Some 74 family and marriage specialists appealed Tuesday for an end to the fighting over gay marriage, saying both gay and straight marriage-supporters are needed to address the breakdown in America's marriage culture.
"Marriage is fracturing in America," with educated couples embracing it even as middle-class and working-class couples are abandoning it, Institute for American Values (IAV) board members David Blankenhorn, Jonathan Rauch, William A. Galston and Francis Fukuyama said in a statement.
But despite this national crisis, people remain "riveted" on the debate about gay marriage, they said.
That gay-marriage conversation "is at a dead end," they said. "We propose a new conversation that brings together gays and lesbians who want to strengthen marriage with straight people who want to do the same."
The new conversation "does not presuppose or require agreement on gay marriage," they added, "but it does ask a new question: Who among us, gay or straight, wants to strengthen marriage?"
Among the 74 scholars endorsing the IAV statement are divorce-reformers John Crouch and William J. Doherty; welfare specialists Ron Haskins and Kay Hymowitz; fatherhood scholar David Popenoe; marriage-revival supporter Diane Sollee; and Commentary magazine editor John Podhoretz.
The institute's call to action plays to its strengths — it has centers that examine healthy families, thrifty living and civil society. The group takes no official, corporate stance on gay marriage, but social-conservative groups were skeptical of Tuesday's announcement.
Institute founder Mr. Blankenhorn's 2012 decision to fully support gay marriage personally has had consequences with his socially conservative supporters.
A "large block of longtime funders and board members pulled out," costing the institute "$560,000 of an unrestricted-fund budget of about $900,000," Mr. Rauch said in a November fundraising letter.
The institute is now rebuilding its board and "seeking a new base of support, one not beholden to any culture-war agenda," wrote Mr. Rauch, a Brookings Institution guest scholar who is openly gay and a longtime supporter of gay marriage.
Maggie Gallagher, a leading voice in favor of keeping marriage as the union of one man and one woman, said she honored Mr. Blankenhorn's efforts to rebuild a marriage culture, "but right now I see no pathway in what IAV is doing."
"Marriage matters because it brings together mothers and fathers for their children. It unites goods that otherwise tend to fragment: love, sex, money, and mothers and fathers," said Ms. Gallagher, who is a fellow at the American Principles Project.
"If mothers and fathers don't matter, marriage does not matter," she said.
Heritage Foundation fellow Ryan T. Anderson also was skeptical, saying that "you can't promote marriage if you can't even say what marriage is."
"Redefining marriage would abandon the norm of male-female sexual complementarity as an essential characteristic of marriage. Making that optional would also make other essential characteristics — such as monogamy, exclusivity and permanence — optional, as my co-authors and I argue in 'What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense,'" Mr. Anderson added.
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