The Truth About Marriage's History
A reader makes some great points:
With Larison's argument against marriage equality, I think you miss the most fundamental flaw. Larison assumes that changes to marriage are made explicitly. But birth control and the destigmatization of out-of-wedlock childbirth have changed the institution of marriage as profoundly as no-fault divorce laws. Throughout the Western world, marriage is no longer invariably associated with procreation. People have children without being married; people are married with no thought or even possibility of having children. My father & stepmother, for example, married when she was menopausal.
Historically, marriage has never been solely about procreation; it was about extending kinship ties and the concomitant financial security of an extended family. That's why in the west, in-laws once played such a significant role in selecting mates and in rearing the children. In the 1700-1800s, when the idea of marriage become associated primarily with the couple, the nuclear family grew in importance, & the industrial revolution changed the role of the extended family in financial security, the nature of marriage changed significantly. Once we stopped being an agrarian society, large families went from being an economic plus to a minus, which is a major reason the push to develop effective birth control became so important.
These bottom-up changes in the definition of marriage far surpass anything proposed by gays seeking equal access to the institution. And that is why the only way to strengthen the older form of marriage so prized by social conservatives would require repealing no-fault divorce laws (not something that likely to happen, insofar as conservative men seem to enjoy their trophy second & third wives as much as liberals do), repealing all opportunities for women to earn wages independently of their husbands, outlawing any corporate policies that allow or encourage people to move away from their parents' homes, etc. Those kinds of explicit social, legal, and economic changes are just not going to happen. So unplanned change is going to continue in how Americans create & maintain their families. Since a certain amount of instability in family arrangements is beyond the control of conservatives, they'd better look for where they can bolster stability. Do committed relationships between adults foster more stable societies or weaken them? Surely the answer is that they foster stable societies, and for that reason, they should be not just accepted but encouraged.
Why do social conservatives not want to encourage stability, responsibility and commitment among gay Americans? What real policy do they have for gay Americans at all?