Sunday, April 1st, 2007
One of the problems with this commentary by Leslie Wolfgang is that it insults fathers. Another problem with it is that it misinterprets the state’s influence on the lives of people “in specific.”
Let’s first start with the strawman:
But now that I have children and realize the importance of Daddy in the lives of families, I am willing to speak out against attempts, however unintentional, to institutionalize fatherless-ness as just another option for raising healthy children.
The strawman comes with this notion that legitimizing gay marriage unintentionally institutionalizes “fatherless-ness.” We could rewrite the intention of the move: that it would strengthen contractual relationships and relieve many people of the burden of inequity.
Inherently, when the state removes gender as a requirement for marriage, it institutionalizes and approves of the absence of a man for the prospective care and raising of families.
In this context, I have no idea what Wolfgang means by “inherently” and “prospective.” (I assume “inherently” simply should be taken as “this should be readily obvious.) But let’s look at the logic
What concerns me and others is that same-sex marriage will, in the long term, further discourage men from becoming responsible parents through the social institution of marriage. Statistics show that this fatherless-ness hurts children and their mothers by making them more likely to be poor, sexually abused, under-educated and engaged in illegal behavior.
The writer here asserts that fatherless-ness “hurts children.” Statistics say, but I’d love to see them. But to link the “kind” of fatherless-ness to the unintentional result of gay marriage is patently illogical, given that the author has yet to supply enough inductive proofs to make the link debatable. But there’s also the insult part. Good fathers don’t practice good fathering because of any institutional structure or reward. “Why are you a good father?” asks A. B responds: “Because if I’m not the state will punish me.” This is not what Plato argues in Crito. Men may assume the obligation, but that’s the beauty of the obligation: I chose it and try to do the best job I can, gender or no gender. In my mind, a man has more than an obligation to “fatherhood.” If you’re a father, be the best damned one you can be. I believe that a women can be just as good a father as any man. Masculinity is not what fatherhood is about. The next element of support comes from a quote by Maggie Gallagher of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy
As Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, stated during her testimony last week at the Capitol, “When a child is born, there is bound to be a mother somewhere close by. If we want fathers to be involved in raising their children and supporting the mothers of their children, there’s a cultural process by which we teach the next generation of men and women that fathers have an obligation to children and their mothers, and the word for that is `marriage.'”
This is just wonderful. The author plays as if we’re simply meant to buy the authority wholesale. Because Gallagher says it, it must be true. But what Gallagher says is mere “this is just what I think.” Marriage teaches men they have an obligation. Yikes. Whence do people learn obligation? This attitude of institutional indoctrination is nothing I want relations with.
A few more points. The author writes:
Our youngest generations, relying on the rule of law to help them form their minds as to what society expects, will take the senator’s suggestion to its logical conclusion that because they are optional, fathers don’t really matter for marriage and children.
We have forgotten as a society that the state’s interest in marriage is not to validate mutual affection. If that were so, the state would issue friendship certificates or mutual-admiration badges. The purpose of licensing marriage is to encourage the most stable environments for raising well-adjusted future citizens. By licensing marriage without regard to gender, the state will present absentee fatherhood as an equally good alternative for raising children. It wasn’t long ago The New York Times reported that “from a child’s point of view, according to a growing body of social science research, the most supportive household is one with two biological parents in a low conflict marriage.”
The first section up there is more strawman building and, indeed, undercuts the author’s point: is it the rule of law or parents who should raise and teach a child? Again, the idea that law influences peoples’ decisions this deeply is a false conclusion: legal obligation cannot force a mind to change. Any father or mother can be a hapless dolt, regardless of the law. Where is the proof that “this out of this” many marriages under this set of conditions produced less fools. Such evidence isn’t supplied because it isn’t available. To suggest that gay marriage is about “validating mutual affection” is inexcusably illogical. The accompanying article in the Courant Commentary certainly doesn’t argue such a point. The quote from NYT, just to close things off trivially, is laughable as support. From a child’s point of view, chocolate cake could be a vegetable.
A state can certainly create laws that define marriage as this or that. But I think the law should reflect a collective wisdom not collective bias, fear, or belief. Wolfgang asserts not the place of the law but a personal ethic that just happens to coincide with current tradition. But should law maintain tradition always? My opinion is no.