Writing in the Washington Monthly, Jonathan Rauch, David Blankenhorn (former equality opponent) and others argue that the marriage crisis in the US is not due to same sex marriages but due to the class limits. Marriage is doing fine in better-off demographics, but is not doing well in poorer communities. And yet, marriage is an agent of stability and well-being, and kids really DO do better with stable, two parent families. (Sexuality is not the issue).
Many advocates of strengthening the family, for many years, have praised the two-parent married family as a touchstone of America’s economic and moral vitality. So it is, but where marriage advocates may often have gone wrong in the past was to imply that those who could not or did not conform to the standard template—gays, single mothers, and others—were opponents rather than potential recruits. In fact, what the same-sex marriage movement shows is that gay and lesbian Americans did not want to undermine marriage: they wanted to join it.and gay couples are a big part of this.
Increasingly, it is becoming clear that the same is true of many single mothers and fathers: they are not rejecting family values so much as feeling rejected by them, or at least unable to sustain them. No doubt, there are people out there who purposefully reject social norms like marriage and parental responsibility. But they are not the typical case or the case to which public policy should primarily address itself. The constructive focus is on the many more who would like to practice family values, if only they had the social, cultural, and economic capital to do so.
This is why we stress marriage opportunity. Changing minds and hearts has much value, but as a social-policy goal, removing impediments to success is more achievable and less polarizing. More important, improving opportunity has been, arguably, the great unifying American idea since before the days of the Declaration of Independence. Speaking of marriage opportunity is as natural in American public conversation as speaking of social opportunity and economic opportunity. It is a goal Americans can broadly agree on.
Establishing marriage opportunity for gays and lesbians is an important dimension of expanding marriage opportunity in America—not only for gay and lesbian couples, but, as we’ve tried to suggest, also for the nation as a whole. Supporting gay couples who seek to form lasting unions, gay parents who seek to raise successful children, and gay young people who aspire to a future in marriage—this is part and parcel of reestablishing a culture of marriage. And it brings society that much closer to ending forever the conflict between gay rights and family values: that is, to being a society in which all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or social class, can aspire to a rich family life and a lasting marriage in a supportive community.