I used to be a member of a website known as Ricochet. I was a member for a couple years and let my membership lapse once. Another member whom I had gotten to know talked me into renewing. So I did for a year, but let it lapse again in March. I was very busy on another project and Ricochet can be very distracting. I’m finished with that project now but I don’t think I’ll renew my membership. I’m not really a good fit with the sort of site it is. Somebody actually pointed this out to me once but I didn’t believe him. In retrospect I think he was right.
Ricochet is a blogging site where people can join and write posts for other members to read and comment on. These posts are behind a paywall so that only paying members can read them. If the post is very good, it will get “promoted” to the front page where they are available for anybody to see and members to comment on.
Even though I’m not a member, once in a while I will go back and read some posts there on the front page. I did so just the other day. It was actually a podcast, not a written post. I’m not normally a podcast person but it was an interview of R.R. Reno, editor of First Things. I’ve read a number of his articles over the last few years and I respect his opinion. He was being interviewed about his new book, called Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society. Before listening, I scrolled down to the comments. I saw some familiar faces there and one of them remarked that he didn’t understand what Reno said when he made this statement in the interview:
“[Gay marriage is] a luxury good for the rich that is being paid for by the poor…”
Another member wondered the same thing. I listened to the podcast and discovered that Reno partially answered their question. Previous to the quote he made this statement:
Our moral transformations of the 60s has actually created a moral culture that benefits the rich and harms the poor.
And after it he said this:
…as marriage declines among the poor but remains relatively strong among the well-to-do.
I feel confident to state that Reno is saying that that same-sex marriage will accelerate the declining marriage rate among the poor. They (and their children) will not receive the benefits of marriage, and this is how they will pay for same-sex marriage.
We all agree that marriage has benefits for couples and their children. Social liberals and social conservatives disagree as to what same-sex marriage will do to the understanding of marriage and therefore the distribution of those benefits. Social liberals believe that same-sex marriage extends those benefits to more people; therefore, the declining marriage rate among the poor should decrease if they are correct–more of them will marry over time. But social conservatives believe the opposite: that same-sex marriage will slowly accelerate the declining marriage rate among the poor–fewer of them will marry over time. On the surface that might seem counter-intuitive. After all, allowing more couples to marry seems like more people would marry, not fewer. Let me break it down.
Social conservatives argue that same-sex marriage radically changes how people view what marriage is. It changes this view so much that fewer people will see the need to participate in marriage. Fewer married people means fewer people (and children) will receive the benefits of marriage. Let me quote from Robert George’s book, What is Marriage:
[The new view of marriage is] the union of two people (whether of the same sex or of opposite sexes) who commit to romantically loving and caring for each other and to sharing the burdens and benefits of domestic life.
People don’t need to get married in order to have those benefits–they can just live together instead. Plus, living together has an advantage over marriage: no risk of divorce.
If social conservatives are right, this new view of marriage will accelerate the declining marriage rate among the poor. Fewer poor people, including poor children, will receive the benefits of marriage. This is how the poor will pay for same-sex marriage. Here’s a chart I made that shows each sub-issue and each side’s view.
|Same-sex marriage will:||Social liberals say:||Social conservatives say:|
|Decrease the marriage rate among opposite-sex couples over time||No||Yes|
|Harm the poor due to the declining marriage rate among them over time||No||Yes|
|Increase the abortion rate due to fewer women getting married over time||No||Yes|
The jury is still out as to which side is correct on these sub-issues, and it may take a full generation for the effect to be measured accurately. Given that social liberals have a terrible track record when it comes to understanding sex and marriage at the marco level, meaning, that same-sex marriage is just one more “sexual freedom” along a path that is already well-known to be harmful to children and society, my money is on the socially conservative position.
Finally, I hope you noticed something important: I did not argue that marriage, in an objective sense, has changed. This was deliberate because it has not.