“One Man One Woman For Life” – Derek Jeter

June 5, 2012

If you tried to summarize canon law, scripture and Catholic Teaching into a bumper sticker, you couldn’t do worse with the title of this post. One of the ironies of the slogan is that if you lop off the last two words you may see the current slogan that defenders of traditional marriage use; “one man, one woman.” But if you want Matthew 19 in there, you need to add the “For Life.”

No one would be as audacious as to add those last two words today. In fact it might provoke some laughter at your sheer naïveté or lack of awareness of the state of the institution of marriage in American society. The facts are:

Married adults now divorce two-and-a-half times as often as adults did 20 years ago and four times as often as they did 50 years ago… between 40% and 60% of new marriages will eventually end in divorce. The probability within… the first five years is 20%, and the probability of its ending within the first 10 years is 33%… Perhaps 25% of children ages 16 and under live with a stepparent.
Brian K. Williams, Stacy C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom, Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships, 2005

The first comparison is to 40 years ago for this is when the first blow against traditional marriage occurred and it was a devastating one. They called it “No Fault Divorce” and within twenty years it had transformed the idea of traditional marriage, perhaps eliminating the concept of “Together Forever” outside of a few pop ballads. It took away the idea that marriage would be a permanent relationship.  Instead of the law having a presumption of permanence and society siding with the partner who sought that, the law now had a presumption of impermanence siding with the party who wants to end the marriage. The old law accommodated exceptions in certain situations to the rule of permanence but never supported the idea of impermanence. 

When you are up to your ass in alligators, goes the old proverb, it is difficult to remember that your initial objective was to drain the swamp. In this case it is more than instructional to recall the initial objectives in initiating no-fault divorce…

No-Fault was supposed to lower the cost for a “very small number of people” whose marriages had broken down. Divorce originally meant a long and involved process to prove abandonment, cruelty, incurable mental illness, or adultery. By the 1960s this had encouraged the use of collusive or deceptive practices to bypass the fault system and there was widespread agreement that something had to change.

The no-fault divorce “revolution” began in Oklahoma in 1953, but gained national impetus in 1969 in California, and was nearly completed in 1985 in South Dakota. In August 2010, New York’s governor, David Paterson, signed a bill removing mutual-consent requirements for “no-fault” divorce into law. One form or another of no-fault divorce has long been legal in all 50 U.S. states, and the District of Columbia.
Wikipedia, Divorce

As it rolled out across the country the main impetus to its growth was the virtual boon in employment and income it provided to divorce lawyers and family courts, so there became a groundswell for support of no-fault.  You would have had to have been brain dead to wish No-Fault Divorce on your fellow citizens in South Dakota in 1985 but the next best thing would have been a campaign of deception and misinformation brought by the folks who stood to gain from it. No-fault was deemed “good for kids” because it eliminated the difficulty and anguish of divorce or living in a loveless marriage. Happy parents, it was disastrously reasoned, make for happy kids, we were assured.

One of the dubious claims of the same-sex marriage crowd is that it will point to a state that has passed a gay marriage statute and then claim, “See, nothing has changed in that state.” Changes to traditional institutions such as marriage take years to work their ways out in social structures and the culture at large. The notion that no-fault divorce turned out to be “good for kids” is pretty much indefensible. The sheer misery that this change has meant for kids should be a sober reminder to anyone looking at the next set of proposals to change marriage that is being advanced by the same sex marriage crowd.

Much of the arguments against gay marriage proceed from discussions of homosexuality and the suitability of gays to be deemed worthy of the institution. Most of those criticisms are religious in nature and while those who make the arguments may be sincere and genuine in their critiques of homosexual acts (not homosexuality as is widely perceived) there remain some serious objections to same-sex marriage based entirely on its conception of marriage and how it will change traditional marriage.

Instead of marriage being a gender based institution ordered towards the procreation, rearing and protection of children, marriage will become a gender neutral institution with concern for children moved completely to the side. It will become an adult centered institution.  The redefinition of marriage will change the incentives about what kind of  unions to form and whether to get married at all. 

Legalizing same sex marriage is part of the movement to make same-sex marriage and opposite sex relationships equally acceptable. There are many things that are going to change when we redefine marriage to be the union of any two persons instead of being the union of a man and a woman. Much the way it was a big mistake to think that no-fault divorce was going to change one little thing it is similarly a big mistake to think that same sex marriage will change just one little thing. Opposition to same sex marriage has almost nothing to do with what you think about people in same sex marriages – quite unlike what Judge Walker in San Francisco  or what the city of San Francisco alleged in its brief in the 9th circuit court recently. It has to do with what we think of marriage. The issue is MARRIAGE, not GAYS.

My arguments here are based upon those made by Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, she of the Ruth Institute. Check this out: This powerful video captures her testimony to the Rhode Island House Judiciary on March 1, 2011. Reportedly, silence followed her testimony in our nation’s most Catholic state. See if she doesn’t blow you away, too.

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