Policy

Gay Marriage (Part 1): Conservatives Have More Important Things to Worry About

Hooray for Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, for changing his mind about same-sex marriage. Now it’s time some other major Republican leaders to do so for reasons other than that they have children who are gay, like Portman and Dick Cheney, or that they, like former Rep. Jim Kolbe of Arizona, are gay themselves. The Supreme Court may take the issue out of politics if it decides that marriage equality is a constitutional right. Portman said he hopes it won’t, apparently fearing a repeat of the decades of tumult that followed the court’s Roe v. Wade decision on abortion in 1973. My guess, though, is that this is different. If you believe that life begins at conception, then every abortion is, at best, a case of manslaughter. You can’t not fight it. When gays are allowed to marry, however, no one gets hurt. Quite the contrary —people who love each other are allowed to make a life’s commitment and to receive the legal protections that accrue to married persons. And, despite the claims of conservatives (and asserted in the 2012 Republican platform), the institution of marriage is not undermined, either. Gays represent just 4 percent of the U.S. population. How can their joining an institution possibly undermine it, especially when heterosexuals have done so much to damage it already? Apparently, it is not true that 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce. The best estimate I can find is 41 percent, but that’s bad enough. And then there is the even more disturbing fact, explored at length this weekend in The Wall Street Journal  that 41 percent of U.S. births occur out of wedlock — just 12 percent among college graduates, but 83 percent among high school dropouts. Now that is something for people concerned about the institution of marriage to worry about, and to start figuring out how to reverse. (I don’t think that dismantling the U.S. Department of Education, an idea cheered at the Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend, is a move in the right direction.) To be continued...