Young Republicans Throw Childless Married Couples Under the Bus

A sad, last-ditch effort against gay marriage.

Today, the Supreme Court began hearing arguments in back-to-back cases challenging California’s Prop 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. I support legalizing gay marriage, and believe that allowing same-sex couples to wed is the best way to save a valuable, but threatened, institution.

But as a dedicated heterosexual with a spouse of the opposite sex, I never in a million years imagined that the fight to deny marriage rights to gays and lesbians would find me and my wife in its crosshairs. Yet that’s exactly what happened earlier this month, when a determined fringe of mostly young conservatives decided that the best way to stop the march of history is to build a roadblock so steep that no gay or lesbian couple could possibly surmount it.

The young upstarts laid out their position publicly last week in the New York Times and on NPR. The crux of their scheme can be found near the beginning of the 7,000-word manifesto written by Ryan T. Anderson, “Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It”: “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.”

Read on and find an endless stream of selectively lifted (and in many cases legitimate) statistics to show how great two-parent families are for kids and how much divorce hurts the economy. Forget the copious research that finds children do just as well with same-sex couples.

And what about married people like me? Well, Kate and I are guilty of “marriage revisionism” because we had the audacity to tie the knot with the full knowledge that we did not plan to have any kids.

If you’re not in it to procreate, Anderson implies, you have no business getting a state-sanctioned marriage license.

Government is not in the business of affirming our love … The idea that romantic-emotional union is all that makes a marriage cannot explain or support the stabilizing norms that make marriage fitting for family life. It can only undermine those norms.

In his determination to prove that society only has a stake in sanctioning marriages that result in children, Anderson diminishes unions based on something other than child-rearing to the level of puppy love, built on little more than warm and fuzzy feelings, while negating the depth of mature, committed, two-person families and the proven economic, social and civic benefits they generate.

Anderson’s colleagues—including Will Haun, a 26-year-old lawyer, and Ashley Pratte, 23 —pick up his theme and run with it, in some cases spewing rhetoric that is so naïve it could only have come from someone devoid of any significant life experience. For instance, there’s this little gem, from Caitlin Seery, the 25-year-old director of programs for the Love and Fidelity Network: “When you de-link marriage from childbearing, you then have to increase the complexity of that relationship.”

Setting aside the initial amusement I felt at being lectured on the intricacies of marriage and childrearing by a group of twenty-somethings, some of whom were probably still living with their parents when I proposed to my wife, I was deeply offended by their willingness to target the more than one-quarter of married Americans without children as part of an ideological campaign to defy the will of a majority of U.S. citizens who now favor legalizing gay marriage.

However revolutionary it may be, gay marriage will not be responsible for redefining marriage as a spiritual, physical and emotional commitment between two people who may or may not choose to have kids; in most developed nations that evolution has already taken place. Contrary to Anderson’s claims, marriage is not simply a publicly sanctioned foundation for people breeding. Civil society sanctions marriage because we recognize its well-documented benefits. For ideological reasons, Anderson and his colleagues choose to focus on one of these benefits. But co-parenting is hardly the only one.

Research shows that married people—regardless of their gender or parental status—are happier, healthier, less stressed, more economically stable, more civically engaged, and are even less likely to commit crimes than their single counterparts. Anyone who says that having more of those kinds of people in our communities isn’t good for America is wearing blinders.