Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Where Have You Gone, Ozzie Nelson?

The short life of the idealized nuclear family has not prevented it from entering the popular culture with vigor and tenaciousness. We early Baby Boomers saw it frequently at home and every evening on TV.

Steve Douglas with his My Three Sons was certainly an anomaly — a single parent. Yet there was no wanton sexuality or denial of the sanctity of marriage for this widower. With one self-righteous voice, the nation chanted, "Marriage and children with one dad and one mom is good."

With the shrillness of today's anti-gay anti-same-sex-marriage harpies, we can lose sight of the trends in marriage. Long, long before Vermont legalized civil unions or Massachusetts gay marriage, increasingly fewer Americans were marrying. Many live together and never wed. Others marry late and may or may not have children. The effects of adding homosexual unions to the mix is a distraction but not a defining factor.

The Cox News Service's Katherine Heine has a nice think piece on marriage. Among her background is:
Conservative social scientists reference grim statistics to project the moral decay of the American way of life. They call for stricter divorce laws and constitutional amendments limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.

Others argue the relational freedom that sprang from the sexual revolution and women's movements of the 1960s and '70s transformed an institution traditionally driven by economics and obligation into one defined by fulfillment and friendship.

Baylor Sociology and Social Work Professor Preston Dyer says that marriage was once "much more institution based. People were committed to the ideal that marriage was good for society...Today that commitment is about the relationship and it is much easier to break a relationship with a person than one with an institution. The marriages that will last in the future are those based on realistic expectation and being best friends, sexy best friends, but still friends."

Trends include:

  • 11 million U.S. households of unmarried partners (up 10 times from 40 years ago)
  • a 60% divorce rate
  • 40% of unmarried-partner households include kids
  • the Census Bureau reports marriages at an all-time low
  • average marriage age has climbed for men (22 to 31 years) and women (20 to 28) in the past 50 years
  • marriage is "no longer a rite of passage"
Yet with little sense of irony, many fundies are eager to blame same-sex marriage as driving the decline, despite the long term trends that far predate it.

Dyer said that most of his colleagues do not see homosexual marriage or unions as harming marriage. "(B)ut there is a very conservative group within the marriage movement that thinks it will ruin marriage...If marriage is such a wonderful state, then why would we want to deny it to homosexuals? I will quote a friend of mine, 'Homosexuals can't do anything to marriage that heterosexuals haven't already done.' "


Anonymous said...

40% of unmarried-partner households include kids

Those kids will be among those victimized by some of those over-the-top marriage ammendments passed in states like Ohio that try to deny family rights of any kind to anyone who isn't in an actual marriage relationship, all in a misguided attempt to "save" marriage from gay people.

massmarrier said...

Unfortunately, you're right. They are suffering financially, medically...

This so clearly is not about families or kids to the fundies. It is about punishing gays. It is about schadenfreude.