On of the arguments against same-sex marriage is that it will destroy the fabric of our society and the sanctity of marriage. Quite apart from the fact that heterosexuals have done a pretty good job of destroying that ourselves the facts simply don’t show that is the case:
Start with Massachusetts, which endorsed gay marriage in May 2004. That year, the state saw a 16 percent increase in marriage. The reason is, obviously, that gay couples who had been waiting for years to get married were finally able to tie the knot. In the years that followed, the marriage rate normalized but remained higher than it was in the years preceding the legalization. So all in all, there’s no reason to worry that gay marriage is destroying marriage in Massachusetts.
The other four states that have legalized gay marriage—New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire—have done it more recently, somewhere between 2008 and 2011. But from the little data we have, it looks as if the pattern will be more or less the same—a temporary jump in marriage followed by a return to virtually the same marriage rates as before gay marriage became legal. Washington, D.C., which started accepting same-sex marriages in March 2010, saw a huge 61.7 percent increase in marriage that year, though it’s too soon to see where it will settle. Again, no signs of the coming apocalypse.
Ask yourself: if conservatives were simply told that in Washington DC, we’d seen a miraculous increase in marriage rates, they’d be thrilled. But because it affects gay people, it doesn’t count. Marriage is a vital social institution, a critical buffer zone between the government and the individual, a rampart of limited government, an incubator of social responsibility … and yet, if gays are involved, none of this counts. It is rather the end of a civilization and an attack on the family.
Or let’s put it another way: what is socially conservative about bemoaning and trying to prevent a huge uptick in marital responsibility and engagement? The real social conservatives are for marriage equality; it’s the fundamentalist reactionaries who cannot handle it.