One of the greatest sins in strategy is failing to see reality as it really is. This is because conflict is an unforgiving accountant. If you make your plans in la-la land you will pay the price. It is in this spirit I declare that the Battle Over Gay Marriage is lost.
It certainly brings me no pleasure to do so. I am no supporter of gay marriage. Rather I think the traditional nuclear family is one of the greatest organizing principles that the human race has ever developed and it would be a catastrophe to lose it. The decline in the female Total Fertility Rate in every country where the New Morality has taken root is a harbinger of bad things to come. In declaring the Battle over Gay Marriage lost, I do so as the bearer of bad news, fully aware of what happens to the heads of such messengers.
Nevertheless, the War Over the Family can still be won but only of we jettison the failed tactics that caused this defeat. We need to adopt newer, better tactics. I have been unsuccessfully preaching this for years but, thanks to the resulting paper trail, I can hold my head high and proudly say it wasn’t me who lost this battle. The social conservatives who failed to take my advice did.
When the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of Bill Clinton’s Defense of Marriage Act, I wrote an article on this topic. Rereading my words two years later, I see no need to change what then wrote. In part, this is what I said:
“To avoid repeating past mistakes, they [the social conservatives] must understand why they lost. To do that they must remember something Napoleon once said, that battles are often decided before they are even fought. By this he meant that a key factor in victory is the terrain. If all things are equal, the general with the keenest eye for the battlefield landscape will prevail. At Gettysburg, Meade chose good ground and Lee chose bad ground. When the proponents of gay marriage came up with their political strategy in the late 1980’s, they chose good ground. In other words, the traditionalists lost the Battle for Gay Marriage because they were forced to fight uphill.
To turn things around they need to quit launching Pickett’s charges against entrenched positions and, instead, find good ground. In specific terms this means: forget the gay marriage debate and face the fact that gay marriage is here… at least for the time being. Learn the lessons of the gay marriage battle and reframe the terms of the marriage debate in ways that favour traditional marriage.
My first clue to what this reframe might look like came about around 5 years ago after a gay marriage proposition in Oregon (I believe it was Oregon) was defeated in a referendum. Venting their anger after their loss, some gay rights activists proclaimed that perhaps all heterosexual marriages should be annulled after five years if the couple fails to produce children. While this was clearly an attack on traditional marriage, I thought: hmmm. It is an interesting proposition, clearly meant to turn the pro-traditional marriage argument - that heterosexual marriage is important because it produces children - against itself: if a heterosexual couple doesn’t reproduce, why should the state provide legally support their marriage?
While perhaps too radical, I think they are inadvertently on to something. From now on, traditional marriage supporters should advocate that all government marriage benefits should flow towards married couples with children, and that this cornucopia should be paid for by subtracting such benefits from childless couples.
This approach has a number of advantages:
First, it is an easy position to intellectually justify in secular terms. The production and raising of children is, in the language of economics, an external good, but one that is privately undertaken and funded. It has been estimated that it costs $250K to raise one child from birth to age 18. As the future of our society will one day be in the hands of this cohort, everybody benefits when these responsible adults enter the workforce. Even the childless gay activist benefits from fecund heterosexual families, such as when he is in the retirement home being tended by the grown-up children of these families.
In parallel fashion, everybody suffers when a sociopath or a parasite has been sired. So it is in everybody’s interest that good childrearing be supported as much as possible.
This reframe has many policy implications which I will explore in future articles.
Second, it turns the anti-traditional morality argument, that “the government has no business in the bedroom” on its head. If the government has no business in the bedrooms of the nation then why should it mandate that pension funds and corporations provide benefits to spouses of employees or retirees? This made sense in an era when most women didn’t work outside the home – and when most women were busy raising children. In an era where most women work, shouldn’t it be reasonable to expect each spouse to arrange his own benefits? Unless, of course, one spouse stayed at home to raise the kids. In which case, the government does have a compelling reason to make sure that the spouse - who forgoes money and career prospects to perform one of the most important social functions (raising children) - is provided for.
And what business does the government have in regulating how assets can and cannot be dispersed in a divorce? Laws that favour one party (generally the wife) and courts that sometimes override contractual arrangements, like prenuptial agreements, only end up favouring gold-diggers. For this reason, matrimonial law should be converted into contract law as much as possible, with the exception, again, of those statutes that protect the interests of stay-at-home, child-rearing parents.
And in the latter case, shouldn’t the party in a divorce proceeding who happens to be guilty of gross irresponsibility (i.e. infidelity) be punished financially to encourage others to stay married “for the children”?
Third, by diminishing the advantages of marriage for non-childbearing couples, it removes the significance of gay marriage as a political issue and an ideological prize. Instead of defeating gay marriage, the issue simply shrivels up as the legal significance of childless marriage as a whole disappears.
With the overall decline in the total fertility rate in the developed world, perhaps a renewed focus on the production of respectable children is long overdue.”
Rereading my words, the only thing I want to add is a stress on the importance of a mother (a female role model) and a father (a male role model) in child rearing. There is plenty of scientific literature on this subject. You wouldn’t want to be against science, riight?