Monday, February 25, 2013

The real threat to marriage

We 've talked before about David Blankenhorn, former Prop 8 supporter and witness, who has now changed his mind and come out for equality.  Part of his change of heart, he says, was driven by the awful rhetoric of the other anti-equality people who continue to degenerate into vile anti-gay slurs.

Of course, he's now an apostate to them, and funding for his organization (a pro-marriage group) has fallen precipitously, because he now is pro-marriage for everyone.  And he recognizes the real threat to marriage stability has nothing to do with gay couples.

Is there common ground between Blankenhorn and liberals?  Jonathan Rauch says yes, in a conversation with Blankenhorn that identifies the real danger to marriage:  rising inequality.  Marriage is massively falling off in the lower-middle  and working-class groups.
Family instability among the less-educated and rising inequality are two sides of the same coin, each perniciously feeding the other. Yes, it's tough to do anything about. But yes, I have hope, because we've arrived at a moment when, as a society, we can finally take off the culture-war blinders and see the real problem, which is the sine qua non for doing anything about it. 
For many years, liberals were loath to talk about marriage and family values because both were code for "beat up on homosexuals." At the same time, conservatives were loath to talk about inequality and class because both were code for "beat up on free markets." But the era of gay marriage raises the prospect of a pro-marriage agenda which liberals can embrace as not even slightly anti-gay. And the country's rapid division into marital and educational haves and have-nots makes inequality a problem that family-values conservatives can't ignore. 
So the left is getting interested in family values and the right is getting interested in inequality, and that's not because they want to but because they have to. You can't address either without also addressing the other. Gay marriage is simply not where the action is if you care about inequality and kids. 
I've never seen an opening like this. That's why I'm hopeful. That's why I want your think tank to survive the efforts by culture-war conservatives to defund it. (Everyone: go here to learn more, and please consider adding your support.) That's why I'm on your board. Lots of folks will continue the old conversation, but we can start the new one.

1 comment:

JCF said...

I think the lower/under-classes think about (heterosexual) marriage only to the extent of 1) how much a Marriage-palooza costs, going in, and 2) how much divorce costs, going out. [Of course, this also presumes secularity---that marriage isn't REQUIRED for a copulating couple. Which is also increasingly true.]

Even w/ a recovering economy, it will be difficult to overcome these 2 factors.