Will liberals help to save marriage?

03.31.2013, 1:52 PM

Our call for a new conversation on marriage envisons a new pro-marriage coalition:  social and religious conservatives who are pro-family enough to break bread with gays and lesbians who are also pro-family;  liberals who passionately support marriage even when the word “gay” is not in front of it; and gays and lesbians who are not only fighting for the right to marry but who also want to help to strengthen the institution.

So far, out of 315 million Americans, not everyone has signed on.  But we’re working on it!

In New York and around the country, I’m hosting a series of conversations on this topic.  This Wednesday, April 3, I’m taking to Peter Steinfels and our own Amy Ziettlow on “Will Liberals Help to Save Marriage?”

Along those lines, Jonathan Rauch and I have an article in today’s New York Daily News that asks the same question:

Can liberal values today help to renew American marriage for everyone who  seeks it? Can liberal leaders and voters turn their gay marriage campaign into a  campaign for marriage itself? We hope so. In fact, we believe so.

We see the makings of a new pro-family coalition: one that builds from the  center out, instead of from the right in; one that liberals can wholeheartedly  help to lead as part and parcel of their commitment to equality and inclusion;  one that changes “family values” from a wedge issue into a common cause.

What do you think?


50 Responses to “Will liberals help to save marriage?”

  1. Diane M says:

    I think that liberals have a lot of great things to add to the effort.

    First, there’s feminism. Ideas of equality have enriched marriage greatly in the past 50-60 years.

    Second, there’s a willingness to come up with social programs and fund them. A really big social trend is going to need more than just getting rid of some tax disincentives.

    Third, there’s a willingness to talk about class. Economic issues are critical in what’s going on right now. If we want to really make a difference, we are going to have to tackle the question of jobs.

  2. Diane M says:

    Good quote from the article: “There’s much more to marriage equality than gay marriage equality.”

  3. Jake says:

    Can liberals get involved? Let’s see. What actions to benefit families have liberals been advocating for years? In no particular order:

    raise the minimum wage;
    end the war on drugs and stop the wholesale incarceration of young black men;
    universal health care;
    free prenatal care, contraceptive and abortion care;
    extend food stamps;
    end the obscene tax breaks for the wealthy and tax them at Reagan’s rate;
    slash military spending;
    make college affordable or free;
    paid vacations;
    paid maternity leave;
    paid paternity leave;
    let welfare recipients keep their benefits after they start work to help them get back on their feet;
    stop penalizing welfare recipients when they marry;
    free kindergarten and pre K;
    restore the funding for the public schools to levels that allow the schools to function as they should;
    institute a massive program of infrastructure rebuilding to provide jobs for working men and women;
    encourage the growth of trade unions;
    start treating working men and women with respect.

    That’s just off the top of my head. But all are actions that would strengthen families and all of them have been blocked by conservatives. We’re trying. But the first step is to recognize that we are talking about poverty and income inequality. People don’t marry if they have nothing. Desperate people leave their babies in the subway for gay men to find and rear. Ignorance is our enemy.

    I would think that the very worst way to proceed is to moralize about other people’s lives. The single best step way forward is to campaign to raise the minimum wage substantially and to get behind the president’s Affordable Care Act to provide health care for expectant mothers and then for their children.

  4. Kevin says:

    The better question is, can conservatives make themselves useful? It would be refreshing to see them support ALL families, not just families they deem worthy. And as Jake has noted, how much more can liberals do to support families and marriage than they’re already doing, and facing a complete lack of cooperation from conservatives?

    I think that if conservatives can be convinced that families matter, and marriage helps families, as do robust economic conditions, some real progress could be made. If scoring political points is all that conservatives want, then marriage will continue its decline, for lack of public support.

  5. intheagora says:

    Liberals embraced no fault divorce, and that hasn’t turned out so well with rates of divorce rising to levels once considered unthinkable.

    Liberals gave us Roe v. Wade and the slaughter of the innocents. Safe, legal, and rare has turned out to be relatively safe (except for the unborn),
    certainly legal, and anything but rare, at least in the liberal parts of the country.

    Liberals in Canada embraced SSM and have seen a continued decline in marriage.

    Liberals gave us women thoroughly integrated into the military, and it has led to an epidemic of rape in the services.

    As Milton Friedman said, “If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in five years there’d be a shortage of sand.”

    How about the liberal case for marriage as a heterosexual institution? Marriage in that sense promotes a flourishing human ecosystem with sustainable fertility rates. Marriage law should also be designed to protect vulnerable women and children as well as to promote fertility. Marriage law arranged on the playboy philosophy that endorses and sanctions any sexual activity between consenting adults works to the advantage of rich men and to the disadvantage of poor women and their children. Sustainable human ecosystems and a just legal framework for vulnerable women and children should be liberal causes, as well as conservative ones.

    That said, perhaps the best way to advance those causes is to heed the warning of Milton Friedman and let private institutions (e.g. churches) address marriage issues.

  6. Kevin says:

    “Liberals embraced no fault divorce”

    Support that premise with evidence, please. Every state, liberal and conservative, has no-fault divorce. Three conservative states, two of them in the Bible belt, enacted covenant marriage, with difficult access to divorce. Few takers. Your thoughts?

    “Liberals gave us Roe v. Wade”

    Support that premise with evidence, please. My recollection is that a US Supreme Court gave us Roe v. Wade. I’m just guessing, though. And what does that have to do with marriage and families?

    Since most liberals are straight, I’m guessing that they also support straight marriage. You are mistaken if you think that straight people are no longer permitted to marry, once same-sex marriage is legal. I admire liberals for wanting children to be raised inside wedlock, by married parents, instead of the conservative preference, to have some children raised outside of wedlock, what we used to call “bastards,” because of disapproval of their parents sex lives.

    People do not become more, or less, fertile based on their marital status.

    I doubt that David Blankenhorn was intending to set up a fight between who supports marriage and family more, liberals or conservatives, but clearly and substantivelym, liberals do. Conservatives like to say their pro-family, but that’s just rhetoric. Actions speak louder than words.

  7. Diane M says:

    Well, we are quickly getting to the heart of it all.

    From the left we have the idea that the way to support marriage is to help people financially, with jobs, unions, and benefits like health care, low cost college, and parental leave/child care. Don’t suggest that people change their behavior because that would be moralizing and it’s better to help people economically.

    From the right we have the suggestion to change the laws to make divorce harder and otherwise leave the problem up to the church.

    Is it possible to bring any of this together in a way that would help families and is politically feasible?

  8. Jake says:

    intheagora demonstrates why no progress can ever be made.

    Diane. No. See above.

  9. intheagora says:

    I would refer Kevin to the conservative sources, e.g. NRO or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, that were and still are critical of the issues discussed and compare them with the voices at, say, the Daily Kos and the New York Times editorial board.

    Utah is the state with the highest percentage of married households. Idaho is the second highest. Utah and Idaho are two conservative and religious states. Liberal New York is the lowest in percentage of households married. Blue D.C. is even lower.

    Utah and Idaho are also relatively low in income inequality, STD’s, illicit drug use, and abortion, and high in the percentage of adults that have graduated from high school.

    I guess the argument turns on your view of what represents progress.

  10. Matt N says:

    intheagora: “Utah is the state with the highest percentage of married households. Idaho is the second highest.

    I think this is actually why the “liberal” and “conservative” means of strengthening marriages and families are fundamentally incompatible: we have irreconcilable definitions of what would make marriage better as an institution.

    In the view of most liberals, the quantity of people married is barely relevant to the worth or importance of marriage as an institution. Rather, that marriage (and at that, a very specific associated model of family, kinship, sexuality, gender, and probably a few other major concepts) is felt to be compulsory seems to be indicated by those high percentages of the populations of Idaho and Utah who are married.

    Likewise, high divorce rates are complex indicators. One way of interpreting even high ones is that they suggest people can leave relationships that they find personally destructive, unfulfilling, or even outright abusive. There’s a discussion to be had there, but I think the perspective of many liberals is that the choice to divorce is very rarely a decision to opt out of a stable and successful marriage, and that the idea that it is suggests an insulting view of people who do divorce (namely that they’re frivolous if not outright unreasonable – it’s one that assumes their actions are innately in bad faith).

    This difference in understand suggests to many liberals that conservatives simply want people to be married and assimilate into their models of family, kinship, sexuality, gender, and possibly even religion while we’re listing such things. Liberals for the most part aren’t interested in that. We think the worth of having large numbers of people participate in a particular practice is based on what their participation would mean – and for many of us practicing marriage in that way seems actually nightmarish (for one of any number of reasons).

    If the circumstances of someone’s participation in marriage are ones that are destructive to them, their partner, or their children, then maybe it’s actually a good thing if they don’t take part in it – either in the institution as a whole or in a specific form of it (for instance, that LGB* people would harm themselves and others by entering a loveless male-female marriage).

    This isn’t a declaration that no one should ever examine whether they should change as a person, but a pragmatic approach to marriage that’s rooted in the reality that not everyone can or should change certain parts of themselves, and that that should be taken into account.

  11. Mont D. Law says:

    (Utah is the state with the highest percentage of married households. Idaho is the second highest.)

    So really all we have to do to fix marriage is forcibly convert the entire country to Mormonism. Porn subscriptions and antidepressants are cheap and easily available so no one should object too much.

  12. Diane M says:

    @Mont D Law – Your statement about Mormons sounds bigoted to me. Do you have any evidence that they use more porn or anti-depressants than other people?

    @Jake – So then we just give up? Conservatives aren’t going to pass our agenda, so there’s no point trying to come up with common ground that might help some people?

  13. intheagora says:

    American conservatism embodies principles such as personal liberty and federalism.

    So, no, the conservative answer is not the forceful conversion to Mormonism, which Utahns and Mormons would rightly reject. However, the Institute for American Values would be well advised to study what Mormons are doing right and New Yorkers are doing wrong. As a private organization the Institute could promote those best practices.

    And no, marriage is not compulsory in Utah and Idaho. Roughly a third of Utah is non-LDS. Roughly three-quarters of Idaho is non-LDS. The low income-inequality, low levels of STD’s, illicit drug use, and abortion, and the high levels of education and fertility suggest flourishing families and a relatively high quality of life on a relatively small resource base. Utah and Idaho have little oil wealth, modest agricultural land compared to the Midwest, no seaports, etc.

    Utah had the 8th longest life expectancy and the 4th highest level of happiness among the states according to a Gallup poll. (Tropical Hawaii was the happiest.) According to the poll Utah residents had higher evaluations of their present lives and higher expectations for the future than residents of nearly every other state. More than 55% of respondents were thriving, while less than 3% were considered to be suffering based on their assessments of their present and future quality of life. In addition to strong evaluations of their own lives, Utah residents had better emotional health and a higher quality of their work environment than residents of most other states.

    Federalism creates fifty state laboratories rather than one central national planning bureau. I am by no means against longer maternity and paternity leave. I am suggesting that the states might be laboratories to determine the optimal nature of that leave and other government policies.

    Helping all families can also mean lowering taxes for all families. Increasing the individual income tax deduction would be a good place to start.

    And perhaps liberals and conservatives might agree to reduce foreign military commitments and adventures that strain the federal budget and burden military families.

  14. Schroeder says:

    intheagora demonstrates why no progress can ever be made.

    Diane. No. See above.

    Wow, one person commenting on a blog demonstrates why no progress can ever be made. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we online commenters severely underestimate our power.

  15. fannie says:

    Schroeder,

    Well, I agree that one person acting a certain way on one blog does not demonstrate how progress can, say, never be made. But, I do think that the common tendency to think about this issue in a binary way (“liberals this,” “conservatives that”) does obscure nuance, and is an impediment to progress. And, that tendency is really reflected in this conversation.

    I mean, even the framing of the question, “Will liberals help to save marriage” invites people to think about this issue from an oppositional, adversarial, “wedge issue” perspective, rather than one that’s less about scoring political points and more about cooperatively trying to come up with solutions.

  16. Schroeder says:

    Hi Fannie,

    I do think that the common tendency to think about this issue in a binary way (“liberals this,” “conservatives that”) does obscure nuance, and is an impediment to progress.

    Oh, I definitely agree with this. I mainly thought that Jake was being a little too dramatic and that some friendly teasing was in order. Sorry, Jake!

    It is hard to escape from the liberal-conservative binary! I usually say that I’m extremely liberal and extremely conservative, just to throw people off enough so that they think about my actual opinions. (plus, it’s true!)

    The problem is, I believe, that we like to think of people as fitting in to clear, user-friendly categories or else the world gets way too complicated to process. Which is completely understandable because it’s completely human!

    As I see it, there are two ways for the earnest truth-seeker to deal with this problem: 1.) Refuse to play the game at all. This is ideal, but it is not a really practical strategy when dealing with large numbers of lay people. Or 2.) Subvert the categories by using the game’s terms but upending expectations.

    Obviously, approach two is less pure than approach one, but approach two is a big “shortcut,” if you will. You don’t have to question presuppositions directly (thus, saving time and making it more likely that people will keep up with you) but can force people to think for themselves when they don’t encounter what they’re expecting.

    Approach two is what I’m doing when I say I’m liberal and conservative, and it’s also, if I’m not mistaken, what the Institute’s powers that be will try to do in their provocatively-labeled event.

  17. Diane M says:

    @intheagora – My impression is that one reason Utah’s families are flourishing is that they get a lot of community support, particularly through the church.

    So how do we translate something like that to other states?

    And re: income taxes, how about increasing the child tax credit substantially? If it were big enough for children under 6, parents could use it to allow one parent to stay home or help pay for quality child care.

    One issue everyone seems to agree on is that families need well-paid jobs. How can we get there from here?

  18. Diane M says:

    @Matt N. – thank you for your thoughtful response. I, too, am not convinced that the number of people married is a good measure of marital health. Nor is the divorce rate the only thing that matters.

    However, I think it’s important to not assume that if the marriage rate is high, people are being forced to marry. Similarly, if the divorce rate is low, that does not necessarily mean that people are unhappily married.

    Intheagora offers some evidence on what is going on in Utah that suggests that the high marriage rate there is not a sign of being forced to marry and the low divorce rate is not a sign of miserable marriages.

    I would add that:

    a) Promises I Can Keep looked at poor women and found that they would like to be married;

    b) when we look at class, we find that people with more money have a higher rate of getting and staying married. Since they are relatively powerful, I don’t think they are being coerced into marriage.

    The other thing I have been thinking about that may be relevant here is that some people are unmarried but living through the emotional equivalent of multiple divorces. David and Amber Lapp’s research really points at this.

    For example, “Ricky” in their study has had four live-in fiancees. He has had children with some of them and helped raise children with others.

    This is something that is completely left out of the statistics.

    It’s not that marriage would magically solve the problem. I’m just trying to say that non-marriage may not show up on the statistics, but may really be like having four divorces.

  19. Mont D. Law says:

    (However, the Institute for American Values would be well advised to study what Mormons are doing right and New Yorkers are doing wrong.)

    What Mormons are doing right is being Mormon. What New Yorkers are doing wrong is not being Mormon. The results you are seeing in states with large Mormon populations are directly related to their religion and peoples obligations under that religion. This is not something the state can reproduce. Which is why you don’t see similar numbers in non-Mormon conservative states, which have worse numbers than New York. Plus even that vaunted Utah is starting to see their good numbers collapse.

    (Utah had the 8th longest life expectancy and the 4th highest level of happiness among the states according to a Gallup poll.)

    But they are number one in porn.

    {a Harvard economics professor who tracked subscriptions to online porn sites. Utah ranks No. 1 in subscriptions}

    And

    Number one in their consumption of antidepressants.

    {In 2001, a pharmacy benefits company released a study of its members that showed Utahns gulped down more anti-depressants in 2000 than residents of any other state.}

    This includes of 20% adult women in the state of Utah.

    So maybe there is trouble in paradise?

  20. Teresa says:

    It’s been said many times by more than one commenter (myself included), in several different Posts, that we already have examples here in the U.S. of thriving family (married) life: the Amish, the Mormons, conservative Catholics, some Evangelical communities. What is common among these different groups is a faith belief that values marriage with children and looks askance mightily on divorce. ‘Looking askance mightily’ may even involve some sort of stigma.

    Why, I ask, is IAV or FS trying to reinvent the wheel? We don’t need to bribe people to marry and have children by changing tax codes, doing more social programs, spending valued dollars on mere possibilities. We don’t need the best paying jobs. We don’t need beyond high-school education to have sound families with children. We don’t need to be romanced to have good marriages.

    Why is nourishing a conservative faith belief being neglected? If we see what works, why not talk about it? If you keep doing the same thing you’ve always done, under a different guise … why, oh why, would you expect different results?

  21. Victor says:

    Teresa,

    How do you see this effort of encouraging more conservative (sometimes even fundamentalist) beliefs? These churches (aside from the Amish) are already doing a lot trying to convert others. And the numbers of people espousing atheism/agnosticism is growing at a fast pace.

  22. fannie says:

    Schroeder,

    “As I see it, there are two ways for the earnest truth-seeker to deal with this problem”

    Only two ways? ;-)

    Teresa,

    “What is common among these different groups [the Amish, the Mormons, conservative Catholics, some Evangelical communities] is a faith belief that values marriage with children and looks askance mightily on divorce.”

    Another commonality among those groups is also a belief in gender inequality (sometimes framed as “gender complementarity”), wherein marriage is between a man and a woman, and in which the man is the “more equal” partner in that marriage as the head of household. (Yes, I realize the details vary within faiths, but at a high, general level, these faiths advance similar ideas about gender differences, complementarity, and the proper roles for men and women, in marriage and in religion).

    Yet, combining a non-egalitarian marriage structure with “looking askance mightily on divorce” is not a great PR campaign for marriage, for many Americans.

    I’m reminded of a wedding ceremony I attended a few years ago at a conservative Catholic church. There, the bride promised to “obey” her husband (and he made no promise to obey her, implying a master-servant hierarchical relationship). And, you know, that’s fine if that’s the kind of relationship she wants to have. But, I watched with some amusement as many people in the audience (men and women) kind of looked at each other in a “wow, people still say that?” raised eyebrows kind of way.

    So, people can reference the purported “thriving family” lives of certain religious families, but many other people are going to be asking, “Yeah, well at what cost are those benefits truly coming at?” Women choosing, or being coerced, to take part in their own submission for the sake of community? People engaging in self-abnegation while taking part in the fiction that men and women are “opposites”?

    No thanks, not for me. And I don’t think I’m alone there. Referencing religious cultures that advance gender inequality and simplistic thinking about gender as laudable examples of marriage/family is a pretty quick way to get many people, especially many feminists, scrambling to the exit door.

    Although, I also recognize that gender inequality is a big appeal for some people, with respect to these “traditional” marriage models. So, there’s that, I guess.

  23. annajcook says:

    Teresa writes:

    We already have examples here in the U.S. of thriving family (married) life: the Amish, the Mormons, conservative Catholics, some Evangelical communities. What is common among these different groups is a faith belief that values marriage with children and looks askance mightily on divorce. ‘Looking askance mightily’ may even involve some sort of stigma.

    In addition to what fannie writes above, I would also point out that it’s not necessarily true that conservatism = lower divorce rates and happier marriages. Massachusetts, for example, had the lowest divorce rate of all the states in 2008-2009 (after, I will point out, same-sex marriage had been legalized).

    As NPR’s talk of the nation summarized in 2010:

    There’s a family-values divide between red states and blue states, two researchers say, but the differences might surprise people on both sides of the political spectrum. The states that voted Democratic in the last two presidential elections have the lowest rates of divorce and teen pregnancies. And the red states had the highest. One of those researchers, June Carbone of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, tells host Guy Raz what she thinks is the deciding factor: Women in blue states wait later to get married and have kids.

    So I think there are multiple ways to look at what “strong marriage” is actually like, and through some lenses it actually looks much more like what is happening in liberal and feminist communities than it does in what’s happening in conservative communities.

  24. Diane M says:

    @Mont D Law – a link to the LDS church response to this:

    “Number one in their consumption of antidepressants.

    {In 2001, a pharmacy benefits company released a study of its members that showed Utahns gulped down more anti-depressants in 2000 than residents of any other state.}”

    http://en.fairmormon.org/Utah/Statistical_claims/LDS_use_of_antidepressants

    They have a few good points including:

    Utahans use more prescriptions in general. It is unlikely that Mormonism causes an increase in infection, diabetes, arthritis, epilepsy, etc.

    Other states with high concentrations of Mormons don’t have higher than average usage of antidepressants.

    Using antidepressants is not necessarily a bad thing. It might be a sign of:
    a more enlightened attitude towards treating mental illness;
    better health care coverage for mental illness; or
    less self-medicating with alcohol.

    I guess I would go with, it’s possible people in Utah are less happy than elsewhere, even though they say that they are not. However, there’s no proof for the idea that Mormonism is causing depression.

    In fact, the church cites some studies showing that LDS church membership had a positive effect on mental health and that LDS church women were happier than other women.

    Correlation versus causation from the link:

    “It is easy to find a correlation between two things:

    Utah has many Mormons and uses more antidepressants than other states.

    Roosters crow when the sun rises.

    IV drug abuse has increased as digital computers have become more common.

    However, correlations do not necessarily imply causation:

    The suggestion that religion in general, or the Church of Jesus Christ in particular, causes depression has been examined and found to be false: in the vast majority of studies, religion either has no effect on mental health, or improves it.

    Roosters do not cause the sun to rise; if anything the reverse is true.

    IV drug use and the presence of digital computers are not likely related at all–they are two different social phenomena.”

  25. Hector_St_Clare says:

    My guess would be that religion appeals to the same sort of people who are likely to use antidepressants.

    There was a comment thread on Rod Dreher’s blog a while back where some huge percent of his commenters said they were on some kind of depression or anxiety medication.

  26. Diane M says:

    @Teresa – “Why is nourishing a conservative faith belief being neglected?”

    1. Government agencies cannot do that.

    2. Coalitions of people from different religious backgrounds are not going to do this because they don’t agree on which religion is correct. (It’s also worth pointing out that not all conservative faith beliefs have low divorce rates.)

    3. People can’t/shouldn’t convert unless they come to believe that the religion is true. You can’t suggest that people become Mormons just because Mormons have strong families and are happy.

    4. We can’t be sure that what helps families in Utah is the conservative faith itself. I think beliefs make a difference and I would not rule them out, but there are other important differences between religious people in general and Mormons in Utah in particular.

    For example, religious people are often part of an active religious community which helps and supports their families. This can be economic or practical support or just encouragement.

    From what I understand about the LDS church in particular, they are really supportive of family life. They have all kinds of resources you can use for planning family activities. They have many get-togethers within a congregation. They provide some financial support to families in need.

    So for non-religious organizations, we might want to look at how churches support families and marriages and work at create community groups that do similar things.

  27. Diane M says:

    @Elusis: When I click through to the scripts study, it looks to me like the states with the lowest rate of anti-depressant use are richer.

    “Utah #1 (and 9 of the top 10 are highly religious) in anti-depressant use:”

    I am actually disappointed in the lack of scientific rigor in the article on AlterNet.

    It’s like they liked the conclusions, so they didn’t use their critical skills.

    You have to control for other factors than religion that might affect depression. A big one jumping out at me is wealth. Or could people in Louisiana be depressed due to Hurricane Katrina?

  28. Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: But, I watched with some amusement as many people in the audience (men and women) kind of looked at each other in a “wow, people still say that?” raised eyebrows kind of way.

    Well, I’m glad the bride didn’t let the audience make her relationship decisions for her. I’m not quite sure when ‘what’s popular’ became a good guide to ‘the way you should live your life’.

    I’d disagree with you that Catholicism, at least, believes that men and women are *unequal*. The Catholic position is that men and women are equal, but *different* (which I’d essentially agree with). I’d also point out that the bit about wives obeying their husbands, etc. is an *optional* part of the Catholic lectionary nowadays, at least in the United States. It’s quite possible to be a fairly orthodox Catholic and not believe in it.

    Clearly there are some of us who believe in complementary gender roles though. I’m one of them (though in a more attentuated sense than, for example, some evangelicals), and clearly the bride at that wedding was another.

    “Although, I also recognize that gender inequality is a big appeal for some people, with respect to these “traditional” marriage models. So, there’s that, I guess.”

    Well, yes, gender complementarity (which you choose to refer to as inequality, so I’m not going to argue with you about the term) is something that some of us find very appealing about traditional marriage models. And many of us find feminist ideals about gender relationships to be extremely unappealing. Perhaps you disapprove, but there are also a lot of people who disapprove of gay relationships, divorce, artificial birth control, etc. I’m not sure why I, or the bride at that wedding, should pay any more attention to your disapproval than you pay to theirs.

  29. Hector_St_Clare says:

    Fannie,

    Just to follow up on that: how come you feel free to disapprove of complementarian relationships, but you don’t think people should feel free to disapprove of gay relationships?

    (Or divorce, artificial contraception, interfaith relationships, or any one of a number other things that many Christians traditionally condemned).

  30. annajcook says:

    Hector,

    I won’t speak for fannie, but I would argue there is a very real qualitative difference between personal disapproval and actively seeking to outlaw the behavior. fannie (and I) might have a personal disinclination to pursue a non-egalitarian, gender-complimentarian relationship … but we’re not advocating for DOMA-style laws forbidding people who create those relationships from marrying.

    And I don’t think anyone has ever said people should not “feel free to disapprove of gay relationships” … we’ve just said that when people judge queer relationships, we consider that to be an anti-gay sentiment and/or action depending on how they express their disapproval. That’s a value judgment about anti-gay expression, not any sort of constraint on its expression (other than social disapproval).

    And yes, we argue against social disapproval of queer relationships because we believe that it harms queer people to be judged. You are similarly free to argue against the social disapproval of complimentarian relationships because it makes people in those relationships feel judged. That’s your prerogative.

  31. Diane M says:

    @fannie and annajcook – I am afraid I think Hector St Claire has a point. From fannie’s comments I don’t think she’s fine with someone saying “obey” at her wedding ceremony. Raising your eyebrows at someone’s wedding is not a tolerant thing to do. Imagine if someone did it when a couple stamped on the cup at a Jewish ceremony.

    I would be willing to go ahead and say that, yes, I don’t think marriages where one person is in charge work as well as equal marriages. I would be curious to see what the divorce statistics are on this issue. In any case, I would be against it even if it didn’t lead to more divorce or unhappy marriages.

    This is not the same thing as gender complementarity. I am fine with two people taking different roles in marriage. I think it is a good solution to figuring out how to raise children (although there are other good solutions).

    However, if we are against unequal marriages, then we should be open to someone else being against same sex marriage without assuming they are a bigot.

  32. Diane M says:

    @fannie – to get to the bigger question you raise:

    I agree, I am not willing to adopt a plan for reducing divorce that starts with making men the boss of the family.

    But what if what is keeping the Mormon divorce rate low is not their belief that the husband should “preside and provide leadership in the home”?

    There are many things about Mormons or Utahans that are different from other religions and states.

    I don’t know of any studies supporting the idea that couples are less likely to divorce if they believe that the man should be the leader. In fact, the divorce rate is not lower for groups like evangelical Protestants.

    Participation in a religious community seems to be more important than belief in reducing the divorce rate.

    What if having community ties and support is what is keeping the divorce rate down?

    I don’t want to assume that if the divorce rate is low, it must be because women aren’t able to get divorced or are being pressured to stay. Maybe it’s because the economy is more stable or some other factor.

    I think it would be worth looking at what Mormons do to support marriage and what other factors might be at work to see if there were any lessons we could use.

    fannie said:
    “Another commonality among those groups is also a belief in gender inequality (sometimes framed as “gender complementarity”), wherein marriage is between a man and a woman, and in which the man is the “more equal” partner in that marriage as the head of household. (Yes, I realize the details vary within faiths, but at a high, general level, these faiths advance similar ideas about gender differences, complementarity, and the proper roles for men and women, in marriage and in religion).

    Yet, combining a non-egalitarian marriage structure with “looking askance mightily on divorce” is not a great PR campaign for marriage, for many Americans.”

    Side question to others – is it better to put a quote from another commenter at the beginning, end, or middle of your comment when you are responding to it?

  33. Kevin says:

    “how come you feel free to disapprove of complementarian relationships, but you don’t think people should feel free to disapprove of gay relationships?”

    I’d like to second Anna on this: there’s a huge gulf between the freedom to express disapproval (of same-sex marriage, of feminist ideals, of notions of sexual complementarity, etc.) and imposing by force of law that disapproval.

    It’s troubling, even frightening at times, to see how quickly people build a bridge between that which they disapprove of, and engaging the government to pass a law to outlaw it. The reason same-sex marriage is getting so much press these days is not because of disapproval but because it is being prohibited by law, which impacts everybody, even people who approve of it.

    It’s fascinating that there is so little discussion along the lines of “many people disapprove of it, but should that make it illegal?”.

    “However, if we are against unequal marriages, then we should be open to someone else being against same sex marriage without assuming they are a bigot.”

    Diane, I suspect most everyone is open to someone else being against same-sex marriage without assuming they are a bigot, but at some point, you have to look at the facts. It’s a generalization but one that holds true in many cases, and in a theoretical sense is always true: if you believe gay people should have fewer legal rights than straight people, then you are, by definition (in my book), a bigot.

  34. Hector says:

    Victor,

    You’re aware, right, that people raised atheist / agnostic are more likely to convert to a religion as adults, than people raised in religious households are to become atheist / agnostic?

  35. intheagora says:

    Re: a survey of on-line pornography use in Utah.

    The difference between top and bottom state is modest, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions when relatively small numbers of people can make the difference in ranking. There are also simple and fairly innocent explanations for the observed difference.

    Legal restrictions and social pressure in Utah make on-line sources the most attractive for those who seek this material, as opposed to sex shops, theaters, magazines, and other public venues.

    Utah is relatively more vulnerable due to a younger than average population and higher than average household incomes.

    The Mormon Church, of course, repudiates both the production and consumption of pornography. That Mont D. Law brings this up suggests a bias sufficient strong as to bring in a red herring rather than to pursue a discussion of marriage and best cultural practices to promote a flourishing marriage culture.

    No wonder it is so hard for conservatives to have a conversation with liberals.

  36. Hector_St_Clare says:

    Kevin,

    Not really. Anna J Cook stated on that other thread that she doesn’t think people should express normative opinions about other people’s chosen sexual lifestyles. This is quite apart from legal prohibitions. I’m not actually talking about the laws, I’m talking about people expressing *personal* disapproval of other people’s relationship choices.

  37. annajcook says:

    Diane writes:

    Raising your eyebrows at someone’s wedding is not a tolerant thing to do.

    Again, I will not speak for fannie here — but the distinction I see is that when I disapprove of something to that extent, I own the consequences of expressing my disapproval. Sometimes, when I’m judgy of someone’s behavior they get upset at me for disagreeing with them. And I make the call that my judgement in X situation is more important than being liked by someone who disagrees with me. Or sometimes, I listen to what they have to say and allow that they have a good point — that I’ve been wrong to judge them — and I apologize and stop being judgmental.

    The thing about this is I don’t expect or demand to be seen by everyone as a nice happy fluffy bunny person. I don’t expect to be embraced regardless of my views. I hope to be embraced in part because of them, but I know that there are people who disagree very strongly with the values I hold dear. And I know they’re judging me. People on this blog judge my values on a regular basis and while I expect them to treat me respectfully as a human being, I don’t expect them to like me. I suspect many of them believe I am all manner of unflattering things. Which they are free to do.

    What I hear many people in the anti-gay contingent trying to do right now is judge people without consequence — without taking responsibility for that judgment in the form of accepting that some people will experience their anti-gay beliefs as bigotry or hatred; that their anti-gay beliefs translate into anti-gay actions that have a tangible effect in peoples’ lives. I just don’t think that this is a situation where you can have your cake and eat it too. In the end, one needs to decide whether value or belief X is more important than person Y (or vice versa). Because one or the other is probably going to have to be abandoned and/or modified in order to move forward.

  38. Diane M says:

    @Kevin – But I’ve gotten the impression from various comments that it’s not enough to support the legality of same sex marriage. Being against it seems to lead to being called a bigot, particularly if you do anything to show your personal disapproval.

  39. Diane M says:

    So here are some questions that I think are interesting: (from the future talk on liberals and marriage):

    “Why have the ideals of “pro-family” and “pro-marriage” and “family values” been attractive mainly to religious conservatives, and seldom to religious liberals?

    . . . and attractive mainly to social conservatives, and seldom to social liberals?

    Are there reasons to think that liberals in the future might actively support marriage even when the word “gay” is not in front of it? That liberals will support marriage as a social institution?

    Is today’s growing class divide regarding marriage a social justice issue?”

    For #1 and #2, I blame Moynihan. Also the historical link between trying to cut welfare programs and criticizing single mothers.

    For #3 – Yes, I think so. Liberals have a tendency to get married!

    For #4 – Emphatically yes.

  40. Hector says:

    Anna J Cook,

    In my experience, the sort of Christians who are deeply invested in the ideal of dominant / submissive relationship dynamics, would take it as a pint of pride that you disapprove of them. they tend to like the sense that they’re a small counter cultural minority within a godless culture.

  41. Jake says:

    Schroeder: dramatic? Good call. I write plays for a living so I never claim to be dispassionate. I’ve just spent the better part of two years constructing a new work about marriage between gay men before such an idea was even considered anything but insane: the word is never mentioned. It spans 52 years in NYC.

    I note that no one has addressed my list of practical can-dos that might help young people marry and married people stay married. Re liberals? Mass has the lowest divorce rate and now we find that their teen pregnancy rate has plummeted. Education.

  42. annajcook says:

    Hector writes:

    Anna J Cook stated on that other thread that she doesn’t think people should express normative opinions about other people’s chosen sexual lifestyles.

    Diane writes:

    But I’ve gotten the impression from various comments that it’s not enough to support the legality of same sex marriage. Being against it seems to lead to being called a bigot, particularly if you do anything to show your personal disapproval.

    So here’s the final thing I want to say (on this thread anyway) about the “being called a bigot” and “doesn’t think people should express normative opinions” thing.

    I hold many values which are values precisely because I think following them will lead to increased well-being for individuals and society. We all hold values like that — values that in our opinion trump our desire to be liked by everyone and/or accept all people’s actions or beliefs. Matthew Kaal and I were discussing in another thread last week how one such value we have in common is the value that murder is wrong. I’m completely comfortable with judging people who take another person’s life for doing that — and for accepting that they might hate me or experience negative consequences (hopefully not capitol punishment, since I am against murder, but likely life in prison) for their actions.

    So if holding anti-gay or anti-feminist beliefs is that important to you, you’ll need to accept that some (perhaps even many) people in this world will judge you for that. Will even say they believe your beliefs to be bigoted.

    Saying you have the freedom to hold those beliefs doesn’t equal that saying that I’ll stop speaking out about why I think those beliefs are wrong, why I think people should not hold those beliefs, why I think another way of thinking and being is better.

    It’s just saying I’m not going to try and stop you from saying what your beliefs are, and that I will defend your right to espouse values I think are harmful.

  43. intheagora says:

    “the sort of Christians who are deeply invested in the ideal of dominant / submissive relationship dynamics”

    Negative stereotype alert.

    Not to be confused with the presumably more secular Harvard Munch, I suppose.

    No wonder liberals and conservatives can’t talk.

  44. Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: Negative stereotype alert. Not to be confused with the presumably more secular Harvard Munch, I suppose.

    It surely cannot have escaped you that when I talked about
    “the sort of Christians who are deeply invested in the ideal of dominant / submissive relationship dynamics” I was including myself in that group?

    You really may want to work on your reading comprehension (and I’m speaking as a somewhat culturally conservative Christian here).

  45. Hector_St_Clare says:

    Jake,

    The problem with high levels of education (at least, as it’s set up in our culture) is that it also contributes to much lower birth rates.

    College educated women generally aren’t having many children out of marriage, but the problem is they aren’t having enough children *at all*.

  46. Kevin says:

    @Diane

    “But I’ve gotten the impression from various comments that it’s not enough to support the legality of same sex marriage. Being against it seems to lead to being called a bigot, particularly if you do anything to show your personal disapproval.”

    And I’ve gotten the impression that most people opposed to same-sex marriage largely oppose it because they don’t approve of gay people and their relationships. And in my mind, when a person believes one group deserves preferential status, or another group deserves marginalized status, that is inherently bigoted. Bigoted doesn’t mean ablaze with hatred, but simply, “how I feel about a type or kind of person impacts my opinion on the matter.”

    I’d also add that the single biggest single reason people discard their opposition to same-sex marriage, it’s because they learn of a friend or family members who’s gay. Let’s call it the “Portman Effect,” if it hasn’t yet been labeled. It’s not that they have some new understanding of marriage, but their attitude towards gayness changes. Isn’t that bigotry (or actually, the undoing of bigotry)? By contrast, you never hear of someone reviewing the history of marriage and saying, “oh yeah, I’ve researched marriage and there’s all kinds of permissible arrangements, and redefinitions over time, which I didn’t know about before, so now I support legal same-sex marriage.”

    Maybe I’m arguing a kind of “theoretical” bigotry, where indifference to the plight of a specific minority is acceptable, where one wouldn’t tolerate the same plight for some other minority. In other words, it’s ok to oppose same-sex marriage but if there were ever a “marriage is procreation!” movement to deny marriage rights to the infertile or elderly, one would oppose it.

  47. Jake says:

    Hector: why is that a bad thing? An educated woman can’t control her life? But if she could count on maternity leave – a year – and the support of health care and the certainty of day care and then pre K she might be more able to arrange her life to have a baby. As they do in France. Or Sweden. Or Denmark. And then once they’re born they’ll educate them.

  48. Diane M says:

    @Jake – Providing day care doesn’t seem to increase the amount of children educated women have.

    I’m not sure what would and I’m not sure we need to. However, the biggest barrier I see to having kids for highly educated women is the time required early on to get educated and established in a profession. By the time you start having kids, you are less likely to have more than two.

    Another possible barrier isn’t so much needing day care (highly educated professional women tend to have the money for it). It’s the fact that if you take more time off from work, you’ll fall behind in your career (which you have now invested a lot in).

    So you’d need to make it more acceptable to take substantial amounts of time off or work part-time.

  49. intheagora says:

    Hector,

    I don’t think it is appropriate for anyone, conservative or liberal, to use the negative stereotype (dominant/submissive) you used. I found it to be offensive, as would many conservatives, and I would hope, many liberals as well. I don’t see how it contributes to the discussion.

    Re Massachusetts:

    Massachusetts has a low divorce rate, which is good, but also a below average marriage rate, even with an expanded definition of marriage.

    Massachusetts has a low rate of teen pregnancies, but it also has a low fertility rate overall, 48th among the 50 states and well below the replacement level.

    This is sustainable only if Massachusetts imports people from the rest of the country or from overseas, acting as a fertility sink as it were. This level of fertility is only sustainable on a national basis if the U.S. imports people from the rest of the world.