When I arrived in our nation’s capital for my time at UCDC this week, I had the opportunity to witness and photograph protesters outside the Supreme Court rallying in support of overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. Many held posters with the now nauseatingly familiar equal sign currently plastered all over Facebook, while others thankfully decided to be a bit more inventive. My personal favorite? “Even Grumpy Cat approves of gay marriage.” Props to you, good equalist, props to you.
Looking around at the assembled crowd, I could not help but reflect on the irony of it all. Some 40 to 50 years ago, the older members of the crowd had preached a new moral order of “free love” where a marriage certificate was just a “meaningless piece of paper.” The feminists among them would have been asserting that the institution amounts to “institutionalized rape” that perpetuates the “patriarchy endemic to our society,” invented specifically by men in order to keep women down. Yet now, these same hippies of the “flower power” generation and their ideological heirs hold up this same institution as a “universal human right,” meaning marriage has transitioned from worthless to of such infinite worth that it must be redefined. Quite the transformation, I must say.
What will end up coming of the Supreme Court’s decisions on Prop. 8 and DOMA is anyone’s guess. In all likelihood, since SCOTUS is so fond of making limited decisions that rarely bring satisfying resolution, the slog of a war over marriage at the state level will continue on as it has been. But at the risk of offending my fellow conservatives, it is useless to argue over whether redefining the institution of marriage to include same-sex couples will destroy the institution itself. Indeed, marriage has been on a steep, tail spin-like decline for many decades, and there appears to be nothing that can be done about it.
The shift in attitude and treatment of marriage has come both from society and governmental action. For too much of our history, we have been concerned about where and when people are allowed to sit at the lunch counter or on a bus. This, in turn, has lead to an attitude that everyone has a right to sit anywhere they please. Indeed, if nothing is true than everything must necessarily be permitted.
This kind of a mentality has found its way into our nation’s laws and informs how people view what used to be the most basic and important commitment one person ever made to another. In California and many other states, couples may file for “no fault” divorce where neither party has to provide any reason for breaking off a marriage. Wake up tomorrow no longer loving your spouse? No problem, the government is here to help. Beyond that, the policies of our federal government have only made the situation worse. Our federal tax code is still written in such a way that married couples are penalized for filing together, and the welfare “safety net” is overly generous to the extent that poor mothers would rather be single to get a bigger check from the government than struggle on with their husbands.
All of these factors add up to a disturbing reality. Until about 40 years ago, the overall percentage of children born out of wedlock remained steady at 2 to 3 percent. Now, 70 percent of all black children, 53 percent of all Hispanic children and 40 percent of all children nationwide are born out of wedlock. This has profound economic and social mobility implications that will only worsen over time.
How are we to stop this impending doom? Sadly, I fear that until the words “till death do us part” return to having any meaning to people, there is nothing to be done.
When it comes to shotgun weddings Jeffrey Robin says “I don’t.”
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.
A version of this article appeared on page 8 of the April 2, 2013 print edition of the Nexus.