Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Traditional-values supporters are using Scandinavia and its liberal embrace of domestic partnerships and unwed childbearing to argue why same-sex “marriage” would be unhealthy for American culture.

In Scandinavia, marriage is now seen as “outdated,” said Stanley Kurtz, senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution. Cohabiting, unwed childbearing and domestic partnerships are now common in these cultures, he said.

Unfortunately for children, “fragile families” are two to three times more likely than married families to break up, and family dissolution rates have soared, he said in an interview.

Most liberal and conservative thinkers in this country believe marriage is a vital social institution. Marriage is important and that is why homosexual couples deserve equal access to it, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court said in its landmark Nov. 18 ruling that legalized “marriage” for same-sex couples.

The 4-3 decision noted that marriage “anchors an ordered society by encouraging stable relationships over transient ones,” helps ensure “that children and adults are cared for and supported,” and “provides for the orderly distribution of property.”

But in countries such as Sweden, Denmark and Norway, where same-sex couples have had rights similar to heterosexual couples for a decade or more, “marriage is slowly dying,” Mr. Kurtz said.

Mr. Kurtz said there are two main reasons for this. First, marriage is no longer seen as a prerequisite for parenthood, and second, marriage has become just another choice in the smorgasbord of adult relationships.

When marital and nonmarital couples, including homosexual domestic partnerships, are treated the same in society, people begin to think that all family forms are equal and acceptable — that marriage doesn’t matter, two parents don’t matter, having the same mother and father around for life doesn’t matter, Mr. Kurtz said.

Also, same-sex “marriage” only becomes conceivable if the public begins to see marriage as “a relationship between two people” that is not intrinsically connected to parenthood. That is why same-sex “marriage” reinforces and even accelerates a trend away from marriage, according to Mr. Kurtz, who presented his full arguments in the Feb. 2 issue of the Weekly Standard.

Homosexual rights groups dismiss the argument that American society will become like Scandinavia.

“I’ve heard those arguments before and they are completely misleading,” said Michael Adams, director of education at Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Changes in Scandinavian families began long before same-sex couples were given “marriage” rights, and “there is zero evidence of any connection between gay couples marrying in those countries and these other problems,” he said.

“I’ve heard the [Scandinavia] arguments but honestly, I always find them baffling,” said Lisa Bennett, who handles family issues at the Human Rights Campaign.

American and Scandinavian cultures “are very different,” she said. “If we don’t compare ourselves to Scandinavia in all sorts of other ways, why compare in this regard?”

In fact, Miss Bennett and Mr. Adams said, legalizing “marriage” for same-sex couples will strengthen marriage in America.

“If we believe that strong families make a strong community and a strong nation, we can only become stronger as a nation if all these families that exist are given the kinds of protections that are designed for families,” Miss Bennett said.

“We see only good change coming,” Mr. Adams said. Heterosexuals, who have always had the right to marry, can take the institution for granted, he said. “Given how difficult it has been for gay couples to win this right, it’s clear that there is a very, very high level of commitment to the institution of marriage by these couples. We think that it’s going to strengthen the institution.”

However, traditional-values groups, who are on the defensive in both the legal and public-relations marriage arenas, are seizing on the example of Scandinavia because it is an image of social change that Americans should be able to understand.

“Separating marriage from parenthood has a devastating impact on children,” the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) argued in its latest briefing to the California Supreme Court, urging it to block San Francisco officials from allowing same-sex “marriage.”

Citing Mr. Kurtz’ research that more than 67 percent of children in parts of Norway — a relatively conservative, Christian country — are now born out of wedlock, the ADF said that American society has a compelling interest in supporting marriage over other family forms, and keeping both mothers and fathers in the family.

“We can look at those places where same-sex marriage has been legalized to see what the future looks like,” said Ronald Crews, head of the Coalition for Marriage in Massachusetts, which is asking lawmakers to vote tomorrow to pass an amendment to define marriage in the state constitution.

So far, he said, homosexual rights groups and their allies have done a good job of making same-sex “marriage” a largely personal issue.

That is why it’s hard to answer questions like how someone’s homosexual “marriage” will affect someone else’s traditional marriage, Mr. Crews said.

In fact, it’s not going to affect “my marriage,” Mr. Crews said. “However, we’re talking about the institution of marriage, not just personal vignettes. You’ve got to go to the 30,000-foot level and look at the ramifications to culture, not just ‘my marriage.’”


Some researchers believe that legalizing same-sex “marriage” in America will increase acceptance of nontraditional family forms, as has happened in some Scandinavian countries.

Year when same-sex “marriage” or domestic partnerships were legalized:

United States: 2003*

Denmark: 1989

Norway: 1993

Sweden: 1994

Marriages per 1,000 population, 1990 and 1999:

United States: 9.8 8.3

Denmark: 6.1 6.6

Norway: 5.2 5.3

Sweden: 4.7 4.0

Percent of births out of wedlock, 1990 and 2000:

United States: 28 33.2

Denmark: 46 45

Norway: 39 50

Sweden: 47 55

*Legalized in Massachusetts on Nov. 18 with Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court 4-3 decision.

Source: “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia,” by Stanley Kurtz, Feb. 2, the Weekly Standard; international data compiled by The Washington Times.

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