Several countries are currently discussing (or are already in the process of) redefining marriage. With that in mind, there’s a new paper by Ryan T. Anderson entitled: Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It. Although there are obvious religious considerations to this issue, Anderson isn’t actually discussing those issues in any detail in this paper.
The abstract expands:
Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. By encouraging the norms of marriage—monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanence—the state strengthens civil society and reduces its own role. The future of this country depends on the future of marriage. The future of marriage depends on citizens understanding what it is and why it matters and demanding that government policies support, not undermine, true marriage.
There are a few key points that come up throughout the paper. The first is that redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage. It would actually contradict the traditional concept of marriage. Raising kids – and thus sustaining society – happens best in a stable home with both parents present. Marriage as an institution is primarily about bringing up the children that are produced by the husband and wife. As Anderson wrote in another paper on the same topic:
In recent decades, marriage has been weakened by a revisionist view that it is more about adults’ desires than children’s needs. This view reduces marriage primarily to intense emotional bonds.
If marriage were just intense emotional regard, marital norms would make no sense as a principled matter. There is no reason of principle that requires an emotional union to be permanent. Or limited to two persons. Or sexual, much less sexually exclusive (as opposed to “open”). Or inherently oriented to family life and shaped by its demands.
Redefining marriage would further distance marriage from the needs of children and deny the importance of mothers and fathers. It would deny, as a matter of policy, the ideal that children need a mother and a father.
Redefining marriage would also diminish the social pressures and incentives for husbands to remain with their wives and their biological children and for men and women to marry before having children. It would be very difficult for the law to send a message that fathers matter once it had redefined marriage to make fathers optional.
The traditional definition of marriage (one man, one woman, monogamous) does not restrict consenting adults from forming whatever other relationships they like.
The paper is presented in three sections. Here’s an outline of the major points:
I. What Is Marriage?
- Marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their union produces.
- Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children need a mother and a father.
- Marriage as the union of man and woman is true across cultures, religions, and time. The government recognizes but does not create marriage.
- Marriage has been weakened by a revisionist view of marriage that is more about adults’ desires than children’s needs.
II. Why Marriage Matters for Policy
- Government recognizes marriage because it is an institution that benefits society in a way that no other relationship does.
- Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. Marital breakdown weakens civil society and limited government.
- Marital breakdown costs taxpayers.
- Government can treat people equally—and leave them free to live and love as they choose—without redefining marriage.
- We reap the civil society benefits of marriage only if policy gets marriage right.
III. The Consequences for Redefining Marriage
- Redefining marriage would further distance marriage from the needs of children and deny the importance of mothers and fathers.
- Redefining marriage would put into the law the new principle that marriage is whatever emotional bond the government says it is.
- Redefining marriage would weaken monogamy, exclusivity, and permanency—the norms through which marriage benefits society.
- Redefining marriage threatens religious liberty.
Check out the whole paper here.