Love is in the air this Valentine's Day. But that doesn't mean that marriage and family are flourishing. A mistaken understanding of romantic love — the Hallmark and Hollywood version — has, unfortunately, undermined key aspects of committed marital love, and the consequences have been dire.
Fifty years ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan issued his famous report on the black family. He pointed out that births to single mothers in the general population were in single digits, but in the black community were approaching 25 percent. Today, 40 percent of all Americans, 50 percent of Hispanics, and 70 percent of African Americans are born to single moms. These children have done nothing wrong and, frequently, these mothers have done nothing wrong — they're often the only ones to take responsibility and care for the kids — but something has gone wrong. And these children, women, and entire communities suffer as a result.
Gays and lesbians, obviously, are not to blame for this. Heterosexuals are. Heterosexuals who bought into a flawed ideology about sex and marriage. That ideology is the offspring of the Sexual Revolution. Its slogans — love makes a family, marriage should last as long as the love lasts — have helped fuel the high rates of nonmarital childbearing and high rates of divorce that plague our nation.
"Love equals love" was simply an extension of this mistaken view of marriage.
The problem is that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has enshrined this understanding of marriage into our Constitution. The reality, of course, is that our Constitution is silent on what marriage is. It is also silent on the good argument that marriage is — and needs to be recognized as — the permanent and exclusive union of husband and wife, so as many children as possible will be raised by their mother and father.
But without any basis in the Constitution, the Supreme Court this past summer forced every state in the union to redefine marriage, and to do so on the basis of a bad theory of marriage. This will lead to the further breakdown of marriage in America. After all, how can we insist that fathers are essential now that the court has redefined marriage to make fathers optional?
And how will the court limit the reach of its decision from extending to other forms of consenting adult romance? After all, if love equals love, why deny marriage equality to three-person committed relationships — "throuples," as they're now called. And why should wedlock be permanent — consenting adults can choose a "wedlease," a temporary marriage license.
If marriage is simply about Hallmark-style romance, then it's hard to see why it should be permanent, or exclusive, or monogamous. Such marital norms are founded on sexual complementarity, because when one man and one woman unite as one flesh and create new life, it is that one man and one woman who should, for a host of beneficial reasons, be bound to that child as its mother and father throughout life. So the consequences of this further redefinition will simply exacerbate our current problems.
It will also cause problems for those who seek to live out the truth about marriage in a new legal environment. Orthodox Jews, Roman Catholics, evangelical Christians, Latter-Day Saints, Muslims, and other citizens of faith and reason should not be punished by the government if they seek to resist this new vision of marriage, and ask simply to be free to live their lives in accordance with their belief that marriage is the union of husband and wife.
Yet there are countless examples of government punishing adoption agencies, bakers, florists, and photographers because of their views on marriage. And there is pressure for government to go after religious schools next.
None of this should take place. Whether you agree or disagree with the Supreme Court's decision, there is no reason for the government to coerce people into helping to celebrate a same-sex wedding against their conscience. The court has mandated states to grant same-sex couples marriage licenses, but that doesn't mean the government needs to punish people who live their lives in accordance with what America had always believed about marriage.
One of our biggest social problems today is absentee dads. Faith-based charities and schools are doing amazing work in helping people cope with this problem and make improvements for the future. They shouldn't now be hindered in their work by a government imposing its new sexual orthodoxy on them.
This Valentine's Day we should acknowledge that not all loves are the same. In a pluralistic society where we disagree about love, we shouldn't be punishing our neighbors. How loving is that?
Ryan T. Anderson, author of "Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom" and the William E. Simon senior research fellow in American Principles and Public Policy at the Heritage Foundation, will join Jonathan Turley, the Maurice C. Shapiro professor of public interest law at the George Washington University Law School, to discuss "The Marriage Question: A Dialogue" at 4 p.m. Thursday at Villanova University's Bartley Hall, Room 1011. The event, which is free and open to the public, is the inaugural Elizabeth and J. Jay McAndrews Lecture on American Political Ideas, sponsored by the Matthew J. Ryan Center.