A Response to an Archbishop on SSM

05.11.2010, 8:45 PM

Here’s a response I wrote, published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune yesterday,  to an op-ed by Minneapolis-St. Paul Archbishop John Nienstedt in favor of a state constitutional ban on gay marriage.  Along with my crisp prose (brevity forced by a 650-word limit), you can peruse the usual lively reader reactions whenever one writes “gay” and “marriage” within three words of each other.

There isn’t actually much chance the Minnesota legislature is going to revisit a state constitutional ban, short of a political earthquake in the state in November, but a misbegotten lawsuit filed today in state court doesn’t help.

4 Responses to “A Response to an Archbishop on SSM”

  1. Elizabeth Marquardt says:

    “Children are more secure in households where their parents are wed.” that’s one of those claims for which I think the burden of proof lies on the pro-ssm side. What we know about child well being in marriage is based on intact marriages of childrens own mothers and fathers. What we know about stepfamilies — higher rates of break up, higher rates of mistreatment or abuse by stepfathers — suggests that marriage doesn’t magically confer stability, there in something about the structure we call marriage acting in concert with the idea marriage
    that seems, on average, to produce these good things. Would gay marriage do that? Meanwhile, what’s
    so bad about a state that allows a gay couple both to be legal parents of a child whether through biology or adoption. Doesn’t legal parenthood confer protection? (Dale, thanks for blogging! :)

  2. Good points, as usual. Let’s assume, as I do, that married biological parents are optimal for raising a child, on average. But suppose a child isn’t being raised by his married biological parents, whether because of their unwillingness, incapacity, or danger to the child. At that point, would you be indifferent, or opposed, to whether his biological parent ever remarried? Marriage, in that second-best world, doesn’t return us to optimality, but it brings something of benefit to the family, no?

    I agree that legal parenthood for both same-sex partners is better than nothing, and I’d be delighted if SSM opponents like Nienstedt supported it. (Some judges in Minnesota allow it, but it’s not explicitly backed by statute.) But it has two big problems: (1) it’s a cumbersome, time-consuming, and expensive process, requiring superior knowledge by the couple; and (2) while it provides legal protection as between the child and each of the two parents individually, it does nothing to help stabilize and protect the relationship between the two people caring for the child. They are legal strangers. It’s conceptually similar to divorce, and in the eyes of the law the two parents have no more responsibility for each other than would two divorced people.

  3. Lee says:

    I think society as a whole is much more responsive to civil unions or domestic partnerships than same sex marriage, all of which adds more protection (and benefits) for children than nothing at all. The concept/definition of marriage as between a man and a woman who create and raise their own children as ideal will be very difficult to change. That is why I think civil unions or domestic partnerships have a greater change of being accepted and maybe even viewed as an evolutionary step toward same sex marriages in places where it does not currently exist.

  4. Elizabeth Marquardt says:

    Good morning Dale! …good points right back
    at you. I see your point that even legal parenthood for both in the couple leaves them legal strangers to one another (and that comparison to divorced parents is pretty chilling). And I’ll admit
    we do know that among hets even remarriages with their 60 percent divorce rate are still more stable than cohabiting unions. Maybe marriage would confer greater stability even if it didn’t bring it
    up to the married/adoptive from infancy or
    bio parent het model (and I’m the first
    to admit too many of *those* folks divorce).

    But given how much we don’t know, I wish advocates of
    ssm would be a little more qualified in their claims, esp about child well being. Among hets, children of stepfamilies generally
    look more like children of single parents, on indicators, than children living with their own married parents. Point against ssm. On the other hand, we do let hets remarry. Point in favor of ssm.

    Bottom line, I wish more advocates of ssm would
    get more deeply familiar with what we do
    and do not know about marriage and child well being.