The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.
-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia
Academic elites, the vast majority of whom favor same-sex notions of marriage, continue to obsess over popular resistance to their social-engineering schemes, resistance that has secured constitutional protections in many states for a conjugal understanding of marriage. Perhaps to understand the effectiveness of the traditionalists but clearly expressing angst at the electoral success of California’s Proposition 8 recognizing marriage as the union of one man and one woman, researchers from the University of Michigan and Michigan State conducted a content analysis of newspaper articles covering marriage law published between two time periods, 2001–04 and 2004–08, periods that correspond to the debate in Massachusetts, where the elites won, and California, where the people prevailed.
Led by a women’s studies professor at the University of Michigan, Elizabeth R. Cole, the researchers plowed their way through Lexis-Nexis and Proquest databases to code five hundred newspaper articles according to their use of rhetoric that appealed, following the Declaration of Independence, to Nature, but in four dimensions related to marriage: change over time; norms; procreation; and the welfare of children.
The Michigan scholars found that 52 percent of the articles referenced at least one of these dimensions of what the researchers term the “naturalness of certain relationships.” Among these selected articles, the most common argument was for the stability of natural marriage over time, as something not culturally dependent, but rooted in human nature and biological reality. Noting that the proponents of same-sex marriage also made references to stability or history but dramatically less often, the researchers concede that these arguments can be compelling, even “weighty” when employed by traditionalists in part because they do not “rely on religious justification.”
Appeals to nature based upon norms and the welfare of children were less common, although both sides of the debate employed such appeals. Procreation or innate biological differences were referenced the least, although more by traditionalists than the same-sex lobby. Not only did the researchers find disparities in appeals to nature, but they also found that discussions of race—referenced in 20 percent of the articles—were more often deployed by same-sex advocates, equating existing marriage laws with segregation and even slavery. At least the Michigan professors waste no time in acknowledging the disingenuousness of such symbolic appeals, conceding that same-sex marriage offers little in real terms for “people of color.”
Yet Cole and her team still fear a vast conspiracy at work among traditionalists. “Naturalness discourses,” they claim, “work together to privilege particular sexual pairings and familiar arrangements, and they make privilege less visible because inequality comes to be seen as not only inevitable, but appropriate.” This is nothing but deconstructed reality or bunk, as Henry Ford would say. As Robert R. Reilly of the American Foreign Policy Council has noted, the issue is not whether homosexuals face disadvantages or so-called inequality:
The question is whether the disadvantages are based on a distinction made only by convention (and therefore changeable as a matter of custom) or by one that exists in nature (and therefore normative and imperative). The exact same disadvantages, after all, exist for mistresses, unmarried heterosexual lovers, and polygamists. If hardship is the criterion, should not all these be enfolded into the new definition of civil marriage?
In essence, it isn’t family-values rhetoric that privileges monogamy and old-fashioned matrimony, but the very nature of life itself.
(Elizabeth R. Cole et al., “Against Nature: How Arguments about the Naturalness of Marriage Privilege Heterosexuality,”Journal of Social Issues 88.1 [March 2012]: 46–62. Citation by Robert R. Reilly comes from his published letter to theWall Street Journal, April 16, 2009.)