The New Marriage Conversation in the Media

01.30.2013, 5:07 PM

The NYT story is in the print edition today, and at the NYT “Motherlode” blog KJ Dell’Antonia reacts with worry that the new marriage conversation “excludes single mothers.”

Andrew Sullivan gives his take; Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker addressed the new conversation in her nationally-syndicated column today; Cheryl Wetzstein talks to skeptics for her Washington Times piece;  Jonathan Kay of Canada’s National Post complains that not enough religious leaders signed the Call, but maybe the real truth is that not enough religious leaders he recognizes did so — because there are quite a few on the list. Meanwhile, religion writers have covered the Call today at Huffington Post and the Religion News Service.


9 Responses to “The New Marriage Conversation in the Media”

  1. La Lubu says:

    I think KJ Dell’Antonia is right—this particular conversation is new only in that it seeks more allies (from a less-common source) in bringing back the same old patriarchal solutions. Not exactly a grassroots movement. (a grassroots movement for strengthening marriage would be led by non-college-educated, working class and poor single parents, and would address our concerns—what we find most pressing in our lives. Not what others find most bothersome about us.)

  2. Diane M says:

    I think this guy in the Washington Times is wrong. Our society has already decided that male-female complementarity is not an essential part of marriage. We have more flexibility of roles.

    Monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence do not depend on having different sex roles. Monogamy and exclusivity are certainly related to having children, but there are other reasons for them. Mainly, we have evolved (or been created) to want them and to be jealous. That isn’t going to change.

    Permanence in marriage is certainly related to raising children, but raising children happens whether or not you have different sex roles or same sex couples. Kids still generally need family stability and two parents.

    Permanence in marriage also makes sense because it allows us to make plans for the future and to not be worrying about whether or not our partner will leave.

    And I think as humans we want permanence anyway. We don’t want love to be something that ends.

    “Redefining marriage would abandon the norm of male-female sexual complementarity as an essential characteristic of marriage. Making that optional would also make other essential characteristics — such as monogamy, exclusivity and permanence — optional, as my co-authors and I argue in ‘What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense,’” Mr. Anderson added.

  3. Diane M says:

    I really liked Sullivan’s piece. Parker’s is good, too. It’s heartening for me as she talks about evolution of thinking for many people. I’m excited that we have come so far.

    I was also irritated by Jonathan Kay’s comment on religious Christians not being part of the call. I consider myself a religious Christian and I’m sick of people assuming that religious Christians must be theologically or politically conservative.

  4. Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: Our society has already decided that male-female complementarity is not an essential part of marriage

    I was under the impression we left it up to individual couples whether they wanted male-female complementarity to be an essential part of their marriage.

    For that matter, I’m pretty sure exclusivity is optional too- we have open marriages, after all, and those are perfectly legal. At least *for me*, male-female complementarity is more essential to my ideal of marriage than exclusivity is. I could probably accept my partner cheating, though I might not be thrilled. I’m not sure I’d be happy at all in an egalitarian marriage.

  5. Diane M says:

    @ Hector St Clair – “I was under the impression we left it up to individual couples whether they wanted male-female complementarity to be an essential part of their marriage.”

    Yes, that means it’s not an essential part of the definition of marriage that society puts forward.

    Open marriages exist, but I don’t think they have the widespread acceptance that changes in sex roles do (or just the idea that couples don’t have to follow them).

    “I could probably accept my partner cheating, though I might not be thrilled. I’m not sure I’d be happy at all in an egalitarian marriage.”

    Well, if you’re serious about your idea that you want to trade male earning power for female youth and beauty, you may have to accept cheating.

  6. Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: Yes, that means it’s not an essential part of the definition of marriage that society puts forward.

    Neither is fidelity. There are more adulterous marriages than there are gay marriages. There might even be more adulterous marriages than egalitarian ones without gender roles, though I’m not sure about that.

    As a Christian, I think both open marriages, gay marriages, non-complementarian marriages, childless marriages are all problematic. For people who aren’t Christians, though, I don’t see why they should be held to Christian norms. I’m personally probably more comfortable with open marriages than with egalitarian, gender-neutral feminist marriages, but I think they should both be legal.

    Re: Well, if you’re serious about your idea that you want to trade male earning power for female youth and beauty, you may have to accept cheating

    I’m quite serious, and you may well be right. And I’d generally be fine with that. I’d be gaining something from the relationship that was more important to me than fidelity.

  7. Diane M says:

    Hector St Clair – I think you’re confusing what actually happens with what people think should happen. Most people think that marriages should be faithful, at least in their intent. They don’t think that marriages have to have men act one way and women act another.

    And if you ever want advice from someone older than you, I say look for a partner who shares your values, has integrity, is interesting to talk to, that you love and are attracted to and who loves and is attracted to you. Don’t go for someone who wants your money and don’t choose someone on their looks. It’s not a good recipe for happiness. And since you want to stay together and never re-marry, you need to really think carefully about this.

  8. Rob says:

    I have not been to this site for a while. I have previously written negatively about it and monitored it sporadically when I saw it as actively opposed to the struggle for marriage equality. I was encouraged when I learned that David Blankenhorn had changed his position in opposition to same-sex marriage. I was therefore very interested when I read about “the new marriage conversation.”

    Alas, the very first post I notice when I come here to learn more about a coalition to strengthen marriage that is supposed go beyond the culture wars is a post whose main contribution to dialogue is to accuse lesbian couples of dehumanizing their children–a bit like the National Organization for Marriage’s saying that gay men only want children as “ornaments.”

    Respectfully, count me out.

  9. Kevin says:

    Rob, don’t bail out too quickly! The notion of a new conversation about marriage, to whatever degree it is authentic, could well be the foundation of an exit strategy for the most vocal and prominent propagandists against marriage equality.

    Seeing the hand-writing on the wall, these folks might finally be enticed to expand beyond their insistence that the government “endorse and enforce” their personal vision of what marriage has to be, to a broader position that encompasses marriage and law, marriage and the welfare of children, making marriage long-lasting, making marriage more appealing to potential participants, expanding the benefits of marriage to gay people not just straight people, etc.

    I am optimistic with a healthy dose of suspicion!