watching world. Christians have a special stake in this, because we understand that marriage is not only a social institution, but that is also the unique arena in which the glory of God is demonstrated in the holy relationship between the husband and his wife and in the proper ordering of the household as a testimony to the grace and goodness of God. Furthermore, we are the ones who know that we will give an answer for our responsibilities in marriage—and every single Christian has an important stake in this mission of recovering marriage. Above all, the church should be the one place where healthy marriages are nurtured, expected, supported, and lived out, not only before the congregation, but before the entire society.


Something has gone horribly wrong when a young black boy believes that marriage “is for white people.” How long will it be before children his age wonder if marriage is for anyone at all?




Marriage—A Social Justice Issue (Christian Post, 060331)


“Social justice” is often a moniker for government-sponsored redistribution of wealth. And race is often the hidden or not-so-hidden rationale for social justice.


Blacks are poorer than whites. Justice demands income equality, especially across the races. Therefore, government must transfer income and benefits from whites to blacks. End of story. The moral charge on racial income inequality is so great that anyone can apply this formula to just about any policy, even proposals that don’t ultimately help blacks.


Oddly enough, the one great cultural issue that has tremendous impact on black america’s wealth is hardly ever approached in this way. This one policy area has the potential to increase black wealth, education and power. This major cultural course correction could reduce drug use, delinquency and violence, especially black on black crime. I am speaking of course, of marriage as a social justice issue. Yet, liberal elite opinion is strangely silent on the potentially revolutionary importance of marriage to the black community.


Marriage is a protective factor against social pathologies. Marriage generates and preserves wealth, unlike other family forms which dissipate wealth. A recent publication by the boston-based seymour institute, “god’s gift: a christian vision of marriage and the black family”, spells out the case for marriage as the most important next step for the future of black america. The report cites the fact that married families in the black community have twice as much income as unmarried black families.


The founder of the seymour institute for advanced christian studies is the rev. Eugene F. Rivers, Iii, the black pentecostal minister whose work with poor urban youth has been widely celebrated. In the introduction to god’s gift, rev. Rivers states his case. “the impact of the decay of marriage among black people has been enormous, resulting in higher poverty rates among black families, school failure among children, and the intergenerational transmission of high teen pregnancy rates and female-headed households. Sociological research has implicated fatherlessness in violence, drug use and criminal behavior, especially among young black males.”


To those who might argue that marriage is somehow alien to the black experience, linguist john mcwhorter has an answer in the most recent issue of the american enterprise. Mcwhorter observes that the high proportion of single parent families among blacks is a relatively new development, and not something that can be attributed to some amorphous “legacy of slavery.”


“In poor black areas of chicago during the 1920s, it was considered a problem that 15% of births were out of wedlock. Once the depression hit, that number went down to under 10%. Women who had several children by different men were marginal types. And men at that time worked at jobs that immigrants have since filled.”


Mcwhorter connects the dots between the changes in welfare rules of the 1960s and the changes in norms of sexual and family behavior at the same time. Both, in his view, were devastating.


“In new york city at this time, welfare commissioner mitchell ginsberg.... Pushed caseworkers to recruit new recipients and abolished screening requirements like interviews and home inspections. Until 1961, national welfare rules assumed that wherever a father could be identified, he ought to be expected to provide support. Between 1961 and 1968 that was relaxed....


“Bureaucrats went courting recipients, unconcerned with when, or even whether, they became independent again. The nation’s welfare rolls exploded, jumping from 4.7 million to 9.7 million between 1966 and 1970 alone. .... Between 1964 and 1976, the number of black children born to single mothers doubled. By 1995, more than three quarters of black youngsters were born out of wedlock. ... And that badly injured the next generation. Among black children living with two parents, poverty rates plunged from 61% in 1959 to just 13% in 1995, marking incredible progress. By that time, most black families were no longer living below the poverty line. Yet that same year, the poverty rate among black kids being raised by single women was fully 62%.”


So in the name of “social justice,” meaning income transfer to blacks, marriage became marginalized within the black community. And this pushing marriage to the margins of black society had devastating consequences for the economic and social well-being of blacks.


Elite opinion that celebrates diverse family forms is actively destructive of social justice. Our culture glamorizes early sexual activity, unmarried sexual activity, and unmarried childbearing. But these cultural influences have very different implications for poorly educated, low-income women of color, than for the elite opinion-makers who graduate from exclusive universities.


Upper class people have created a norm of years of unmarried, sterile sex before settling down to marry and raise a couple of children. But as these ideas cascade down the socio-economic ladder, they produce unmarried sexual activity with quite different consequences. Women who don’t look forward to glamorous careers view motherhood as their primary goal. Early sexual activity for them means early and frequent child-bearing. Early child-bearing all too often means a lifetime of poverty for themselves and their children.


Young people are often the most idealistic and zealous proponents of new social movements. So, I offer this challenge especially to the young: if you want to do something to help the poor, quit idealizing unmarried sexual activity. Some sexual lifestyle decisions you can get away with. But those very same choices would be a disaster for the poor.


So I challenge college students and young adults to ask yourself this question when you are making your decisions about sex: if a high-school drop-out did this, would it be good for her or not?


If the answer is no, don’t do it! Or at least, have the decency to keep your mouth shut about social justice.


This article originally appeared on



Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse is a senior fellow in economics at the acton institute for the study of religion and liberty and the author of smart sex: finding life-long love in a hook-up world.




Top U.S. Religious Leaders Sign Joint Statement to Protect Marriage (Christian Post, 060424)


Around 50 prominent religious leaders across the lines of theological division have signed an “unprecedented” petition in support of a constitutional amendment blocking same-sex “marriage.”


The petition drive, organized in part by Prof. Robert P. George of Princeton, a Catholic scholar with close ties to evangelical Protestant groups, comes at a time when at least one poll has suggested that the public’s negative response to the first same-sex marriages is cooling. A Pew Research poll in March found that 51% of the public opposed legalizing same-sex marriage, down from 63% in February 2004.


“Throughout America, the institution of marriage is suffering. As leaders in our nation’s religious communities, we cannot sit idly by. It is our duty to speak,” read the statement by the Religious Coalition for Marriage.


“We are convinced that this is the only measure that will adequately protect marriage from those who would circumvent the legislative process and force a redefinition of it on the whole of our society,” the statement continued. “We encourage all citizens of good will across the country to step forward boldly and exercise their right to work through our constitutionally established democratic procedures to amend the Constitution to include a national definition of marriage.”


The signers of the petition, which includes many influential evangelical Protestants, represent “huge numbers” of people, according to Matt Daniels, founder of the Alliance for Marriage, an umbrella group that supports the proposed amendment.


The prominent conservative Protestant figures included leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, as well as the president of conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.


Other signers included James C. Dobson of Focus on the Family; the evangelist D. James Kennedy; Purpose Driven author and megachurch pastor Rick Warren; Bishop Charles E. Blake of the historically black Church of God in Christ; the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr., president of the National Hispanic Association of Evangelicals; Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America; and officials of the Orthodox Church in America. Seven Roman Catholic cardinals and about a half-dozen archbishop have also signed the petition.


“For millennia our societies have recognized the union of a man and a woman in the bond of marriage,” the statement read. “Cross-culturally virtually every known human society understands marriage as a union of male and female. As such marriage is a universal, natural, covenantal union of a man and a woman intended for personal love, support and fulfillment, and the bearing and rearing of children. Sanctioned by and ordained of God, marriage both precedes and sustains civil society.”


In concluding, the letter announced the religious leaders’ support for the Marriage Protection Amendment – S.J. Res.1 – and asked for God to bless “all marriages and all those who labor to protect the sanctity and promote the goodness of marriage throughout this nation.”


Many of the religious leaders involved have pledged to distribute postcards for their congregants to send to their senators urging support for the amendment. On Monday, the Alliance for Marriage announced the launch of – a new advocacy Web site offering millions of Americans powerful new Web-based tools to express their united voice in support of the Marriage Amendment. The site gives faith communities the ability to send postcards, to create bulletin inserts, and to contact their elected representatives directly with emails and letters.


The complete letter signed by the religious leaders is viewable at, along with the list of letter signatories.




Face it: Marriage is in trouble (, 060602)


by Mike Gallagher


The NBC-TV reporter had a huge smile on his face while asking the “newlyweds” about their lives together. “Who gets up earlier?” he said. The young “groom” grinned and said, “Oh, I do.” The “bride” giggled and blushed. Just a warm, fuzzy interview on NBC’s “Dateline” about a nice, young married couple, right?


Wrong. This is no ordinary couple. This was an interview with Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau, the notorious ex-schoolteacher and her young “husband”, the boy she raped when she was his grade school teacher and he was 13 years old.


It has been positively mind-boggling to observe the fawning by the national news media over the one year “wedding anniversary” of these two pitiful people. Last week, the beaming couple was on the cover of People Magazine. In addition to the “Dateline” segment, they appeared on NBC’s “Today Show” with Matt Lauer slobbering all over them. Their sordid story has been featured in newspapers all over America this week.


But rather than telling the sick tale of a child predator who wound up pregnant by her victim, the media seems positively enamored by the relationship these two have, now that they’ve been officially married for a year. Instead of asking Letourneau probing questions about why she engaged in such sick, depraved behavior, they want to know if the couple argues very much. Rather than ask the young man about what it’s like to be the victim of a sexual predator, reporters and broadcasters ask him things like what it’s like to be famous, if he’s recognized when he goes to the grocery store.


Once again, the American media wallows in a moral cesspool and tries to glamorize a degenerate.


If it weren’t so tragic, it would actually be a bit comical to consider the double standard involved here. If a 40 year old man raped a 13 year old girl and she became pregnant and they ended up married, it’s not likely they’d be featured on “Dateline” or on the cover of People Magazine. In fact, if a man sexually molested a 13 year old boy, I doubt that reporters would be clamoring to cover the story 8 years later if the boy moved in with the man.


Calling the relationship between Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau a marriage is a slap in the face to just about every single man and woman who ever made the lifelong commitment to love, honor and obey one another.


It seems pretty obvious to me that marriage is under siege. Not only are Americans divorcing in record numbers, but activists are determined to undermine the very definition of marriage as the covenant between one man and one woman.


Next week, the U.S. Senate will vote on the Federal Marriage Amendment. It will be a fairly simple decision. The Senate will decide whether marriage is important enough to declare that marriage in America is between one man and one woman and literally say so in our Constitution.


I’m trying to remain optimistic. Our government has a rare opportunity to show the world that our country understands that marriage is truly a foundational way of life for us. We have always considered marriage as being exclusive to one man and one woman. And yet, considering the way the Senate has misfired over the issue of illegal immigration, I’m afraid that it might lack the backbone to do the right thing on marriage, too.


This is an event that desperately needs the voice of the people. If an average American has never called his or her U.S. Senator’s office, yet feels strongly that marriage between one man and one woman needs to be preserved, now is the time to make that call. This doesn’t have to be a partisan effort. I know Democrats who are in favor of the Marriage Amendment and Republicans who are uncomfortable with it.


Ultimately, we’ll need to decide together, as Americans, whether marriage matters.


Sadly, some will consider this position to be a “homophobic” one, an ugly attempt to discriminate against gays and lesbians who want to get married. But that’s just not true. This isn’t “anti-gay”, it’s “pro-marriage.” I hold a majority belief that marriage in our country should be exclusive to one man and one woman. If we don’t officially declare marriage to be this way, there really is no stopping the possibilities.


When Senator Rick Santorum suggested that marriage could be diminished into all kinds of different permutations if we don’t preserve it, he was right. If we call the union between two men or two women a marriage, what stops the bigamist from taking four wives?


If marriage doesn’t mean what we know it to mean, let’s face it: anything goes. Failing to pass the Federal Marriage Amendment might lead to the proverbial slippery slope.


Many would argue that we’re already there.


Make that call.




Interreligious unions on the rise (National Post, 061003)


OTTAWA - More and more Canadians are finding partners outside of their own religious groups, according to new statistics released Tuesday.


In 2001 interreligious unions - marriages and common-law relationships - had grown to 19 per cent of couples, said a Statistics Canada report.


Twenty years earlier, it was 15 per cent of couples. The rise is partly due to declining religious affiliation and increasing cultural diversity, said the report, but it noted the vast majority of Canadians are still pairing up with people from the same broad religious groups.


The most common interreligious unions are between Catholics and Protestants, the two largest religious groups in Canada. The 1.3 million people in Catholic-Protestant unions represented 9.6 per cent of all people in couples in 2001.


The study found men are less religious and are more likely to report “no religion” than women.


“The imbalance of potential partners with ‘no religion’ means that men with no religious affiliation are more likely to be in interreligious unions than women are,” the report said.


Buddhists are more likely to be in interreligious unions than Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus and the most frequent Buddhist interreligious union is with a partner who has no religion.


Muslims on the other hand paired up most commonly with Catholics if they were in an interreligous union.


According to the census data used in the study, about one per cent of Muslims in couples were with someone who has no religion. Similarly, Sikhs and Hindus are most likely to be in interreligious unions with Catholics or Protestants and rarely with those of no religion.


Orthodox Christians are most likely to be in interreligious unions with Catholics and more than half of these couples live in Montreal and Toronto, where Catholics represent the largest religious group.


Jewish couples are also concentrated in those cities, and perhaps because of the cultural diversity of these large cities, interreligious unions between Jewish and other religious groups have become more common, said Statistics Canada.


Many factors are at play in the rise of interreligious unions, among them are geography, age and education levels.


For example, researchers have found it is more likely that more highly educated minority groups marry outside their group than lesser-educated peers, said the report.


“Some suggest that highly educated people may have more individualistic attitudes and are therefore less influenced by family and community to select a mate from their ancestral religious group,” notes the report.


People who are highly religious are less likely to be in interreligious unions, as are immigrants.




Are Married Couples Becoming An ‘Endangered Species’? (Christian Post, 061024)


Married couples are becoming an “endangered species” in the Western World, warned a global family ministry head. Recent studies have shown a decline in both interest in marriage and marriage itself.


The American Community Survey found that for the first time in the United States’ history, married couples now represent a minority of U.S. households. And more recently, poll results released Tuesday from Europe revealed that nearly a third of British women believe that marriage is no longer necessary in modern society.


Marriages have steadily fallen in both the U.S. and England in the past several decades. In 1957, 76% of all households in America were married couples with or without children. That number dropped to 49.7% in 2005.


“Unless America is to go the way of Europe, where married couples are increasingly an endangered species, we must rediscover the importance of marriage in creating social peace and assuring society’s future,” said World Congress of Families founder Dr. Allan Carlson in a statement Monday.


Carlson highlighted that culture “drives this phenomenon.”


Some evangelicals have called the statistics misleading and exaggerated.


“Marriage is not falling out of favor,” said Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in a commentary. “It has been weakened by social trends and divorce, but one big reason that fewer households are reported as married couples is longevity. Put simply, the fact that people live longer means that more persons will spend more years as a widow or widower.”


The survey data showed that the majority of Americans do marry, but the institution of marriage has been weakened by divorce and delay of marriage. Additionally, alternative living arrangements are becoming more popular. The number of unmarried heterosexual couples living together increased 14% since 2000, according to the Census Bureau.


Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America said people are getting married later and there are more households today than in the past.


Family Research Council President Tony Perkins commented on the exaggerated indication that marriage is dying.


“The change comes mostly from single people delaying marriage, and from elderly people surviving longer after being widowed,” he said, according to Agape Press. “A majority of adult Americans are still married .... and over 68% of householders raising their own children are married.


“So don’t count marriage out yet.”


Still, the declining numbers of married households are not inevitable, Wright said, and the recent statistics should prompt the nation to do more to promote healthy marriages.


“Marriage is the bedrock of society,” stated Carlson. “It’s married couples who have children – guaranteeing society’s survival. Married couples care for the elderly and infirm. They provide most of the support for charities and civic activities. Their decline is a harbinger of atomization and fragmentation.”




Marriage Only for a Minority? Not Hardly (Mohler, 061017)


The New York Times announced its story on the new Census Bureau data with this headline: “To Be Married Means to Be Outnumbered.”  How so?

Here is the lead sentence: “Married couples, whose numbers have been declining for decades as a proportion of American households, have finally slipped into a minority, according to an analysis of new census figures by The New York Times.” Here is the quote from the close: “This would seem to close the book on the Ozzie and Harriet era that characterized much of the last century,”

The clear implication of the lead, the headline, and the close is that marriage is losing ground as an institution — and that married couples with children are not really the norm in postmodern American society.

The article presents the data rather straightforwardly in these two paragraphs:

The American Community Survey, released this month by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7%, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples — with and without children — just shy of a majority and down from more than 52% five years earlier.

The numbers by no means suggests marriage is dead or necessarily that a tipping point has been reached. The total number of married couples is higher than ever, and most Americans eventually marry. But marriage has been facing more competition. A growing number of adults are spending more of their lives single or living unmarried with partners, and the potential social and economic implications are profound.

Much of the article was devoted to a consideration of alternative living arrangements. Reporter Sam Roberts quoted liberal family theorist Stephanie Coontz, who suggested that “we have an anachronistic view as to what extent you can use marriage to organize the distribution and redistribution of benefits.”

A closer look at the data indicates that the vast majority of Americans do marry. Marriage has been weakened as an institution by several developments. The most important of these is divorce, but the other key development is the delay of marriage. Many of the “households” identified in the study are singles who fully intend to marry — just not yet.

Cohabitation is another issue, of course. The Census Bureau reported a 14% increase since 2000 in the number of unmarried heterosexual couples living together.

The number of households reported as male couples was 413,000 and the number reported as female couples was 363,000. Matt Foreman of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force told Roberts that gay couples were undercounted because they did not want to disclose their sexual identity. Of course, definitions matter: “The survey did not ask about sexual orientation, but its questionnaire was designed to distinguish partners from roommates. A partner was defined as ‘an adult who is unrelated to the householder, but shares living quarters and has a close personal relationship with the householder.’”

These statistics can be very misleading — and some will attempt to present a misleading picture. Marriage is not falling out of favor. It has been weakened by social trends and divorce, but one big reason that fewer households are reported as married couples is longevity. Put simply, the fact that people live longer means that more persons will spend more years as a widow or widower. This is not due to any weakening of the marriage bond. This trend will be even more significant as the Baby Boomers reach senior adult years.

We should be honest about the challenges now faced in a culture that has progressively weakened marriage over the past four decades. These factors represent very real challenges. But the idea that marriage is falling out of favor with the American people is just not sustained by the data. By common grace, social tradition, and human intuition, most adults find their way into marriage. That ought to tell us something.




Canada criticized over polygamy: International human rights law violated: report (National Post, 061023)

[KH: something for liberals to start internal squabbles]


OTTAWA - Canada is violating its international human rights obligations regarding women and children by allowing polygamy to persist unchecked, says a new study commissioned by the federal Justice Department.


“Polygamy is a violation of international law,” says the study’s author, Rebecca Cook, a University of Toronto law professor. “Canada has an obligation as a matter of international law to take all appropriate steps.”


While polygamy is technically illegal in Canada and punishable by up to five years in prison, the practice has flourished for more than 50 years in Bountiful, B.C. — the home of a colony of adherents to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.


The breakaway Mormon sect teaches that men must have at least three wives to achieve eternal salvation.


After more than a decade of refusing to lay charges amid concern that the federal law is too weak to survive a constitutional challenge, the provincial Crown is conducting a fresh review of a new police report to determine if criminal prosecution is warranted.


Ms. Cook’s report, posted on the Justice Department’s Web site last month, is part of a broader $150,000 study about polygamy launched by the former Liberal government in 2005.


One controversial report commissioned by the Status of Women, which was published last year, called for repealing the ban on polygamy in favour of other laws to help women and children.


But Ms. Cook takes a more conventional view, maintaining that Canada is required to enforce the law because it is a signatory to numerous international treaties and conventions such as the United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.


Ms. Cook focuses solely on the practice of polygyny — a man having more than one wife — rather than the broader term of polygamy, which refers to either a man or a woman. (The practice of a woman having more than one male partner is called polyandry.)


Polygyny, she wrote, robs women of their entitlement to marital exclusivity, family life, security and even enjoyment of their citizenship. It also puts them at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and mental-health problems.


Polygyny, therefore, also flies in the face of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, she says.


The Political Covenant, for example, requires signatories to “take appropriate steps to ensure equality of rights and responsibilities of spouses as to marriage, during marriage, and at its dissolution.”


Ms. Cook says the harm to girls in Bountiful “could be particularly serious, given that some girls reportedly enter unions at as young as 14 or 15 years of age.”


The study “reaffirms the position that polygamy will remain illegal in Canada,” says Justice Department spokesman Chris Girouard, adding that it remains up to individual provinces to enforce the Criminal Code.


Section 293 of the Criminal Code bans “any form of polygamy” or “any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage.”


While the Justice Department insists its law is legally sound, there have been several legal opinions over the years that say the law would not withstand a constitutional challenge to the freedom of religion guarantees in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Ms. Cook’s study concludes there is a difference between religious beliefs and practices.


“While Canada is not entitled under international law to restrict religious belief, it is entitled and in fact obliged in some circumstances to restrict religious practices that undermine the rights and freedoms of others,” she wrote.


In Bountiful, leader Winston Blackmore has admitted to having had several child “brides.”


In the United States, the leader of the sect, Warren Steed Jeffs, awaits trial in Utah, where he is accused of arranging marriages between young girls and older men.




U.S. out of love with marriage? (Washington Times, 061226)


By Cheryl Wetzstein [Part one of four]


James Stewart and Donna Reed play husband and wife in a Wonderful Life. James Stewart and Donna Reed play husband and wife in a Wonderful Life.  (Photo by courtesy


• Part 1: In an ever-changing society, it is increasingly difficult to maintain the model of marriage as one man and one woman.


In the beloved holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” George Bailey is allowed to see how miserable the future is without his everyday acts of heroism and self-sacrifice — and his marriage.


Calamities are revealed in scene after scene, but none are more powerful than the loss of his family. His cozy home is a ghostly ruin. Wife Mary is a dried-up spinster. There are no rose petals from daughter Zuzu because there is no Zuzu.


Even his town has become ugly and crude — with plenty of “adult entertainment” but no family homes, no loving couples, no playful children.


The Frank Capra film, released 60 years ago this month, ends with George’s redemption and new appreciation for his most precious achievements — being a good man, husband, father, friend and brother.


In reality, Americans seem to be swirling in a mist of confusion about family life. In many ways, they crave a world in which marriage and children are the pinnacles of life. But year after year, the country seems to be inching toward a culture in which adult pleasures and pastimes have a higher value than monogamy and minivans.


In this series, The Washington Times examines the changing views of marriage and what institutions such as religious groups, government and businesses are doing to preserve it.


“Too many young Americans are growing up with a radically wrong view of life,” Paul M. Weyrich recently wrote in an article for the Free Congress Foundation, a conservative think tank that he founded. “They view marriage as a temporary bond between a man and a woman or, I fear, increasingly between a member of their own sex.”


What children need is a “mother and father who honor their commitment to remain united ‘for better or for worse,’ and who instill a respect for God, their religion, their family and work,” Mr. Weyrich wrote.


However, others see “family diversity,” “good divorce,” “childless by choice,” same-sex “marriage” and “happily unmarried to each other” as inevitable and even culturally enriching options.


“It’s time for all levels of society to adapt to reality: Stop penalizing people who don’t conform to a rigid institution,” said Nicky Grist, executive director of the Alternatives to Marriage Project, a group that advocates on behalf of “healthy relationships in all their diversity.”


The question becomes: Can the model of marriage, in which one man and one woman raise their children together in a lifelong, loving union, survive in a culture that increasingly practices — and approves of — nonmarital sexual lifestyles and childbearing?


Benefits of marriage


Social science overwhelmingly supports the idea that marriage is a valuable institution.


Compared with other groups, married men and women are more likely to be wealthy and healthy, live longer lives, and have high levels of sexual satisfaction and low levels of depression and suicide, Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher wrote in “The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially,” which was published in 2000.


Marriage especially benefits children: Those in married-parent homes are at low risk for living in poverty or suffering neglect or abuse, the women wrote. They are more likely to do well in school and avoid risky behaviors, such as premature sexual activity and drug and alcohol abuse.


Growing up with successfully married parents provides children with a home in which security, trust, safety, problem-solving skills and, typically, a spiritual life are present, the women wrote.


Married-couple families also bind extended families, creating “clear ties of begetting and belonging, ties of identity, kinship and mutual interdependence and responsibility,” about 70 scholars wrote in a paper released in July by the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J., on how marriage is linked to “the public good.”


Marriage and family even stand as pillars in a free society, historian Allan Carlson wrote in his new book, “Conjugal America: On the Public Purposes of Marriage.”


“The first target of any totalitarian regime is marriage,” he wrote, citing examples from Soviet and Chinese communist regimes and Germany under Nazism.


Marriage for pleasure


Much has been written about the changing characteristics of American families — notably, the slow decline of marriage rates and the increase in unmarried cohabitation, single-person households and unwed birthrates.


“Americans have become less likely to marry,” concluded the 2006 State of Our Unions report, written by National Marriage Project (NMP) co-directors Barbara Dafoe Whitehead and David Popenoe.


Researchers have attributed the enormous changes in America’s family formation to the introduction of the birth-control pill, which permitted sex without pregnancy; the en masse entry of women into the work force; and the growing belief that couples should postpone marriage until they get a college degree, a steady job or a mortgage — preferably all three — even if it takes until they are almost 30.


Another factor is the relatively modern idea that people should marry “for love,” said history professor and author Stephanie Coontz.


When marriage changed from a “mandatory economic and political institution” into a “voluntary love relationship,” it became more flexible — and more optional, said Mrs. Coontz, director of public education at the Council on Contemporary Families.


“Trying to revert to antiquated and unfair traditions is not the answer,” she said. “We need to figure out how to build on the opportunities and minimize the risks associated with the ongoing modernization of marriage.”


Adults only


Mrs. Whitehead and Mr. Carlson see other factors at work, including the belief that marriage is first and foremost a personal relationship for adults.


Having children often is viewed as a disruption in one’s life course rather than a defining purpose, Mrs. Whitehead wrote in an essay accompanying the NMP’s report.


The “most satisfying” adult years are those “before children” and “after children,” while the child-rearing years are the “bone-wearying and time-consuming work” that cuts into time that could have been better spent, she writes.


The 24/7 work culture quietly reinforces these perceptions. Married parents are tied down and tired, while childless adults and couples not only have energy but the freedom to pick up and move, work odd hours and go on the road.


The marketplace, too, likes dual-income couples with no children because they have both the inclination and the income to dine out, take vacations, buy big-screen TVs, join health clubs, go to sporting events and enjoy $4 cups of coffee.


In contrast, raising children is viewed as a budget-buster: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that it costs $237,000 to raise one child to adulthood.


On top of this, child-rearing means years of high anxiety and even psychological shock to adults — especially educated, professional women who are accustomed to spending their time in ways that are personally satisfying, intellectually fulfilling and socially independent, Mrs. Whitehead wrote.


“Motherhood is an abrupt departure from this pattern” in that it monopolizes time and requires outstanding performance but offers none of the “workplace” perks. “No one gives [mothers] a bonus or even a pat on the back for sitting up all night with a sick child or playing peekaboo and patty-cake with toddlers all day,” she added.


“What’s more,” Mrs. Whitehead wrote, “contemporary motherhood now threatens contemporary marriage.”


Most Americans marry for love, friendship and emotional intimacy, a goal that requires high levels of time and attention, she wrote.


“The problem is that once a real baby comes along, the time, the effort and energy that goes into nurturing the relationship goes into nurturing the infant. As a result, marriages can become less happy and satisfying during the child-rearing years.”


Decline of civilization


Mr. Carlson takes these views even further, calling the bond between marriage and procreation the “social and moral foundation of Western Christian civilization.”


Early Christian fathers favored procreative marriage to encourage sexual fidelity and the divine blessings of children, Mr. Carlson wrote in “Conjugal America.”


Eventually, especially in America, he added, loving married couples and big families became an ideal so obvious that the French observer Alexis de Tocqueville noticed it. “There is certainly no country in the world where the tie of marriage is more respected than in America, or where conjugal happiness is more highly or worthily appreciated,” de Tocqueville said after visiting here in the late 1820s.


However, America is moving away from the view that marriage is a public good and the nation must have an abundance of “functional, child-rich homes” to thrive, says Mr. Carlson, president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society.


Family policy “should not try to re-create the framework of 50 years before. It must do better,” he says. But “new protections and encouragements to marriage are now imperative.”


Change agents


In the marriage arena, two forces for change have been particularly notable.


One is a “marriage movement,” formed six years ago to reverse the trend of family breakdown in America.


Current domestic policies “are based on acceptance of family breakdown and are focused on dealing with the aftermath and fallout,” Diane Sollee, director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, said when the group’s “statement of principles” was announced in June 2000.


The original statement — signed by more than 100 academic, religious, political and civic leaders — was updated in 2004, with 86 pledges for action, including expanding marriage education, reforming state divorce laws and developing model pro-marriage legislation.


Pro-marriage allies also received an unprecedented boost this year when 225 pro-marriage and responsible-fatherhood organizations were awarded federal grants worth nearly $120 million a year.


The new five-year funding “shows where our priorities are,” says Elizabeth Marquardt, author of “Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce” and director of the Center for Marriage and Families at the Institute for American Values.


It also revealed an important political consensus — that both Republicans and Democrats think marriage matters, she says. Such a consensus “is a significant achievement” that should bring long-term dividends, beyond the marriage grants.


A second force for change is the push for same-sex “marriage.”


When the debate over homosexuals’ right to “marry” emerged in the early 1990s, traditional-values groups were tongue-tied in their defense of marriage. How could anyone question the value of a such a bedrock institution, they thought — until the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled in 1993 that restricting marriage to bride-and-groom couples illegally discriminated against same-sex couples.


Today — especially now that 28 states have held public votes on constitutional amendments to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman — homosexual rights groups and traditional-values groups have honed their arguments, and Americans have been repeatedly forced to think about the definition, purpose and value of marriage.


“I think the same-sex marriage debate has wakened us up,” Mr. Carlson said. “For 40 years, American policy-makers and American citizens have allowed marriage law and marriage policy to drift into some terrible problems.


“We’ve gone from being the ‘marryingest’ people” in the world to the nation with one of the highest, if not the highest, divorce rate, “and that’s not a healthy change.”


Of course, all the talk about the definition, purpose and value of marriage has sparked some proposals that were unthinkable to most people a few years ago.


In August, for instance, about 270 homosexual activists and their allies issued a statement about why legalizing same-sex “marriage” doesn’t go far enough. Because marriage is “not the only worthy form of family or relationship,” it “should not be legally or economically privileged above others,” said the statement titled, “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision for All Our Families and Relationships.”


The “challenge that lies before us as a nation is how to support all relationships and families, not just married ones,” says the Alternatives to Marriage Project, which calls for an end to “discrimination on the basis of marital status” in its family-diversity statement.


A new voice entered the marriage debate this summer when the Witherspoon Institute issued a paper, “Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principles.”


“As scholars, we are persuaded that the case for marriage can be made and won at the level of reason,” said the 70 scholars of history, economics, psychiatry, law, sociology and philosophy who signed the principles.


The paper lists divorce, nonmarital childbearing, cohabiting and same-sex “marriage” as threats to marriage — the latter because “it would create a new way of looking at marriage,” says Luis Tellez, president of the board of trustees for the Witherspoon Institute.


“If we institutionalize marriage between just anybody, it won’t stop there ... the next question will be polygamy,” he says. And while polygamy has a long history and still exists today, “the great majority of societies” settled on monogamous one-man, one-woman marriage as they became more civilized, he says.


Meanwhile, say the scholars — including Robert P. George of Princeton University, Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School and Jean Bethke Elshtain of the University of Chicago — the “great goal” is for more children each year to be “raised by their own mother and father in loving, lasting marital unions.”


“The future of the American experiment depends on it. And our children deserve nothing less,” they say.




Selling couples on marriage (Washington Times, 061227)


By Jon Ward [Part two of four]


Second of four parts.


The lesson would be how to keep “the fire burning,” Nisa Muhammad told nine couples at her Tuesday night marriage class in the District.


“I need this session,” said Rossalyn Parks, whose boyfriend had yet to arrive or call with an explanation. She was on fire, all right.


All nine couples were black, and most live in low-income neighborhoods in the District or Prince George’s County.


Mrs. Muhammad’s “Wedded Bliss” program, which will receive $1.3 million in federal money over the next four years, is aimed at helping black couples.


“We’ve kind of bought into the hype that marriage doesn’t matter ... in the culture, the music, the movie, on TV,” said Mrs. Muhammad, a 49-year-old mother of five who was divorced after 12 years and remarried last year.


Mrs. Muhammad said that TV provides an unrealistic portrayal of single parents and that life is “very different if you’re ... Tamika in Southeast D.C.”


In this series, The Washington Times examines the changing views of marriage and what institutions — such as religious groups, government and businesses — are doing to preserve it.


Mrs. Muhammad’s program is one of many that churches and religious groups are using to strengthen marriages and foster new ones. Wedded Bliss is an eight-week class that encourages couples to marry by helping them build intimacy and teaching communication skills.


Airing grievances


At the Tuesday night meeting, Mrs. Muhammad — who converted to Islam in 1980 and writes for the Nation of Islam’s national newspaper, the “Final Call” — gave a short talk to the couples.


She then asked each woman to share her “vision” of their husband or boyfriend.


Ms. Parks’ cousin, Deidra Arnold, a 40-year-old divorced U.S. postal worker, said her boyfriend, Donald Aikens, a 45-year-old construction worker and lifelong bachelor, loves to serve others.


“We can go to the store, Home Depot or whatever, and he helps everybody,” said Ms. Arnold, who got married when she was 21 and has a 21-year-old daughter.


The atmosphere in the room softened. The other couples, seated at tables arranged in a horseshoe, thought about what they would say.


“Great,” said Mrs. Muhammad, wearing a dark green suit and a matching head scarf. “Rossalyn?”


Ms. Parks, 40, hesitated. She and William Thompson, 40, also a postal worker, began dating in August.


“I’m going to be honest with y’all. I am kind of angry with William, so I don’t even have a vision,” she said.


Jamil Muhammad, a national spokesman for the Nation of Islam who helps Mrs. Muhammad facilitate the class, jumped in.


“You’re angry on the basis of sight,” he told Ms. Parks. “You’ve got to look into the future on the basis of vision.”


Ms. Parks sighed.


“It’s kind of hard to say,” she said before opening up about Mr. Thompson’s work ethic.


“He wants to be at work every day. He’ll probably have 1,500 hours of sick leave, ready to sell some vacation time,” Ms. Parks said, pausing for several moments. “But I don’t see him committing to a marriage by then.”


“Ooh,” whispered Mr. Muhammad, as if he’d been stung by a bee.


Mrs. Muhammad didn’t blink.


“OK, well, we’ve got some work to do,” she said. “Thank you, Rossalyn.”


Then she was on to the next couple.


Later, Mrs. Muhammad said she has seen growth in Ms. Parks and Mr. Thompson, who arrived at her class “with no sense of vision.”


“We’re trying to change the hearts and minds of people who look at marriage in a negative way and say, ‘You know, we have something to celebrate,’ “ she said.


Remembering religion


Churches and religious groups have always played a crucial role in sanctioning marriages, encouraging them and providing couples counseling. Marriage is an essential part of the three Abrahamic faiths — Judaism, Christianity and Islam.


But modern culture continues to question the definition and validity of marriage.


“Increasingly, it is not obvious to our young people, the singles, the twentysomethings, why they should go ahead and get married,” said Michael Lawrence, associate pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in the District. “That case has to be made.”


Peter Murphy, family life director for the Archdiocese of Washington, agreed.


“The images of marriage are very negative,” he said. “Couples think it’s going to restrict their freedom. ... There is fear of commitment to something long term in a culture that is so short term and noncommittal.”


In response, some churches are teaching more often and more robustly about marriage and challenging teens and singles on their attitudes about marriage.


“We try to show that marriage is actually freeing and will bring life,” Mr. Murphy said.


Churches also are creating small groups for newly married couples, led by older couples, and adapting counseling to meet challenges unique to second marriages.


Marriage, Christians believe, is primarily a way to imitate the Triune God. Husbands are to love and lead their wives sacrificially, in the same way that Jesus Christ died to save His church. Wives, equal in value but with different roles, are to support their husbands.


“Marriage is a picture of the Gospel,” Mr. Lawrence said. “Marriage was created by God to help us understand that he loves us in Jesus Christ.”


Marriage is also a “crucible” in which each person’s weakness and sinfulness is exposed, leading to repentance and change by God’s power.


“God puts us with another person that is sometimes very different because it forces us to put aside selfishness and pride,” said Pastor Paul Petry, who oversees family ministries at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. “If we fix our eyes on Christ and make it a goal to love that other person in a sacrificial way, there is something mysterious that happens, and that marriage becomes a wonderful thing.”


Judaism views marriage as “a relationship that is set apart from all others,” said Rabbi Jack Moline of the Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria.


“It is uniquely intimate and exclusive, and as such, it is a reflection of the nature of the relationship between the Jewish people and God,” he said.


For Mr. Moline and other rabbis, a Jewish wedding can be performed only if the bride and groom are Jewish.


“All of the things that define marriage are matters of Jewish law, and Jewish law posits that it applies only to Jews, and not to non-Jews,” he said.


Many Christian pastors counsel against marrying non-Christians as well.


Muslims also see marriage as a fundamental part of practicing their faith.


“Marriage is the most important aspect of a Muslim life,” said Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, one of the largest mosques in the area.


“The whole Koran talks a lot about marriage and the relationship between husband and wife and the family,” he said. “There is so much emphasis in the Koran on teaching about this issue.”


Mr. Magid said he began offering six-session, premarital-counseling courses to couples a few years ago, when he saw a study showing that 33% of Muslim marriages ended in divorce. But, he said, there are few mosques in the United States that offer such counseling.


“The extended family in the countries of the immigrant [Muslims] creates a very strong support network for young couples,” Mr. Magid said. “Here in America, there is no extended family. The wisdom has to come through a structured counseling that tells them about communication, conflict resolution, decision-making ... and also to talk about the issue of intimacy.”


Saving marriage


Michael J. McManus thinks churches are not only doing too little for marriages, but in many cases, they are part of the divorce problem.


“Most churches are wedding factories today,” said Mr. McManus, who created a Marriage Savers program in 1986. “They have good intentions, but their marriage preparation is not that helpful.”


About 10,000 pastors and rabbis in 215 cities across the country have signed an agreement to uphold higher standards for premarital counseling. Marriage Savers focuses on marriage preparation, enrichment, restoration, reconciliation of separated couples and counseling for stepfamilies.


Mr. McManus said his program has proven results. In cities where religious leaders have signed “community marriage policies,” divorce rates and cohabitation rates are decreasing and marriage rates are increasing, he said.


“The churches need to do this work, but we need to do a better job,” said Mr. McManus, a nationally syndicated ethics and religion columnist who attends Fourth Presbyterian Church in Bethesda. “The disintegration of marriage is the most important domestic problem of our time. It lies behind so many other problems.”


Ted and Peg Kupelian of Rockville have mentored 20 couples through the Marriage Savers program.


“I saw a lot of divorces at work,” said Mr. Kupelian, 60, a public-affairs specialist in the federal government. “This was one thing we could do together to really make a difference.”


Tim and Kristen Bibo of Baltimore had never met the Kupelians but traveled to their home for eight weeks before getting married Oct. 28.


“When you have people you’re friends with ... there are certain barriers,” said Mr. Bibo, 28, an analyst with the state government. “Meeting new people that you develop a new relationship with, and you start it off with this openness, is something you really can’t do with people that you know.”


Mr. Bibo said the Kupelians, who have been married 26 years, “really challenged [us] about things that are going to be challenges.”


The Kupelians took the Bibos through a 156-question inventory, going over the answers to questions about all aspects of their life.


“We’re trying to open their eyes so they know exactly what to expect, to minimize surprises once they get married,” said Mrs. Kupelian, who stayed at home with the couple’s two daughters and now volunteers at Bible studies and in Montgomery County public schools.


The couples talked about how the Bibos would handle the demands of extended family during the holidays and helped them work on a budget.


“We want the trouble in our kitchen rather than in their bedroom or their kitchen,” Mrs. Kupelian said. “We don’t want people to be afraid to have conflict.”


Mr. McManus said most marriages fall apart because people “don’t know how to argue.” Mrs. Kupelian said they teach young couples to “attack the problem, not each other.”


Mrs. Bibo, 31, who works in philanthropy, said she appreciated the structure.


“It’s a lot about being really intentional and having the space to do it,” she said. “I loved the space of talking about marriage in its seriousness and its difficulty. That gives you a sense of security, that it’s OK if you are fighting.”


Out of the 20 couples mentored by the Kupelians, one has divorced, and one is struggling. Three of the couples they mentored decided not to get married.


“I don’t see that as failure,” Mr. Kupelian said. “I see that as one less divorce.”


Meeting in the middle


Ms. Parks married at 24. She and her high-school sweetheart divorced after 12 years, and she now has a 12-year old daughter.


Mr. Thompson has never married.


Despite her pessimistic comments at Mrs. Muhammad’s meeting, days later Ms. Parks said the program had “enhanced” her relationship with Mr. Thompson and she is hopeful about the relationship.


Specifically, she said, the class helped Ms. Parks and her daughter, Angel, to adapt to Mr. Thompson’s three nieces and nephews, ages 20, 18 and 2, who live with him and are often visiting.


“My daughter was used to going in the refrigerator, getting what she wants, doing her laundry when she wants to,” Ms. Park said. “They were teaching us that we now are sharing our lives with others, and we can’t be selfish.”


Ms. Parks took notes during the eight-week class in a journal given to her by Mrs. Muhammad. Mr. Thompson could not read it until the end of the class.


The journal — and the conversations between her and Mr. Thompson during the classes — helped them grow much closer, she said.


“Now we’re better equipped to communicate,” Ms. Parks said. “I don’t just stay angry. We talk about it and we get through it. It’s also good to know that people are going through the same problems.”


Ms. Parks estimates her chances of marrying Mr. Thompson are about 70%.


“I’m not saying we have to get married tomorrow, but you have to be open to that idea,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m running out of time, but I don’t feel like I have time to be wasting on a relationship that’s not going anywhere.”


“I don’t see him wasting my time, and I don’t see him hurting me,” Ms. Parks said. “I do think he’ll commit. My problem is, when?”




Work making way for family life (Washington Times, 061228)


By Gregory Lopes


Third of four parts


The daily grind is losing a bit of its bite.


Instead of 9-to-5 schedules, a growing number of Americans work personalized schedules that allow them to fulfill the responsibilities of their home lives while balancing the demands of their jobs.


Creating a positive work environment for married people has become a priority for both the employee and employer, according to pro-marriage organizations such as the Alliance for Marriage and the Families and Work Institute. An unbalanced work and family life can significantly increase the odds of marital instability and divorce, which can hurt employees’ production, researchers said.


“There is a widespread recognition that it is very expensive to hire and train a new employee,” said Judi Casey, director of the Sloan Work and Family Research Network at the Boston College Graduate School of Social Work. “Companies need to keep their talented people, and they’re doing more than ever to make sure they do.”


In this series, The Washington Times examines the changing views of marriage and what various institutions — religious groups, government and businesses — are doing to preserve it.


To hold on to their employees, companies are implementing flexible schedules and compressed workweeks that allow employees to work the same number of hours per week but break away from the traditional Monday-through-Friday routine.


Some companies are even investing in marital counseling for employees. Chick-Fil-A, the fast-food chicken chain, provides its executive employees with “marriage coaches” for couples at company retreats.


“We believe strongly that you can be successful in the marketplace and successful in marriage,” said Donald “Bubba” Cathy, president of the Atlanta-based company. “We make it a point to incorporate spouses in company meetings, and they’re expected to attend annual meetings.”


Compressed workweeks allow employees to work more hours over fewer days. But the most popular option among employers and employees is a practice known as flextime.


Being flexible


Flextime was born out of the Clean Air Act of 1970, when local governments attempted to ease traffic congestion and air pollution during prime commuting times by allowing employees to choose their starting and quitting times.


The number of employees who have access to flextime has increased significantly, jumping from 29% in 1992 to 43% in 2002, according to the Families and Work Institute. In 2005, 73% of employees who had access to flextime took advantage of it.


Among employees who have high flexibility with their work schedules, about 65% say they are satisfied with their marital relationships, said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute.


Best Buy, the Minneapolis-based consumer electronics store, recently began a flextime program called ROWE, for “results-only work environment.” The program is designed to judge employee performance on productivity output rather than hours worked.


Best Buy started the program in response to high turnover and a high corporate stress level, caused in part by retail giants Wal-Mart’s and Target’s biting into some of Best Buy’s electronics sales. The hope is that ROWE, by freeing employees to make their own work-life decisions, can boost morale and productivity and keep the service initiative on track.


Since the program’s implementation, average voluntary turnover has fallen and productivity is up an average of 35% in departments that have switched to the program, spokeswoman Dawn Bryant said.


Easing the burden


In addition, telework programs are being used to retain employees who move to the suburbs and are faced with long commutes — and more time away from home. These programs allow employees to work from anywhere, including their homes, using technology that keeps them in touch with their employer throughout the day.


“Recruitment and retention of employees has become a driving force behind the implementation of telework programs,” said Chuck Wilsker, co-founder of the Telework Coalition. “Companies need to keep their talented employees.”


Fairfax County has implemented a telework program, along with corporate giants Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard and Intel.


Local companies Arnold and Porter, a D.C. law firm; consulting company Booz Allen Hamilton in McLean; and mortgage giant Fannie Mae, also based in the District, made the “100 Best Companies of 2006” list in Working Mother magazine.


Nearly 80% of Booz Allen Hamilton’s employees change their hours to adjust to their home lives, and at Fannie Mae, an on-site day-care center provides a variety of services for children ages 6 months to 12 years.


But Americans are working more than ever, and some researchers contend that businesses can do even more to make employees’ schedules more in tune with their home lives.


In a 2002 study conducted by the Families and Work Institute, 63% of the married employees say they don’t have enough time with their husbands or wives — up from 50% from 1992.


For the most part, smaller employers more often than larger companies offer their employees flextime options, according to a 2005 national study of employers by the Families and Work Institute.


“My sense is companies are doing more than ever to help people maintain their home lives, but there is a culture in this country that drives people to work harder and that culture places a strain on marriage,” said Barbara Schneider, a professor of sociology and human development at Michigan State University and co-director of the Alfred P. Sloan Center on Parents, Children and Work.


“It is the mentality that has to be changed, and the burden is on businesses,” she said.


Government solution


Meanwhile, the federal government is making an unprecedented push to encourage Americans to get married.


The Healthy Marriage Initiative will give $500 million over the next five years to organizations ranging from pro-life centers to social-service groups that conduct marriage education initiatives. It is the first time that the government has dedicated a specific amount of money to support marriage education services.


“We are not promoting marriage. What we are trying to do is help couples attain a healthy marriage,” said Wade Horn, head of the federal Administration for Children and Families and architect of the government’s plan. “A healthy marriage can make a difference with kids and the community; that’s why we are involved.”


The California Healthy Marriages Coalition received $2.3 million over five years, the largest amount granted by Mr. Horn’s agency.


“This is a very appropriate way for the federal government to spend money. What is not widely known about divorce is that it is a drain on state and federal funds,” said Patty Howell, the grant director for the coalition.


For example, divorces top the list of causes for bankruptcy in the United States, leading many people to require public assistance, said Diane Sollee, founder and director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education.


“A single divorce costs state and federal governments about $30,000, based on such things as the higher use of food stamps and public housing as well as increased bankruptcies and juvenile delinquency. The nation’s 10.4 million divorces in 2002 are estimated to have cost the taxpayers over $30 billion,” said Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, co-director of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University in New Jersey.


Building Stronger Families, a program within the Healthy Marriage Initiative, is aimed at couples who recently have had children out of wedlock and are contemplating marriage. Reversing the rise in out-of-wedlock births is a significant goal of the Bush administration’s marriage initiative.


The National Center for Health Statistics recently announced that 1.5 million babies a year are born out of wedlock, a record. Out-of-wedlock births lead to child poverty and welfare dependency, said researchers and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.


“All the research shows that parents are good for kids. We want to get them at the ‘magic moment’ when they are thinking about marriage,” Mr. Horn said. “The good news is we can teach them the skills they need for a healthy marriage.”


He said more than 50% of the couples who have children out of wedlock are considering marriage.


Other programs within the federal initiative, such as Supporting Healthy Marriage and the Community Healthy Marriage Initiative, target low-income married couples and improve marriages through pre-marital counseling and outreach to troubled marriages.


The funds being used for marriage education could lead to changes in traditional expenditures for social-service programs, Mr. Horn said.


“If we are successful in forming healthy marriages, there will be less of a need for other social services,” he said. “There will be less need for children’s social-service programs such as for neglect and runaway programs. If this is successful, it will have implications throughout the social-service delivery system.”


Divorce made easy


But while the federal government is pressing for more marriages, America’s divorce rate is only slightly lower than in the 1970s, when a surge of divorces occurred.


Patrick Fagan, a social science researcher at the Heritage Foundation, said America’s divorce laws, in particular “no-fault-divorces,” are devaluing the institution of marriage.


“The government has failed massively and has essentially become the enemy of marriage and in the process, the child,” Mr. Fagan said. “If the government did with economic contracts what it does with marriage contracts, the whole economic system would gradually collapse into Third World status.”


No-fault-divorces are granted when either spouse can show that the marriage is irreparably broken. These types of divorces emerged in the 1970s as a recognition that two people who were determined to end their marriage would get what they wanted by any means necessary, including faking adultery or cruelty.


John Crouch, a longtime divorce lawyer in Arlington and executive director of Americans for Divorce Reform, says the no-fault-divorce law has been inadequately implemented by the states and subsequently by judges.


No-fault-divorce proceedings were intended to provide counseling to couples prior to granting a divorce. However, states have not been willing to fund the counseling services, making it easy for couples to get divorced, Mr. Crouch said.


“No-fault-divorce has not been carried out, and it gives people the message that when you’re married, you can still be in the market for somebody else instead,” Mr. Crouch said.


Divorce law is decided on a state-by-state basis. New York does not have a specific no-fault statute, and other states have varying waiting periods or separation requirements. Only two states, New York and South Dakota, do not have a no-fault-divorce clause. Maryland has a two-year waiting period before a divorce is granted, the longest of any waiting period. Virginia has a six-month waiting period, and the District one year.


The divorce rate in the United States has been steadily declining since the early 1980s, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Today, about one in three marriages ends in divorce in the United States.


The no-fault divorce laws have resulted in a substantial number of divorces that would not have occurred otherwise, according to the Journal of Marriage and the Family.


Said Katherine Spaht, a law professor at Louisiana State University: “Easy divorce that makes for an easy exit communicates society’s view that it has little interest in the lasting commitment of two people to love and care for each other and to bear and rear the next generation.”




‘For better or for worse’ takes a lot of work (Washington Times, 061229)


By Gabriella Boston


Last of four parts


Murray and Trudy Grant, who were married Nov. 25, 1951, have had their share of disagreements, but never in a million years would they consider divorce.


“That’s never even entered my mind,” said Dr. Grant, a semi-retired doctor in Silver Spring. “When you’re married, you’ve made a commitment.”


Mrs. Grant, mother of five and grandmother of 11, joked that during disagreements in the early years, she would threaten to pack her suitcase and leave.


“But I never did because that would have creased my clothes,” she said with a laugh.


In this series, The Washington Times examines the changing views of marriage and what institutions — such as religious groups, government and businesses — are doing to preserve it.


What do the Grants think about young people’s attitudes toward commitment? What is the current outlook for a resilient marriage, such as theirs?


“Not good. Not good at all,” said Dr. Grant, his words sprinkled with a British accent and intonation. He’s originally from London.


Dr. Grant is right. The risk for divorce in first marriages is about 50%. For second marriages, the rate of divorce is even higher.


“It’s true, the risk is about 50% overall, but for some segments of the population, it is much lower,” said David Popenoe of the National Marriage Project, which analyzes the state of marriage in America.


For example, the risk drops by 30% if the household income is more than $50,000; another risk reducer is some college education; a third one is having been raised in an intact two-parent household, according to the National Marriage Project.


“We call it the ‘marriage gap,’ “ said Mr. Popenoe, a professor of sociology at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “For the college-educated segment, the institution of marriage has gained strength. ... For everyone else, it continues to weaken.”


But it doesn’t have to be that way, said Diane Sollee, founder and director of the Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, a clearinghouse for all things marriage-education related.


“With marriage education, you have a much better chance. ... It’s like getting a user’s manual, like you’d get for a flat-screen television,” Ms. Sollee said.


“To quote [poet and author] Maya Angelou, ‘When people know better, they will do better,’ “ Ms. Sollee said. “I think we have an obligation to at least study up on marriage.”


She said marriage education is important enough that it should be taught in high schools.


But the Grants of the world didn’t go through marriage-education classes, and they’ve been married for 55 years. True, but it’s a different world now, Ms. Sollee said.


“Society — family, church, newspapers — didn’t really allow divorce back then,” she said.


Silver Spring resident Earl Ross, 75, has been married to Phyllis Sheerin Ross for 45 years.


“When I was growing up, I only knew of one person who’d gotten a divorce. It was a distant cousin, and it was quite the scandal.”


The societal pressures, however, didn’t always produce content spouses even if they helped keep marriages together, said Gregory Kuhlman, who together with his wife of 17 years, Patricia Schell Kuhlman, travel the country teaching marriage-education classes.


“The roles were very defined and for a lot of people marriage was terribly confining,” Mr. Kuhlman said. “Now we live in a society where there is no stigma associated with divorce. ... We have choices.”


‘A strong bond’


And in a society of choices, the best way to promote resilience in marriage is to be educated about marriage — the benefits of it, the stages it goes through and the best way to behave and communicate with a spouse, Ms. Sollee said.


“You can reduce the divorce outcome by 50% by taking an eight-hour marriage-education course,” Ms. Sollee said. “That’s pretty exciting.”


The Kuhlmans, who call their program Marriage Success Training, offer a full-day workshop for about $495 per couple. During the day, couples learn communication skills, conflict resolution, what to expect in the different stages of marriage, how to keep sex interesting and issues pertaining to in-laws.


“It’s a way to help build resilience from the start,” said Mr. Kuhlman, a professor of psychology at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York system. “Probably the biggest word for couples is ‘intentionality.’ They have to be intentional about keeping the bond between them strong.


“A strong bond doesn’t just happen.”


Ms. Sollee agreed. People who think it’s a matter of finding a perfect match and then coasting through their relationship are in for a rude awakening, she said.


“All marriages go through difficult stages,” she said. “There will be times when you disagree about what’s fun, sexy, sad, depressing, and it’s important to know that these stages are normal.”


Claudia Arp, who writes and teaches about marriage enrichment with husband David, said many young people today have unrealistic expectations, partly because they grew up in a broken home and have not seen a marriage at work through different stages.


“Many couples today don’t realize that a marriage goes through different seasons,” she said.


The Arps, who have been married for 44 years, founded Marriage Alive International in 1983.


Mr. Kuhlman calls the first season the “high phase,” the initial few months of a marriage in which couples are so excited about being together they need little else than each other’s company to stay happy. But within the first year of marriage, the “reality phase” sets in, Mr. Kuhlman said. He wants to educate couples about marriage before this happens, and his target participants are couples who plan to marry in the next six to 12 months.


Studies by relationship researcher John Gottman, founder of the Seattle-based Gottman Institute, have shown that each negative statement that a spouse makes has to be counteracted by at least five positive statements from that same spouse. If it’s not, neutral statements will start being interpreted as negative.


So if the husband says, “I need to go to the store” — which is a neutral statement — the wife could interpret it as “he just wants to get away from me,” if the positive to negative communication has tipped below the 5-1 ratio, Mr. Kuhlman said. If the 5-1 ratio is maintained, the wife might instead think: “He’s so nice to offer to go to the store.”


“Resilience is based on positivity — positive communication,” he said.


It’s in the first couple of years that married couples are at the biggest risk of divorce, Ms. Sollee said.


“Nobody knows it. People think they’re at the highest risk for divorce after seven years, but it’s actually the first two,” she said.


Another huge stressor is the birth of the first child.


“So many couples drift apart during that time. They’re good parents, but often to the exclusion of their marriage,” Mr. Arp said. “They need to be intentional about reconnecting. They need to make time for each other.


“The marriage will not wait until the kids grow up, but the kids will wait for you to grab some time.”


Mr. Kuhlman suggests that couples need 12 to 15 hours a week of undivided, nonstressful communication.


The good stuff


All this seems pretty grim: The institution of marriage is weakening, young children can influence marriages negatively, the “high phase” of marriage will fizzle quickly, disagreements and low points in marriages are inevitable no matter how good the match. It sounds like all work and no fun.


“I think this is one of the main problems. We don’t talk enough about the benefits of marriage,” Ms. Sollee says.


And there are many. Some studies suggest that married couples have better sex and are happier. Others, such as the National Marriage Project, show that married couples do much better financially. For example, married men make 10% to 40% more money than their single counterparts with similar education and job histories, according to the National Marriage Project.


“Make the marriage have benefits for you,” Mr. Kuhlman said. “Stay on the right side of the 5-1 ratio and don’t forget about sex. Keep it fresh and interesting.”


Also, when looking at the benefits of marriage, it can be helpful to look at the alternative: single life or multiple marriages and divorces.


“There are a lot of costs associated with switching partners — emotional and financial,” Mr. Kuhlman said.


The final obstacle to lifelong marriage resilience often happens when the children are in their late teens or ready to move out.


“The kids might have acted as a buffer. They were all you talked about,” Mrs. Arp said. “Now, you have to reconnect.”


She and her husband wrote “10 Great Dates to Energize the Marriage,” aimed at helping couples reconnect.


“The dates are designed around marriage-enriching themes,” Mrs. Arp said.


One date suggests looking back to the time when you first met and fell in love.


“Magical things happen when couples start talking about the first date and planning their wedding,” Mr. Arp said.


Mrs. Arp added, “It’s a rediscovery. It’s a, ‘Now I remember why I married you.’ “


And if you can make that last empty-nest transition, your marriage has a very good chance of becoming an “as long as we both shall live” commitment.


“Once you’ve reached 60, you’re not really at risk for divorce anymore,” Mr. Popenoe says, adding that the divorce rate in that age group has not changed much since 1960.


So, if you’re in your sixth decade and still married: “You’ve made it,” he says.




Survey: Real-Life ‘Desperate Housewives’ Have Regrets About Husbands (Foxnews, 070103)


So much for happily ever after. A new survey has found a shockingly large number of blissful brides turn into desperate wives.


If given a chance to do things over, more than half of 3,000 married women polled by Woman’s Day magazine and AOL were not sure they would marry their husband again — with more than a third saying they would definitely not pick the same spouse.


In the online survey, which was not scientific, more than three-quarters of women also said they fantasize about a man other than their husband — and 39% admitted to constantly flirting.


Three-quarters of the women also admitted keeping secrets from their husbands — like the crushes they have on celebs. On the top of the fantasy list for women who like sexy married stars are actors Will Smith and Ben Affleck. They each received 31% of the vote.


Not surprisingly, the survey found that wives are not the only ones whose thoughts and bodies stray to others.


Nearly half the women said they suspected their husbands of cheating or caught them in the act.


Ignorance, the women said, is not bliss — 84% said they would “absolutely” want to know if their spouse was being unfaithful.


A lot of women apparently become bored in the bedroom. Nearly a third said they stick to the far side of the marital bed. Another third said they don’t have time for sex with their husbands.


Just 10% of married women said they usually don sexy lingerie in bed. More than half prefer a ratty T-shirt or comfortable pajamas, while a third sleep naked.


The biggest rows between married couples are caused by petty disputes, say 51% of the women. Money, with 27% of the vote, also was high on the list of reasons why husband and wife fight.


The survey also found women spent time thinking about celebrity match-ups.


The most unusual matchup had anchorwoman Katie Couric bedding one of the hottest eligible men in Hollywood, George Clooney.


Nearly half of the women said they wanted the hunk to end up with Couric, while 31% thought New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg should pair up with the CBS anchor.


Actress Jennifer Aniston should hook up with Matthew McConaughey, according to 47% of those surveyed.


Jessica Simpson belongs with Hollywood hunk Josh Lucas, according to the poll.


And the real-life desperate housewives in the poll felt “Desperate Housewives” star Teri Hatcher should get it on with John Stamos, of Uncle Jesse fame in the TV sitcom “Full House.”




Getting Hitched: Who is? Who’s not? Who splits? Kay Hymowitz takes a look. (National Review Online, 070123)


By Kathryn Jean Lopez


The “breakdown of marriage in the United States — which began about forty years ago as divorce and out-of-wedlock birthrates started to soar — threatens America’s future. It is turning us into a nation of separate and unequal families.” That’s the premise of Manhattan Institute marriage and family scholar Kay Hymowitz’s new book, Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age. She recently took some questions from National Review Online editor Kathryn Lopez on the book, 2008 politics, and more.


Kathryn Jean Lopez: What is the state of marriage in America?


Kay Hymowitz: Given our 37% out-of-wedlock birth rate and (approximately) 40% divorce rate, you might expect the answer to be — simply — dismal. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. The truth is Americans continue to be marriage happy; hence our gazillion-dollar bridal industry, the continuing lure of shows like The Bachelor, our gaping at Tom and Katie’s weird baronial wedding, etc. The Census Bureau predicts that 90% of American women will marry; the percentage for men is only slightly lower. In surveys the majority of young people say that marriage and children is very important goal for them.


What ails marriage is not that it don’t get no respect; it’s that Americans no longer understand its meaning. For most people it appears to be a love relationship between two adults having little to do with childbearing or childrearing. (See: Tom and Katie.) Marriage and children are two discreet phenomena in the lives of women. When “Prudence,” Slate’s advice editor suggested that a young woman, pregnant by her boyfriend of two years, might consider marrying the guy, angry readers blasted the columnist: Doesn’t she know how important a decision marriage is in the life of a woman? You don’t marry a guy just because you’re having his baby!


The irony is that most of those Slate readers will go the Prudence, not to mention the prudent, route. About four percent — tops — of college-educated mothers are unmarried when they have their children. Even more surprising: The large majority will avoid divorce and raise their children with their father. The divorce rate among college-educated women plateaued about 1980 and has even gone down since then. It’s less-educated women who are more likely to become single mothers — both through divorce and non-marriage.


To return to your question about the state of marriage then: It’s doing pretty well — though not great — among college-educated Americans. But when it comes to those with less education, marriage is a mess. Hence the subtitle of my book: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-marital Age.


Lopez: I assume you read the New York Times story last week that reported that 51% of American women are not married. What irked you most about it?


Hymowitz: The article was a vintage example of how the Times shapes information to appeal to its readers’ class prejudices. The Times discovers that 51% of American women are single and concludes that this must mean the feminists were right. Women don’t need to be married to be happy! Marriage is dying! Check out the article’s photos of the smiley single women, the interviews with two typical American women — one an artist and the other a media type — from the Lower East Side, and the requisite snickering allusion to Ozzie and Harriet.


Well, not so fast. For one thing, the story plays fast and loose with statistics, especially by including teenagers between 15 and 19 and so adding millions of girls who still get an allowance from their parents as “single women.” Insofar as there has been an increase in the percentage of women living without husbands, you’ve got a demographic not a feminist story. Women are waiting until they complete their education and settle into careers before they get married, a reasonable, though still problematic, adjustment to a complex and competitive economy. And once they are married, they out-live their husbands. Roberts mentions these trends, but still tries to leave the impression that the increase in single women shows that feminists were right about women and men, fish and bicycles. No, that increase is due to a growing population of grad students, interns, and widows.


Lopez: When was the “unmarriage revolution”? Is it fair to point to the feminists?


Hymowitz: I use the term “the unmarriage revolution” to refer to the radical decoupling of marriage and children that began in the late 1960’s and became entrenched during the 70’s. Feminists were the architects of that revolution. They viewed marriage as an institution of male privilege and a female prison house. To be liberated women had to be independent and free themselves from what Simone de Beauvoir called that “obscene bourgeois institution.”


This critique of marriage had almost nothing to say about children. Kids are resilient, feminists and feminist-inspired researchers (i.e. almost every last researcher) reasoned; as long as women were feeling good, their children would be fine. Fortunately, at least that much has changed. As James Q. Wilson has joked, by now the evidence is now so powerful, even sociologists admit that children growing up with single mothers are at greater risk of just about every problem you can think of — poverty, depression, school failure, delinquency, early pregnancy, and so on.


Still, for all the harm that feminism did to marriage — and to children — it would be foolish to think that unmarried women who have children today or who are leaving their husbands because of they won’t do the laundry are taking orders from NOW. In one respect it’s the opposite: After the revolution, women are still dying to become mothers, even if they can’t find a husband. Feminists weren’t able to undo nature. But their ideas have helped to weaken our most important social institution, or, as they might put it, our most important social construction.


Lopez: What does Katrina have to do with marriage?


Hymowitz: With all those horrific pictures from the Superdome and the ninth ward, Katrina briefly revived national interest in poverty, particularly black poverty. There was a rush of media chatter about what John Edwards calls “the two Americas.” What I try to show in my book is that there is no way to have this discussion honestly without introducing the subject of marriage. Thirty eight percent of single mothers are poor; compare that to fewer than eight percent of married couples in poverty - many of them recently arrived, low skilled immigrants, by they way. The median income for black married couples is just about the same as for white couples. Married couples amass far more wealth than their single counterparts; a study by a Ohio University economist reported that married couples increase their net wealth by about 16% per year; after 15 years they have 93% more net wealth than single and divorced individuals. Robert Lerman of the Urban Institute has found that even the lowest income couples are better off than their single peers, with fewer spells of hardship and more help from extended family. This is not just because marriage brings the benefits of two incomes and two sets of hands. Saving and making money are in the DNA of American marriage, and have been since the first Englishmen arrived.


Lopez: Is single motherhood really a cycle and if so how can it be broken? Seems like it’s existed for a while now.


Hymowitz: It is for this reason: Single mothers are more likely to have children who will become single parents themselves. One of the single greatest risk factors for divorce, for instance, is having divorced parents.


It’s important to point out, by the way, that single parenthood is especially problematic in a knowledge economy where college is a prerequisite for middle-class status. Children growing up with single mothers are less likely to graduate high school, or if they do graduate, to go to college, or if they do go to college, to get their degree. So the cycle doesn’t just perpetuate single parenthood over generations; it perpetuates poor prospects. That’s why I talk about marriage and caste.


Lopez: Is anyone listening to the likes of Bill Cosby and Juan Williams on the topic of fatherhood?


Hymowitz: There’s a lot of father hunger in the black community. I spoke with any number of young black men who are intensely bitter towards the fathers who abandoned them and are determined to do better by their own kids. And many blacks know something is deeply wrong in their communities. Unfortunately, few of them realize that a lot of what ails them can be attributed to a 70% out-of-wedlock birth rate. Low-income young men may want to “step up for their kids,” but they don’t believe that means marrying their kids’ mothers. Cosby scolds parents for raising “knuckleheads”; I’d like to hear him explain how marriage helps them avoid doing that.


Lopez: Does Barack Obama have a unique opportunity and responsibility on some of these issues?


Hymowitz: Absolutely. Obama offers a chance to introduce an entirely new persona and perhaps a new language into politics, a black man who carries no resentment and bitterness, who believes in personal responsibility and initiative, who grew up with a single mother, yet who has become solidly middle class, meaning in addition to earning a decent living, he is married with children. Orlando Patterson has written about the terrible mistrust and anger that exists between black men and women. Obama is — or appears to be — something blacks don’t see all that often — an affectionate and loyal modern husband. The idea of the “role model” tends to be overvalued, but it may be worth something in Obama’s case.


That said, I’m not holding my breath waiting for Obama to proselytize for the revival of black marriage, during primary season at any rate. In the current environment of Democratic politics, there’s not much to be gained, and much to be lost, by bringing up the M-word.


Lopez: How much is the culture to blame for the state of marriage in America?


Hymowitz: A lot. Popular culture is the soundtrack — a really cool soundtrack, by the way — for the unmarriage revolution. With Britney and Katie and Angelina, you can’t get that song out of your head. The soundtrack says the good life is about being cool, looking hot, and seeking pleasure however you want it. Marriage is great when it’s the culmination of a romantic love story, but if the going gets tough, it’s on to the next pleasure. In a more general way popular culture feeds dissatisfaction and heightens expectations, something that is not necessarily helpful to couples who will often need a hefty dose of common sense in their lives.


Lopez: To what degree is same-sex marriage contributing to a weakening of marriage? Is it more a symptom of an institution already decaying?


Hymowitz: I think it’s the latter. The unmarriage revolution of the last 40 years had to occur before gay marriage became a logical possibility, because it was only when marriage had nothing or little to do with children that it made any sense. Pro-gay-marriage conservatives know this. Jonathan Rauch has written in response to the sort of argument I make that “the debate is over about detaching marriage from parenthood — indeed was over years ago;” Andrew Sullivan has said much the same thing. Well, there you have it. Marriage-and-children? That’s so yesterday.


Despite this, Rauch has argued that gay marriage will increase the institution’s standing in American society. But as I’ve already pointed out, the problem is not that Americans don’t value marriage. It’s that they view it as an adult love relationship having little to do with children. That’s precisely the underlying premise for gay marriage.


Lopez: Would marriage be in better shape if more people voted Republican?


Hymowitz: Mary Cheney should dispel that idea. True, Republicans are probably more open to the arguments I’ve laid out in my book than Democrats, but the unmarriage revolution is now embedded in our culture in a way that transcends politics. As liberals are fond of pointing out, divorce rates are highest in red America. (Though so are marriage rates.) Out-of-wedlock birth rates and divorce rates soared during Reagan’s presidency while they stalled during the Clinton years; teen pregnancy rates also declined dramatically during that time. To (almost) quote Moynihan, the great conservative truth is that it is culture not politics that determines the success of marriage.


Lopez: What’s the ideal pro-marriage presidential platform? How can a leader at that level buck up marriage?


Hymowitz: Well, Moynihan also said the great liberal truth is that politics can save culture, but in this case, I am not so sure. There are a few policy incentives we can tinker with to improve the state of marriage among low-income folks — increasing the child tax deduction, expanding the EITC and so forth.


But the most important thing a president can do is to start a serious — and necessarily painful — conversation on a subject about which Americans remain extremely confused and conflicted. Have a summit on black marriage. Convene Hollywood and record company “creatives” to look at their own role in this. Get the poverty advocates and welfare establishment to take a hard look at the data and consider domestic policy in light of its potential impact on marriage. Talk to business leaders about what’s at stake; as I’ve been saying the unmarriage revolution is a business and economic story, as well as a social and cultural one.


This approach might also have the benefit of defusing the gay-marriage discussion. I don’t believe gay marriage is going to be the gift that keeps on giving to conservatives. Americans may oppose gay marriage by considerable margins, but my guess is a lot of them are uncomfortable with the animus they sense in some of the debate and don’t like thinking of themselves as intolerant. Going after the disease — the unmarriage revolution - rather than the symptom — gay marriage — is not only a more accurate strategy, it’s smart politics.


Lopez: Can Britney Spears be saved?


Hymowitz: The better question is: Can we be saved — from Britney!




Cheerleading for Divorce: Socially irresponsible reporting. (National Review Online, 070123)

[KH: exactly what I felt when I first read the article]


By Jennifer Roback Morse


“51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse,” the New York Times trumpeted last week. Is this something to celebrate, as the paper of record seemed to do? And more importantly, is it even true?


There is certainly a trend away from marriage, but the numbers reported by the New York Times are deliberately misleading.


These data come from the American Community Survey for 2005, whose website is here. If you go directly to the simplest table, S1201, you will find, contra the NYT, that 51% of women are married. (Run your eye down the first column to the row which lists “females.” Scoot over to “Now married, (except separated).”) Voila! 51% of women are now married.


Not the impression created by the NYT headline. To get to the conclusion that the unmarried outnumber the married, our intrepid reporter of social trends had to do some digging.


He did it by going to Table B12001, which breaks down married people into categories of “Married, spouse present” and “Married, spouse absent.” (If you have trouble with this link, try going back to the homepage and entering the table number.) Run your eye down the females table, and you’ll see about 5.5 million women were “Married, Spouse Absent.” The three million who were legally separated were not included in the “Married” column in the previous table. The “other” category includes about 2.4 million women who were married, and not legally separated, but who were not living with their spouses at the time of the survey. These women could include those whose husbands are on military deployment, an extended business trip, or in prison or another kind of institution. These 2.4 million women comprise two percent of the population.


And two percent is just the number you need to shift the numbers from “51% of women are married, but not legally separated” to “51% of women are not living with husbands.”


Only the New York Times could make a headline out of a footnote.


The second way this headline is misleading is in its definition of  “women.”  The number is based on all women over the age of 15. Look at the 15-19 age group: What a surprise to find that only 2.5% of them are married. If we exclude the teenagers, what percentage of women over 20 is married? The teenagers constitute about eight percent of the total population of women. My back of the envelope calculation suggests that throwing out the teenagers raises the percentage of women married by about four-percentage points to about 55%.


All this establishes is that the New York Times is so eager to show marriage as a declining institution that it tortured the data until it confessed. But, fact is, marriage is in trouble. They needn’t exaggerate. The point of the story was to convince the public that this decline is inexorable, like a force of nature, and that only old fuddy-duddies complain about it.


But should the rest of us just give a big “oh well” sigh and “move on?”


The happy single women the NYT depicts for its readers are recently divorced women in their fifties and happily unmarried women in their thirties. But I hear from a different set of people. The very day this story came out, I met a 43-year-old unmarried professional woman, who would love to be married. But all the men of suitable age and educational level insist on sex on the first date, and she’s not interested. I hear from young people who would love to get married and stay married because they don’t want to put their own children through the misery of divorce that they endured. But these young people are frightened, and not confident about their ability to sustain married life.


I hear from women whose husbands abandoned them and their children, for no particular reason. The law in most states does not protect the partner who wants to stay married, but the one who wants divorce. Even one of the NYT happily divorced women mentions that women in her divorce support group are miserable. But the NYT doesn’t think any of those women are worth interviewing. Their misery is just collateral damage in the war for women’s independence.


And don’t get me started on the harms women inflict on men. The NYT reporter quotes recently divorced women enjoying their freedom to come and go as they please. But honestly, we have no idea what kind of wreckage these women left behind them. Some divorced women leave their husbands with huge credit-card debts and three screaming children. I hear from these men all the time. And we’re supposed to just celebrate women’s freedom?


This is socially irresponsible reporting at its worst. Marriage is the most basic form of social cooperation. It is the institution in which children are born and reared. When spousal cooperation breaks down, the substitutes for it are intrusive, ineffective, and expensive. Adults have an obligation to support the young as they try to form marriages. Instead, the NYT is scaring them away from marriage with exaggerated statistics and selective reporting.


We owe the young better than this.


— Jennifer Roback Morse is a senior research fellow in economics at the Acton Institute, and the author of Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn’t Work.




How Wives Can Kill Their Marriage: Part One (, 070324)


By Doug Giles


“The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” - King Solomon, Proverbs 14.1


If some of you ladies want to know how you can suck the life out of your marriage and drive your husband to insanity . . . or to the bar . . . or into the arms of another woman . . . or to a divorce attorney . . . or just shrivel him up into a conquered quail who inwardly loathes you as he dies a slow, emotionally tortuous death, well then . . . this is your lucky day.


Here are 10 surefire principles that’ll make your husband more miserable than Donald Trump being forced to watch Rosie O’Donnell River Dance naked.


They are . . .


1. Nag your husband.


2. Disparage him in public.


3. Keep him on a short leash.


4. Be a drama queen.


5. Hate his friends.


6. Hate his hobbies.


7. Cut him off sexually.


8. Get your parents and/or siblings involved in your marriage.


9. Never apologize.


10. Look bugly (butt ugly).


Are you psyched out, you masochistic mamas, that you are about to have at your disposal a demonic strategy to devastate your mate? You are? Then let’s get straight to the husband crushing.


1. Nag your Husband. Nagging is an awesome instrument in the Torture Your Hubby Toolbox. For a wife to be effective at draining a husband’s love for her and, for life itself, she must not buy into this “loving, sweet, polite and patient” goofiness towards him.


On the contrary, she must be a nerve grating, contentious, non-stop dripping faucet of fault-finding and finger pointing. Ladies, if you run out of things to nag your husband about, turn your spurn towards politics, church, culture, friends, neighbors, weather, work, or your children. It doesn’t matter what you blather about—just blather. The point is to become a persistent source of audio pain in your husband’s brain.


You’ll know you’ve effectively wrecked his soul when he ceases to sing the song of your courtship, i.e., he goes from Clapton’s “You Look Wonderful Tonight” to Elton John’s hit, “The B*tch is Back.”


2. Criticize your husband in public. Waling on your husband in private is good, but it is incomplete. What you’ve got to do, devil woman, is go the next step and publicly shame him.


Melt him down when you’re out on the town. Is he going bald, talk about it and how you don’t like it. Does he have a little beer belly? Call him a pig and compare him to Brad Pitt. Did he have a financial set back? Tell your friends! Become a Tiger Woods at indiscriminately unveiling anything about your spouse that’ll cause him to want to jump in front of a speeding bus.


Now, listen Broomhilda, you can humiliate your husband in many ways, such as the direct and deeply vicious, non-blinking verbal assault. However, the women I have witnessed destroy their spouses usually used humor. Think about it: everyone will laugh (group derision is crazy effective) and you, the satanic wench, can say, “I was only joking.” This will make him look weak (because he also can’t take a joke), which will further blister the ebbing vestiges of virility he has left. This is beautiful . . . just beautiful. Try it tonight!




How Wives Can Kill Their Marriage: Part Two (, 070331)


By Doug Giles


From the negative reaction I’ve received from cranky women and toxic feminists, as well as the tremendous positive responses/confessions from honest and repentant ex- men emasculators, I think I’m on to something with my “How Wives Can Kill Their Marriage” series.


In regards to screeching female critics of my column, you and I both know that if I went to town on husbands (which I have many times . . . check my archives) everything would be cool. I would be loved and hailed by all the misandrists far and wide. Yes, the man haters would be giddy. However, when I turn my guns on the girls for their garish behavior towards their husbands, all of a sudden I’m a sexist, or a homo, or a . . . a . . . a something.


What’s the matter? Can’t take the heat? Listen, little Miss Can’t Do Wrong, I’m here to tell you that, believe it or not, you’re capable and oft times culpable for creating for your mate a living hell that is only surpassed by an eternal one.


For those women who want to become more efficient at eroding your husband’s spirit, here are four more additional acrimonious assets that’ll drive your hubby to drink massive volumes of alcohol and prefer angry leopard wrestling, listening to Yoko Ono yodel or Chinese water torture to your presence.


Having covered 1) Nag Your Husband and 2) Disparage Him in Public in my last column, I now offer you, the man-eater, points three through six for your bitter arsenal.


3. Keep Him On a Short Leash. Third on my list for how you, the Satan woman, can kill your marriage is to place your husband on a short leash. Better yet, a choke chain. Your goal is three-fold: make your man to feel, fear and heel to your wrath. You’ve got to verbally shackle him to your commands. Make him believe like he can’t sit, stand, play, think, speak or spend money unless you, the queen condor, allow him to.


By short leashing your husband with an exacting set of laws, you will, in short order, morph in his head from being his lover to being his mother. This masochistic machination of insane restrictions will make your man feel like a stupid son, controlled by you, his new petulant mommy.


Forever gone will be the friend, fan, soul mate and confidant stuff that initially drew the two of you together. Once again, pure gold here, girls . . . pure gold. Listen, using this tip might not produce immediate devastating effects upon your man, but don’t lose heart. It’ll work, and he’ll turn into a newt or move into the corner of your attic or joyfully leave you in the dust. Either way, this ditty will suck the wind right out of your marriage sails.


4. Become a Drama Queen. Another thing that’ll make your husband long to be stranded in the Mojave Desert with no food or sun screen and only a rabid Rottweiler to keep him company is, become a drama mama. Yes, your goal, ghoulfriend, is to ratchet up every situation so that you emotionally drain your man. Make the atmosphere of your home tense. Make everything, especially the small things, turn into a five alarm fire.


The thing drama queens do so effectively is jack up the stress levels in the relationship. This, naturally, robs the relationship of the fertile presence of peace. This redlining, high RPM spirit will stretch his nerves more out of shape than the elastic in Grosie O’Donnell’s XXXXL panties.


Go for it, ladies. Sweat the small stuff. Yell, freak, faint. Sound the alarm, even if it’s only over a broken dragon nail. If you concentrate you can make anything WW3. Focus on wearing him out with your daily theater. Do not under any circumstance become a calm and well-modulated, peaceful and poised wife who can field any real or imagined problem that gets shot her way.


5. Hate his Friends. Separate your husband from his compadres quickly. You mustn’t allow your husband to hang out with anyone but you. Sever those relational ties your companion has with those who have walked to hell and back with him because now, yes now . . . it’s all about you.


You especially want to steer him clear of friends who feel the liberty and responsibility to shed light on you, the whacked wife. In addition, get your guy away from those buddies who have amazing and gracious wives or girlfriends. “Why?” you ask. Well, a loving, caring and an affirming couple will expose your broom riding proclivities and put needed pressure on you to dial freakin’ down. Remember and beware: trusted and wise friends are able to bring perspective to marital mayhem.


Therefore, slander his friends, vilify them and have stuff planned every night of the week ‘til Jesus returns. If for some odd reason he steals a rare, uncontrolled moment where he and his friends can get a beer, try this: Just before he walks out of the door, start the washing machine, then cut the hose as the tub is filling and flood house. Or just set the drapes on fire. That’ll keep him home.


6. Hate his hobby. Keeping the husband from his friends is not enough because your husband still has an out in his hobby. Your goal is to joy steal anywhere pleasure can be had, and it is here that hobbies figure in greatly. Therefore, set your cross hairs immediately upon that which flicks his diversionary switch. You don’t want him to enjoy anything that you don’t like. Your duty: remove any recourse he has to find solace in something.


Additionally, hobbies create relationships built around shared likes, and remember, your goal is to keep him on a choke chain, with no compadres, sequestered in the house to listen to you moo. Never, under any circumstance, take an interest in his interests, encourage him in his pursuits and just simply let the boy play, as this understanding spirit could actually make him take a shinnin’ to you and you wouldn’t want that to happen.


I see you next week for the final four facts that’ll help you fry your husband…




How Wives Can Kill Their Marriage: The Final Straw (, 070331)


By Doug Giles


I think the world is coming to an end. I didn’t come to this conclusion simply because a lot of people actually read and like my column, but primarily because of the tons of positive emails I’m getting from former livid ladies confessing their remorse for their previous acts of husband hating. It’s crazy. It must be global warming causing all these ex-ice queens to melt and warm up to their men. See, global warming ain’t all that bad, Al. Anyway, enough of the happy crap. . . .


I want to continue to feed the wives who want to snuff the life out of their marriage and make that thing more tedious that listening to Sanjaya sing, “Riders on the Storm.”


Having covered “nag your husband and disparage him in public” in part one and “how to drive him nuts by short leashing him, becoming a drama queen, hating his friends and hating his hobbies” in part two, I now offer you (the bellicose beastesses of husband hatred) the final four fundamentals that will make your husband prefer being bitten on the crotch by a black mamba to your blah, blah, blah.


7. Cut him off sexually. Another great way to make your man hit a depressed state that is only eclipsed by the one Rosie O’Donnell’s proctologist deals with is to cut him off from hot relations. I mean, give him nada. Guys will stomach some nagging, getting short leashed, multitudinous Naomi Campbellesque dramatic outbursts and your general disinterest of his interests—as long as you rock his world in the bedroom. Yes, most men are that easy.


Your job, Jezebel, is to ruin your marriage; therefore, it’s not enough to rag and ridicule him and then run his friends off. No, you must go the second mile and turn into the Sex Nazi: “No sex for you!”


Yes, your goal, Cold Ethel, is to make Hillary Clinton look like Jenna Jameson. I’m talkin’ about shutting the sex factory downnnnnnnnnnnnnn. Cutting him off sexually will intensify his marital angst and could, if you’re lucky, help push him over the temptation edge into an affair or into a crazy porn addiction or some other soul unraveling behavior like doubting his manhood, his sanity or his reasons for falling in love with you in the first place. Pretty cool, eh?


If you do ever have sex with your husband, you’ve got to make sure it’s not out of love for him or the desire to have fun and enjoy his intimate company, but rather as the means to some sinister, manipulative end. Make your hubby sexually pay until he obeys. Here’s what ‘cha gotta do. When he locks step to your wishes (I mean to the “T”), then, and only then, do you dole out a little sexual treat. Get that whole Pavlov’s dog thing going with him.


Under no circumstances should you show appreciation, be tender, fun, amorous and adventurous or do any other thing that’ll keep the love flame lit. TLC, if injected into the marriage mix, will cause the two of you to have a healthy sexual relationship, which obviously helps a marriage (plus burns calories)—and that would completely derail your desires for marital misery.


8. Get your parents and/or siblings involved in your marriage. Forget this leave and cleave stuff the Bible dictates. If you want your union to unravel then you’ve got to gang tackle your husband with la familia. For example: if you, as a couple, have a major decision to make, seek counsel and opinions only from your mom and dad, rather than your husband. This will give him that stooge/stepchild feeling of useless stupidity that is, FYI, a great alienating agent.


Also, does your husband need a job and does your dad own a business? What a great opportunity! Get your dad and his company to hire your husband. This will eventually require your husband to obey you at all times, because now he owes his monetary butt to you and daddy.


Lastly, do not under any circumstance attempt to work out your marital problems between just you and your man. Rather, get your angry sisters, your lard butt brother and your mother who’s nuttier than a squirrel turd to weigh in. Once conflict occurs, surround him in a scrum of familial disapproval. If not stopped, this clustering of belligerent kin against your husband will eventually do in the marriage. Since your goal is to tear down your own house, you probably need to call mama right now and complain about something your husband’s done. If he hasn’t done anything negative lately, just dig up something he did in the past. Or put a little twist on something he did with good intentions and make it seem like it was done on purpose to ruin your life.


9. Never apologize. If, in the odd event you do something that hurts your husband, or . . . say the unlikely occasion arises where you were woefully and ridiculously wrong on an issue, never, I mean never, under any circumstance, apologize for anything.


Why should you say you’re sorry? You’re the Queen of Mean, the Belle of Bitterness and culpable for nothing. You’re not going to apologize because . . . uh . . . well, um . . . the wrong you did wasn’t entirely your fault. Hello. He knows that. You have low blood sugar. And on that day when you screwed up and made yourself look like an ass by wrongfully axe-grinding on your man, it was because you didn’t have your afternoon Butterfinger fix. As a matter of fact, your husband, yes, your husband (whom you had put in charge of stockpiling your Butterfinger reserves) let the coffers run dry. Which means (that’s right!), he is actually responsible for your demonic manifestation. Thus, it’s him, I tell you . . . it’s your husband who should apologize, dammit. You . . . apologize? Please.


Whether it’s low blood sugar, PMS, PBS, Global Warming, the vast ring wing conspiracy or Bill O’Reilly, you, the marital femme fatale, are fortunate to live in the 21st century. In this therapeutic age you are afforded excuses aplenty that will help you destroy your marriage by never owning or asking for forgiveness for your hellish behavior.


10. Look bugly (butt ugly). Women come in all shapes and sizes. The majority of men that I know (who love the testosterone, heterosexual, God-blessed fog in which they dwell) really like women. From Calista Flockhart to Queen Latifa, to them . . . it’s all good. That is, as long as the ladies take care of what the good Lord has given them. The successful marriages I’ve seen know and abide by this golden nugget: always look your best . . . to constantly attract and show respect for your mate. It also aids in not terrifying dogs and small children.


Staying attractive messes with your husband’s head. It makes him think, “holy guacamole” when he sees you. It makes him envision you while he’s at work or out of town. It makes the boys’ night out a little shorter—especially when you tell him, as he’s leaving the house, that you’ve got the outfit from the lower right-hand corner of page 96 of the Victoria Secret Spring catalogue waiting to be modeled for him if he’s home by 10pm.


However, since you’re focused on mucking up your marriage, you’ve got to look bugly. Here’s how it goes. Your husband’s getting a little belly, so why shouldn’t you match it? Or better yet, better it? You should blow off regular exercising, occasional tanning and wearing sexy perfumes. Don’t bleach that hair on your lip, don’t wash your greasy hair or follow current fashion; just plow on with your hellish couture . . . the over sized t-shirts, oily skin, stretch pants and that hair style you got from 1906 Sears catalogue. To heck with your husband (and the world) if he doesn’t like your looks. Your goal is to make him love you for who you are, not what you look like.


And with that, I’m done with “How Wives Can Ruin Their Marriage.” Go for it, ladies. Maybe, just maybe, you can take Elsa Lancaster’s old role in the upcoming Bride of Frankenstein remake. Work hard and keep your fingers crossed. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, eh? Don’t deviate from these principles, because if you do, you might end up with a happy marriage. Yecch.


One more thing: I’ve been asked by many people and talk show hosts if I’m going to do a series regarding how husbands can ruin their marriages. My answer: I’m not feeling it right now. There are plenty of books on that deal with that subject. And anyways, I think the boys have had their knuckles rapped for too long and for too much while the girls have been allowed to walk with impunity.


So . . . I wouldn’t look for anything from me anytime soon on that topic. When things, blame wise, balance out—and if I’m still alive and if the price is right and I’m not hunting or painting or vacationing with my family . . . or watching grass grow or re-reading the operational manual of the hinge or having my fingernails slowly removed by an angry sadistic midget with pliers—then and only then, I might write something which goes after the guys.




‘Family values’ won’t get help from immigration: Study: Out-of-wedlock births among Hispanics rise from 19% to 42% (WorldNetDaily, 070424)


The high rate of illegitimate births to immigrants is a warning to American leaders not to expect help building family values from such newcomers, according to a new study released today by the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C.


Hispanic immigrants have seen the largest increase in out-of-wedlock births, from 19% in 1980 to 42% in 2003, according to the study entitled “Illegitimate Nation,” authored by Dr. Steven A. Camarota, Director of Research at CIS.


Camarota notes that illegitimate births in the native population have increased as well, from 19% in 1980 to 35% in 2003.


For immigrants overall, both legal and illegal, out-of-wedlock birth rates have been comparable to illegitimate birth rates among the native population, increasing from 13% in 1980 for immigrants (both legal and illegal) to 32% in 2003.


The higher rate of illegitimate births among Hispanic immigrants is important, Camarota notes, because births to Hispanic mothers now account for 59% of all births to foreign-born mothers.


“How the children of Hispanic immigrants fare is one of the most critically important questions we face as a nation with regard to the integration of children from immigrant families,” Camarota wrote. “The birth rate data indicate that a very large share of these children are starting life at a significant social disadvantage.”


Camarota found that illegitimate births tend to associate with the low education levels of the mothers. In 2003, 65% of illegitimate births to Hispanic immigrants were to mothers who lacked a high school diploma.


In 2003, for the first time, the absolute number of illegitimate births among Hispanic immigrants exceeded the absolute number of illegitimate births among African-Americans.


Camarota cited the extensive social science research that shows illegitimacy and family breakdown have concerned policy makers, researchers, and the public for more than half a century, at least since Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1965 publication of what became known as “The Moynihan Report.”


“Research shows that children of unmarried parents are much more likely to live in poverty, have low academic achievement, and have higher high school dropout rates than those born to married persons,” Camarota commented.


“Run-ins with the law, drug use, and incarceration are all more common among children born to unmarried parents,” he continued. “Welfare use is also significantly higher for married families with illegitimate children. Infants born out of wedlock suffer higher mortality rates. Illegitimate children have been found to suffer from more-difficult-to-solve problems such as low levels of self esteem and self worth.”


Moreover, Camarota noted that children of unmarried parents are themselves at a higher risk of becoming out-of-wedlock parents themselves, setting up a generational perpetuation of the problem.


Camarota cited President Bush’s frequent statement that “family values do not stop at the Rio Grande.”


Keying from this claim, a major goal of Camarota’s study was to answer the following question: “Is one of the benefits of immigration that it will infuse the country with traditional family values?”


After reviewing the high rate of illegitimate births, especially among Hispanic immigrants, his answer was a resounding, “No.”


His conclusion was that illegitimate births to immigrants will add to a growing societal problem.


He wrote, “Children of immigrants born to immigrant parents will be at a higher risk for low academic achievement, criminality, weak attachment to the labor force, use of welfare, and all the other social problems the illegitimate children are at a higher risk to experience.”


Camarota concluded, “Immigrants are subject to the same social forces as everybody else, and illegitimacy is as big a problem among immigrants as it is for the rest of society. Thus, the idea that immigration will reinvigorate traditional family values is unrealistic.”




Criminal act or religious right? (National Post, 070810)


To understand the moral and legal conundrum of polygamy in Canada, consider that when the Canadian Bar Association discusses the matter at its annual meeting next week, it will be part of a larger discussion about the “implications of family diversity.”


The practice of having multiple spouses - illegal for more than a century - is being considered alongside serial monogamy, surrogacy arrangements and same-sex relationships as being among those societal changes “charting new legal territory for family relationships” being examined by a panel probing what it means when the law moves into the bedrooms of the nation.


Is polygamy a religious freedom that should be allowed in a pluralistic society or is it so morally repugnant that it should remain a criminal act?


This is the question raised by the recent recommendation to test the constitutionality of Canada’s anti-polygamy law - proposed last week as a way to get at the legion of alleged wrongs in the polygamous outpost of Bountiful, B.C., but which raises an array of issues that reach far beyond the inner workings of one small community.


Bountiful was founded in the mid-1940s by the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Americans ex-communicated by the mainstream Mormon church who feared prosecution for their polygamous lifestyle. Because no one knows how many Canadians live in polygamous relationships, Bountiful has become the symbol for polygamy in this country.


Former church leader Warren Jeffs is facing multiple criminal charges in Arizona and Utah, including being an accomplice to incest and an accomplice to sexual conduct with a minor.


Mr. Jeffs is also accused of being an accomplice to rape for a marriage he allegedly arranged between a 14-year-old girl and her 19-year-old cousin.


In Canada, there has been a legacy of failed legal attempts to deal with the issue, utilizing either the anti-polygamy law, Section 293, which carries a five-year term, the Human Rights process, or, most recently, a section of the Criminal Code prohibiting adults from having sex with minors when the adult is in a position of authority.


After four Crown attorneys rejected a recommendation to lay criminal charges last year, saying there was not enough evidence to proceed, B.C. Attorney-General Wally Oppal assigned Vancouver lawyer Richard Peck to make an independent assessment of the Bountiful situation. In his report released last week, Mr. Peck wrote, “Polygamy itself is at the root of the problem. Polygamy is the underlying phenomenon from which all other alleged harms flow.”


He recommended that Canada’s anti-polygamy law be referred to the courts to test its constitutionality, which legal experts say would give the law - rarely used and never applied to Bountiful - real teeth.


But those who believe the issues of how to proceed on Bountiful seem clear - that polygamy is anathema; that the community is a controlling cult that violates every principle of equality and demeans women to the point of enslavement; that the sexual abuse of minors is rampant - should spend a few minutes with Vancouver family lawyer Bianca Scheirer.


Ms. Scheirer has studied the legal issues flowing out Bountiful as part of her Masters of Law. Her thesis, in part, “seeks an answer to the question of how much freedom of choice can be exercised by a woman whose religious beliefs involve a renunciation of her own choices, to abide by her husband’s rule ...”


“When I first started out with this topic I had such a strong viewpoint: Let’s get rid of this. Let’s shut this down. What’s wrong with the RCMP? What’s wrong with the Attorney-General? Why don’t they take action? And having contemplated it for two years ... I’m now hedging this way and that way,” Ms. Scheirer said.


“You want to respect capacitated adults’ decisions and choices about what they do in their personal relationships. You want to uphold that whole principle, but on the other hand, it’s hard to not see that community as a patriarchy writ large.”


Jason Gratl, a criminal lawyer and president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said it is important to distinguish between a moral disdain of polygamist marriage and a desire for a legal recourse to crimes sheltered “by the insular community structures and bonds of loyalty.”


“It’s tempting to point at polygamy as the determining factor which creates abuse,” he said. “But one should resist that temptation in light of the fact that similar abuses occur in quite ordinary marriages. And no one is suggesting wiping out the institution of marriage because some of those marriages lead to insular family structures.”


Mr. Gratl is among those who argue that striking down the law - decriminalizing the practice - could benefit the very women the law tries to protect. “Family law structures are not equipped for dealing with the dissolution of polygamous marriages,” Mr. Gratl said.


Beverley Baines, a law professor at Queen’s University, was co-author of a report released last year that said Section 293 would likely fail a court challenge and called for polygamy to be decriminalized. (The report did not call for legalization, which she said would mean a change to the Marriage Act.)


She said if polygamy was no longer illegal, it could then be studied and really understood - not just in the context of the goings on at Bountiful, but also how common the practice may be among Canada’s many immigrants who may come from countries where polygamy is not unusual.


Nicholas Bala, who is also a law professor at Queen’s University and has written extensively about the issue, believes the law should be referred to the courts - and that it will be upheld. He said the fact that Canada’s 1892 anti-polygamy law has rarely been used does not mean it does not serve an important purpose.


“Our criminal law is related to our immigration law and our family law, and if the law is struck down we would probably have to change our immigration laws and family laws, as well,” he said. “The criminal law sends an important symbolic message. It reflects social values. And I think the vast majority of Canadians do not want to have polygamy in Canada.”


Prof. Bala said the polygamy-as-religious-freedom argument has failed in the United States, India and in Europe, but until Canadian courts rule on it, it is impossible to know where it stands. He likened it to the same-sex marriage situation: “It’s not a coincidence that we’re seeing the issue of polygamy arising now, given the fact that we have changed the traditional definition of marriage on constitutional grounds. It’s reasonable to ask should we continue to change it ... I understand the logic behind it, but I don’t think it’s very persuasive.”


However, Katherine Young, a professor of religion at McGill University, believes the legalization of  same-sex marriages has changed the rules.


“Once you start to change definitions there can be a whole set of repercussions,” she said. “[Now] you’re going to have to argue whether there’s any substantial reason to restrict marriage to two people. The last argument was whether we have to restrict to two people of different sex, now we have to make an argument why it should be restricted to two. And now we have even weaker grounds for doing it.”




Would Jane Austen Settle? Challenging Our Definition of Love (BreakPoint, 080401)


By Lori Smith


Should single women of a certain age settle for “Mister Okay” instead of waiting around for “Mister Right”? Lori Gottlieb’s article (“Marry Him!”) in last month’s Atlantic Monthly has created shock waves by suggesting that, well, yes—they should.


Perhaps I should start by saying that I’m not incensed by this notion. I’m single, I’m 36, and I want to be married. I want to have kids. I actually believe, as Gottlieb ever-so-heretically asserts, that relationships (and primarily marriage) are still in many ways what define us as women.


What strikes me about all of this is that these are conversations we’ve been having for hundreds of years, all the way back to Jane Austen’s dear Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy (or perhaps more to the point here, Charlotte Lucas and the obsequious Mr. Collins. Could Charlotte have been happy that she settled? I doubt it). And as the film The Jane Austen Book Club pointed out, we’re still asking ourselves today, “What would Jane do?”


Would Jane settle? Absolutely not. Marriage in Austen’s day was all about settling, of course. Women who had no opportunity to earn their own living, needed financial security. Men as well were hoping to “settle” on a woman of means. The whole thing became a matter of business, which led to all sorts of mischief and misery. In that setting, Austen gives us poor, intelligent women hoping to marry for love. And because this is fiction, they do.


My favorite advice from Austen on marriage, though, is not in her fiction, but in letters to her niece, Fanny Knight, who was considering marrying a rather conscientious minister (as portrayed in Masterpiece Theatre’s recent Miss Austen Regrets). Austen wavers. She wants Fanny to marry well, and she knows that another guy with as many qualifications may not come along again. But more than anything else, she wants Fanny’s heart to be in it. She writes, “Nothing can compare to the misery of being bound without Love, bound to one, & preferring another. That is a Punishment which you do not deserve.”


On the other hand, Sense and Sensibility gives us a slightly different perspective. Marianne Dashwood has her reckless, wonderful romance with dashing Willoughby. The problem is, dashing Willoughby is a scoundrel. Marianne nearly dies of a broken heart, but eventually learns to love the less romantic Colonel Brandon, who first appeared “infirm” to her 17-year-old eyes. Austen tells us that Marianne married “with no sentiment superior to strong esteem and lively friendship,” but that “her whole heart became, in time . . . devoted to her husband.”


Which makes me think that the differences between Austen and Gottlieb may not be all that great, and may rooted in a different issue altogether. The question is not really whether or not to settle, but, “What is love?” For Austen, love was centered in character. If Pride and Prejudice’s Mr. Darcy had not proved to be terribly good, all his riches would have meant nothing. If Edward in Sense and Sensibility hadn’t been willing to go through with his years-long engagement to the conniving Lucy Steele, he wouldn’t have been worthy of Elinor’s love. Persuasion’s dashing Captain Wentworth has to admit that his pride kept him away from Anne for far too long. Even the women in Austen’s novels value their own improvements of character more than the wonderful romantic conclusions to their stories.


What is love? Austen would have a heyday with our romantic notions. Our feelings are so prominent that at times little else plays into our decisions about commitment. That leaves us prone to wander, to endlessly seek one ideal romantic partner who could never live up to our Sex and the City-inspired expectations. As Gottlieb points out, those kind of feelings don’t last. Perhaps, in the end, Gottlieb and Austen aren’t as far apart as one might think.


Austen—who herself never married—would encourage us to marry for love, but challenge us to remember that love is not only feeling, but action. The love that is patient, kind, and humble is more verb than noun—more a state of doing than feeling. That kind of love, she would say, never involves settling, but it might not sweep you off your feet, and it may grow where you don’t expect it.




Single in the City? Why Are So Many Christian Women Growing Old Alone? (BreakPoint, 080429)


By A.J. Kiesling


The following is an excerpt from “Where Have All the Good Men Gone?”


In the story The Emperor’s New Clothes, everyone ignores what they can plainly see—the emperor’s shocking nakedness—because group think encourages them to believe what they’ve been told versus what they know to be true. Sometimes it feels like the same thing is happening among Christian singles in our postmodern society. We are told that singleness is a special season of grace from God, a time to be devoted solely to spiritual matters, a time to have fun before we are weighed down by the responsibilities of marriage and children. Yet privately, many (if not most) of the singles you talk to long to find “the one,” growing tired of the endless round of group activities as the years tick by. Everyone is supposed to be happy-happy-happy, enjoying these carefree days of singleness, but like the awkward specter of the emperor’s nakedness, the unspoken subject hangs in the air: Most of us want to get married and enjoy loving, committed relationships.


At a meeting of my singles Bible study one night, the topic turned, awkwardly, to marriage and the frustrations of singleness. As usual, whenever we discussed this subject, it was a woman—in this case, me—who initiated the tack change in conversation.


“Why do you think it’s so hard to get married today?” I asked. Several other women nodded their agreement with the question, suddenly keenly interested. A couple of the guys sank deeper into the sofa or fidgeted on their chairs.


“What do you mean?” a man in the group replied, the look of incredulity on his face genuine. “People get married every day. They fly off to Vegas and get married at the drop of a hat. I think our culture makes it too easy to get married. It’s not treated seriously anymore.”


He had a point, but it was not the one I was driving at. “What I mean to say is, why is it so hard to get married? Look at us—fifteen attractive men and women of marriageable age all wanting to find a mate, yet nobody is getting together and each of us is waiting for ‘the one.’ Why can’t we find someone to marry?”


Ultimately, it proved to be almost a rhetorical question, but the asking sure launched a firestorm of opinions for the next forty-five minutes. This question didn’t pop randomly into my head that evening at Bible study. It was something I’d been mulling over for quite some time. At the singles functions I attended, I couldn’t help but notice how many attractive women milled around, trying to be sociable and likable, and most of all trying to get noticed. The guys were there too, of course, but generally ran fewer in number—sometimes as little as one man to every four or five women. What struck me, however, was that these weekly gatherings (in this case, at a large church) gradually came to seem like the last place in the world to meet someone interesting of the opposite sex.



In conversations with some of my single girlfriends, we joke that being single and Christian in the modern world is like living in the Twilight Zone. We bolster each other with our humor, wisecracking and telling first-date horror stories from our ventures into the netherworld of online dating, but sometimes the reality of living in this odd parallel universe is anything but funny.


And then there’s the weirdness of getting back “out there” after years of being off the market, so to speak. Crass as it sounds, there really is a lot of truth to the whole “market” mindset, and you find that out fast once you enter this subterranean world of commodity shoppers—especially now that finding someone to date online has become mainstream, no longer a recourse only for the bolder among us.


To all those happily married people out there who met their spouses online, please don’t be offended my words. As I said, the “tales from the front lines” make for good laugh sessions with your girlfriends or entertaining family members at holiday gatherings. Yet beneath all the laughter and eye-rolling, I find myself growing disillusioned by degrees, and my thoughts go something like this: Do I really want my love story to begin with ‘Well, there was this website, and he saw my photo and I saw his, and then he emailed me . . .’?


The happy couples who do end up together after an online “match” don’t seem bothered by this lack of mystery at the outset. Somehow, though, I think I was born one of those who must have mystery and romance and longing and finally longing fulfilled. I sit in darkened theaters watching the latest remake of a Jane Austen classic, and my eyes well up with tears. Call me odd perhaps, but there’s a whole subculture of postmodern women like me who can’t quite reconcile the flat, perfunctory nature of modern dating with the bittersweet tension of romances from an earlier era that we read about in books or watch on-screen. We long for something more—and, fortunately, many of the guys out there do too.


Our challenge then is actually finding one another and stemming the tide of a culture gone awry. As it turns out, finding each other may be the easy part. Altering who and what we’ve become—and how the culture has changed both the inner and outer landscape of single adulthood—may prove to be the real obstacle.



Certainly I’m not the first one to notice the difficulty today’s singles have in making long-lasting commitments, much less finding the one they want to spend the rest of their lives with (if we are even capable of such a commitment). Nor am I the first to write a book about it. In Unhooked Generation: The Truth About Why We’re Still Single, author Jillian Straus relates how she first became aware of this social pandemic.


Straus interviewed one hundred singles from six cities in different geographic locations. As she talked with them, over and over again the people she interviewed said it was hard to meet other singles because of where they lived. “In other words, I saw crowds of people all looking for someone special—all unable to find what they were looking for, and all convinced the problem was where they lived. It was clear to me that geography was not the problem, however—the problem had something to do with the seeker’s approach.”



Ultimately Straus concludes that it isn’t anyone’s imagination; it is harder to find lasting love in today’s culture, and she identifies seven “evil influences” that have changed us from the inside out: 1) a self-serving “what’s-in-it-for-me?” culture, 2) a multiple choice culture, 3) the effect of divorce, 4) the feminism fallout, 5) a “why suffer?” mentality, 6) the celebrity standard, and 7) delayed marriage. Before I even stumbled across Straus’ book, many of these themes had already cropped up in the responses I culled from my own research and general observations.


It’s hard to ignore the validity of this list of influences. As you read through the responses of single men and women in this book, you’ll hear these same themes, often worded in different ways and going by different monikers, but still there all the same. The real question that emerges, in the wake of groundbreaking books such as Straus’, is: Why a book about Christian singles? Why break out this subset of singles from the larger culture and focus an entire book about their struggles to find mates? The answer is simple: Because Christian singles, although a subset of the singles culture as a whole, are supposed to be a very different subset—viewing marriage as a positive thing, God’s appointed arrangement for how to get our intimate and romantic needs met. Unlike our non-Christian cohorts, we’re not supposed to embrace the overwhelmingly pervasive trend of living together out of wedlock, casual “hookups” in our search for a soul mate, or reckless serial monogamy, leaving a trail of broken hearts in our wake (and sometimes having our own broken in the process).


Yet, looking around at the surplus of singles in the church—some hopeful, some desperate, some mildly bored, others depressed or even despairing—it’s plain to see that all is not right in Christendom. Somehow we’ve taken what was meant to be a very natural process (boy meets girl, boy woos girl, boy marries girl) and turned it into what can seem at times a virtual impossibility.


The truth, of course, is that while we Christian singles are a subset of society, we are more influenced by our culture than we may think. In a very real sense, Christians have always “warred” with the culture they live in, and it’s a battle with a strong opponent. I suspect contemporary Christian singles are reaping the harvest of decades’ worth of seeds sown askew in the culture at large. The sexual revolution; the women’s liberation movement; women pouring into the workforce; a generation of children growing up in daycare centers; the powerful influence of entertainment media in a sexualized culture; mind-boggling divorce statistics; cohabitation replacing the marriage covenant—all these and more have combined to change the way men and women interact with one another, and we Christians are not exempt from the fallout.



I went in search of answers, not to try to solve the big cultural-shift types of problems cited above, but to hear from real men and women who professed faith in God, yet found themselves single despite their wishes to the contrary.


At first I planned to target only Christian women in my survey, but soon it became clear that this was an issue both genders are passionate—and perplexed—about, though women are the most vocal. I logged onto Christian singles forums across the Internet, putting the word out about a survey I created to hear from these real-world single men and women. The responses trickled in at first then gained momentum. What I heard—and what I share with readers in Where Have All the Good Men Gone?—may surprise and even frustrate you, but lasting change can only begin with the truth.


In addition to answering hard-data queries cited above, most of the singles surveyed opted to answer two open-ended essay questions:


1) What would you like to tell the opposite sex about your frustrations with the Christian dating scene?


2) How do you think the opposite sex has contributed to the current “marriage crisis” (delayed marriages, no marriages, bypassing suitable mates, etc.)?


The responses from both men and women ranged from the angry (“Stop ‘hanging out’ with girls and ASK a woman on a date!!!”) to the heart-breaking (“I especially hate it when I make an effort to be seen or recognized and no one notices. I would love to see someone interested in me. What am I doing wrong?”) to the weary (“I don’t have the energy anymore to address the problem.”)




1. We want to be pursued, and men won’t step up to the plate


2. Guys are looking for a supermodel with a Mother Teresa personality


3. All the good ones are taken


4. Men today are emotionally/spiritually immature and take too long to grow up


5. Men want to play the field, or “have their cake and eat it too”


6. Too many Christian men try to push sexual boundaries




1. Women expect too much from us (spiritually)—real men are rough around the edges


2. Too many women bypass nice guys in favor of “bad boys”


3. Christian women don’t keep themselves attractive enough, and many are overweight


4. Fear of divorce


5. Christian women are too shallow and self-absorbed, or “just want to be friends”


6. It’s hard to tell Christian women from non-Christians these days


7. Lack of availability


I never imagined what a hotbed of emotion I was about to step into when I posted the online survey, asking to hear from “real-world” Christian singles. But now that men and women are airing their frustrations at last, it’s time to move past dialogue and find real-world results.




Getting What You Wished For: The Demise of Marriage in Britain (BreakPoint, 080415)


By Chuck Colson


According to a new report by Britain’s Office for National Statistics, the proportion of Britons getting married “has collapsed to a record low,” and that is a quote. One critic of the current government called it “a disaster for children, families, and society.” But, unlike natural disasters, this disaster is completely man-made.


In 2006, there were approximately 237,000 weddings in Britain—the fewest since 1895, when Victoria was still queen and Britain’s population was about half of what it is today. In fact, “the proportion of men and women getting married is below any level found since figures were first kept nearly 150 years ago.”


The marriage rate for British men is 22.8 per 1,000 and for women 20.5 per 1,000.


Clearly, British marriage is in trouble, and there is no shortage of suspects. Conservative Tories point to politically correct tax policies and government benefits that treat all living arrangements as equal—civil unions. The idea has been to shift “the tax burden away from families” and “provide incentives for all couples to get and stay together.”


Well, maybe there is some sound economic reasons for that, but what is far more important is how these policies shape cultural attitudes toward marriage. And, as the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, while culture does precede politics, politics can and does influence culture. And the law, after all, is a moral teacher.


In Britain’s case, this politically correct politics “for a decade maintained that all kinds of families are equally valuable.” Government officials “have campaigned for all references to marriage to be removed from state documents”; and a plan for helping British children “does not even mention marriage once.”


This is why researcher Patricia Morgan says that “[the marriage numbers are] what [government policies] have tried to achieve, and they ought to be congratulating themselves.”


According to Morgan, the government has encouraged the creation of marriage substitutes, what she calls “Marriage Lite.” The best-known of these legally recognized cohabitations is “civil unions.” What started out as an accommodation for same-sex couples has become an alternative to marriage for millions of heterosexual Europeans.


As Peter Wehner of the Ethics and Public Policy Center says, what is going on in Britain is “part of a broad, on-going trend.” Wehner remembers the same Senator Moynihan saying the biggest change he had witnessed in 40 years of politics was “that the family structure has come apart all over the North Atlantic world.”


Bad news—very bad news—because the links between crime and family breakdown are so well-established nobody could deny them anymore. Likewise, the link between marriage and children’s well-being is not a subject for debate—it is documented. And as marriage declines, so does the birth rate.


So, why do societies persist in this? Their worldviews demand it. Their commitment to personal autonomy and sexual freedom will not permit them to make the needed sacrifices to promote healthy families.


And by “them,” I also mean us. The state of marriage in America will be the subject of the president’s meeting with the Pope this week. And it will be the subject of tomorrow’s “BreakPoint.” Be sure to tune in.


This is clearly a case of “be careful what you wish for,” because, sadly, the consequences will not be limited to those doing the wishing.




Costly Substitutes: The Price of Family Fragmentation (BreakPoint, 080416)


By Chuck Colson


The Institute for American Values and the Georgia Family Council have just released a sobering study titled “The Taxpayer Cost of Divorce and Unwed Childbearing.” The study notes that while the debate on marriage usually focuses on its social, moral, and religious qualities, marriage is also an “economic institution.” It is a “powerful creator of human and social capital.”


In other words, healthy marriages produce the kind of people who are better able to take care of themselves and their families.


Unfortunately, as the report documents, there are fewer healthy marriages in America now than there were 25 years ago. Between 1970 and 2005, the percentage of children being raised in two-parent families dropped from 85 to 68%.


The principal causes of this drop were the high divorce rate and the increase in the number of out-of-wedlock births. While the number of divorces has declined slightly in recent years, the percentage of children born to unmarried mothers has continued to grow.


As I said earlier, the costs of this family fragmentation are not limited to the children. As one expert wrote, “Divorce and unwed childbearing create substantial public costs, paid by taxpayers.”


How much? A minimum of $112 billion a year. That is more than a $1 trillion a decade in “increased taxpayer expenditures for antipoverty, criminal justice . . . education programs,” and lost tax revenues.


What is more, the “human and social capital” lost from family fragmentation has an economic impact that goes far beyond government expenditures.


Even if you set aside the social, cultural, and moral dimensions of marriage, it is clear that government has a vital interest in promoting healthy marriages. Even modest increases in the number of “stable marriages” could save taxpayers a lot of money.


Thus, the report recommends increased spending on “marriage-strengthening” programs, like the marriage-skills classes offered by the state of Oklahoma.


The release of the report coincides with Pope Benedict’s visit to Washington and his meeting with President Bush. The subject of marriage in America is expected to be on their agenda.


I will not presume to speak for the Pope or the president, but I think that they would agree that the most important thing government can do to fight family fragmentation is to stop promoting marriage substitutes.


What I told “BreakPoint” listeners about Britain yesterday is also true of the United States. In both instances, a decline in marriage and an increase in family fragmentation coincided with the introduction of legally sanctioned substitutes for traditional marriage (like civil unions and, now, same-sex marriages).


The Pope has called these substitutes “dangerous and counterproductive as they inevitably weaken and destabilize the legitimate family based on matrimony.”


Even the best “marriage-strengthening” program can not compete with the message “marriage doesn’t matter.”


That is why, if you want to make a dent in the social and economic costs of family fragmentation, the first order of business is to promote and strengthen traditional marriage and accept no substitutes!




Church Attendance Key to Marriage Success, Researcher Says (Christian Post, 080703)


Married couples who attend church services frequently are happier and more likely to succeed in their marriages than those who don’t attend church often or not at all, according to a recent study.


“[R]esearch suggests that not only do churchgoing husbands enjoy happier marriages but also that their wives are more likely to experience marital happiness, compared to married couples where husbands do not attend religious services on a regular basis,” said W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, explaining his research results.


According to the study, 70% of husbands who attend church regularly say they are “very happy” in their marriages, compared to only 59% of husbands who do not attend religious services. For women, the figures were similar, with a majority of those who attend church services reporting to be happier than those who do not.


“Churches supply moral norms like sexual fidelity and forgiveness, family-friendly social networks that lend support to couples facing the ordinary joys and challenges of married life, and a faith that helps couples make sense of the difficulties in their lives-from unemployment to illness-that can harm their marriages,” Wilcox told Cybercast News Service.


While critics say that the survey is inaccurate and only proves that couples who already enjoy stable marriages attend church, Wilcox said that the power of faith and its role in marital relationships cannot be diminished.


“Men and women who hold a religious faith and put that faith into practice by attending church on a regular basis do look different in the marital realm,” Wilcox said.


“So, in a word, the couple that prays together stays together,” he added.




‘Bride’ and ‘Groom’ to be Restored to Calif. Marriage Forms (Christian Post, 081007)


SAN FRANCISCO - The words “bride” and “groom” will reappear on all marriage license applications issued in California starting next month, state health officials said.

Enlarge this Image


In a notice posted on its Web site, the California Department of Public Health says it is making the change because many couples still wanted the option of identifying themselves in traditional terms.


When same-sex marriage became legal in the state on June 16, the health department issued new gender-neutral marriage forms with the words “Party A” and “Party B” where “bride” and “groom” used to be.


The latest paperwork, which county clerks will be required to use starting Nov. 17, will have blank spaces for applicants’ names and personal information next to the words “First Person Data” and “Second Person Data” and optional boxes for checking “bride” or “groom.”


Because “bride” and “groom” appear in both sections, couples could check the same title twice to reflect a union between two men or two women. The health department also told county clerks that the designation of Groom or Bride is not required.


But in the time since, state officials have looked for alternatives to satisfy couples who did not like the ring of “Party A” and “Party B,” spokeswoman Suanne Buggy said Monday.


The department thought it had to remove “bride” and “groom” from marriage certificates to comply with the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage, she said.


California has an initiative on the November ballot that would ban same-sex marriage.




Of Voles and Men (BreakPoint, 081006)


By Chuck Colson


Monogamy and Genetics


Researchers in Sweden recently announced what makes men good “husband material.” The key, they say, lies not in his religion, his morals, or even how much he loves his potential spouse—it’s how much he has in common with rodents.


A team at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm studied “552 pairs of male twins enrolled in Sweden’s ongoing Twin and Offspring Study.” The subjects “were currently in a relationship that had lasted at least five years.” Researchers then used tests, and interviewed the subjects’ spouses where possible, to assess the subjects’ ability to “bond and commit.”


The subjects were also tested for variants in what is known as the “vasopressin 1a gene.” Vasopressin is a peptide hormone thought to be “associated with species-typical patterns of social behavior” in many mammals.


Their “main finding,” published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, was that there was an association between a particular gene variant and the ability to form “strong bonds” with their partners. They found that men carrying a variant called “334” scored “especially low” on a test called the “Partner Bonding Scale.” Translation: They find it harder to be faithful.


Not only that—women married to men with this variant scored “lower . . . on levels of marital quality” than women married to men without it.


What prompted the researcher to look for a correlation between the variant and fidelity? The behavior and neurochemistry of rodents—specifically voles, better known to Discovery Channel fans as “owl chow.”


According to lead researcher Hasse Walum, “studies in voles have shown that the hormone vasopressin is released in the brain of males during mating.” Voles with higher levels of vasopressin are more likely to “stick around and mingle with the female after” a sexual encounter.


As Dave Barry might write, I’m not making this up.


Walum said that the gene variant cannot “with any real accuracy be used to predict how someone will behave in a future relationship.” And Dr. John Lucas of Cornell told the Washington Post, it was “unlikely to be a single gene [at work]” in male bonding. Instead, it was “likely to be multiple genes that are expressed incompletely and interact with the environment . . .”


Genes, environment—what’s missing from the list? That’s right—religion, morality, virtue, culture. It’s difficult to imagine a better example of what’s known as “biological determinism.” It’s the idea behind Lucas telling the Post that “genes help drive much of human behavior” and that “the individual palette of emotions and behaviors” is “probably ‘hard-wired’ by our genetics.”


While he and others acknowledge a role for training, it’s too little, too late. In a culture that believes biology is destiny, telling people that something like fidelity is genetically driven is tantamount to calling it “optional.”


But the apostle Paul, with his “thorn in the flesh,” knew that what was good had little to do what came “naturally.”


It was a lesson that Christianity helped teach the West—that is, until the West decided that men were little more than animals—in this case, owl chow.




Bountiful case likely to stir up religious freedoms debate (National Post, 090107)


The charges brought yesterday against two leaders in the polygamous community of Bountiful, B.C., are likely the first steps in a process that could see Canada’s anti-polygamy law struck down as unconstitutional.


Over the past two decades, four attorneys-general in British Columbia have been reluctant to lay a charge because of a fear that their cases would have no chance of surviving a religious freedom defence under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Last April, Wally Oppal, the current Attorney-General of the province, said the criminal justice branch believed any prosecution would fail because of a possible violation of the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. But he also said the only way to test its constitutionality was to lay a charge and “then let the defence worry about the constitutionality issue.”


But Beverley Baines, a law professor at Queen’s University who produced a report for the federal government in 2006 on the polygamy issue, said yesterday that a constitutionality challenge is one the government is likely to lose.


“It was sufficiently clear [the law] was unconstitutional and we shouldn’t waste taxpayer money on individual court cases,” she said yesterday about the conclusions she reached in her report, which called for polygamy to be decriminalized.


Winston Blackmore, the spiritual head of the Bountiful community, has said in the past that he would invoke his right to freedom of religion if he was ever charged, setting up a battle that would impact not only his B.C. sect but the many other families in Canada that are believed to have secret polygamous relationships.


While the mainstream Mormon church gave up polygamy decades ago, members of fundamentalist Mormon sects, like the one in Bountiful, continue the practice and consider it a religious right to have more than one spouse.


Polygamy has been illegal in Canada since 1892, when a law was passed to keep polygamous Mormons out of the country. The modern statute, called section 293, dropped the bias against Mormons but continued to make polygamy illegal.


But over all those years the law has rarely been applied even though police on occasion have said charges should be laid.


In 1990, a B.C. police investigation recommended charges be laid in Bountiful but the Crown received legal opinions that the polygamous ban would be struck down as a “unjustifiable infringement of religious freedom.”


In 2006, the RCMP looked at sexual exploitation charges instead but it was agreed that there would not be enough evidence to get a conviction.


In 2007, Mr. Oppal appointed Vancouver lawyer Richard Peck to make an independent assessment of the law and how it might be used. While Mr. Peck concluded that polygamy was the “underlying phenomenon from which all other alleged harms flow” in Bountiful, he did not think a prosecution would work.


Rather, he advised that section 293 be referred to the courts to test its constitutionality, which experts said would give the law real clout if it was upheld. Mr. Peck wrote that he thought the law would be upheld.


He discouraged individual prosecutions, like the ones announced yesterday, because they “would likely face a number of obstacles, resulting in a cumbersome and time-consuming process” and that the “constitutional issue might not be heard for some time after the charges are laid.”


Following Mr. Peck’s report, another Vancouver lawyer Leonard Doust, was also asked to give his recommendation and came to the same conclusion.


Other legal experts have also had strong concerns about the chances of individual prosecutions.


Ms. Baines, said yesterday that if the polygamy issue was going to go to court a reference would have been the way to go. That way, she said, it would have been a quicker route to a higher court and it would have allowed for various intervenors to make their case. However, even with a reference she was convinced section 293 would have been struck down.


She said complicating the issue is the large number of immigrants who are coming to the Canada from countries where polygamy is recognized as legitimate.


But because it is illegal here, there is no way of knowing what impact that is having on the women and children who live in such families.


“The problem is that Canadian culture has changed significantly and there are many people living secretly in polygamous relationships. There is an assumption that polygamy is bad for women and children - but as long as it’s a crime, no one is going to belly up and say they’re living in the relationship. Until they decriminalize it we can’t know if it’s harmful in Canada.”


Others see the issue of polygamy getting blown out of proportion because of the particular case of Bountiful. Last year, James Gratl, then president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said the problem with anti-polygamy laws is they assume there is one form of marriage that is proper.


“It’s tempting to point at polygamy as the determining factor which creates abuse,” he said. “But one should resist that temptation in light of the fact that similar abuses occur in quite ordinary marriages. And no one is suggesting wiping out the institution of marriage because some of those marriages lead to insular family structures [like in Bountiful].”




Tories prepared to stand ground on polygamy: documents (National Post, 090324)


OTTAWA — The Harper government is prepared to defend the constitutionality of Canada’s criminal ban against polygamy, arguing the practice represents a “clear challenge” to Canadian values, newly released federal documents show.


In January, the RCMP charged Winston Blackmore and Jim Oler, two prominent members of a fundamentalist Mormon sect in Bountiful, B.C., with practising polygamy.


Since then, Mr. Blackmore’s lawyer has vowed to cite his client’s religious freedom as a defence, leading some legal and constitutional experts to speculate the case could go all the way to the Supreme Court.


Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, the minister responsible for Canada’s criminal laws, has stayed quiet about the Bountiful case and any potential challenge to Canada’s polygamy ban. But internal briefing notes for Mr. Nicholson, obtained by Canwest News Service under the Access to Information Act, show that Department of Justice officials were closely monitoring the case even before the charges were laid in January.


The documents offer a glimpse into how the government plans to defend the law, not only in court, but in the public-relations war that could break out in the event of a constitutional challenge.


Justice officials have advised the minister to appeal to Canadian “values,” such as gender equality and the rule of law, to bolster the government’s case.


“Canadians of all backgrounds share some basic values, like a belief in human dignity, equality between men and women and the rule of law. It is these values that unite us as Canadians,” states a note prepared for the minister. “The practice of polygamy represents a clear challenge to those unifying values.”


The Criminal Code outlaws “any form of polygamy” or “any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage.”


Nevertheless, followers of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, an offshoot of the Mormon church, have openly practised polygamy for years in Bountiful, a small community in the southeast of B.C.


Mr. Blackmore, for example, has spoken openly about having multiple teenage brides.


The RCMP investigated allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation of children for roughly two decades, but provincial prosecutors advised against laying charges, for fear the polygamy ban wouldn’t hold up in court.


The Charter of Rights and Freedoms recognizes religion as a “fundamental freedom.” Mr. Blackmore’s legal team has served notice that it will invoke the charter in much the same way that gay couples did in fighting to legalize same-sex marriage.


“It’s pretty hard to justify why gay marriage is OK and polygamy’s not,” Mr. Blackmore’s lawyer, Blair Suffredine, said recently.


But the federal government fully intends to stand its ground, according to another note prepared for Mr. Nicholson.


“Our view remains ... that the Criminal Code’s prohibition against polygamy is consistent with the charter, and we are prepared to defend its constitutionality.”


Still, justice officials acknowledged the case wouldn’t be easy to defend. “Opinions are divided on whether the prohibition would be held to be an unconstitutional infringement of the freedom of religion,” states a separate backgrounder prepared by the department.


A research study by Queen’s University professors, co-funded by the Justice Department and released in 2006, recommended that Canada repeal the polygamy ban, since the provision doesn’t stop the exploitation of women and children.


University of Calgary professor Tom Flanagan, a former campaign manager for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said it’s important for the government to launch a “strong defence” of the law now, in case public opinion becomes more lenient toward polygamy as the Bountiful case proceeds. But he said the government will have to do better than making a vague appeal to “Canadian values.”


“To me, it’s not the most profound argument to make,” said Flanagan, who recently argued in an editorial that the Bountiful case could lead to the legalization of plural marriages.


“If this isn’t properly defended, there will be a train of consequences flowing from a loss, which will lead to full-scale normalization of polygamy.”


Darren Eke, a spokesman for Mr. Nicholson, stood by the government’s plans to “defend the constitutionality of this country’s criminal laws,” noting that polygamy is punishable by up to five years in prison.




Ottawa urged to play a role in educating Canadians about marriage (National Post, 090603)


Should the government play a role in promoting marriage?


The authors of a new study about the cost of supporting single-parent families in Canada think so, by having high school students learn about the benefits of a marital union and excluding co-habiting couples in tax credits that are directed at married families.


The report from the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada aims to quantify the cost of family breakdown and illuminate that “there are different outcomes for different choices,” says one of its authors.


“When you look at poverty, and you note that if you’re in a single-parent family, you’re eight times more likely to be on welfare, for example, that I think is a correlation that I think is interesting,” said Andrea Mrozek, co-author of Private Choices, Public Costs. “Since marriage does confer substantial benefits on kids and the families involved, and also for the public, we’re just hoping to start a discussion and an education process.”


The report says provincial governments spend almost $7-billion a year to supplement income, housing and childcare for single-parent families. It could be saving $1.7-billion by reducing the number of single-parent families by half, it says.


But other Canadian family advocates say that these days families come in all shapes and sizes, and understanding the underlying causes of why some remain in poverty is complex. The percentage of married families is falling in Canada, from 92% in 1961 to 69% in 2006, according to the last census, and co-habitation is on the rise. There is also an increase in single-parent families led by both men or women.


“Rather than try to turn back the clock,” said Glenn Hope, executive director of the BC Council For Families, “our position is to celebrate the diversity of families.”


Clarence Lochheed, executive director of the Ottawa-based Vanier Institute of the Family, says there is no question that a family that goes from two parents to one would see a loss of income. “We would ask, what role does the adequacy of wages play?” he said. He said it is difficult for any family to exist on a single wage in Canada.


Using data that looks at the amount of public dollars spent on single versus two-parent families Private Choices, Public Costs concludes that in order to seriously reduce poverty, short-term solutions should couple with long-term strategies that “include examining family structure and eradicating family breakdown.”


By adding up the amount of money spent on social assistance programs aimed only at single-parent families, the authors found that provincial governments spend almost $7-billion every year. They conclude that governments could be saving about a quarter of that, based on the conclusions of 2003 Canadian study that found that of poor single parents who become part of two-parent families, more than half (54%) are lifted out of poverty.


The data does not look at married families, and the authors acknowledge that hurts their research.


“It’s fair to ask why we’re putting the emphasis on marriage,” said Ms. Mrozek. “But we also note that through social science data and research, marriage is the most stable of family forms, and this compares with cohabitation, which would be just a two-parent non-married family.”


The report highlights other trends, that single-parent homes led by women are poorer than those led by men, and that makes poverty largely a female issue.


“Of course, the reduction in suffering and trauma that would occur across the socio-economic spectrum if family breakdown were halved is of a much greater magnitude,” the report states. “Simple things, like participation in Parent Teacher Associations (or Parent Advisory Councils) and in neighbourhood associations and community causes is higher when more families are intact, in part because adults in two-parent families have the time to get involved.”


Mr. Lochheed, with the Vanier Institute says the report fails to capture the complexities of family life now, and he believes it is best not to support one model as ideal. He said often single-parent families still have two active parents, who are living separately, and that while their poverty rate is high, it has come down.


“Families look different all across the westernized world,” said Mr. Hope, of the BC Council For Families. “But we have to look at what’s working and how can we adjust our response so that we’re making the best decisions possible to support families as they are, not necessarily as we would like them to be.”




Barbara Kay: Sticking it out in marriage is a good thing (National Post, 091119)


Barbara Kay


A just-released study from the Vanier Institute of the Family by York University professor Anne-Marie Ambert, Divorce: Facts, Causes and Consequences, vindicates assumptions many conservatives hold instinctively, and may provoke some discomfort in “progressives.”


To begin with some good news: Divorce rates are not as high as we thought. Divorce rates have been coming down since the 1990s and since 1997 have plateaued. In fact, first marriages in Canada have a 67% chance of lasting a lifetime.


According to Prof. Ambert, divorce rates peaked in 1987, which she says is the result of the progressive tendency toward no-fault divorce which began in 1968. Divorce slowly lost its stigma and the numbers rose as the reasons for divorce became more and more trivial.


Why did the numbers start going down? One reason, which the study notes, is the tendency for people to marry later. But I would also tie both the divorce peak and its diminution to the rise and decline of militant feminism’s influence. Seventy percent of divorces are initiated by women. Feminism of the man-dismissive type was a strong influence in the ‘70s and ‘80s. In the 90s, however, third-wave feminism relegated the man-haters to the fringes of the movement, and marriage regained respectability as an institution. I predict the numbers will go further down when Canada finally institutes equal parenting as the default custodial policy, as it has in jurisdictions where that is presently the case.


Prof. Ambert finds that there are two kinds of divorce: those resulting from an unhappy marriage, and those resulting from “a weak commitment to marriage.” She found that “some divorces are avoidable and unnecessary” and that “a sizable proportion of marriages that end in divorce were actually quite ‘salvageable,’ even happy, and that many of these ex-spouses are no better off after.”


Why do salvageable marriages end in divorce? Prof. Ambert cites, amongst other reasons: the de-sacralization of marriage, a consequence of religion’s demise, and the rise of secularism; the lack of stigma to divorce and the blame-free ease with which it can be accomplished; and the rise of the ideology of gratification of individual desires. These and other factors have lowered people’s humility and tolerance for compromise.


Cohabitation does not confer the sense of commitment that marriage does — no surprise here for traditionalists. And serial cohabitation is a greater risk factor for divorce later. Moreover, children of cohabitational relationships are at vastly greater risk of experiencing parental breakup than children of married parents.


This report will prove a tremendous boon for the equal-parenting movement. At present, joint custody — with each parent having 40% time with the children — occurs in fewer than 10% of divorce custody orders (although that figure is rising). As sociology professor and custody expert Edwark Kruk has noted, 40% time with a parent is the minimum time necessary for mutual bonding. But only 10% of children live with their fathers, a percentage which has not changed much over the years in spite of the changed nomenclature to “joint legal custody,” which sounds equal but isn’t.


The consequences, Prof. Ambert notes, are rather dire, for “research is unanimous to the effect that children do far better cognitively and behaviourally when their father remains an active parent.”


Divorce and remarriage don’t always produce happiness, except for those who had been in high-stress, bad marriages before. And there are “successful” divorces.


But, Prof. Ambert concludes, “For society as a whole, the dissolution of average to good marriages ... is a costly proposition in terms of consequent problems for children.”


Those problems, as I have often noted in my harangues on the need for fathers in children’s lives, include an increased risk of behavioural difficulties, school dropout, criminal activity, future intimacy issues, unemployment, lost contact with families – and of course poverty.


This report will go far in dispelling the ideology-driven myth that children of divorce or growing up in single-parent households are no worse off than if they were  living with married, biological parents.


So the bottom line is that for children, married is better. If not married, then equal parenting is best. Divorce does not always bring happiness. Marriage is a sign of commitment in a way that cohabitation is not. If you stick with a marriage long enough, you find that it’s really not as bad as you thought.


Not a single one of these findings will come as news to conservatives.


Sometimes you just have to say “I told you so.” I told you so.


They don’t call it the scary-sounding “Hemlock Society” any more. The new name is “Compassion and Choices.” Under this cuddly rubric, bespoke death is now endorsed by respected society matrons and politicians as euthanasia’s version of Planned Parenthood. The once-reviled euthanasia obsessional — and criminal — Dr. Kevorkian, is raking in $50,000 a pop on the lecture circuit. The cultural wind is in euthanasia’s sails and the most unlikely people are heeding its siren call.


In his Monday op-ed, “Make life the first choice,” MP Steven Fletcher provides what looks like a persuasive explanation for why he will abstain on private member’s bill C-384, which seeks to make euthanasia legal in certain circumstances.


Because Mr. Fletcher is a C4 quadriplegic, paralyzed completely from the neck down as a result of a car crash in early manhood, his words will carry special moral weight on this thorny issue. And that’s unfortunate.


Having passed through the valley of death and excruciating pain, Mr. Fletcher understands like few others how death can present as a blessed release from apparent hopelessness. Indeed, in the early days of his ordeal, he says, he did wish to die, but “in my case, my own wish to be euthanized in the time after my accident … changed as I began to receive more support.”


The obvious irony Mr. Fletcher does not address in this crucial piece of testimony is that if euthanasia had been legal at the time of his accident, his wish for death would have been expeditiously respected. He would not be here to demonstrate that even the most profound despair can be converted to hopefulness and appreciation for a straitened, but still meaningful life. He would not be here to prove to other severely disabled people that even the most extreme physical constraints are no barrier to high achievement.


In short, Mr. Fletcher is living proof that a dedicated support circle and wholehearted commitment to healing within the medical community can lead to a life worth living, even for someone lacking control of his body or bodily functions.


“Bodily functions” is code for a bright line in EuthanasiaSpeak: Control equals “dignity”; no control equals no dignity. The complex caregiving and machinery that sustains Mr. Fletcher’s approximate workaday parity with his peers was designed with the understanding that no life is without value, which is why the attention he received was unconflictedly focused on recovery, however partial.


But through a social lens that sees a hierarchy of value in human life, such single-mindedness is impossible. Although they are too polite to say so out loud, many euthanasia militants, however admiring of Mr. Fletcher’s contribution to society, quietly assess the resources involved in meeting his physical needs and eye his unique mobility apparatus with calculating, even resentful speculation as to how many of their tax dollars are earmarked for someone who is, after all, not living with “dignity.”


Nobody with the most rudimentary knowledge of human nature, fleshed out in the alarmingly escalating number of euthanasia cases in jurisdictions where it is legal, can find reassurance in Mr. Fletcher’s idealistic assumption that two conflicting existential beliefs — all life has value, not all life has value — can co-exist in social harmony.


Sadly, his op-ed will do nothing to help those opposed to C-384, but it will be exploited to great advantage by proponents of legal euthanasia. They will make good use of Mr. Fletcher’s sympathy for those unrepresentative few in our population who are “forced to live in pain that truly is intolerable.”


Truly intolerable pain that cannot be managed and/or never abates is rare and becoming rarer with advances in the science of pain relief. In any case, in countries where euthanasia is legal, the option was first offered to those in “truly” intolerable pain; next it was offered to those in “intolerable” pain; now it is offered to those in “pain” — and even, increasingly, given, not offered, to those assumed to be in pain.


If Mr. Fletcher does in fact believe that Canada should be “providing the level of support required to make living the first choice,” then he should vote against Bill C-384. In the psycho-social value system legal euthanasia entrains, high-maintenance sufferers who choose life are perceived as selfish, while high-maintenance individuals who choose death are perceived as public benefactors. Thus, paradoxically, those like Mr. Fletcher who are necessarily a financial burden to the state — a burden euthanasia opponents cheerfully embrace as the mark of a civilized society — can only be unequivocally encouraged to make life “the first choice” if it remains the only choice.


Mr. Fletcher is alive and productive today because at the time of his crisis those charged with his care were not empowered to consider other morally equivalent “options.” If he abstains on C-384, therefore, one might be forgiven for interpreting his surrender to the cultural zeitgeist to mean après moi, le déluge.




Tiger Woods: wife Elin Nordegren moves out (National Post, 091211)


Update: Tiger Woods’ wife, Elin Nordegren, has apparently moved out of their US$2.6-million home.


In less than a week, the number of women claiming to have had affairs with Tiger Woods has grown to eight, with porn star Holly Sampson among the latest to reveal her trysts with the golfer. So is Cori Rist, yet another beautiful blonde who is refusing to comment on the allegations.


Meanwhile, the networks are in hot pursuit of an interview with the famously private Woods, whose carefully managed “squeaky clean” image is the real victim in this mess. The golfer is said to be mulling an offer to tell all on Oprah’s comfy couch to tell all there is to tell about his so-called “transgressions.” Crisis management experts say it’s the best thing he could do. Nick Allen notes in the Daily Telegraph:




Heterosexuals are the greatest threat to marriage (National Post, 100728)

Lorne Gunter


This month marks the fifth anniversary of the legalization of same-sex marriage in Canada. In that time the sky has not fallen in on traditional, opposite-sex marriage.


Or perhaps the more accurate thing to say is that same-sex marriage has not caused the sky to fall in on traditional marriage any faster than it was already falling before July 2005 when Parliament made same-sex marriage legal. Same-sex marriage has not sped up the deterioration of traditional marriage.


I disappointed many social-conservative readers half a decade ago when I wrote in favour of same-sex marriage, but at the same time won few friends among advocates of same-sex marriage. It’s not so much that I am in favour of same-sex marriage as I don’t see the harm in letting gays and lesbians marry. Heterosexuals have already hollowed out the institution of marriage so thoroughly that it no longer means what it once did and I see no great interest among heterosexuals in tightening up opposite-sex marriage.


Let me back up a step: Marriage can still mean a great deal, but only if the couple in the relationship make it meaningful to themselves. Governments lost interest in preserving the original significance of the institution decades ago.


There are, to my mind, two aspects to marriage: the personal-commitment side and the public-policy side. Most marrying couples are looking for love, stability, companionship, commitment and a nurturing environment to bring up children. If they can split the family duties in a way that is acceptable to each and have some fun together until death parts them, that’s a bonus. Governments have very little influence over whether marrying couples reach those goals, so most Canadians’ personal interest in the public-policy impact of marriage is negligible.


Government’s interest in sanctioning marriage has mostly been in registering what churches and couples have already sanctified. It could be argued that the state can bolster the family. By creating the legal framework around marriage it can keep marriages intact and ensure children are raised by their birth parents together, all of which has a beneficial impact on social problems: Crime goes down, along with alcoholism, addictions, poverty, dropout rates, spousal abuse and so on.


But states no longer search for the right marriage laws and hadn’t tried to for decades before same-sex marriage became an issue.


For instance, the move to give common-law relationships the same standing in law as traditional marriages started in earnest in the 1960s. By the time the same-sex marriage debate began in the early 2000s, common-law couples had for two decades had nearly all the same legal protections as married couples regarding pensions, communal property, income taxes and insurance awards.


Long before gays and lesbians began insisting on equal marriage rights, heterosexuals had stripped marriage of its public-policy special-ness. More importantly, we heteros were in no hurry to put that humptydumpty back together — to make divorce more difficult, for instance, or strip those living together of their spousal rights.


There are about 9 million families in Canada according to StatsCan. Of those, a little more than 1.4 million are common-law and about 1.4 million are single-parent, while under 55,000 are gay or lesbian. Almost 6.2 million are married families.


Well over half of common-law and married couples have children, while just under 10% of same-sex couples do. That means there are maybe 6,000 gay and lesbian couples with children, versus more than 500,000 common-law families.


Just statistically, then, which nontraditional family type is likelier to have the greater impact on Canada’s social well-being?


A 2007 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that children of cohabiting parents are five times as likely to suffer a family breakup as children living with both of their natural parents, and we know the children of broken families are more likely to drop out, have a run-in with police or take drugs.


So why aren’t all those opposed to same-sex marriage in the name of defending marriage for the good of children, not fighting common-law relationships every bit as energetically?


Over the past five years, same-sex marriage has done nothing to harm the personal-commitment side of heterosexual marriage and no more to harm the public-policy side than we heteros had been doing for decades.




Marriage Highlights an Interfaith Trend (Foxnews, 100730)


The General Social Survey shows that in 1988, 15% of U.S. households were mixed-faith. That number rose to 25% by 2006.


And a survey from the 2001 National Study of Youth and Religion found that less than a quarter of 18- to 23-year-olds who responded thought it was important to marry someone of the same faith.


But although attitudes are a-changing, it doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges to making an inter-faith marriage work. As Evangelist Rick Warren says, “Before marriage, opposites attract. After marriage, opposites attack!” Although he was mostly referring to any romantic relationship where people of “complimentary neurosis” fall in love and marry, the same can be true of interfaith marriages. Differences make a difference.


Statistics vary depending on the study, but experts generally agree that interfaith marriages have a higher divorce rate. And divorce statistics vary according to how interfaith is defined, whether it’s a Protestant and Catholic, Lutheran and Baptist, Reformed or Orthodox Judaism... as well as Christian and Jewish. As Naomi Riley reported in the Washington Post:


“In a paper published in 1993, Evelyn Lehrer, a professor of economics at the University of Illinois at Chicago, found that if members of two mainline Christian denominations marry, they have a one in five chance of being divorced in five years. A Catholic and a member of an evangelical denomination have a one in three chance. And a Jew and a Christian who marry have a greater than 40% chance of being divorced in five years. “


So it’s clear that differences in faith tradition pose challenges for couples, and the likelihood that the marriage between Chelsea and Marc will last “till death do us part” depends on how well the couple is prepared for those challenges, says interfaith expert Sheila Gordon.


“I don’t know what they’ve done so far, but my first advice would be for them to think both separately and together the role religion plays in their lives.”


Gordon is the president of Interfaith Community, an organization in New York City that works with interfaith families to help them smooth out the rifts between their different faiths. She boasts a “practically zero” percent divorce rate among the group’s clients.


“We think you should start with education,” says Gordon. “Sometimes it means you need to learn more about your own religion, and to process it as an adult.”


A lot of people, says Gordon, haven’t processed anything about their faith since they were 12 years old, and need to take an honest look at why they believe what they believe.


And it’s not just about the difference between Moses and Jesus, or Buddha and Muhammad. A lot of folks have been brought up in the culture of their faith. It’s the rituals and the relationships that give their religion meaning and importance. They may not have given any real thought about the core tenets of their beliefs. It’s usually when children come on the scene that conflicts over things like baptisms, menorahs and Christmas trees start to come into play.


The most recent example is the rancorous divorce battle between Rebecca and Joseph Reyes of Chicago. She is Jewish. He is Catholic. Their case became a national news story when Joseph was slapped with a contempt charge and the threat of jail time for defying a court order not to take the couple’s toddler daughter to church.


Kula says it’s really about the sacredness of family and not sacraments. “Religion in America is not about theology or beliefs,” he says. “It’s about religious practice that affirms the tribal kinship. These are primal and deep-rooted feelings about family.” And what appears to be the greatest help in making an interfaith marriage work is support from the parents.




Should I Marry My Non-Christian Pregnant Girlfriend? (Christian Post, 101028)

By Russell D. Moore


Dear Dr. Moore,


Man, have I messed up. I’m a Christian, but I walked away from the Lord and got involved with a non-Christian girl. I think I love her. She is sweet and we get along, but she’s not a believer. We got involved in some stuff, sexually, that we shouldn’t have (and I was the one persuading her to do it). Before long, I became convicted about the sexual sin and about being unequally yoked with an unbeliever. I broke off our relationship.


I just heard from her though, and she is pregnant, with my baby. So here’s my question. Do I marry this girl, and become unequally yoked or do I not marry and have my child be born into a family in which his or her parents aren’t married to each other?


I know I’ve really messed up. I’m just trying to figure what to do now, to keep from making it worse.


A Shotgun Sinner


Several factors bear on this decision. The first is that, yes, the Scriptures make it clear that Christian marriage is to be the union of a faithful man and a faithful woman. We are not to be, the Bible maintains, “unequally yoked with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14). If you were merely dating this woman I would counsel you to immediately end the relationship. But the situation is, of course, more complicated than that.


The Apostle Paul, for instance, does not treat already existing marriages believer to unbeliever as an ongoing state of sin. Those who are already in this predicament should, Paul says, continue in it, unless the unbeliever abandons the marriage (1 Cor. 7:12-16).


Well, why? Wouldn’t it be better for one’s sanctification to be married to a godly spouse than to an unbelieving one? Sure. But divorcing one’s spouse, walking away from one’s vows and responsibilities would compound the sin, piling sin upon sin, in a way that furthers the damage already done. The Scriptures tell us not to “yoke” ourselves with unbelievers, true, but we are also not to abandon our responsibilities to the “yokes” we already have.


The question here is not whether you will be yoked unequally with an unbeliever. You are. The question is whether you can or should get out of it.


I am not saying that you are already married to this woman. I don’t believe the sexual union, in and of itself, constitutes a marriage. There is a reason, after all, that there is a biblical category for “fornication,” sex outside of the covenant of marriage. Jesus recognized that the woman at the well had “no husband” despite the fact that she was with (presumably in a sexual context) someone at the time (Jn. 4:16-18). Moreover, Joseph of Nazareth and the Virgin Mary were genuinely married, even without an accompanying sexual union (Matt. 1:24-25).


When I say that you are “yoked” already I do not mean that you are married already. I mean that you are not in a temporary “relationship.” Even in repentance, you cannot simply “move on.” You are now, and forever will be, the father of her child. She is the mother of your baby.


You had a responsibility not to entangle yourself with an unbeliever. You had an obligation not to violate God’s command for sexual chastity outside of marriage. But you have done these things and you can’t turn back time. Your only question now is whether, in addition to being a fornicator, you will also be an orphan-maker.


The Bible tells us that one who does not “provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household” has “denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). The Scripture also tells us we are to give to everyone what is due (Rom. 13:7). What is due to the woman you have impregnated and the child you have conceived?


The answer, I believe, is what our Father God models for us: provision, protection, and covenant faithfulness. A child is meant to have two parents, a mother and a father (Gen. 1-2). Love this woman, and love this child.


Obviously, it may be that a marriage is impossible. She might, of course, refuse to marry you. But, so far as it is possible with you, I think you ought to make peace out of this situation. The shalom God shows to us from the beginning includes the nurturing of children in a stable, intact family. Repent of your sin, receive the forgiveness of Christ, and move forward with your responsibilities. You’re a father now.




Marriage Is Not Obsolete, Family Expert Says (Christian Post, 101119)


While society as a whole devalues marriage, popular opinion polls seem to show that individuals still desire married life.


Thursday’s headlines on the recent Pew Research Center poll on marriage and family asked, “Is marriage obsolete?” and “Why is marriage good?” Some headlines concluded “Singles not wedded to weddings,” and “Fewer getting married as people say it’s obsolete.” However, Focus on the Family Vice President of Communications Gary Schneeberger says these headlines are only telling part of the story.


“Our first reactionary focus to the headlines, [to the] story that was out on USA Today and the Associated Press was [this is] just a reminder of just how dangerous it can be to base an entire story or at least a headline of a story on one little part of a poll,” he warned.


The major headlines have zeroed in on new polling which showed the 39% of respondents felt that marriage was obsolete. However, Schneeberger pointed out that 67% of respondents to the same poll answered that they were optimistic about the institution of marriage.


He explained the conflicting messages this way: “[People] recognize society does not value marriage as it should, but they personally certainly desire it.”


Schneeberger believes the real story is in the numbers. “If you look very deeply into that poll, it does not come to the conclusion that marriage is obsolete,” he stated.


Despite the negative news spread across the headlines, the three-part poll conducted in association with TIME Magazine shows that the majority of respondents hold traditional views of marriage and family.


More than half of singles expressed a desire to be married. Over a third of all respondents, married and unmarried, felt it would be easier to have a fulfilling love life inside of marriage, compared to seven percent who felt it would easier to have fulfilling love life outside of marriage. Twenty-nine percent believed, over the five percent who opposed, that it is easier to find happiness within marriage.


Moreover, over two-thirds of people believed that it was best for society to have children inside of marriage. Another 69% felt it was bad for society for single women to become mothers.


Schneeberger believes the people’s personal responses to the question are a reflection of Christian beliefs.


“From a Christian perspective, we believe that God’s written on the hearts of everyone, those who know Him and those who do not, that desire to be married, that desire to have a family and that recognition that in the context of that one man, one woman marriage comes some of the things [the survey] talked about: stability, more satisfaction [and] gratification,” he said.


The public may favor traditional values in their thoughts, but it does not show in their actions. Additional analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that the traditional experiences of marriage and family are changing to favor co-habitation and unwedded families.


More than half of single respondents reported having lived with, and in some cases, are still living with, a partner. Of unmarried parents co-habiting with their partners, 62% believed that marriage was obsolete.


The trend among the youth is to “try on” marriage through a trial period of living together, believing it will lead to or improve their marriage, Schneeberger said. But living together prior to marriage can actually ruin the union, he noted.


“That has the exact opposite effect, that folks that live together first don’t in fact improve their chances of having strong marriages. They actually dilute their chances of having strong marriages,” he shared.


He also noted that children do best academically, behaviorally and emotionally in a home where the parents are married.


“Just because something is occurring with more frequency, certainly doesn’t mean that it is a desirable thing for society,” Schneeberger concluded.


Schneeberger said the church and married Christian couples can help young singles see the importance of marriage by modeling a God-centered approach.


“As a married person, I think we [tend to] emphasize a bit [more] of the challenges of marriage over the joys and benefits of marriage,” he confessed.


Still, Christians shouldn’t hide the fact that there are challenges, he added.


“It’s not all puppy dogs and ice cream,” he said.


But he stressed that marital challenges strengthen character and bring people closer to God.


“It’s God’s perfect design to ensure that men and women grow more in His character, and it is the, by far, best way to raise the next generation of children,” he said.


“That’s an important message to be getting out in our churches and in our communities and in our circles of influence.”




Crown rejects televising ‘historic’ polygamy hearing (National Post, 101122)


VANCOUVER — “Counsel, we are embarking on an historic reference.” So declared no less an authority than Robert Bauman, chief justice of the B.C. Supreme Court, to no fewer than 30 robed lawyers. On Monday in downtown Vancouver, inside Courtroom 55, a constitutional hearing began to determine whether or not this country’s 120-year-old polygamy ban is valid. And whether such a ban is even needed.


The outcome concerns not just the men, women and children at little Bountiful, the fundamentalist Mormon community in the B.C. interior where polygamy is openly, defiantly practiced, but all of Canada.


For if Section 293 of Canada’s Criminal Code is declared unwieldy, archaic, a pox on religious freedoms as protected by this country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms — and thus to be made null and void — then get ready for a different Canadian society.


Craig Jones, counsel for the Attorney General of B.C. at this hearing, warns that Canada would become the only Western democracy without an anti-polygamy law. And, he says it may be anticipated, a haven for serial marriage enthusiasts of all kinds and origin. It would also put Canada in conflict with its various international agreements and treaties.


So yes, this is a rather historic case.


Good on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, then, for filing an application — albeit last Friday, a bit late in the day — asking the court’s permission to broadcast the proceedings, in their entirety via the Internet and in parts on television.


The CBC dispatched an Ontario lawyer to attend Monday’s opener. After the 30 robed lawyers had found their courtroom seats, and the public gallery behind them had filled and the chief justice had entered and taken his bench, CBC counsel Daniel Henry was invited to argue why the national broadcaster, with other networks and media partners it would seek to include, should transmit proceedings live and unvarnished from Courtroom 55.


Mr. Henry began with a technical summary of what the proposal required. A few hours — or four or six — of camera installation and cable laying and testing to make sure the broadcast contraption worked. The CBC and whoever else wanted to join the broadcast “pool” could spring for the costs. Around $22,000, it was suggested by other TV people, not in open court. This seems a small price to pay for such lengthy service; the hearing is expected to last for two and a half months.


The court was reminded that a broadcast of this hearing would well serve the public’s interest. The reference case is significant; much rests on it. The court was also reminded that an eight-year-old B.C. court “practice directive” already allows television cameras inside, in certain civil cases, when all parties consent. Witnesses can always decline to be pictured.


Ah, but there was the rub on Monday. Chief Justice Bauman canvassed the courtroom after Mr. Henry finished talking. Consent was not unanimous.


The CBC application was supported in principle by the court-appointed Amicus Curiae, George Macintosh, who is challenging the validity of Canada’s existing anti-polygamy laws. His main counterpart, Craig Jones, counsel for the Attorney General of British Columbia, raised some minor caveats but none too difficult to overcome.


Doug Christie, controversial lawyer for the Canadian Association for Freedom of Expression, which supports the Amicus, had no issues whatsoever with the CBC request. Nor did the lawyer representing half of the Bountiful polygamist community, people affiliated with the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.


But counsel for the Attorney General of Canada firmly objected, and she left no wiggle room. Deborah Strachan opposed the CBC application on grounds that another case for courtroom broadcasts, made by media in Quebec, has found its way to the Supreme Court of Canada. The high court hasn’t yet ruled on the matter; its decision is under reserve.


The substance of Ms. Strachan’s argument seemed thin. B.C. Courts are open to limited broadcasts and the Supreme Court matter has really nothing to do with that. But her lack of consent left Chief Justice Bauman with no choice. While he agreed with “the public’s right to a truly open court,” he denied the CBC application.


The hearing commenced. Craig Jones rose and read from his opening statement. Which is already in public circulation. It’s available on the Internet. So, for that matter, are more than 150 key reference documents, expert opinions and witness affidavits. But without a computer, you’re out of luck. Forget about watching this reference case unfold on television, as is your right.


One of the few observers who seemed pleased with the ruling was a local courtroom sketch artist. She rues the day when cameras in courtrooms become commonplace. Covering the CBC application on Monday, she said, “was sort of like sketching my own funeral.”



Ecumenical Defense of Marriage (Christian Post, 101213)

By Chuck Colson


Nearly two decades ago, theologian Timothy George coined the expression “the ecumenism of the trenches.” It referred to the way that Protestants and Catholics had managed to set aside their theological differences and work together on the picket lines in defense of human life and the family.


“Setting aside” isn’t the same as “sweeping them under the rug.” The differences remain real and worth arguing about. It was simply recognition that there are times when it’s necessary to move beyond our divisions and stand together, especially when the most important issues like life and marriage are gravely threatened.


The letter is entitled “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment.” The word “shared” isn’t mere rhetoric. Among its signers are include leaders from various Christian traditions including Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, Baptists, Evangelicals, Lutherans, and Pentecostals.


Unlike the Manhattan Declaration, this letter is not limited to Christians: Its signatories include other faiths, like Jewish and even Sikh leaders.


What the signers all share is the belief that marriage is the “permanent and faithful union of one man and one woman.” It is the “natural basis of the family” and “an institution fundamental to the well-being of all of society.” All of society, not just religious believers.


As Archbishop Timothy Dolan put it, “people of any faith or no faith at all can recognize that when the law defines marriage as between one man and one woman, it legally binds a mother and a father to each other and their children, reinforcing the foundational cell of human society.”


Thus, “the law of marriage is not about imposing the religion of anyone, but about protecting the common good of everyone.”


This last point is especially important: At the same time that the statement was being issued, the Ninth Circuit was hearing arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, which overturned California’s ban on same-sex marriage.


At the heart of the district court’s ruling was the idea that the ban served no rational purpose and was merely the imposition of a religious point of view.


As the letter makes clear, if anything, the opposite is true: traditional marriage is a universal human phenomenon and the kinds of things Judge Walker is talking about, like so-called gay “marriage,” they’re the real imposition in this case.


Maybe that’s why you would have been hard-pressed to hear or read about the letter in the media. The same people who trip all over themselves to tell us what the likes of Lady Gaga think about so called same-sex “marriage” were conspicuous by their silence in this instance.


What a double standard! The news media report everything about the gay-rights movement. But a statement historic in its broad sweep of religious leaders is utterly ignored.


So, it’s up to us to spread the word. The only way people are going to understand that our belief in tradition marriage is not the product of “religion-based hostility to homosexual persons” as the court says, is if we tell them. The only way they are going to understand what is universal and what is now being imposed on them is if we show them.


But these are times we live in. The media may be silent, but we must winsomely, lovingly speak the truth to our neighbors.




Study: Cohabitation More Prevalent Among Less Educated (Christian Post, 110702)


The number of unmarried couples living together has risen dramatically since the 1990s, with the greatest increase among those without a college degree, according to a new Pew Research Center study analyzing recent Census Bureau data.


In 2009, 58% of those aged 30-44 were married while 7% were living with their partner but not married. Thirty-five percent were neither married nor a cohabitant. The rate of cohabitation for this age group has doubled since 1995 when it was 3%. The study, authored by Richard Fry and D’Vera Cohn, also noted that rates of cohabitation before marriage have risen sharply. In 2010, 58% of all women aged 19-44 had lived with a partner outside of marriage, up from 33% in 1987.


The increased rate of cohabitation came mostly from those with lower levels of education, however. Cohabitation was twice as high among those without a college degree (8%) than among college graduates (4%).


Cohabitation also showed opposite effects on the income levels of non-college graduates versus college graduates. Among those without a college degree, cohabitating couples had less income on average ($46,540) than married couples ($56,800). Among those with a college degree, however, cohabitating couples had more income on average ($106,400) than married couples ($101,160), though the difference is not as great as for those without a college degree.


“The presence of children detracts from economic well-being because children require time and care; they likely lead to a reduction in hours devoted to paid work on the part of the parent or the partner of the parent,” Fry and Cohn write. The study concludes, therefore, that the income differences found between less educated cohabitating couples versus married couples, as opposed to those differences among college educated couples, can be explained by the presence of children.


Among the college-educated, married couples are much more likely to have children in the home (81%) than cohabitating couples (33%). Among couples without a college degree, however, a large portion of cohabiters (67%) have children. By comparison, 85% of married adults without a college degree have children.


Therefore, concludes the study, the fact that, among the less educated, cohabitating couples have lower levels of income than married couples can be explained by the fact that two-thirds of less educated cohabiters have children and, “children tend to reduce measured economic well-being.”


The study notes that, “a voluminous body of social science research shows that marriage is associated with a variety of benefits for adults.” A declining number of those without a college degree and with lower levels of income are taking advantage of those benefits, however.


Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, made note of this in an email to The Christian Post: “The decline of marriage is having its worst effect on the people who can least afford it – those who are underprivileged in terms of education and income. The security of marriage is associated with economic as well as psychological benefits for the spouses, yet too many young people are forsaking those benefits for cohabitation instead.”


Sprigg also believes that the study points to an “irony” in the sexual revolution and Feminist Movement of the 1960s in that “the decline of the belief that sex should be confined to marriage has worked to the disadvantage of women (especially poor women), who are unable to hold out for the marital commitment that most of them truly desire.”


Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said in an interview with The Christian Post that the study points to the importance of understanding the economic impact of child rearing. Land also believes the study presents a good argument for increasing the child and dependent care tax credit.


“For people who make a lot of money, it’s no big deal,” said Land, but it has a greater impact on those with less income. Land suggests increasing the child and dependent care tax credit to $800, or even $1,000 per child.


Galen Carey, vice president of government afairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, agrees that there is a “societal interest” served by marriage and child rearing.


“Public policy should recognize that child rearing serves a public good,” Carey said, and there are a number of things the government can do to help parents, such as removing the marriage penalty in the tax code.


Carey also pointed out that while income is one way to measure well being, there are many other factors that contribute to one’s well-being, such as “strong relationships” and “stable families,” and these are available to all income levels.


In a related story, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday that the number of children living with at least one grandparent has risen 64% since 1991. Land suspects this trend is related to an increase in children without fathers, as grandparents move in to help care for children. Fatherless homes are the “single greatest cause of poverty in this country,” said Land.


The Pew Research study did not include same-sex couples, but noted that same-sex couples have higher median income than opposite-sex cohabiters, married couples, and adults without partners, and were more likely to graduate from college (48%) than others in the study.




The Cohabitation Revolution: Kids pay the price (Christian Post, 110916)

By Chuck Colson


I have some good news and bad news on the marriage front. First, the good news: According to a new study by the Institute for American Values and the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the divorce rate for married couples with children has fallen nearly to the rate of the early 1960s, when JFK was president.


But this news is not as good as it seems. That’s because the bad news nearly cancels it out. Fewer of us are bothering to tie the knot at all. The rate of cohabitation - “living together”- has exploded. The study finds that cohabitation has increased fourteen-fold since 1970. This means that about 24% of children are born to cohabiting couples today. Meanwhile, another 20% are part of a cohabiting household at some point during their growing-up years.


That means nearly half of all American children have lived in a home where the adults are merely living together rather than married.


Today’s advocates of “modern family structure” will tell you that this is no big deal, that having a wedding ring is overrated. The kids, they say, will do fine either way. Well, the fact is, an intact marriage puts children way ahead of children in other types of households. National Review editor Rich Lowry, who labels the current trend a “cohabitation revolution,” notes, “Children in cohabiting households tend to lag children in intact married families on key social indicators and are not much better off than children in single-parent families.”


Those who are part of cohabiting households, according to the study, report “more conflict, more violence, and lower levels of satisfaction and commitment.” Children in such situations face real emotional and physical risks.


Jennifer Roback Morse of the National Organization for Marriage reports that children living with their mother and a live-in boyfriend are 33 times more likely to be abused than those living with their biological married parents. Also, children in households with unrelated adults are 50 times more likely to die from inflicted injuries, compared with children living with both biological parents.


Despite all the well-reported problems of marriage these days, cohabiting relationships are frequently less stable, as well. Lowry says that cohabiting couples with a child are more than twice as likely to break up as married parents. That’s a huge difference.


Lowry says, “Children turn out to benefit from the structure, rituals, and identity that come with a lasting marriage between their parents. And the very act of committing to the norms of marriage makes adults better marital partners and parents.”


So why is marriage held in such low regard today, to the point that some people are willing to sacrifice their children on the altar of convenience? Well, one reason might be is that they have not seen what a good marriage looks like. Defending marriage involves more than just talk. Are we Christians committed to showing our neighbors the love, fidelity, and joy that ought to accompany a marriage founded on God and His plan for human flourishing?


Also, when is the last time you heard your pastor give a sermon on the dangers of cohabitation? Is your church doing all it can to prepare young couples for marriage and to help struggling marriages?


If not, then all our advocacy for the importance of marriage is likely to fall on deaf ears. And our nation’s children will be the losers for it.




Materialism Can Ruin Marriages, According to Brigham Young Researchers (Christian Post, 111017)


New research is suggesting that loving money may be harmful to one’s marriage.


A study conducted by U.S. researchers found that couples who place a higher value on money and materialism are unhappier in their marriages than couples who do not have as much of a desire for wealth and possessions.


The study, headed by professor John Carroll of Brigham Young University and published by the Journal of Couple & Relationship Therapy, questioned 1,734 couples online and asked them how much they valued “having money and lots of things,” in addition to inquiring about other aspects of their marriage such as satisfaction, stability and so forth.


Researchers found that those who placed a high emphasis on materialism scored 15% lower on almost every other facet of marriage examined and were found to have poorer communication skills and conflict resolution. One in five couples who were questioned were found to have both partners placing an equally high emphasis on materialism, and while those couples were better off financially, money appeared to be a major source of conflict. These couples were found to be the ones that struggled the most.


“Couples where both spouses are materialistic were worse off on nearly every measure we looked at,” said Carroll in a statement released by the university. “How these couples perceive their finances seems to be more important to their marital health than their actual financial situation.”


Carroll believes that couples who value wealth and acquiring possessions may be unhappier because this desire to keep accumulating, along with the deteriorating economy, may cause more stress among couples, especially if it leads them to go into debt. In addition, these couples may be putting more work into earning more money or things than their relationship as opposed to couples who do not value materialism as much.


“The wants in the long run really won’t be the biggest foundation to their happiness because it’s not really getting to what they truly need,” Carroll told Toronto publication


“If we prioritize relationships and keep them at the top of our focus, that really helps us from getting sucked into the materialistic messages in the culture and helps us where true happiness will be found,” Carroll said.




Study: Intact Married Families Build Strong Nations (Christian Post, 111117)


Society thrives when families stick together, according to several speakers at the second annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection news conference held Thursday. The event was hosted by the Family Research Council in Washington, DC.



The index is produced annually by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MRRI) and looks at the health of society by measuring the proportion of children who grow up in intact married families. The conference spotlighted the benefits that a strong, foundational marriage has on the lives of America’s youth, and in return, on the well-being of society in general.


Speakers at this event included: Dr. Pat Fagan, director of MRRI; Dr. David Armor, professor at George Mason University; Dr. Nick Zill of the MRRI; and Pat Ware, former director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. All speakers discussed the Belonging and Rejection index in relation to issues of poverty, education, and teenage out of wedlock births.


According to Fagan, only 45 percent of U.S. teenagers have spent their childhood with an intact family, which constitutes the biological parents legally married to each other since the time of the child’s birth. Meanwhile, 55 percent of teenagers live in families where their biological parents have rejected each other. Rejection is defined by the report as “parents who reject one another through divorce or others.”


Among ethnic groups, Asians have the highest percent of family intactness with 62 percent, followed by whites. An African American child is the least likely to grow up in a home with both parents – only 17.4 percent of black families are intact.


However, ethnicity by itself is not the root of the problem as some states have a low percentage of African Americans and still have a low percentage of family intactness. Likewise, presidential politics are not to blame, says Zill. For example, Minnesota is a blue state and North Dakota is a red state yet they both rank high on the family intactness scale.


Rather, much of the answer of the disparity among states in regards to family intactness lies with the geographical regions. In general, the southern region fares the worse with only 41 percent of families belonging. The Northeast fares the best with 50.4 percent of families belonging.

Zill credits history for the disparity. The Northeast region was settled by a largely homogenous population that had very few slaves, was very literate, and was highly skilled. In contrast, the South was predominately male, practiced slavery, had a low literacy rate, and was highly stratified.


Despite all the modern changes, Zill says the regions still have not escaped their past and that whichever groups settled in the region continues to have a strong impact on the familial societies there today. However as a whole, according to the MRRI, the family structure in the country is on the slope toward rejection as more and more parents are separating.


“Where there is conflict between the parents, the kids pay,” said Fagan, “and as a result, society pays.”


According to the MRRI, there are five basic institutions that contribute to society: family, the church, school, the government, and the market. The more a mother and father master these institutions and provide instruction for their children to do the same, the more society benefits. Not surprisingly, according to Fagan, two-parent households provide the best environment for more instruction and nurturing in the child’s life. However, none of the other four institutions “hold a candle to” the impact the family has on a child’s life. Children who “don’t belong,” or in other words grow up in a broken family, have less capacity to give back to society than do children who do belong.


“The decrease of strong families in the United States has major implications for the nation, and by extension, the rest of the world,” the MRRI report states.


“A nation is only as strong as its citizens, and a lack of strong families weakens human, social, and moral capital, which in turn directly affects the financial (and thus indirectly the military and foreign policy strength) of the United States. A great nation depends on great families, but weak families will build a weak nation.”