Here is your reminder that, although occasionally David Frum sounds like a feminist compared to the rest of his party, he is not one:
But while straight young Americans support marriage for gays, increasingly they opt against marriage for themselves. Nearly half of American children, 48%, are now born to unmarried women. Among women without college degrees, and of all races, unwed motherhood has become the norm.There is a lot of terrible stuff there! And I will leave it to you to discuss all of it in comments! But I do want to note two quick things:
This is the crisis of the American family. Whether same-sex marriage proceeds fast or slow, whether it extends to all 50 states or stops with the current nine plus the District of Columbia, the crisis will be the same.
Children born to single parents face much longer odds in life than children born to married parents. (A new study by ThirdWay.org suggests that the harms are especially intense for boys, less so for girls.) "Odds" are not rules, of course. There are always exceptions.
On average, however, children born to married mothers and fathers are more likely to finish college, more likely to avoid prison and more likely to form marriages themselves than children born to single parents. And precisely because the harms of single parenthood tend to be self-replicating, the breakdown of marriage threatens to harden into a caste divide, with some families launched into cycles of downward mobility because of the unstable relationships of parents or grandparents or great-grandparents.
For 20 years, Americans have fiercely debated whether gays -- who constitute maybe 3% of the population -- should be allowed to marry each other. Meanwhile, Americans have given short shrift to what is happening to the 97% of the population that is allowed to marry, but increasingly opts not to do so.
1. There is increasingly less need for male-partnered women to get married, as women have entered the workforce in greater numbers and thus have direct access to things like healthcare coverage, which was otherwise accessible only via a legal marriage arrangement, and various other legal protections that used to be conferred exclusively by marriage.
Ironically, male-partnered women have gained access to some of these rights because of accommodations begrudgingly conceded to same-sex couples by conservatives who hoped to try to give same-sex partnerships as many legal rights as possible without granting them actual marriage equality. So in their obstinate unwillingness to relinquish the privileging of their super-special relationships—bathed in the shimmering, golden glow that only denying equality to same-sex couples conveys upon their gloriously gilded unions—they have created more options for male-partnered women. Whoops! (And thanks!)
2. Different-sex marriage statistics don't axiomatically reflect any truths about co-parenting (or the lack thereof). There are now many unmarried different-sex partners who cohabitate and co-parent without ever getting married. There are also many unmarried different-sex partners who do not cohabitate but do co-parent.
Further, there are—and always have been—married different-sex people who are shitty parents. Marriage is not a magic spell that guarantees a happy family. Even a physically present parent can be an emotionally absent one. (Which is to say nothing of physically abusive parents.) Just because, say, your father lives in the same house as you doesn't mean you're better off. That is entirely dependent on what kind of father he is.
Much of what Frum is crediting to single motherhood is really a reflection of poverty, toward which single mothers are disproportionately disposed, for a whole lot of reasons that can be addressed in better ways than "add a man with an income." The key is stability, which is indeed aided by functional and safe marriages between people of different or the same sexes. But marriage is only one factor in personal and/or familiar stability.
It is also the most popular individual solution to systemic problems that make instability a problem for lots of folks. Marriage isn't supposed to be about bootstraps.