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For Safety and Soundness, Vote YES on 8

John on November 2, 2008 at 9:03 am

Blogger Patterico has a post titled No on Proposition 8: Allow Gay Marriage in California. He argues:

Since gays do not consciously choose their sexual orientation, refusing to give them access to an institution available to heterosexuals is discrimination. The policy question is whether this discrimination is justified on a societal level.

My conclusion is that it is not.

Those who want to ban gay marriage advance many alleged benefits of such a ban. One of their main arguments is that marriage is the cornerstone of our civilization — and if it is defined as anything other than its traditional meaning of a union between a man and a woman, it risks losing all meaning.


I have never heard a single heterosexual person blame the failure of his or her marriage on the availability of homosexual marriage. And if someone tried, I suspect they would be seen as scapegoating.

Yes, I agree that would probably be scapegoating. It’s a fair argument, but also a misdirected one. What Patterico fails to account for is the affect gay marriage will have, not on my marriage or on his, but on the vast swath of people who are still considering marriage as an option. In other words, he’s only looking for the effects of gay marriage where, I believe, they are very unliely to be found.

In a comment left at Hot Air (where Patterico’s post was highlighted) I make the following rebuttal:

When two people divorce it may not make my marriage less meaningful to me, but it certainly makes marriage less meaningful to all those who haven’t married yet. And in fact, this is exactly the trend we’ve seen over the last 40 years. As divorce becomes common, more people are waiting longer and longer to marry, or simply don’t marry at all.

Similarly, if “two dudes marry” it may not directly affect my marriage on a personal level, but it does affect the public meaning of marriage as a whole. And, if as is expected, gay marriage turns out to be more of a mess than straight marriage has become, then its public stock drops even further. Fewer people bother to marry. My marriage may not suffer as a result but marriage as an institution does.

It’s a lot like the financial crisis. A few years ago, one might well have said “I support subprime loans. It’s not as if someone buying their home on an interest only loan affects my mortgage.” True enough, right? I keep paying the same amount I agreed to the loan docs, regardless of what somebody down the street agrees to.

But in fact, the overall system is affected. Behavior related to mortgages changed at the micro and macro level. At first the market trends up (as would marriage) as many new people get into the market. But eventually the bubble bursts and the relatively higher default rate of the subprime market creates a systemic crisis.

What does a “systemic crisis” look like in terms of marriage? It looks like a civilization where significantly fewer people get married, where there are many more short term relationships (because the breakup rate for co-habiting couples is much higher) and consequently there is a lower birth rate and a far higher illegitimacy rate.

In essence, it looks like the situation we already see in black households, where approximately 2/3 of children grow up without married parents. Social consequences? The highest rates of abortion, crime, substance abuse, incarceration and poverty of just about any segment of the population. Turns out that families don’t work so well without marriage.

Of course, going back to the analogy, my personal mortgage still isn’t affected by the crisis. Well, except that I’m now on the hook for a ginormous bailout effort in addition to my mortgage. It’ll be the same with this. I’ll be on the hook for more prisons, more rehabilitation efforts, more criminal courts, more public housing, more welfare payments to single mothers, more street crime and even larger segments of DC (where I grew up as a for instance) will be places I dare not walk through at night for fear of being robbed or murdered by roving gangs of fatherless thugs

But other than that, it doesn’t affect me.

The well-meaning people, like Patterico, who think this is a “civil rights” issue sound, to me, a lot like Barney Frank talking about subprime mortgages circa 2003, i.e. “to raise safety and soundness as a kind of general shibboleth ”

When it comes to marriage, safety and soundness matters a GREAT deal. Vote YES on 8.

So, returning to Patterico’s argument, he’s correct that gay marriage won’t affect the vast majority of currently married people. However, that’s not where I would expect the effects of gay marriage to be seen. Gay marriage will harm the institution of marriage as a whole and the results of that harm will be seen not so much in higher divorce as in lower rates of marriage in succeeding generations. The consequences of this will be an increase in illegitimacy which is both very detrimental to society and extremely difficult to combat. Fatherlessness is one of those things that’s best cured by an ounce of prevention rather than 700 billion pounds of cure.

Incidentally, this is one reason proponents of 8 want to connect it to what will be taught to children. (And why opponents of 8 are quick to say it has nothing to do with kids). The results of this change aren’t aimed at us who are already married, they’re aimed at the next generation. Both sides know this intuitively though only one is willing to admit it.

To his great credit, Patterico has been willing to respectfully engage those who disagree with him. Of course I’m willing to do the same. I realize this is a hot-button issue, but it would be nice to see a bit more light than heat in the comments.

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Category: Marriage & Family |

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