There seems to be a rising chorus—even among some on the right—that marriage is over and we need to give up on the civil institution of marriage. I’m reminded of the blonde starlet, Mae West. This Hollywood celebrity was asked why she didn’t marry one of the handsome young men who always followed her around. “Marriage is a great institution,” said Mae, “but I’m not ready for an institution.”
Married or not, Mae West understood marriage better than some federal judges and some policy analysts.
When we hear them say “let’s privatize marriage,” what they are really saying is let’s abandon the children. And let’s abandon America’s future.
One of the most poignant and powerful stories from the Civil War era tells us that freedmen and women walked to Tennessee in 1866 to have their slave marriages recorded and recognized in law. Many of these ex-slaves were illiterate—kept so by unjust enactments. Many of them had to walk barefoot. But so great was their yearning for marriage that they made that great sacrifice.
The pages of history Former HHS official Wade Horn tells us that as late as 1941—the year of the attack on Pearl Harbor—fully 89% of black children in this country were born to mothers and fathers who were married.
A quarter century after that, however, the great sociologist and later U.S. diplomat and senator, Daniel Patrick Moynihan raised an alarm. He saw an out-of-wedlock birthrate of 22% in the black community and knew that trouble was coming.
Today, that out-of-wedlock birthrate in some urban communities is greater than 70%. Do we think this is not a problem?
We know that poverty is the lot of many children born out-of-wedlock. Dr. Patrick Fagan worked with Dr. Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation in a classic study. These respected analysts “married” the parents of the four million children living in poverty. Fagan and Rector did this by computer. If their parents were married, only 750,000 of those children would still live in poverty.
Even the liberal Brookings Institution concurs to this extent: If a young couple will finish high school, avoid having children out-of-wedlock, and then marry, the chances are only 4% that their children will live in poverty.
Are we concerned about crime? The National Fatherhood Initiative informs us that three-quarters of the teen rapists and two-thirds of the teen murderers in our prisons are fatherless young men.
We can see this sad reality in the newspaper headlines. Consider the mass shooters we have seen all too often in our troubled land. Most are young. Virtually every one is male. They may be of different races, but they have one thing in common: they are all unmarried.
Do we care about the economy? Children with married parents do better in school and have better outcomes for employment. But when conservatives argued for cutbacks in federal outlays for Medicare, President Obama’s Treasury Sec., Tim Geithner, slapped them down. Forty percent of all children born in America today, Geithner said, qualify for Medicare. That would be, of course, the 40% (actually, now 42%) who are born out-of-wedlock. And fully 48% of first births are out-of-wedlock.
Those who want to reduce the size of the federal government and think we can overturn marriage are deluding themselves. Ending marriage is the HOV lane to government dependency.
President Obama knows this. That’s why the White House created “Julia” in 2012.
Julia is their fictional character who goes through her entire life wedded to government programs. No other marriage is mentioned. At 29, Julia “decides” to have a child. No husband is in this picture. Julia has no father, no brothers, no male friends. The only man in her life is Barack Obama.
This is what you get when you abolish marriage.