What Does Bristol Palin Have to Do with Same-Sex Marriage?
University of San Francisco Law Review (U.S.F.L. Rev.), Vol. 45, No. 1, 2010
45 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2011
This article considers how anxiety about the economy, class standing, and the family effect the same-sex marriage debate. It starts with the nature of family change. The middle class, in urban areas and the coasts, has adjusted to the long-term change in family roles and is doing well financially and culturally, with divorce and non-marital birth rates comparable to those of the mid-1960s — before the sexual revolution. Family conditions for America’s poor have stabilized with high non-marital birth rates. For the middle group, divorce rates continued to climb through the nineties while falling for the college educated and high school dropouts. The most recent changes indicate that non-marital birth rates are increasing for Latinas and whites without college degrees, transforming what had been marriage-centered communities.
Second, this article examines the relationship between anxiety about family change, values preferences, and the culture divide about how to discuss and manage family change.
Third, this article examines the political manipulation of the anxieties underlying family change and the exacerbation of cultural differences.
Finally, the article considers a dilemma for advocates of same-sex marriage. Opponents have used the issue to solidify a broad conservative coalition. Does same-sex marriage depend on an equally broad liberal coalition or does it stand on its own? One of the ironies in the debate is that more tolerant attitudes toward sexual orientation are winning even as the opposition to abortion is strengthening. The article maintains that fairness to gays is compelling in ways that stand apart from family values, and the two components of the fight — fairness for gays and general opposition to rigid traditionalism – should operate independently. Meanwhile, same-sex marriage is used to obstruct what should be the true family debate; the remaking of family relationships in an era of economic insecurity and growing inequality.
Keywords: Family Change, Family Roles, Family Structure, Anxiety, Divorce, Birth-Rate, Values, Same-Sex Marriage, Sexual Orientation, Gays, Lesbians
JEL Classification: J10, J11, J12, J13, J16, J18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
By Carol Sanger
By Amy Wax