The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson, a disciple of National Organization for Marriage former chairman Robert George, has become a national spokesperson for opposition to marriage equality. In a new piece for Focus on the Family co-written with Heritage’s Andrew Walker, they make “a Millennial case for marriage,” citing a litany of arguments about the importance of not “redefining marriage.” Strikingly, not one of their arguments actually addresses the lives of gay people, and in turn, not one of their points would actually be compromised by same-sex couples marrying.
Here are some of their claims, many of which derive from an arbitrary definition of marriage that “men and women are different and complementary”:
Children Need To Have Fathers
Borrowing a tactic from NOM, Anderson and Walker invoke President Obama’s concerns about how growing up without a father has a significant negative impact on children. They conclude, “fathers matter, and marriage helps to connect fathers to mothers and children.” But abandoned single mothers have nothing to do with same-sex couples, and studies about “fatherlessness” do not even include lesbian families in their samples. Heterosexual men deserting their families is a legitimate societal concern, but it has nothing to do with same-sex families.
Children Do Best With A Mother And Father
Without referencing a single citation — not even Mark Regnerus — Anderson and Walker proclaim, “For decades, social science has shown that children tend to do best when reared by their married mother and father.” It may be true that children do better with both of their parents as opposed to only one, but social science has found that committed same-sex couples are just as capable of effectively raising children.
They later acknowledge that a “relatively small number” of gay or lesbian couples “would be” raising children — avoiding the reality that they already are — but offer no thought as to how those families would actually benefit from the protections of marriage outlined throughout the rest of the post.
Men Will No Longer Stay Committed To Their Wives
This continues to be one of the most absurd arguments against marriage equality: “Redefining marriage would diminish the social pressures and incentives for husbands to remain with their wives and their biological children, and for men and women to marry before having children.” Whether men will cheat on their wives has nothing to do with whether same-sex couples can marry.
Marital Norms Will Dissolve
Anderson and Walker’s slippery slope suggests that if marriages were reduced to just “intense emotional regard,” they would not have to be permanent, limited to two people, sexually exclusive, or oriented to raising families. But all of these points are already true of opposite-sex couples: many divorce, some practice polygamy, plenty cheat or are open, and none have any obligation to raise children. This argument also undercuts the important protections that couples themselves gain from marriage through that “intense emotional regard,” particularly as they age. Because they don’t have access to marriage, older same-sex couples struggle economically and face extra hurdles to care for each other.
Marriage Equality Discriminates Against Christians
Somehow marriage equality “further marginalizes those with traditional views and erodes religious liberty.” Anderson and Walker are concerned that people who are prejudiced against same-sex couples marrying will be perceived as prejudiced, which just isn’t fair. Borrowing another popular talking point, they claim that Catholic Charities in Massachusetts was “forced to discontinue adoption services,” when in fact they voluntarily shut down because of their insistence on discriminating. They’re also afraid elementary school children will learn that same-sex couples exist, ignoring that they’ll already learn that if their classmates’ parents are same-sex couples. The underlying objection here seems to be that marriage equality will make it harder for Christians to discriminate against the gay community — discrimination for discrimination’s sake.
Society Will ‘Self-Correct On Marriage Over Time’
Anderson and Walker conclude their piece by constructing a narrative of momentum for opposition to marriage equality, imagining “Americans committed to marriage coming out of the shadows.” This optimism for their cause ignores that people of all ages are increasingly supporting same-sex marriage, a trend driven most robustly by the young people they claim to represent. Their hope is that when young people marry, they’ll appreciate the “gendered nature of parenting,” but what seems more likely is that they will only further appreciate just how much respect and security is denied to same-sex couples.