The debate over this amendment rages across the country and here at this blog. Much of the discussion is positive in nature, however many on both sides resort to frustration and name-calling. I wanted to outline my thoughts on this issue, which will probably anger everyone and leave me defending myself from both sides.

The data that we have demonstrates that as a whole gay couples do not want to get married. Because other nations and Massachusetts have recognized same-sex marriages we can evaluate the statistics and see that the vast majority of gay partners have no interest in the institution of marriage even when it is available to them.

In the Netherlands, the first nation to legalize same-sex unions in 2001, between 2.6 and 6.3 percent of gay people have been married. Belgium followed in 2003 and has seen between 1.9 and 4.7 percent married. Even in North America, the numbers have been very low. Since 2003 in British Columbia, Canada, the numbers are between 2.8 and 14.3 percent. The stats are not much different in Massachusetts – 5.9 and 16.7 percent.

Recognition of gay marriage will not destroy marriage, but it will be one of many factors that have led and will lead to the weakening of the institution. Both sides exaggerate their claims in order to push their agenda.

As a whole, marriage has been on a decline in our nation for over 50 years. In the 1990’s it stabalized after a volitale period of change. In the 1970’s and 80’s divorce rates, seperations and those not marrying skyrocketed. The numbers even doubled in some age groups.

Americans are now less likely to marry. There has been a decline of more than 40 percent, from 1970 to 2002, in the annual number of marriages per 1000 unmarried adult women. Since 1960, those married among all persons age 15 and older has declined 12 percent.

Gay marriage will not be the reason marriage fails. It cannot be held responsible for the decline of previous decades. However, it can be another factor in a long line of our society undermining the institution. It will simply be another straw on the already weak back of marriage. Another telling factor is that many of the same groups that argued for the liberalization of marriage and the increased ease of divorces are the same ones pointing out how bad marriage is now, as if they had no hand in creating the problem.

Evaluating the data from the Netherlands we can see that the decline of marriage was acclerated by the adoption of gay marriage. In the ten years since the recognition, the percentage of children born in single parent homes has steadily increased three percent. From 1992 to 2002 we see a similar steady drop in the overall percentage of married people in the population. While, again the percentage of divorced people has risen consistent with the other trends. The number of out-of-wedlock births more than doubled. In all but one age group the number of abortions increased, including an almost 20% jump for teenagers. More women in every educational level indicated that they would not have children.

The Netherlands had a domestic partnership law before they legalized gay marriage. Once marriage became open the government decided to allow couples to move basically as they please from one status to another. While the number of gay couples filing for the domestic partnership has declined, the number of straight couples has quadrupled (from just under 2,000 to well over 7,000).

This also allowed couples to get “flash annulments” because they could downgrade from marriage to partnership and then to nothing with little or not effort, avoiding the paperwork of a normal divorce. Over 4,000 did this the first year it was available. When all of these laws were finalized, Netherlands saw a sizeable increase in heterosexual marriage dissolutions.

A strong institution of marriage benefits society. Children that come from a home with both a father and mother have huge statistical advantages over other children. They are 44 percent less likely to be physically abused, 47 percent less likely to suffer physical neglect, 43 percent less likely to suffer emotional neglect, and 55 percent less likely to suffer some form of child abuse.

Children in two-parent homes are less than half as likely as children in single-parent families to have emotional or behavioral problems. And children who live with biological or adoptive parents are about a third as likely as those living with single parents to use illegal drugs, tobacco, or alcohol. In addition, boys raised with two parents are about half as likely to commit a crime leading to incarceration by their early 30s.

Those living with their two married parents through age 16 have higher grades, higher college aspirations, and better attendance records than children in one-parent families or who experience family disruption. They also are half as likely to drop out of high school.

Not only do strong marriages benefit children, they benefit the parents as well. Studies show that wives are 30 percent more likely to rate their health excellent or good than single women of the same age. In addition, married women (and men) are less likely to suffer long-term chronic illness or disabilities than single women. And mortality rates are less than one-third as high among married women as among non-married women.

Women gain financially as well–marriage increases income by 50 percent for women (25 percent for men)–and domestic violence rates decrease substantially. Married women are far less likely to be victims of intimate-partner violence than divorced, separated, or never-married women. The rate per thousand for divorced or separated women is 31.9; never married women, 11.3; married women, just 2.6.

Two-parent families are five times less likely to be in poverty than single-parent families. Single men have almost six times the probability of being incarcerated as married men, and men who live with their biological children are more involved in the community and service organizations, more connected to their own siblings, adult children, and aging parents. Men who are married earn 10 to 40 percent more than single men of the same age.

The benefits of a stable marriage last through out one’s life. A retirement study demonstrated that someone who remained married continuously had significantly higher wealth (74%) than those who did not marry or who did not stay married.

As a whole marriage benefits the society in which we live. Communities with more married couples are safer because the crime rate is lower, due to the decrease in risk factors among the young people. Marriage helps people move out of poverty and welfare dependency. Overall, married people are more likely to be healthy, productive and engaged citizens benefiting employeers and the economy.

Marriages that end in divorce also are very costly to the public. One researcher determined that a single divorce costs state and federal governments about $30,000, based on such things as the higher use of food stamps and public housing as well as increased bankruptcies and juvenile delinquency. The nationís 10.4 million divorces in 2002 are estimated to have cost the taxpayers more than $30 billion.

Both parties are trying to use the FMA as an appeal to their base. Both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of using the institution of marriage as political football. The GOP did not seriously push this amendment. They simply wanted to place a check mark beside their conservative to-do-list.

This type of issue is best left to voters of individual states, not a constitutional amendment and not a judicial fiat. I am very hesitant about amending the Constitution, but I am also weary of voters passing legitimate laws and courts deciding they don’t like them. If the people of Massachusetts want to have gay marriage, I may disagree with them, but I wouldn’t stop them. But if a guy in a black robe decides he wants to force gay marriage on Massachusetts I do have a problem with that.

The institution of marriage predates our nation, our society and our culture. Just because we decide today that we want to expand the definition of marriage does not mean we have that right. Marriage has been around for centuries (since the beginning according to Judeo-Christian beliefs) and is not an institution that can (or should) be changed on a cultural whim.

Yes, I know that polygomy has been around almost as long as marriage, but the very fact that we define it differently shows something. Also, I know (I may be wrong) of no significant culture which elevated polygomy as the equal of one man/one woman marriage. They may have allowed it or even accepted it, but they did not recognize it as being as beneficial as traditional marriage.

The statistics hold this as true. The benefits mentioned early for marriage do not equate with polygomy. In many cases polygomy increases the liklihood of child and spousal abuse. Clearly, the women and children do not receive the same benefits from this type of “marriage.” It is unclear if the man receives the same benefits either.

Conservatives over state their case when they point to state amendments and equate those numbers with the FMA debate. While it can be argued that the vast majority of Americans want marriage to remain the same, it cannot be argued that the vote percentages in the state can be transferred to the current debate over a national amendment.

The most recent figures I have heard was that 50% support the FMA, while 46% oppose it. That is a plurality, but not the 70% majority that many conservative speakers claim. People like me would support a state amendment, in most cases, but would be cautious about a national amendment.

Christians have done a horrible job in protecting marriage and showing love to gay people. Christians have allowed divorce to rip apart at marriage for years, without much attempt to change it. We have hide from preaching against divorce in our pulpits because too many members might get upset. But oh those evil gays – we feel fine preaching against a sin that at most impacts 5% of the population, probably less among people who attend church.

Too many Christians, did nothing to minister or even comfort those affected by AIDS. Even worse some cheered the disease because it killed gay people. That is disgusting and has no place within the body of Christ.

While many will never comprehend that it is possible to love someone within loving their sexual orientation, we still should treat them as we would anyone, if not better. We should go out of our way to demonstrate the love that Christ has for them.

My personal opinion: This may change next year or even next hour, but as of now this is how I would deal with the issue of gay marriage. I would strengthen DOMA, while allowing states to decide on their own. At the same time I would encourage states to preserve the institution of marriage as the traditional definition. I would also encourage states desiring to change marriage to try civil unions first. I would encourage all states to allow couples of any kind (gay couples, sisters living together, lifelong friends) to go through some type of process which allows more rights for the two of them (visitation, inheritance, etc.)

Would this solve all the problems? No, I don’t think we can come up with any solution that everyone will agree on. I think people are entrenched in this debate and unlikely to move much. But I also think that both sides (can) make legitimate arguments without resorting to describing the other side as wanting to destroy marriage or as hate-filled bigots. You may hold that opinion, but it is clear the vast majority of people opposed to you do not fit your ill conceived stereotypes.

So as of now, those are my thoughts. Let the ripping from both sides begin.

[Ed. Many have taken this as my support for gay marriage. Let me be clear. It is not. Christians should support traditional marriage in every way possible. My argument is that sometimes the best is not politically feasible. If we cannot get a state to maintain traditional marriage alone, I would recommend them do something less drastic as changing the definition of marriage. I hold a similar view as Dr. Dobson does. He supported a bill in Colorado that would give benefits (hospital visitation, inheritance, etc.) to any two people in a relationship. The bill does not discriminate (only give benefits to gay couples), but allows for a widow to extend rights to her sister-in-law who moves in with her to help raise the children or other situations.That’s not to say that all conservatives agree with this. Dobson caught some flak for this stance. As I said in the original post, my stance on how best to specifically protect marriage may change, since this post I am more in favor of a Federal Marriage Amendment because of the direction our culture is headed. For more of an explanation click here.]