Dawes, the Los Angeles folk-rock band, writes about life’s significant emotional events in the song A Little Bit of Everything.
In one stanza, a man tells his fiancée addressing wedding invitations that she seems stressed about the upcoming wedding. She replies that’s not the case. She says she feels good about the task and adds, “I think that love is so much easier than you realize. If you can give yourself to someone, then you should.”
Dawes is not the only one with marriage on the mind, traditional, or same-sex.
Ohio’s Rob Portman last week became the first Republican senator to endorse same-sex marriage. Sen. Portman changed his position after learning his son was gay. Evidently, he concluded that if you can give yourself to someone than you should, no matter the sexual orientation.
Within days, Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, also voiced her support.
They follow David Blankenhorn, founder of the Institute for American Values, a conservative organization dedicated to strengthening the family unit. He dropped his opposition in June.
Blankenhorn wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times titled How My View on Gay Marriage Changed. Blankenhorn had been a vocal critic of same-sex marriage in both a book he wrote about the future of marriage and in testimony supporting Proposition 8, the California initiative that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In his Times piece, he wrote, “But there are more good things under heaven than these beliefs. For me, the most important is the equal dignity of homosexual love. I don’t believe that opposite-sex and same sex relationships are the same, but I do believe, with growing numbers if Americans, that the time for denigrating or stigmatizing same-sex relationships is over. Whatever one’s definition of marriage, legally recognizing gay and lesbian couples and their children is a victory for basic fairness.”
Blankenhorn’s hope is that by getting past the issue of same-sex marriage, the nation will concentrate on the benefits society can reap from two-parent families.
Will this acceptance of same-sex marriage doom the institution of marriage?
I don’t think so.
Heterosexuals and America’s economic reality are to blame for the dismal state of marriage and how it affects us as a society.
A new study adds to the discussion. Entitled Knot Yet, it was conducted for the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. It concludes that the age men and women are marrying is at an historic high—29 for men, 27 for women.
The main reason?
The state of the economy and the cost of college.
Young people are taking longer to finish college. They graduate an average $25,000 in debt. And, they have a difficult time finding a job. Many are also reluctant to assume a partner’s debt.
For those not pursuing post-secondary education, the prospect of finding a good-paying job with benefits to support a family diminishes with each passing year. They too are reluctant to make a life-long commitment facing such an uncertain future.
While young people have their doubts about marriage, they don’t seem to think the same way about parenthood as 48 percent of all first births are to unmarried women, most of them in their 20s.
Studies have shown financial stress is the leading cause of divorce so the young deserve some credit for their caution. Besides, many young people today have grown up in broken homes, or in blended families, so they have seen the heartache and misery that both marriage and divorce might have inflicted on their parents.
Each of us sees marriage as a personal issue. We base our decision on the person we want to give ourselves to, our economic condition, our moral code and the dreams we have for ourselves. Same-sex couples use the same criteria. This is what Blankenhorn has concluded. Marriage is an issue of personal morality, but the institution of marriage is a national concern. Table the morality and maybe we can deal with the devastating effects a disintegrating institution has on us as a society and our children.
Studies have shown children from single parent homes are more likely to grow up in poverty, use drugs, have emotional problems, commit crime and have children out of wedlock. The cost we all bear is staggering.
Single uneducated mothers particularly have a rough time. They are both primary caretakers and bread-winners usually working low-paying, part-time jobs while fulfilling the roles of both mother and father. Hard enough in this fast paced, modern society for two parents to raise a child let alone one.
So, what can be done?
The Institute for American Values makes two suggestions. First, eliminate the so called “marriage penalty” in the tax code. Second, change the governmental benefit systems. A single mother living apart from the father can receive governmental assistance including housing subsidies, Medicaid, and food stamps that total 20 percent more income than if the couple were married.
This assistance, while well-intentioned, many times undermines marriage because the financial penalty to marry is significant.
This is the discussion we need to have. How can we strengthen an institution that can be a way out of poverty, that can help grow children into balanced, responsible adults and that can help us achieve our dreams when we decide to give ourselves to another?
Sen. Portman, Hillary Clinton and David Blankenhorn deserve credit for their courage to drop their opposition. Same-sex marriage will not destroy marriage.