Monday, March 30, 2015

Marriage, Straight and Gay

Andrew Cherlin detects a "truce" in the culture war over the family, with conservatives admitting that economic changes have been bad for working families and liberals accepting that marriage is important. Part of the reason for the liberal shift, says Cherlin, is the movement for gay marriage:
Liberals now seem to acknowledge the downsides of the retreat from marriage. A report on strengthening families that was released in January by the liberal Center for American Progress recommended not only economic assistance but also social support, such as couples’ counseling services and visits by specially trained nurses and other professionals to the parents of young children.

The growth of legal same-sex marriage has made it possible for liberals to endorse the importance of marriage without feeling that they have abandoned their commitment to equality. . . . Far from undermining heterosexual marriage, as its opponents warned, same-sex marriage has broadened support for marriage beyond its conservative base.
It's a bit bizarre to say that in America marriage ever had only a limited base of "support"  -- all the hippies I know eventually got married. But I think it is true that American progressives are now more full-throated in support of marriage than they were 25 years ago. I suspect, as Cherlin says, that this is  partly because of gay marriage; these days you can be pro-marriage and against the Southern Baptists at the same time. But I think it is also partly because of the rise of a new model of marriage in the middle class, more symmetrical than older models and therefore less troublesome to the left, and partly because marriage is now a choice rather than something people are forced into by social or economic pressure.

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