Mar­riage to­day: rich-poor gap, later vows, gays gain ac­cess

The China Post - - LIFE - BY DAVID CRARY

Through two decades of de­bate on whether Amer­ica’s gays and les­bians should have the right to marry, op­po­nents of such unions de­picted their re­sis­tance as “de­fense of mar­riage.” Now, on the cusp of a Supreme Court rul­ing that could le­gal­ize same-sex mar­riage na­tion­wide, the un­der­ly­ing in­sti­tu­tion is un­der scru­tiny anew.

Does mar­riage in Amer­ica in­deed need help? What kind of shape is it in? In sim­plest terms, the di­ag­no­sis is mixed.

Among col­lege-ed­u­cated, rel­a­tively af­flu­ent cou­ples, mar­riage is do­ing pretty well. Where ed­u­ca­tion and in­come lev­els are lower, it’s of­ten a dif­fer­ent story — higher di­vorce rates; far more chil­dren be­ing born out of wed­lock, in­clud­ing many to sin­gle moth­ers.

There’s broad sen­ti­ment that this “mar­riage gap” is un­for­tu­nate, but no con­sen­sus on what to do about it. Some be­lieve gov­ern­ment-funded mar­riage-pro­mo­tion pro­grams can make a dif­fer­ence. Oth­ers de­pict mar­riage-fo­cused so­lu­tions as mis­guided and say the prob­lems can be eased only by broader eco­nomic and so­cial ini­tia­tives ben­e­fit­ing all types of house­holds.

“There is no one sil­ver bul­let,” said David Blanken­horn, head of a cen­trist think tank, the In­sti­tute for Amer­i­can Val­ues, that fo­cuses much of its work on mar­riage and fam­i­lies.

Yet de­spite un­cer­tainty about so­lu­tions, he and oth­ers be­lieve there is now an op­por­tu­nity to bridge the left-right split over mar­riage, par­tic­u­larly in light of the sweep­ing gains for gay and les­bian cou­ples.

For many years, the gay-mar­riage de­bate was in­ter­twined with as­ser­tions about “tra­di­tional mar­riage” be­tween a man and a woman. A fed­eral act passed in 1996 and a sub­se­quent wave of amend­ments adopted in many states used the term “de­fense of mar­riage” to deny recog­ni­tion to same-sex unions. Many op­po­nents of same­sex mar­riage ar­gued that al­low­ing gays to wed would some­how un­der­mine het­ero­sex­ual mar­riage.

Such ar­gu­ments have fared poorly in re­cent fed­eral court cases. And there’s a strong like­li­hood that the Supreme Court will or­der the le­gal­iza­tion of same-sex mar­riage in all 50 states in a rul­ing ex­pected soon. Opin­ion polls show a solid ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­cans sup­port it.

“Mar­riage as cul­ture war in Amer­ica can now be re­placed by mar­riage as com­mon cause,” said a coali­tion of schol­ars and civic lead- ers in their man­i­festo for a new ini­tia­tive called Mar­riage Op­por­tu­nity.

The group, with Blanken­horn as an or­ga­nizer, en­vi­sions lib­er­als fight­ing for eco­nomic op­por­tu­nity, con­ser­va­tives fight­ing for stronger fam­i­lies and gays who have now won mar­riage rights for them­selves all unit­ing to con­front the mar­riage gap.

Schol­ars who have chron­i­cled the gap say it stems in large mea­sure from the loss of sta­ble, well-paid industrial jobs — con­sign­ing many young adults to pre­car­i­ous, low­paid work, and prompt­ing some to put off mar­riage even while hav­ing chil­dren out of wed­lock.

In con­trast, col­lege- ed­u­cated young adults are more likely to wait un­til mar­riage to have chil­dren and then have the prospect of rais­ing them in a house­hold sup­ported by two good in­comes.

Ac­cord­ing to the Pew Re­search Cen­ter, the share of Amer­i­can adults who’ve never mar­ried is at a his­toric high. In 2012, 20 per­cent of adults 25 and older had never been mar­ried, com­pared to 9 per­cent of adults in 1960. Back then, ac­cord­ing to Pew, the like­li­hood of be­ing mar­ried didn’t vary ac­cord­ing to level of ed­u­ca­tion; now men with ad­vanced de­grees are far more likely to have mar­ried than those who didn’t go be­yond high school.

An­other strik­ing fig­ure: Un­mar­ried moth­ers ac­count for 40.6 per­cent of chil­dren born in the U.S., ac­cord­ing to re­cent Cen­sus data. In the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, the rate is 71.5 per­cent.

AP

(Left) In this photo taken on Thurs­day, June 4 from left, the Chu­doba fam­ily, Chad Chu­doba, Isaac Chu­doba, Rachel Chu­doba and Alexan­dra Chu­doba, spend fam­ily time to­gether as they walk through Myr­iad Gar­dens in Ok­la­homa City. (Right) In this photo taken on Tues­day, June 2 Stephanie Howard, left, holds two-month-old Adrianna Howard, cen­ter, while Adrian Howard, right, watches as they have din­ner while they wait for their Fam­ily Ex­pec­ta­tions class to begin in Ok­la­homa City.

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