The death of marriage?

It is a familiar refrain, one that has for years been echoed in the halls of Congress and in the streets of the nation. Our nation is losing those values on which its historical success was built on, goes the familiar mantra, and our country is entering a period of decline precisely because one institution is left barely standing after years of assault. In the final estimate, that one institution-indeed, that one principle-which underlies the USA is that of the healthy, vibrant, marriage institution.

Certainly a degree of social stability does depend upon the health of marriage, which provides the backbone for the family and both raises the children of a society and gives them a stable home to which they can always return as they age. If marriage as an institution were in danger of collapsing in the U.S., then there would be some cause for concern. If the divorce rate had risen at a consistent rate over the past 20 years and if the government was actively passing laws punishing those who decided to get married, worry about the fate of marriage and the family would be appropriate. But there is a slight problem here: none of those aforementioned scenarios are happening. Marriage is not actively being destroyed.

Why the concern, then? Part of it is certainly legitimate, for though the divorce rate has declined roughly 5 percent in the past 35 years, it is arguable that the family as a whole is no stronger because the marriage rate has fallen fairly precipitously: 50 percent over the same period, according to USA Today. The slack is taken up primarily through an increase in cohabitation which, because those relationships do tend to be less stable than marriages, does indicate that marriage today has been weakened. But it is still here, and the weakening that has occurred has come in a climate that permits only heterosexuals to marry.

Homosexual marriages would not weaken the institution; a study done by the University of Washington comparing homosexual and heterosexual couples in the San Francisco area found that homosexuals and heterosexuals ended their relationships at about the same rate. Could this not mean that the divorce rate among homosexuals would be roughly the same as that of heterosexuals? Does this not demonstrate that allowing homosexuals to marry would not mortally wound the institution? If marriage were on its deathbed, such a change would perhaps be unwise. But if marriage is still strong, what should keep us from letting them marry?

Andrew Hamner is a freshman majoring in journalism and political science and can be contacted at