Defining Marriage; Author Wants Debate to Focus on Historic Purpose

Article excerpt

Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

"How long must the tail wag the dog?"

With these words, Institute for American Values President David Blankenhorn issues a plea for cultural literacy and intellectual honesty in the debate over marriage - an institution, he says, that will be irreparably harmed if homosexual couples are allowed to "wed."

Marriage is more than just a legal commitment between two persons in love, Mr. Blankenhorn writes in his new book, "The Future of Marriage." It is an ancient, universal social institution, rooted in biology and supported by religion, which guides men and women to bridge their differences, form exclusive unions, create families and kinship networks, and live in a way that best benefits themselves, their children and those around them.

Marriage is also the institution that bestows public approval on a man and a woman's sexual intercourse and urges couples to work out their problems so they will stay together and give their children the two things they want and need most: their own father and mother who love each other and who love them, says Mr. Blankenhorn.

However, the same-sex "marriage" debate tends to ignore these powerful "institutional" aspects of marriage and fixates on the "personal commitment" part of marriage, he says in his book, where he calls such a focus "the tail wagging the dog."

This is why the press keeps repeating the rhetorical question of how does the marriage of a loving homosexual couple threaten the heterosexual couple down the street - it's as if this were the paramount question and its answer settles the matter, Mr. Blankenhorn told a recent event sponsored by the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC).

In fact, he says, researchers have identified at least 24 negative consequences of legalizing same-sex "marriage," virtually all of which relate to how it changes the institutional aspects of marriage.

What's at stake with same-sex "marriage" is that it reinforces the "deinstitutionalization" - the weakening or overturning of customary forms - of marriage for everyone, Mr. Blankenhorn says, adding that some people support same-sex "marriage" precisely because they approve of such a deinstitutionalization.

Marriage is already battered, he says, noting that many left-leaning academics and intellectuals - since Marxist theorist Frederick Engels more than 120 years ago - have labeled it "a failed and dangerous institution." More than a few contemporary researchers predict that marriage is inexorably evolving into diverse family forms. Meanwhile, many American men and women are already living lifestyles that disconnect marriage from sex and childbearing.

Marriage needs renewing and strengthening, says Mr. Blankenhorn, who wrote the 1995 book "Fatherless America" to address the social consequences of families without fathers. …