Monday, March 12, 2007

Article on the effects of gay marriage on society

I've recently been asked: In what way do you think legalizing marriage for gays and lesbians will undermine society and traditional marriage? Aside from the slippery-slope problem (If gays, why not pediphiles or other sexual inclinations that people are "born with"?), there is the problem outlined in thie long, but informative article:

As rising out-of-wedlock birthrates disassociate heterosexual marriage from parenting, gay marriage becomes conceivable. If marriage is only about a relationship between two people, and is not intrinsically connected to parenthood, why shouldn't same-sex couples be allowed to marry? It follows that once marriage is redefined to accommodate same-sex couples, that change cannot help but lock in and reinforce the very cultural separation between marriage and parenthood that makes gay marriage conceivable to begin with.

We see this process at work in the radical separation of marriage and parenthood that swept across Scandinavia in the nineties. If Scandinavian out-of-wedlock birthrates had not already been high in the late eighties, gay marriage would have been far more difficult to imagine. More than a decade into post-gay marriage Scandinavia, out-of-wedlock birthrates have passed 50 percent, and the effective end of marriage as a protective shield for children has become thinkable. Gay marriage hasn't blocked the separation of marriage and parenthood; it has advanced it.

WE SEE THIS most clearly in Norway. In 1989, a couple of years after Sweden broke ground by offering gay couples the first domestic partnership package in Europe, Denmark legalized de facto gay marriage. This kicked off a debate in Norway (traditionally more conservative than either Sweden or Denmark), which legalized de facto gay marriage in 1993. (Sweden expanded its benefits packages into de facto gay marriage in 1994.) In liberal Denmark, where out-of-wedlock birthrates were already very high, the public favored same-sex marriage. But in Norway, where the out-of-wedlock birthrate was lower--and religion traditionally stronger--gay marriage was imposed, against the public will, by the political elite.

Norway's gay marriage debate, which ran most intensely from 1991 through 1993, was a culture-shifting event. And once enacted, gay marriage had a decidedly unconservative impact on Norway's cultural contests, weakening marriage's defenders, and placing a weapon in the hands of those who sought to replace marriage with cohabitation. Since its adoption, gay marriage has brought division and decline to Norway's Lutheran Church. Meanwhile, Norway's fast-rising out-of-wedlock birthrate has shot past Denmark's. Particularly in Norway--once relatively conservative--gay marriage has undermined marriage's institutional standing for everyone.

Whole article found at:

While you may still disagree with the conclusions, I hope this article helps to explain the underlying reasoning some of us think gay marriage is big step in the wrong direction.


julieunplugged said...

Hi Carie. I have seen this article before. Do you think that the demise of marriage preceded the legaliation of gay marriage though? It appears so from the description of events. I do see that the 1960s really caused a cataclysmic shift in social norms related to marriage (the pill, cohabitation and divorce).

What struck me about the Scandanavian study is that while marriage was in decline among heteros in Norway and Sweden, the gay community wanted the right to marry and go it! That struck me as ironic and I didn't know what to make of it.

I didn't understand this:

If Scandinavian out-of-wedlock birthrates had not already been high in the late eighties, gay marriage would have been far more difficult to imagine.

Why does it follow that out of wedlock births makes gay marriages more conceivable? I'm finding it hard to understand why heterosexual marriage is less practiced/appealing once gay marriage is legal.

Europeans don't have the same attachment to marriage that Americans do, that's for sure. I just don't know if the fault can be laid at the door of legalizing gay marriage. It seems to me that gay marriage came into play about the time the tide had turned against marriage for heteros.

I guess what I hear you and some of the others saying is that a decline in valuing heterosexual marriage leads to an openness in non-traditional marriages (since heterosexual marriage is not longer important, there's no need to keep it exclusviely for heteros). Is that right? And the reason it is worrisome is that gay marriage may be a harbinger of just how far heterosexuals have gone in disregarding the value of marriage period which seems to convey that the family unit is no longer foundational to society.

So preventing gays from marrying is a way of saying that family and marriage ought to be valued more highly than they are by heterosexuals. Is that what you are saying?

Kansas Bob said...

Did you unwittingly link homosexuality to pedophilia? Might not be what you intended to do.

Pedophilia is illegal, can be heterosexual, and involves innocent children.

carrie said...

I wasn't trying to link pedophilia to homosexuality. I'm aware that pedophilia often is heterosexual. What I was getting at was one argument used to promote homosexual marriage- that they are born that way and that we have no right to say whether their sexual orientation is "right" or not. (I guess I could stick necrophilia in there instead, and then we wouldn't be dealing with the issue of minors.)

Fifty years ago legalized abortion would have been unthinkable for most Americans. In fact, when the RvW was decided, the majority of Americans were against legalized abortions. The fact that abortion was legalized had a lot to do with the acceptance of killing unborn children as a life-style choice. I believe we can make baby steps down a road of bad choices, like a frog coming slowly to a boil. I guess I feel this is a line in the sand that shouldn't be crossed. Each step away from seeing the nuclear family as the place for sexual intimacy and raising children weakens our society.

Obviously, this is my opinion. I don't expect everyone to agree with me. ;-) I'm not trying to offend.

carrie said...


I'm sorry I don't have a lot of time to develop this. I'm gone all day tomorrow at a workshop and need to get ready.

Here is what I got from the article- the sexual revolution of the 60's weakened the nuclear family by divorcing (no pun intended) sex from marriage and child-rearing in a significant way. That opened the way for a more tolerant view of homosexual unions. Since out-of-wedlock births are already high, and since the family is already being devalued as a societal unit for child-rearing and as the acceptable place for sexual intimacy, why not accept all types of people getting married? Marriage is two people together for the purposes of mutual support and for sex (which it is), but is no longer seen as essential, or primarily, for raising a healthy next generation.

It is my opinion, and the gist of the article, I think, that codifying homosexual marriage further weakens the intitution of marriage, the family as the structural unit of society, and finally society as a whole.

You mentioned on your blog that you hadn't heard any real reasons people felt homosexual marriage was harmful to society as a whole. I decided to post my reasons here so I wouldn't seem argumentative. ;-) I was formulating my post when this article was posted on LP. It said what I wanted to and gave some stats.


Ampersand said...

Carrie, I really appreciate you taking the time to help me, and others, understand your thinking on this difficult issue.

First off, I don't think there is a slippery slope toward pedophilia being OK since it does harm to the other person and the other person cannot reasonably consent. Nor can an animal, if you want to go down that slippery slope.

But, seriously, I did not come to debate. I came to try to understand.

It's this point, from the article, that I find interesting:

"This suggests that gay marriage is both an effect and a cause of the increasing separation between marriage and parenthood. As rising out-of-wedlock birthrates disassociate heterosexual marriage from parenting, gay marriage becomes conceivable. If marriage is only about a relationship between two people, and is not intrinsically connected to parenthood, why shouldn't same-sex couples be allowed to marry? It follows that once marriage is redefined to accommodate same-sex couples, that change cannot help but lock in and reinforce the very cultural separation between marriage and parenthood that makes gay marriage conceivable to begin with."

I can understand the logic that separation of marriage from procreation legitimizes same sex unions. Although I have a hard time knowing how big of a determining factor it is in overall societal and legal changes for gay couples. I have a harder time seeing the reverse since many gay couples want to be married with children. That would seem to me to bolster the idea of marriage and children going together.

But, you do have me thinking about your point.

Do you think the statistical basis of the article is strong for causality both ways? I feel like I can never be sure about such things, even when the statistics bolster my own point of view.

I also wonder if procreation outside of marriage necessarily erodes society. I did read the part of the article about how the welfare state and taxes have increased in the Nordic states, but still I wonder...

carrie said...

Ampersand- Good to "see" you!

I know the slippery-slope model is not a popular one, and I respect that you don't agree with me. But it does happen. Infantacide (usually through withholding food and water) happens in the country every day, mostly to infants with disabilities. I don't think this could be happening unless abortion had already been legalized. It was one of the warning given early on in the abortion debate that was ridiculed by pro-aborts...there was not way that would happen in this country! Well, it is.

As far as homosexual marriage bolstering marriage and parenthood, the article addressed that and found that in Scandinavia, it hasn't.

As far as the statistics go...I am with you on that. I never know just how much weight to give them, even when they support my beliefs. I know it is too easy to pass statistics through a 'friendly filter' as it were.

I want to thank everyone for the tone of the conversation. You have all been very kind to this blog newbie.


logicalinks said...

Hi Carrie,

First time to your site. Thanks for opening up the discussion.

As you know from my responses on Julie's site, I'm a lesbian, and so this discussion is not just theoretical to me, it impacts me in a very real way.

You, of course, every right to believe what you believe, whether it's for a religious reason, or any other reason that you've arrived at it. However, IF it is religious reasons that is keeping gay people from enjoying the legal benefits of partnership, then it really has no place in government.

It seems that unless someone can show how gay people getting married would have a real and definite, tangible impact on other people's marriages, then it should be a totally civil and legal issue, not a religious one.

As you know, the no-fault divorce, birth control, and legalized abortion have done more to "weaken" the nuclear family than anything else. I put weaken in quotes because as I've said time and again, real marriage is in the heart.

For example, my own grandparents basically couldn't stand one another, but they stayed married over 60 years. They were mean and harsh to one another, and my grandfather beat my grandmother. As a result, every one of their kids, including my father, do not have a good idea of what a marriage should be—they are all bitter and cruel people. Which would have been the better situation—for divorce to not carry a stigma, and they move on to happiness, or staying together because it was just "what you do?" I'm not sure.

I guess what I'm getting at is that many anti-gay marriage folks seem to hold up the nuclear family as the norm. And I know in its mother/father/children setup, it is the norm. But when many say "nuclear family," they have an idealized sense, a Norman Rockwell version, of a happily-married and well-adjusted family unit. The older I get, the more I think that every single family in whatever configuration they exist, is dysfunctional—to varying degrees, of course, but dysfunctional, nonetheless.

My point there being that "family" can take on many forms, but where love and commitment is, there is less dysfunction.

I'm starting to lose my train of thought. And I know that I won't persuade you with my thoughts, just like you won't persuade me with yours. I guess I would just appeal to you to see that, at least from a civil rights standpoint, not from a religious standpoint, there is really no reason why I should not be able to benefit with my partner from the system which I pay into and abide by just like any other adult, American citizen.

When my thoughts are more clear, I might add some more, but this will do for now.

Again, thanks for opening the door for discussion.

logicalinks said...

The above post is from Cheryl from JulieUnplugged's site. I had to use my Google account name to post, and forgot to tell you who I am! :)

carrie said...

Hi Cheryl! I really appreciate you checking out my blog. (Thanks for cluing me in on who you are. I thought I knew, but didn't want to make a wrong assumption.)

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I know this is a personal situation for you that I can't fully appreciate. My religious views certainly inform my thoughts on this subject. My religious views will always be a part of how I vote and what I support or oppose. I don't see how it can be otherwise. I don't see how people can believe one thing and yet support something opposite. I've never understood the "I personally don't think abortion is right, but I support the right to choose." If abortion is wrong, it's wrong. And I have a duty to help stop it (following legal channels).

Living in a democracy means my point-of-view may win, or it may lose. I can live with losing. However, I think my point-of-view, whether based on my religious view or not, is valid in a democracy. We can't exclude religious opinion from the public square and maintain a democracy.


julieunplugged said...

Hey Carrie.

Just catching up here after being gone all day. Your reply to me at least helps me see the thread of logic in your viewpoint. I did more research on the Scandanavian study and it's interesting to see how each side uses it to support their views! The Weekly Standard is certainly more right wing which leads to one interpretation. I saw another response to the same study that used the statistics to show that about the time gay marriage was legalized, the divorce rates declined, etc. and the conclusion there was that gay marriage restored value to marriage.

(I know the WS addresses this issue by saying that co-habitation had already replaced marriage as the model for the family and so there were fewer marriages which meant fewer divorces by logical extension.)

What strikes me as a "step-back-from-my-position" view, then, is whether or not a case can be made that the government can or should control/guide/influence the preservation of heterosexual marriage as a building block to society.

The 1960s were a decade of explosive reaction against the tight controls of culture, religion, government and economic inequities... all over the world. The effects will outlive us. I guess I'm doubtful that the genie can be put back in the bottle (and honestly, given the climate of racism, prosecution of leftwing political ties - communist witchhunt, gender inequalities, and priority given to one religious viewpoint over others in the 1950s and previous, I don't think I want to go back).

So what I want to decide when I'm looking at political policy is how to balance interests because when these interests are unfairly skewed in a single direction, it leads to an eventual overthrow/rebellion by those who feel unfairly oppressed/restrained by the constraints.

Anyway, thanks for hosting more of the dialog. Learning how to talk civilly about these sensitive issues is worth a lot, I think.


carrie said...

Your point about "putting the genie back in the bottle" is well-taken. I'm not sure that's possible, either. There was much about the "good ole days" that wasn't good, to be sure. On the other hand, in reaction to what was wrong, the pendulum, imo, swung too far the other way. When the wheel of your vehicle slips off the edge of a road, the right thing to do is ease the vehicle back onto the right course before you wreck. On some roads that can be tricky, taking time and skill. Over-reacting and over-correcting may get you back on the highway, thereby solving the original problem. However, it's very likely to cause different but equally undesirable problems.

Learning how to talk civilly about these sensitive issues is worth a lot, I think.

I agree. My main reason for posting about these topics isn't to change anyone's mind. I find I learn a lot trying to articulate my position...some of these comments have taken me an hour or more to compose because I am struggling for a coherent way to say things, and also because the whole discussion makes me rethink and question my assumptions. I want to hear and be heard. My goal is understanding, not necessarily agreeing. :-)

Thelma said...

Thanks for writing this.