Commentary

Novelty ‘Blip’ Wears Off of Same-Sex Marriage Fad

By Lynn Wardle | June 23, 2016 | 2:54pm EDT
Demonstrators hold signs as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs its decision on so-called same-sex "marriage" in 2015. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Washington Post has heralded the “big jump” in same-sex marriage during the past year. 

Citing a recent Gallup survey, the Post notes that in the past year, essentially since the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that all states must allow same-sex marriage, the percentage of same-sex couples living together who were married jumped eleven percentage points, from 38 percent (last year) to 49 percent (in 2016). 

That represents an increase of nearly 30 percent in the percentage of married cohabiting same-sex couples.  That certainly is a significant increase in same-sex marriages in just one year.

However, the Post article also concedes that “there was an initial burst of marriages in the first few months after the ruling, but little increase [in same-sex marriages] since then.”  Gallup poll specialists indicate that same-sex marriages seem to be “leveling off.” 

In other words, there has been a novelty “blip” in the number of same-sex marriages.  But in just one year, the novelty of same-sex marriage has worn off and the increase in the number of same-sex couples getting married has tapered off. 

The Post notes also that the Gallup analysts predict that growth in same-sex marriages in the future will be a long-term, low-growth process because many supports of same-sex marriage are too young to marry now.

Of course, novelty fads appeal to the young.  For example, from the 1920s through the mid-1950s communism was a popular movement among many naïve and young Americans.  But as people mature, their naïveté usually diminishes or disappears.  That is why communism never gained significant political influence in the United States.  By the time young persons were old enough to vote, they saw the situation differently than they did when they were immature. 

For the same reason, rosy predictions of significant increases in same-sex marriages are very likely to turn out to be inaccurate and unrealistically inflated. Americans support tolerance for same-sex couples and relationships, but support for same-sex marriage is another thing – much less popular, much more potentially troubling.

One cannot help but wonder whether the Washington Post is publishing favorable, promotional reports about the number of same-sex marriages in order to encourage and support that trend which it believes to be positive.  In fact, the negative consequences for individuals, families and society resulting from same-sex marriage greatly outweigh and exceed the peripheral benefits.

Many abandoned opposite-sex spouses (especially wives) have been seriously harmed by same-sex marriage.  Many children have been severely disadvantaged by one or both parents leaving a traditional marriage for same-sex relationships, or from being raised by same-sex couples. 

The greatest danger, however, is to the social understanding of marriage.  Ideas matter, and deconstructing the millennia-old, socially-essential concept of marriage as the union of a man and a woman has had detrimental consequences for the vulnerable and for society.  Abandoning the dual-gender, gender-integrative notion of marriage has harmed and will continue to harm responsible couples, families and children, as well as society in general. 

Marriage as the union of man and woman has protected the less powerful, the more dependent, the more committed to parenting.  The same cannot be said of same-sex unions, even if they are labelled “marriages.” 

Ultimately, the current same-sex marriage fad will fade, and another fad will take its place.  But marriages and trust in the institution of marriage will be permanently harmed and diminished by the legalization of same-sex marriage.  That long-lasting damage to the foundational social institution is and will be the tragic, long-term legacy of Obergefell v. Hodges and of the detrimental social experimentation with same-sex marriage.

Lynn D. Wardle is the Bruce C. Hafen Professor of Law at Brigham Young University.  He is author or editor of numerous books and law review articles mostly about family, biomedical ethics and conflict of laws policy issues. His publications present only his personal (not institutional) views.

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