Anderson: Can the President Have a Marriage Agenda Without Talking About What Marriage Is?


Ryan Anderson, co-author of What is Marriage?, in the Public Discourse today asks "How successful can a 'new conversation on marriage' marriage be when its leaders can't even say what marriage is?"

The President’s Marriage Agenda for the Forgotten Sixty Percent,” despite the impression its title might give, was released Sunday not by the Obama administration but by the Institute for American Values and the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. It is a timely, compelling, and important report, but it falls short in a basic way: it never once even attempts to say what marriage is. But you cannot advance a marriage agenda without knowing what marriage is and why it matters for public policy, as my co-authors and I argue in our new book, What Is Marriage?

The leadership of the Institute for American Values, after embracing the redefinition of marriage in a high-profile change of heart earlier this year, hopes this report launches “a new conversation on marriage.” The authors urge political leaders to encourage “community-based and focused public service announcements that convey the truth about marriage, stability and child wellbeing to the next generation of parents.”

Well, what is the truth about marriage?

One Comment

  1. Posted December 21, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Marriage is not just falling in love.

    To discuss marriage, we must first make sure we mean the same concept.

    This is one of the most valuable concepts we have begun to understand, from the debate about civil marriage or 'marriage' from a more metaphysical perspective.

    It was around the time of Shakespeare that plays begun to either reflect or guide public opinion in their surroundings. Plays were not only witty, but carried a content which pushed at the limits of accepted morality in their society. The idea that love was sufficient for marriage of two individuals (man & woman) was novel. Marriage represented a far more important value to society than the mere satisfaction of a couple's love or sexual 'chemistry'. Marriage was the joining of two families, the sharing of family capital and influence. Love was what triggered these unions, but was not sufficient to attain the family's blessing, nor society's.

    But the idea that love suffices continues to be tempting as a redefinition of civil marriage. It is tempting because a couple wishes to get the family and society's blessing without doing much in return, and without being regulated. That would be great: we could get something from the government, for nothing.

    Therefore, the social consequences of redefining civil marriage as just a friendship are plain and evident. We don't have to take the word of the ancients (we call them old-fashioned). We can run statistical analyses to show the consequences, quantified with modern tools and mathematics. The conclusion is the same: it behooves us to defined and redefine marriage as much more than mere friendship or love.

    Marriage shouldn't be simply a maneuver to gain the US citizenship, for instance.