Dear Democrats: What is Marriage?

Written by Jennifer Thieme on April 9, 2013

800px-Honeymoon_carIf I could ask the Democratic Party one question it would be this: what is marriage? This is the most important question surrounding the marriage debate, and it’s the one that rarely gets asked.

We have two, competing views of marriage in our society today. Unfortunately, these views are almost totally incompatible. This is why the debate rages so fiercely.

Generally, those who lean left on the issue believe that marriage is:
— romantic feelings that the government incentivises with federal benefits and tax breaks.
— a private agreement between two people, without any public ramifications involving the natural rights of children and their parents, or the natural rights of the spouses to one another.
— Not objective, but subjective and open to change by society.
— temporary; dissolvable at any time by either person, which means that the divorce can be enforced by the government against the will of one party and the will of their children.
— not a way to attach children to their mothers and fathers, and their parents to one another.

Generally, those who lean right on the issue believe that marriage is:
— a pre-political institution that arose because of the needs of children and serves as the foundation for a free society.
— a public institution, since it has an impact on those who were not privy to the marital vows (namely, the children who are born into the marriage, which must include the children’s relatives and descendants as well).
— objective, not open to change by society. Marriage policy must draw lines excluding certain types of relationships. The lines should be based in fact, based in reason, and be objective.
— presumptively procreative. This is why we have the legal doctrine called the “marital presumption of paternity.” This acknowledges that children born during a marriage are the husband’s children.
— presumptively permanent;  potentially annullable and dissolvable only for cause. (Aside: This side of the debate has lost credibility by not fighting the “no-fault divorce” changes that swept the country in the 1970s and 80s, nor working to reform such laws currently.)
— the only “limited government” way to ensure the well-being of children.
— based on the fact that sex between a man and a woman creates children. Marriage is society’s way to encourage men and women to commit to each other and to take responsibility for their children.

Given these differences, it seems pretty clear who has the better understanding of marriage.

I’d like to talk about a recent “redefinition” we all accepted: no-fault divorce. It’s important because we can draw clear parallels between it and the new “redefinition” of gay marriage.

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Jennifer Thieme is the Director of Finance & Advancement for the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund. The Ruth Institute educates people as to why marriage must be defined as between one man, one woman, for life, for a truly free society to survive. Stay updated on the marriage issue by subscribing to the Ruth Institute newsletter, and instantly receive a free download, “Improve Your Marriage, Even If Your Spouse Doesn’t Change a Bit!” Signup here: