- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

“How long must the tail wag the dog?”

With these words, Institute for American Values President David Blankenhorn issues a plea for cultural literacy and intellectual honesty in the debate over marriage — an institution, he says, that will be irreparably harmed if homosexual couples are allowed to “wed.”

Marriage is more than just a legal commitment between two persons in love, Mr. Blankenhorn writes in his new book, “The Future of Marriage.” It is an ancient, universal social institution, rooted in biology and supported by religion, which guides men and women to bridge their differences, form exclusive unions, create families and kinship networks, and live in a way that best benefits themselves, their children and those around them.

Marriage is also the institution that bestows public approval on a man and a woman’s sexual intercourse and urges couples to work out their problems so they will stay together and give their children the two things they want and need most: their own father and mother who love each other and who love them, says Mr. Blankenhorn.

However, the same-sex “marriage” debate tends to ignore these powerful “institutional” aspects of marriage and fixates on the “personal commitment” part of marriage, he says in his book, where he calls such a focus “the tail wagging the dog.”

This is why the press keeps repeating the rhetorical question of how does the marriage of a loving homosexual couple threaten the heterosexual couple down the street — it’s as if this were the paramount question and its answer settles the matter, Mr. Blankenhorn told a recent event sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC).

In fact, he says, researchers have identified at least 24 negative consequences of legalizing same-sex “marriage,” virtually all of which relate to how it changes the institutional aspects of marriage.

What’s at stake with same-sex “marriage” is that it reinforces the “deinstitutionalization” — the weakening or overturning of customary forms — of marriage for everyone, Mr. Blankenhorn says, adding that some people support same-sex “marriage” precisely because they approve of such a deinstitutionalization.

Marriage is already battered, he says, noting that many left-leaning academics and intellectuals — since Marxist theorist Frederick Engels more than 120 years ago — have labeled it “a failed and dangerous institution.” More than a few contemporary researchers predict that marriage is inexorably evolving into diverse family forms. Meanwhile, many American men and women are already living lifestyles that disconnect marriage from sex and childbearing.

Marriage needs renewing and strengthening, says Mr. Blankenhorn, who wrote the 1995 book “Fatherless America” to address the social consequences of families without fathers.

Same-sex “marriage” certainly offers benefits to same-sex couples and could have many other positive social outcomes, he says. If adding same-sex unions was beneficial to the institution of marriage or even neutral — it didn’t undermine it — “I am confident that most marriage advocates would favor its adoption. I know I would.”

But same-sex “marriage” hastens the day when marriage loses its profound shared public meanings, such as the lifelong bond between a man and a woman, sexual exclusivity, the expectation of natural procreation and provision of both a father and a mother for each child, says Mr. Blankenhorn.

“The main question in the United States regarding the future of marriage is not whether we will adopt gay marriage” — that’s the tail wagging the dog, he writes. “The main question is whether the social institution of marriage will become weaker or stronger.”

At the EPPC event, Jonathan Rauch, a guest scholar at Brookings Institution and writer for the National Journal and Atlantic monthly, said Mr. Blankenhorn’s arguments “lift the debate” but are ultimately flawed.

“I see same-sex marriage as flowing quite naturally and gracefully into what marriage has become today and indeed should be today: a commitment by couples to each other and their community — underscore ‘and their community’ — to care for each other and for their children, including non-biological children,” said Mr. Rauch, an open homosexual who wrote the 2004 book “Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America.”

“The kind of institution we want,” he says, “includes public vows, in-laws, medical obligations and yes, divorce. Marriage is very hard to get out of and should be.”

Marriage, Mr. Rauch says, has four essential social functions: the rearing of children; providing a transition to stable domestic life for young adults, particularly men; providing a “safe harbor” for sex; and providing lifelong caregivers for each other.

All homosexual unions meet three out of four of these goals, and homosexual couples with children meet four out of four goals, he says.

“Gay couples and the kids they’re raising won’t disappear,” adds Mr. Rauch. If homosexuals cannot participate in the institution, the nation runs a great risk of increasing its number of nonmarital families and of marriage becoming stigmatized as discriminatory.

“In my view, the best way to encourage marriage is to encourage marriage,” he says.

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