Why Marriage Matters

Pre-dating any form of government, marriage has been regarded over the ages and across cultures as the fundamental unit of society.

Moreover, due to the innate biological differences between men and women and the unique procreative capacity of an opposite-sex union, marriage is, and always has been, understood in civilized society as only between a man and a woman.

No other purpose of marriage can plausibly explain the institution’s existence, let alone its ubiquity. Indeed, if human beings reproduced independently and human offspring was self-sufficient, would any culture have developed an institution anything like what we know as marriage?”i

California has a vital interest in responsible procreation and childrearing.  Because only relationships between men and women can produce children, and children are most likely to thrive when raised by the father and mother who brought them into this world, opposite-sex relationships have the potential to further—or harm—this vital interest in a way that other types of relationships do not.  Therefore, government has distinguished opposite-sex couples and steered procreative unions into marriage.  As American jurisprudence has long recognized, marriage is the foundation of family and society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.ii Today, Californians and others must continue to protect and preserve traditional marriage to sustain American culture as we know it.

The creation, nurture, and socialization of the next generation is mainly accomplished through the family unit. Traditional marriage is intended to provide to every child both a mother and father who are accountable to each other, their children, and the common good. By identifying children with their parents, the social system powerfully motivates individuals to settle into an enduring procreative union and take care of the ensuing offspring.iii

While it is true that some opposite-sex couples cannot, or choose not to, have children; throughout history, societies have chosen to forego the ultimately futile attempt to police fertility and childbearing intentions and have relied instead on the commonsense presumption that marital relationships between men and women are, in general, capable of procreation.

At the same time, societies have never required that would-be spouses actually have or form “satisfying relationships” and “deep emotional bonds and strong commitments,” which are the reasons that same-sex marriage proponents often give for equal recognition of their unions.

While the government has little interest in two consenting adults who share a deep bond, it has a critical interest in a union that is capable of producing children. Just as government protects other fundamental concepts of ordered liberty, it has necessarily protected marriage to ensure that it exists to conceive and nurture healthy children that will sustain civilization.

Redefining marriage to include same-sex couples would have to alter the institution. As an initial matter, such a redefinition would eliminate California’s ability to provide special recognition and support to those relationships that uniquely further the vital interests that marriage has always served.

But more profoundly, same-sex marriage would further undercut the idea that procreation is intrinsically connected to marriage. It would undermine the idea that children need both a mother and a father, further weakening the societal norm that men should take responsibility for the children they beget. And, same-sex marriage would likely corrode marital norms of permanence, monogamy, and fidelity.

Professor Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University, a same-sex marriage supporter, identifies same-sex marriage as “the most recent development in the deinstitutionalization of marriage.” He further states that if deinstitutionalization continues, the number of people who ever marry could fall further, and due to high levels of out-of-wedlock childbirth, cohabitation, and divorce, people will spend less of their lives in intact marriages than in the past.iv

Other societies have experienced this firsthand. After the Netherlands became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2001, rates of out-of-wedlock childbirth, cohabitation and divorce were all exacerbated in the aftermath of redefining marriage.v

In summary, California has a vital interest in responsible procreation and childrearing. Because only relationships between men and women can produce children, and children are most likely to thrive when raised by the father and mother who brought them into this world, opposite-sex relationships have the potential to further—or harm—this vital interest in a way that other types of relationships do not. Therefore, government has distinguished opposite-sex couples and steered procreative unions into marriage. As American jurisprudence has long recognized, marriage is the foundation of family and society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.vi

Today, Californians and others must continue to protect and preserve traditional marriage to sustain American culture as we know it.


 

i Robert P. George, et al., What is Marriage? at 43, forthcoming in HARV. J. L. & PUB. POL’Y (Draft, Sept. 15, 2010), available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1677717.

iiMaynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 211 (1888); see also Williams v. North Carolina, 317 U.S.

iiiThe Meaning & Significance of Marriage in Contemporary Society 7-8, in CONTEMPORARY MARRIAGE: COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVES ON A CHANGING INSTITUTION (Kingsley Davis, ed. 1985) (ER430-31).

ivAndrew J. Cherlin, The Deinstitutionalization of American Marriage, 66 J.MARRIAGE & FAM. 848, 848, 850 (2004) (ER407).

vStatistics Netherlands, Marriages 1950-2008 (ER970); Statistics Netherlands, Unmarried Couples With Children 1995-2009 (ER981); Statistics Netherlands, Total Single Parent Households, 1995-2009 (ER978).52

viMaynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 211 (1888); see also Williams v. North Carolina, 317 U.S.


OTHER RESOURCES

Marriage and the Public Good: Ten Principals – The Witherspoon Institute
Marriage Facts – Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy
Life Without Father: Compelling New Evidence that Fatherhood & Marriage are Indispensable for the Good of Children & Society – David Popenoe
No Basis: What the Studies Don’t Tell Us About Same-Sex Parenting – Marriage Law Project