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De Facto Parents

In Activism, Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Custody for fathers, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, Feminism, Foster CAre Abuse, Freedom, Homosexual Agenda, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Marriage, National Parents Day, Non-custodial fathers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, parental rights, Parentectomy, Parents rights on September 12, 2009 at 12:00 pm

De Facto Parents

Now children can have multiple legal parents without biology, adoption, or marriage.

By William C. Duncan
In Revolution, Herbert Jacob described how one of the most significant changes to family law in the 20th century, no-fault divorce, began in California and spread through the states with very little public debate or controversy. This remarkable transformation was presented, and largely accepted, as routine policymaking in the domain of legal experts.

Similarly, a revolution in the legal understanding of parenthood seems to have quietly begun with little or no public debate or discussion. This dramatically transformative development is the statutory recognition of “de facto” parenthood — the notion that an unrelated individual (usually the unmarried partner of a biological parent, but potentially any adult) can be designated as the legal “parent” of a child by virtue of an agreement with a biological or adoptive parent, or even just a relationship with the child. In some cases, three or more people may be designated “parents” of the same child. While a handful of state courts have endorsed the idea in the context of disputes between same-sex couples jointly raising children, not until very recently has a legislature endorsed it.

This year, the District of Columbia Council passed a law allowing biological parents’ registered domestic partners to be presumed parents, and to be listed as such on the children’s birth certificates. The law also allows a person to be legally designated a parent if he consents in writing to the artificial insemination of his partner, or if he “hold[s] out” the child as his own—that is, presents the child as his to others. (D.C. already had a law allowing people to sue for child custody if they could show they had acted as “de facto” parents (D.C. Code 16-831.01).)

Then, last month, the Delaware legislature went even farther when it enacted legislation giving state courts the ability to designate a non-parent as a “de facto” parent (with all the legal ramifications of parenthood) as long as the biological parent of a child “fosters” a “parent-like relationship” between the non-parent and the child, and as long as the “de facto” parent has acted like a parent and bonded with the child in a way that is “parental in nature.”

The Delaware law completely untethers legal parentage from biology, marriage, adoption, and even the relationship between the adults who are the child’s legal “parents.” It also abandons the binary nature of legal parenthood by allowing three or more adults to be designated “parents” of a child at the same time.

Like the no-fault revolution, de facto parenthood has its boosters, and they seem to be increasingly influential. Prof. Nancy Polikoff, who advocates the erasure of legal distinctions between households based on marriage and those based on other arrangements, has written extensively and approvingly of these developments and suggests that they ought to be more widely adopted. The prestigious American Law Institute has also endorsed the “de facto” parent idea in the context of the law regarding family breakups.

These changes, however, are radical. The default rules for establishing legal parenthood — which were nearly universally recognized until now — recognize individuals as parents based on (1) biological parenthood, (2) marriage to a parent, or (3) adoption. These clear laws advance the interests of children to know and be raised by their biological parents whenever possible. The one significant exception, adoption, largely imitates the biological mother-father model, thus allowing a child who cannot be raised by his own parents to at least be raised by a mother and father. By limiting the number of people who can claim parental authority, the default rules promote stability and consistency for children.

Existing law also ensures that when natural parents transfer their legal rights, there are “bright lines” governing the process. Thus, parental rights are only terminated when there is clear evidence of unfitness, or when a parent voluntarily relinquishes them through a formal procedure like adoption (including adoption by stepparents).

These rules also enhance children’s best interests because a biological tie between parents and children “increase[s] the likelihood that the parents would identify with the child and be willing to sacrifice for that child, and it would reduce the likelihood that either parent would abuse the child,” as Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur wrote in Growing Up with a Single Parent. It is clear that living with a cohabiting couple increases risks of abuse and maltreatment for children, and that unrelated males living with children are more likely to abuse those children.

It is also not hard to imagine the chaos likely to result when the relationship between three or more “de facto” parents breaks up and courts are called upon to dole out parental rights and responsibilities to each person. Children have a hard enough time navigating between two worlds after divorce. Imagine the difficulty of being shuttled between the homes of a mother, her former partner, a sperm donor, his partner, etc.

Perhaps most fundamentally, these trends treat children as acquisitions, ignoring their needs for relationships with their parents and for substitute arrangements when those relationships are disrupted. The idea of de facto parenthood legally facilitates the creation of motherless or fatherless homes, based not on children’s needs but on adult desires. In adopting these laws, states are saying that parentage can be created by a bargain between two or more adults.

Needless to say, these developments and their philosophical underpinnings should be met with stiff opposition. That is likely only if people are aware such developments are taking place. That has not been the case to this point. As the promoters of “de facto” parenthood begin to take their arguments to other legislatures, there must be a more robust debate and response. Our children deserve at least that much.

— William C. Duncan is director of the Marriage Law Foundation.

De Facto Parents by William C. Duncan on National Review Online.

The Evolution of Divorce

In Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Custody for fathers, Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Feminism, Foster Care, Homosexual Agenda, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Marriage, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Restraining Orders, Single Moms, Single Parenting on September 11, 2009 at 6:15 pm

The Evolution of Divorce

W. BRADFORD WILCOX

In 1969, Governor Ronald Reagan of California made what he later admitted was one of the biggest mistakes of his political life. Seeking to eliminate the strife and deception often associated with the legal regime of fault-based divorce, Reagan signed the nation’s first no-fault divorce bill. The new law eliminated the need for couples to fabricate spousal wrongdoing in pursuit of a divorce; indeed, one likely reason for Reagan’s decision to sign the bill was that his first wife, Jane Wyman, had unfairly accused him of “mental cruelty” to obtain a divorce in 1948. But no-fault divorce also gutted marriage of its legal power to bind husband and wife, allowing one spouse to dissolve a marriage for any reason — or for no reason at all.

In the decade and a half that followed, virtually every state in the Union followed California’s lead and enacted a no-fault divorce law of its own. This legal transformation was only one of the more visible signs of the divorce revolution then sweeping the United States: From 1960 to 1980, the divorce rate more than doubled — from 9.2 divorces per 1,000 married women to 22.6 divorces per 1,000 married women. This meant that while less than 20% of couples who married in 1950 ended up divorced, about 50% of couples who married in 1970 did. And approximately half of the children born to married parents in the 1970s saw their parents part, compared to only about 11% of those born in the 1950s.

In the years since 1980, however, these trends have not continued on straight upward paths, and the story of divorce has grown increasingly complicated. In the case of divorce, as in so many others, the worst consequences of the social revolution of the 1960s and ’70s are now felt disproportionately by the poor and less educated, while the wealthy elites who set off these transformations in the first place have managed to reclaim somewhat healthier and more stable habits of married life. This imbalance leaves our cultural and political elites less well attuned to the magnitude of social dysfunction in much of American society, and leaves the most vulnerable Americans — especially children living in poor and working-class communities — even worse off than they would otherwise be.

THE RISE OF DIVORCE

The divorce revolution of the 1960s and ’70s was over-determined. The nearly universal introduction of no-fault divorce helped to open the floodgates, especially because these laws facilitated unilateral divorce and lent moral legitimacy to the dissolution of marriages. The sexual revolution, too, fueled the marital tumult of the times: Spouses found it easier in the Swinging Seventies to find extramarital partners, and came to have higher, and often unrealistic, expectations of their marital relationships. Increases in women’s employment as well as feminist consciousness-raising also did their part to drive up the divorce rate, as wives felt freer in the late ’60s and ’70s to leave marriages that were abusive or that they found unsatisfying.

The anti-institutional tenor of the age also meant that churches lost much of their moral authority to reinforce the marital vow. It didn’t help that many mainline Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders were caught up in the zeitgeist, and lent explicit or implicit support to the divorce revolution sweeping across American society. This accomodationist mentality was evident in a 1976 pronouncement issued by the United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant denomination in America. The statement read in part:

In marriages where the partners are, even after thoughtful reconsideration and counsel, estranged beyond reconciliation, we recognize divorce and the right of divorced persons to remarry, and express our concern for the needs of the children of such unions. To this end we encourage an active, accepting, and enabling commitment of the Church and our society to minister to the needs of divorced persons.

Most important, the psychological revolution of the late ’60s and ’70s, which was itself fueled by a post-war prosperity that allowed people to give greater attention to non-material concerns, played a key role in reconfiguring men and women’s views of marriage and family life. Prior to the late 1960s, Americans were more likely to look at marriage and family through the prisms of duty, obligation, and sacrifice. A successful, happy home was one in which intimacy was an important good, but by no means the only one in view. A decent job, a well-maintained home, mutual spousal aid, child-rearing, and shared religious faith were seen almost universally as the goods that marriage and family life were intended to advance.

But the psychological revolution’s focus on individual fulfillment and personal growth changed all that. Increasingly, marriage was seen as a vehicle for a self-oriented ethic of romance, intimacy, and fulfillment. In this new psychological approach to married life, one’s primary obligation was not to one’s family but to one’s self; hence, marital success was defined not by successfully meeting obligations to one’s spouse and children but by a strong sense of subjective happiness in marriage — usually to be found in and through an intense, emotional relationship with one’s spouse. The 1970s marked the period when, for many Americans, a more institutional model of marriage gave way to the “soul-mate model” of marriage.

Of course, the soul-mate model was much more likely to lead couples to divorce court than was the earlier institutional model of marriage. Now, those who felt they were in unfulfilling marriages also felt obligated to divorce in order to honor the newly widespread ethic of expressive individualism. As social historian Barbara Dafoe Whitehead has observed of this period, “divorce was not only an individual right but also a psychological resource. The dissolution of marriage offered the chance to make oneself over from the inside out, to refurbish and express the inner self, and to acquire certain valuable psychological assets and competencies, such as initiative, assertiveness, and a stronger and better self-image.”

But what about the children? In the older, institutional model of marriage, parents were supposed to stick together for their sake. The view was that divorce could leave an indelible emotional scar on children, and would also harm their social and economic future. Yet under the new soul-mate model of marriage, divorce could be an opportunity for growth not only for adults but also for their offspring. The view was that divorce could protect the emotional welfare of children by allowing their parents to leave marriages in which they felt unhappy. In 1962, as Whitehead points out in her book The Divorce Culture, about half of American women agreed with the idea that “when there are children in the family parents should stay together even if they don’t get along.” By 1977, only 20% of American women held this view.

At the height of the divorce revolution in the 1970s, many scholars, therapists, and journalists served as enablers of this kind of thinking. These elites argued that children were resilient in the face of divorce; that children could easily find male role models to replace absent fathers; and that children would be happier if their parents were able to leave unhappy marriages. In 1979, one prominent scholar wrote in the Journal of Divorce that divorce even held “growth potential” for mothers, as they could enjoy “increased personal autonomy, a new sense of competence and control, [and the] development of better relationships with [their] children.” And in 1974’s The Courage to Divorce, social workers Susan Gettleman and Janet Markowitz argued that boys need not be harmed by the absence of their fathers: “When fathers are not available, friends, relatives, teachers and counselors can provide ample opportunity for youngsters to model themselves after a like-sexed adult.”

Thus, by the time the 1970s came to a close, many Americans — rich and poor alike — had jettisoned the institutional model of married life that prioritized the welfare of children, and which sought to discourage divorce in all but the most dire of circumstances. Instead, they embraced the soul-mate model of married life, which prioritized the emotional welfare of adults and gave moral permission to divorce for virtually any reason.

THE MORNING AFTER

Thirty years later, the myth of the good divorce has not stood up well in the face of sustained social scientific inquiry — especially when one considers the welfare of children exposed to their parents’ divorces.

Since 1974, about 1 million children per year have seen their parents divorce — and children who are exposed to divorce are two to three times more likely than their peers in intact marriages to suffer from serious social or psychological pathologies. In their book Growing Up with a Single Parent: What Hurts, What Helps, sociologists Sara McLanahan and Gary Sandefur found that 31% of adolescents with divorced parents dropped out of high school, compared to 13% of children from intact families. They also concluded that 33% of adolescent girls whose parents divorced became teen mothers, compared to 11% of girls from continuously married families. And McLanahan and her colleagues have found that 11% of boys who come from divorced families end up spending time in prison before the age of 32, compared to 5% of boys who come from intact homes.

Research also indicates that remarriage is no salve for children wounded by divorce. Indeed, as sociologist Andrew Cherlin notes in his important new book, The Marriage-Go-Round, “children whose parents have remarried do not have higher levels of well-being than children in lone-parent families.” The reason? Often, the establishment of a step-family results in yet another move for a child, requiring adjustment to a new caretaker and new step-siblings — all of which can be difficult for children, who tend to thrive on stability.

The divorce revolution’s collective consequences for children are striking. Taking into account both divorce and non-marital childbearing, sociologist Paul Amato estimates that if the United States enjoyed the same level of family stability today as it did in 1960, the nation would have 750,000 fewer children repeating grades, 1.2 million fewer school suspensions, approximately 500,000 fewer acts of teenage delinquency, about 600,000 fewer kids receiving therapy, and approximately 70,000 fewer suicides every year. As Amato concludes, turning back the family-­stability clock just a few decades could significantly improve the lives of many children.

Skeptics confronted with this kind of research often argue that it is unfair to compare children of divorce to children from intact, married households. They contend that it is the conflict that precedes the divorce, rather than the divorce itself, that is likely to be particularly traumatic for children. Amato’s work suggests that the skeptics have a point: In cases where children are exposed to high levels of conflict — like domestic violence or screaming matches between parents — they do seem to do better if their parents part.

But more than two-thirds of all parental divorces do not involve such highly conflicted marriages. And “unfortunately, these are the very divorces that are most likely to be stressful for children,” as Amato and Alan Booth, his colleague at Penn State University, point out. When children see their parents divorce because they have simply drifted apart — or because one or both parents have become unhappy or left to pursue another ­partner — the kids’ faith in love, commitment, and marriage is often shattered. In the wake of their parents’ divorce, children are also likely to experience a family move, marked declines in their family income, a stressed-out single mother, and substantial periods of paternal absence — all factors that put them at risk. In other words, the clear majority of divorces involving children in America are not in the best interests of the children.

Not surprisingly, the effects of divorce on adults are more ambiguous. From an emotional and social perspective, about 20% of divorced adults find their lives enhanced and another 50% seem to suffer no long-term ill effects, according to research by psychologist Mavis Hetherington. Adults who initiated a divorce are especially likely to report that they are flourishing afterward, or are at least doing just fine.

Spouses who were unwilling parties to a unilateral divorce, however, tend to do less well. And the ill effects of divorce for adults tend to fall disproportionately on the shoulders of fathers. Since approximately two-thirds of divorces are legally initiated by women, men are more likely than women to be divorced against their will. In many cases, these men have not engaged in egregious marital misconduct such as abuse, adultery, or substance abuse. They feel mistreated by their ex-wives and by state courts that no longer take into account marital “fault” when making determinations about child custody, child support, and the division of marital property. Yet in the wake of a divorce, these men will nevertheless often lose their homes, a substantial share of their monthly incomes, and regular contact with their children. For these men, and for women caught in similar circumstances, the sting of an unjust divorce can lead to downward emotional spirals, difficulties at work, and serious deteriorations in the quality of their relationships with their children.

Looking beyond the direct effects of divorce on adults and children, it is also important to note the ways in which widespread divorce has eroded the institution of marriage — particularly, its assault on the quality, prevalence, and stability of marriage in American life.

In the 1970s, proponents of easy divorce argued that the ready availability of divorce would boost the quality of married life, as abused, unfulfilled, or otherwise unhappy spouses were allowed to leave their marriages. Had they been correct, we would expect to see that Americans’ reports of marital quality had improved during and after the 1970s. Instead, marital quality fell during the ’70s and early ’80s. In the early 1970s, 70% of married men and 67% of married women reported being very happy in their marriages; by the early ’80s, these figures had fallen to 63% for men and 62% for women. So marital quality dropped even as divorce rates were reaching record highs.

What happened? It appears that average marriages suffered during this time, as widespread divorce undermined ordinary couples’ faith in marital permanency and their ability to invest financially and emotionally in their marriages — ultimately casting clouds of doubt over their relationships. For instance, one study by economist Betsey Stevenson found that investments in marital partnerships declined in the wake of no-fault divorce laws. Specifically, she found that newlywed couples in states that passed no-fault divorce were about 10% less likely to support a spouse through college or graduate school and were 6% less likely to have a child together. Ironically, then, the widespread availability of easy divorce not only enabled “bad” marriages to be weeded out, but also made it more difficult for “good” marriages to take root and flourish.

Second, marriage rates have fallen and cohabitation rates have surged in the wake of the divorce revolution, as men and women’s faith in marriage has been shaken. From 1960 to 2007, the percentage of American women who were married fell from 66% to 51%, and the percentage of men who were married fell from 69% to 55%. Yet at the same time, the number of cohabiting couples increased fourteen-fold — from 439,000 to more than 6.4 million. Because of these increases in cohabitation, about 40% of American children will spend some time in a cohabiting union; 20% of babies are now born to cohabiting couples. And because cohabiting unions are much less stable than marriages, the vast majority of the children born to cohabiting couples will see their parents break up by the time they turn 15.

A recent Bowling Green State University study of the motives for cohabitation found that young men and women who choose to cohabit are seeking alternatives to marriage and ways of testing a relationship to see if it might be safely transformed into a marriage — with both rationales clearly shaped by a fear of divorce. One young man told the researchers that living together allows you to “get to know the person and their habits before you get married. So that way, you won’t have to get divorced.” Another said that an advantage of cohabitation is that you “don’t have to go through the divorce process if you do want to break up, you don’t have to pay lawyers and have to deal with splitting everything and all that jazz.”

My own research confirms the connection between divorce and cohabitation in America. Specifically, data from the General Social Survey indicate that adult children of divorce are 61% more likely than adult children from married families to endorse the notion that it is a “good idea for a couple who intend to get married to live together first.” Likewise, adult children of divorce are 47% more likely to be currently cohabiting, compared to those who were raised in intact, married families. Thus divorce has played a key role in reducing marriage and increasing cohabitation, which now exists as a viable competitor to marriage in the organization of sex, intimacy, childbearing, and even child-rearing.

Third, the divorce revolution has contributed to an intergenerational cycle of divorce. Work by demographer Nicholas Wolfinger indicates that the adult children of divorce are now 89% more likely to divorce themselves, compared to adults who were raised in intact, married families. Children of divorce who marry other children of divorce are especially likely to end up divorced, according to Wolfinger’s work. Of course, the reason children of divorce — especially children of low-conflict divorce — are more likely to end their marriages is precisely that they have often learned all the wrong lessons about trust, commitment, mutual sacrifice, and fidelity from their parents.

THE DIVORCE DIVIDE

Clearly, the divorce revolution of the 1960s and ’70s left a poisonous legacy. But what has happened since? Where do we stand today on the question of marriage and divorce? A survey of the landscape presents a decidedly mixed portrait of contemporary married life in America.

The good news is that, on the whole, divorce has declined since 1980 and marital happiness has largely stabilized. The divorce rate fell from a historic high of 22.6 divorces per 1,000 married women in 1980 to 17.5 in 2007. In real terms, this means that slightly more than 40% of contemporary first marriages are likely to end in divorce, down from approximately 50% in 1980. Perhaps even more important, recent declines in divorce suggest that a clear majority of children who are now born to married couples will grow up with their married mothers and fathers.

Similarly, the decline in marital happiness associated with the tidal wave of divorce in the 1960s and ’70s essentially stopped more than two decades ago. Men’s marital happiness hovered around 63% from the early 1980s to the mid-2000s, while women’s marital happiness fell just a bit, from 62% in the early 1980s to 60% in the mid-2000s.

This good news can be explained largely by three key factors. First, the age at first marriage has risen. In 1970, the median age of marriage was 20.8 for women and 23.2 for men; in 2007, it was 25.6 for women and 27.5 for men. This means that fewer Americans are marrying when they are too immature to forge successful marriages. (It is true that some of the increase in age at first marriage is linked to cohabitation, but not the bulk of it.)

Second, the views of academic and professional experts about divorce and family breakdown have changed significantly in recent decades. Social-science data about the consequences of divorce have moved many scholars across the political spectrum to warn against continuing the divorce revolution, and to argue that intact families are essential, especially to the well-being of children. Here is a characteristic example, from a recent publication by a group of scholars at the Brookings Institution and Princeton University:

Marriage provides benefits both to children and to society. Although it was once possible to believe that the nation’s high rates of divorce, cohabitation, and nonmarital childbearing represented little more than lifestyle alternatives brought about by the freedom to pursue individual self-fulfillment, many analysts now believe that these individual choices can be damaging to the children who have no say in them and to the society that enables them.

Although certainly not all scholars, therapists, policymakers, and journalists would agree that contemporary levels of divorce and family breakdown are cause for worry, a much larger share of them expresses concern about the health of marriage in America — and about America’s high level of divorce — than did so in the 1970s. These views seep into the popular consciousness and influence behavior — just as they did in the 1960s and ’70s, when academic and professional experts carried the banner of the divorce revolution.

A third reason for the stabilization in divorce rates and marital happiness is not so heartening. Put simply, marriage is increasingly the preserve of the highly educated and the middle and upper classes. Fewer working-class and poor Americans are marrying nowadays in part because marriage is seen increasingly as a sort of status symbol: a sign that a couple has arrived both emotionally and financially, or is at least within range of the American Dream. This means that those who do marry today are more likely to start out enjoying the money, education, job security, and social skills that increase the probability of long-term marital success.

And this is where the bad news comes in. When it comes to divorce and marriage, America is increasingly divided along class and educational lines. Even as divorce in general has declined since the 1970s, what sociologist Steven Martin calls a “divorce divide” has also been growing between those with college degrees and those without (a distinction that also often translates to differences in income). The figures are quite striking: College-educated Americans have seen their divorce rates drop by about 30% since the early 1980s, whereas Americans without college degrees have seen their divorce rates increase by about 6%. Just under a quarter of college-educated couples who married in the early 1970s divorced in their first ten years of marriage, compared to 34% of their less-educated peers. Twenty years later, only 17% of college-­educated couples who married in the early 1990s divorced in their first ten years of marriage; 36% of less-educated couples who married in the early 1990s, however, divorced sometime in their first decade of marriage.

This growing divorce divide means that college-educated married couples are now about half as likely to divorce as their less-educated peers. Well-educated spouses who come from intact families, who enjoy annual incomes over $60,000, and who conceive their first child in ­wedlock — as many college-educated couples do — have exceedingly low rates of divorce.

Similar trends can be observed in measures of marital quality. For instance, if we look at married couples aged 18-60, 72% of spouses who were both college-educated and 65% of spouses who were both less-educated reported that they were “very happy” in their marriages in the 1970s, according to the General Social Survey. In the 2000s, marital happiness remained high among college-educated spouses, as 70% continued to report that they were “very happy” in their marriages. But marital happiness fell among less-educated spouses: Only 56% reported that they were “very happy” in their marriages in the 2000s.

Wilcox Figure

These trends are mirrored in American illegitimacy statistics. Although one would never guess as much from the regular New York Times features on successful single women having children, non-marital childbearing is quite rare among college-educated women. According to a 2007 Child Trends study, only 7% of mothers with a college degree had a child outside of marriage, compared to more than 50% of mothers who had not gone to college.

So why are marriage and traditional child-rearing making a modest comeback in the upper reaches of society while they continue to unravel among those with less money and less education? Both cultural and economic forces are at work, each helping to widen the divorce and marriage divide in America.

First, while it was once the case that working-class and poor Americans held more conservative views of divorce than their middle- and upper-class peers, this is no longer so. For instance, a 2004 National Fatherhood Initiative poll of American adults aged 18-60 found that 52% of college-­educated Americans endorsed the norm that in the “absence of violence and extreme conflict, parents who have an unsatisfactory marriage should stay together until their children are grown.” But only 35% of less-educated Americans surveyed endorsed the same viewpoint.

Likewise, according to my analysis of the General Social Survey, in the 1970s only 36% of college-educated Americans thought divorce should be “more difficult to obtain than it is now,” compared to 46% of less-educated Americans. By the 2000s, 49% of college-educated Americans thought divorce laws should be tightened, compared to 48% of less-­educated ­Americans. Views of marriage have been growing more conservative among elites, but not among the poor and the less educated.

Second, the changing cultural meaning of marriage has also made it less necessary and less attractive to working-class and poor Americans. Prior to the 1960s, when the older, institutional model of marriage dominated popular consciousness, marriage was the only legitimate venue for having sex, bearing and raising children, and enjoying an intimate relationship. Moreover, Americans generally saw marriage as an institution that was about many more goods than a high-quality emotional relationship. Therefore, it made sense for all men and women — regardless of socioeconomic status — to get and stay married.

Yet now that the institutional model has lost its hold over the lives of American adults, sex, children, and intimacy can be had outside of ­marriage. All that remains unique to marriage today is the prospect of that high-quality emotional bond — the soul-mate model. As a result, marriage is now disproportionately appealing to wealthier, better-­educated couples, because less-educated, less-wealthy couples often do not have the emotional, social, and financial resources to enjoy a high-quality soul-mate marriage.

The qualitative research of sociologists Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas, for instance, shows that lower-income couples are much more likely to struggle with conflict, infidelity, and substance abuse than their higher-income peers, especially as the economic position of working-class men has grown more precarious since the 1970s. Because of shifts away from industrial employment and toward service occupations, real wages and employment rates have dropped markedly for working-class men, but not for college-educated men. For instance, from 1973 to 2007, real wages of men with a college degree rose 18%; by contrast, the wages of high-school-educated men fell 11%. Likewise, in 1970, 96% of men aged 25-64 with high-school degrees or with college degrees were employed. By 2003, employment had fallen only to 93% for college-­educated men of working age. But for working-aged men with only high-school degrees, labor-force participation had fallen to 84%, according to research by economist Francine Blau. These trends indicate that less-educated men have, in economic terms, become much less attractive as providers for their female peers than have college-educated men.

In other words, the soul-mate model of marriage does not extend equal marital opportunities. It therefore makes sense that fewer poor Americans would take on the responsibilities of modern married life, knowing that they are unlikely to reap its rewards.

The emergence of the divorce and marriage divide in America exacerbates a host of other social problems. The breakdown of marriage in ­working-class and poor communities has played a major role in fueling poverty and inequality, for instance. Isabel Sawhill at the Brookings Institution has concluded that virtually all of the increase in child poverty in the United States since the 1970s can be attributed to family breakdown. Meanwhile, the dissolution of marriage in working-class and poor communities has also fueled the growth of government, as federal, state, and local governments spend more money on police, prisons, welfare, and court costs, trying to pick up the pieces of broken families. Economist Ben Scafidi recently found that the public costs of family breakdown exceed $112 billion a year.

Moreover, children in single-parent homes are more likely to be exposed to Hollywood’s warped vision of sex, relationships, and family life. For instance, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that children in single-parent homes devote almost 45 minutes more per day to watching television than children in two-parent homes. Given the distorted nature of the popular culture’s family-related messages, and the unorthodox family relationships of celebrity role models, this means that children in single-parent families are even less likely to develop a healthy understanding of marriage and family life — and are therefore less likely to have a positive vision of their own marital future.

Thus, the fallout of America’s retreat from marriage has hit poor and working-class communities especially hard, with children on the lower end of the economic spectrum doubly disadvantaged by the material and marital circumstances of their parents.

STRENGHTENING MARRIAGE

There are no magic cures for the growing divorce divide in America. But a few modest policy measures could offer some much-needed help.

First, the states should reform their divorce laws. A return to fault-based divorce is almost certainly out of the question as a political matter, but some plausible common-sense reforms could nonetheless inject a measure of sanity into our nation’s divorce laws. States should combine a one-year waiting period for married parents seeking a divorce with programs that educate those parents about the likely social and emotional consequences of their actions for their children. State divorce laws should also allow courts to factor in spousal conduct when making decisions about alimony, child support, custody, and property division. In particular, spouses who are being divorced against their will, and who have not engaged in egregious misbehavior such as abuse, adultery, or abandonment, should be given preferential treatment by family courts. Such consideration would add a measure of justice to the current divorce process; it would also discourage some divorces, as spouses who would otherwise seek an easy exit might avoid a divorce that would harm them financially or limit their access to their children.

Second, Congress should extend the federal Healthy Marriage Initiative. In 2006, as part of President George W. Bush’s marriage initiative, Congress passed legislation allocating $100 million a year for five years to more than 100 programs designed to strengthen marriage and ­family ­relationships in America — especially among low-income couples. As Kathryn Edin of Harvard has noted, many of these programs are equipping poor and working-class couples with the relational skills that their better-educated peers rely upon to sustain their marriages. In the next year or two, many of these programs will be evaluated; the most successful programs serving poor and working-class communities should receive additional funding, and should be used as models for new programs to serve these communities. New ideas — like additional social-marketing campaigns on behalf of marriage, on the model of those undertaken to discourage smoking — should also be explored through the initiative.

Third, the federal government should expand the child tax credit. Raising children is expensive, and has become increasingly so, given rising college and health-care costs. Yet the real value of federal tax deductions for children has fallen considerably since the 1960s. To remedy this state of affairs, Ramesh Ponnuru and Robert Stein have proposed expanding the current child tax credit from $1,000 to $5,000 and making it fully refundable against both income and payroll taxes. A reform along those lines would provide a significant measure of financial relief to working-class and middle-class families, and would likely strengthen their increasingly fragile marriages.

Of course, none of these reforms of law and policy alone is likely to exercise a transformative influence on the quality and stability of marriage in America. Such fixes must be accompanied by changes in the wider culture. Parents, churches, schools, public officials, and the entertainment industry will have to do a better job of stressing the merits of a more institutional model of marriage. This will be particularly important for poor and working-class young adults, who are drifting away from marriage the fastest.

This is a tall order, to say the least. But if our society is genuinely interested in protecting and improving the welfare of children — especially children in our nation’s most vulnerable communities — we must strengthen marriage and reduce the incidence of divorce in America. The unthinkable alternative is a nation divided more and more by class and marital ­status, and children doubly disadvantaged by poverty and single parenthood. Surely no one believes that such a state of affairs is in the national interest.

W. Bradford Wilcox is the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and a senior fellow at the Institute for American Values.

The Evolution of Divorce > Publications > National Affairs.

Time Gets a Little Right and Much Wrong about Marriage in America – GlennSacks.com » Blog Archive

In Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, children legal status, children's behaviour, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, custody, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, Feminism, Freedom, Homosexual Agenda, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Liberty, Marriage, parental alienation, Parental Alienation Syndrome on August 31, 2009 at 12:53 am

Time Gets a Little Right and Much Wrong about Marriage in America

August 30th, 2009 by Robert Franklin, Esq.

You’d think that an article that ends with this sentence,

What we teach about the true meaning of marriage will determine a great deal about our fate,

would do a better job than this one does of teaching its readers about marriage (Time, 7/2/09).  Caitlin Flanagan gets a few of the high points right, but ignores others entirely.  Maybe there’s an unwritten rule that I don’t know about that forbids mention of certain things.

What Flanagan gets right are things like the value of marriage and a stable home environment to children’s wellbeing.  She understands as well that much of our divorce culture stems from a attitude of hedonism that’s been learned over the past few decades.  Adults often seem incapable of seeing and acting on the most obvious truth – that divorce harms children and that they benefit from having two parents to raise them.  Absent the direst circumstances, adults who have made the choice to have children, should stick together and stick with the children until they themselves become adults.  After that, divorce is fine.

So Flanagan gets the basics, but her context goes a long way toward undermining her thesis.  That context is male infidelity.  The article starts off with photos of various high-profile male philanderers – Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, John Edwards and, yes, Jon Gosselin.  In the text, she tosses in John Ensign, just to balance the ticket, I suppose.

So what Flanagan is suggesting, without coming out and saying it explicitly, is that the “me first” culture that’s destroying marriage is all about the narcisism of men.  Never does she mention a high-profile female adulterer.  Nowhere does she cite statistics that show that, while married men stray more than do married women, the difference is a matter of a few percentage points.  Depending on which study you prefer, something like 23-28% of married men have extramarital affairs while 15-22% of married women do.  In Flanagan’s piece no women do.

Nor does she mention that most marriages in which one or the other partner commits adultery remain intact.  So sexual infidelity, as wrong as it is, as painful as it is, as self-centered as it is, has little to do with the failure of marriage in America.

Flanagan champions marriage for the many good reasons we all know, but, while bemoaning the fragility of that most important of institutions, she never asks why it’s become fragile.  Doubtless the answers to that question are many and complex, but why not give it a shot?  Why not at least try?

Well, maybe it’s because doing so would inevitably lead where Flanagan and Time fear to tread.  Maybe it would violate that unwritten rule I mentioned earlier.  That marriage is in such ill repute, might conceivably force us to ask how it got that way.  After all, 50 years ago, it wasn’t.  So what happened?

Well, one thing that happened was feminism.

I’m aware of course that many feminists are married.  Gloria Steinem is; Katha Pollitt is; most of my female feminist friends are.  But one of the most consistent themes of feminist discourse over the past 40 years has been that marriage is the seat of male subjugation of women.  According to many feminist writers (see, e.g. Catharine MacKinnon) over the years, marriage is at best unnecessary and at worst dangerous to women.  And if men are dangerous to women, they’re no less so to children, so the story goes.

Never mind that essentially every word of those claims is directly contradicted by massive amounts of social science.  Never mind that, whatever may be true about women, men, fish and bicycles, children need their fathers.  And never mind that children have more to fear from their mothers than from their fathers.

Never mind all that because, for decades, popular culture absorbed and repeated most of those feminist claims producing TV programs, movies, books (fiction and non-fiction), short stories, etc. which hewed to the feminist narrative that men are dangerous to women and children and, in any case, incompetent to – and uninterested in – caring for children.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc?

No, that’s not my argument.  My argument is simply this: I find it highly coincidental that, after decades of denigrating men, fathers and the institution of marriage, that the institution of marriage is now so shaky.  Maybe the one had nothing to do with the other.  Maybe if second wave feminism had never happened, marriage would still be on the rocks.  About that we’ll never know.  But what we do know is what did happen.  Anyone who chooses to believe that the denigration of marriage by feminists and taken up by popular culture had nothing to do with its current status is welcome to that opinion.

Flanagan, not content to ignore feminism’s contibution to the decline of marriage, moves right on to ignore the law’s.  I’ve detailed elsewhere the many, many ways in which family law separates children from fathers and thus tends to obviate the reason for marriage.  So I won’t go into that again.  But what I will say is this:  we know the one thing that will do more than anything else to discourage it – shared parenting.

Women file for about 70% of divorces in the United States.  They do so because they know to a virtual certainty that they will retain physical custody of their children.  That was the finding of a massive study done in 2000 by Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen of over 40,000 divorce cases in four states.  They learned that far more than any other factor encouraging divorce was the fact that the woman knew she would not lose contact with her children.  What’s also true is that divorce rates drop in jurisdictions that adopt some version of shared parenting.  Establish shared parenting as the law, and, in addition to all its other benefits, watch the divorce rate drop.

But Caitlin Flanagan reports none of that.

Think of what might happen if we devoted even half the resources to telling the truth about fathers and children that we devoted to disinformation about them over the past 40 years.  Combine that with making real efforts – like establishing the presumption of shared parenting in all 50 states – to ensure maximal continued contact between fathers and children post-divorce.  Do those two things and let’s see what the state of marriage is in this country.

Thanks to Jed for the heads-up.

GlennSacks.com » Blog Archive » Time Gets a Little Right and Much Wrong about Marriage in America.

California’s marriage and family therapists fight war of words about same-sex unions

In Children and Domestic Violence, Childrens Rights, Civil Rights, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, Family Rights, Homosexual Agenda, Marriage, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation on August 23, 2009 at 3:36 am
As well all know, the greatest perpetrators of Domestic Violence are Lesbisan v Lesbian, not man against woman.  It is a case of “victim v. victim”.  Who is the winner?  Not children.
This should provide therapist a millions years of works!!  The only people who profit from same sex unions are therapist, and attorney’s  – Parental Rights
California’s marriage and family therapists fight war of words about same-sex unions

By Sena Christian
More stories by this author…

Sacramento therapist Nicola Simmersbach was stunned by the anti-same-sex marriage articles that appeared in The Therapist.

PHOTO BY KEN JAMES

When Sacramento marriage and family therapist Nicola Simmersbach received the May/June issue of her professional association’s publication, The Therapist, she was horrified. She’d been warned by a colleague to expect the worst, yet when she read through the pages, she still felt betrayed.

Eight articles within the publication adamantly opposed same-sex marriage, doing so in a blatantly discriminatory and homophobic way, in her opinion. As a therapist and lesbian, she felt deeply hurt.

“It’s like opening up what you think is a letter from a family member and finding pornography,” Simmersbach said. “It was a huge shock.”

The Therapist is published by the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, a 30,000-member organization based in San Diego. The articles appeared as part of a special section called “Tackling the Issues of Same-Sex Marriage,” which attempted to explore the pros and cons of the issue. The disputed articles have since been removed from the association’s Web site, but the ramifications have yet to subside.

Members of California Therapists for Marriage Equality accuse the association of violating its own ethical code that states, in part, the organization’s opposition to all discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation or marital status.

The group, which numbers a couple of thousand members, claims the articles argue that the inferiority and pathology of same-sex relationships are incompatible with parenting. In a petition seeking an apology, CTME says these “supposedly research-based arguments have been debunked many times over by legitimate scholars and practitioners in our own field and elsewhere.” CTME accuses the publication of portraying viewpoints on both sides of the issue as equally valid and professionally researched, which is misleading and damaging to gays and lesbians. But CAMFT says it simply presented a balance of views.

“We were seeing it as free speech and let’s put it all out there and let the members themselves make their own decisions about what’s right and what’s not right,” said Mary Riemersma, executive director of CAMFT and editor of The Therapist.

The controversy really began last year prior to the passage of Proposition 8, the initiative that changed the California Constitution to legally recognize only marriages between a man and a woman. Leading up to the election, a group of therapists urged CAMFT to take a position in support of same-sex marriage, but the association refused, deciding instead to remain neutral.

In response to those therapists upset over this inaction, CAMFT decided to examine same-sex marriage through a pro-and-con format in the May/June issue of The Therapist, said Riemersma, who reads through every manuscript the association receives and writes “yes,” “no” or “maybe” on each. According to Riemersma, the association solicited and paid for (which is rarely done) a few of the pro same-sex marriage articles; the organization didn’t pay for any of the anti-same-sex marriage articles.

The con articles come from therapists and attorneys, and even an accountant, who wrote a particularly unsettling memoir of her abusive childhood growing up in the 1960s with her promiscuous, irresponsible, gay father who trotted out numerous partners and engaged in risky sexual behavior. The article is titled “An Inside Look at Gay Parenting.”

“We feel for her, but that had nothing to do with her father being gay,” Simmersbach said. “He was just a lousy father.”

The association didn’t evaluate the research presented within any of the articles, and while several of the pro articles appear to be drawn from academic journals and heavily researched using credible sources, members of CTME describe the con articles as flimsy, based on long-debunked data and reliant on studies conducted by religious institutions.

“Frankly, I thought a couple of the [con] articles were lame,” Riemersma said. “That was my opinion.” Ultimately, though, she decided it was important to present differing opinions.

But CTME argues that some of these dissenting views promote discrimination and homophobia against GLBTQ families.

One con article in The Therapist states: “Same-sex marriage may be in the best interest of adult homosexuals who yearn for social and legal recognition of their unions, but it’s not in the best interest of children.” Another article accuses gay-marriage advocates of disregarding the issue of “homosexually parented” children as “irrelevant.”

On the pro side, one article notes how married individuals have better mental health, which positively impacts their children: “To the extent that legal marriage fosters well-being in couples, it will enhance the well-being in their children who benefit most when their parents are financially secure, physically and psychologically healthy and not subjected to high levels of stress.”

Authors on both sides agree that when gays and lesbians become parents, they do so after much deliberation, joint consultation and financial expense.

“Same-sex families provide better parenting situations because it’s not an ‘oops’ situation. You really have to want it,” said Wendy Rae-Hill, director of government relations and political affairs for the California chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Rae-Hill, herself a lesbian with two young daughters, was integral in forming CTME.

A few of the con articles use fear tactics, such as one author who writes of “the indoctrination of public school students in the merits of same-sex marriage.” Another says: “It also must be expected that if society permits same-sex marriage, it also will have to allow other types of non-traditional marriage … [like] polygamous marriage,” adding that such legal maneuverings are already underway. Several articles suggest that legalizing same-sex marriage threatens religious freedom.

Potentially, the most troubling of the articles critical of same-sex marriage are those that mention reparative, or conversion, therapy, grounded in the belief that an individual can change his or her sexual orientation. Earlier this month, the American Psychological Association declared that reparative therapy should not be used on clients, in a 125-4 vote, based on two years of research.

Reparative therapy, critics argue, pressures clients into repudiating an essential part of their core selves—a difficult notion to reconcile with a therapist’s ethical vow to “do no harm.” And the American Psychoanalytic Association has stated that “same-gender sexual orientation cannot be assumed to represent a deficit in personality development or the expression of psychopathology.” Which means being gay is a healthy variation of sexuality and not a pathology, and therefore should not be treated as such.

“[Reparative therapy] is not client-empowering, but somebody telling you what to do and brainwashing you,” Rae-Hill said. “You can have your own political views, your own religious views, but when it comes to client services, you should ethically act in the best interest of the client.”

Several of the con articles in The Therapist openly explore the role of religion in therapy, highlighting the balancing act between personal beliefs and the professional mandate to provide care and affirmation to all patients, including GLBTQ people.

Additionally, another issue indirectly reflected in the fallout following the May/June issue of The Therapist is CAMFT’s continued refusal to take a stand on same-sex marriage.

Riemersma has been with the association for 25 years, and in looking back at records since the 1970s, said she has found no evidence of the association taking a stand on any social-justice issue, including the civil-rights movement and the Vietnam War. “If we take a position, who does that position alienate?” she said.

“How can you not take a position on marriage?” asked Rae-Hill, whose own organization, NASW, supports gay marriage. “This is an association for family and marriage therapists.”

Historically, CAMFT has only taken positions on mental-health initiatives. But this is a mental-health issue, critics argue, noting the mental-health impacts of denying marriage to gays and lesbians, which reinforces the age-old stereotype that homosexuals are unnatural and morally perverse, their relationships illegitimate.

As one therapist writes, “While the current marriage struggle is a civil rights and political issue, for LGBT people it is very much a psychological and social issue.”

While it may be common for CAMFT to remain neutral on social-justice or civil-rights issues, that’s not true of all mental-health organizations.

The American Psychological Association and American Psychiatric Association support the legalization of same-sex civil marriages. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy has stated that it believes all couples who willingly commit themselves to each other and their children have a right to expect equal support and benefits in civil society.

Meanwhile, Simmersbach has become a conscientious objector at CAMFT, choosing not to pay her membership dues. During the day, she works for the Sacramento County of Children’s Mental Health program. She also has a private practice; about half of her caseload is GLBTQ people and the other half heterosexuals. She remains disheartened with CAMFT, something Riemersma is working to address.

“I came out with an apology that was heartfelt,” Riemersma said. “Some members found the articles hurtful, and in no way did we have an intent to hurt members.”

Since The Therapist came out, CTME has held three continuing-education forums where marriage and family therapists can improve their skills at providing counseling services to GLBTQ people.

“In a way,” Rae-Hill said, “It’s a silver lining, to open up a conversation for folks.”

SN&R > Local Stories > Split personality > 08.20.09.

The War Against Family

In Activism, Alienation of Affection, Best Interest of the Child, Child Custody, Child Support, Children and Domestic Violence, children criminals, Childrens Rights, Christian, Civil Rights, CPS, deadbeat dads, Department of Social Servies, Divorce, Domestic Relations, Domestic Violence, due process rights, Family Court Reform, Family Rights, fatherlessness, fathers rights, Feminism, Foster CAre Abuse, Homosexual Agenda, Liberty, Marriage, motherlessness, mothers rights, Non-custodial fathers, Non-custodial mothers, Parental Alienation Syndrome, Parental Kidnapping, Parental Relocation, Parental Rights Amendment, Parentectomy, Parents rights, Restraining Orders on August 1, 2009 at 12:00 pm

Why to fight it—how to win it! By Joel Hilliker and Stephen Flurry

We are at war.

The very foundation of stability and strength in the United States and Britain, the traditional family, is being formidably attacked from every direction.

Just look at the carnage. Fewer people are marrying. Those who do marry are more prone to split up. Roles within marriage and family are reversed. Adultery is increasingly common. Same-sex “marriage” is being written into law. Clearly, marriage is on the ropes.

Four in 10 American children are born to unwed parents. Children are likelier than ever to grow up without one of their biological parents. They live in households where rebellion and disrespect are tolerated, even encouraged. Fornication is nearly universal. Pornography has gone mainstream. Unwed pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases are at all-time highs. A million American babies are aborted every year. Family is in full retreat.

Yes, there is a war raging in households across America and throughout the once-mighty United Kingdom. After decades of surrendering ground to a violent and fanatical enemy, what once was a solid family structure is now struggling for survival.

If you don’t rigorously engage the fight, you and your family will be among its casualties. You have already suffered from it more than you probably realize.

To successfully resist this dangerous trend, you need to see it clearly—and recognize the unseen force motivating it! Who is behind this war, and why? You must also understand just why it is so deadly.

Can it be stopped? You need specific strategies for combating it.

Families Upside-Down

In his book Democracy in America, published in the 1800s, Alexis de Tocqueville heaped praise on the 19th-century American family. “There is certainly no country in the world where the tie of marriage is more respected than in America,” Tocqueville wrote, “or where conjugal happiness is more highly or worthily appreciated.”

Today, society-wide immorality, upside-down families and no-fault divorce laws have turned the marriage institution into an almost laughably inconsequential arrangement. Sixty-two percent of Americans view divorce as a “morally acceptable” way to escape an inconvenient union.

We’ve not only accepted the plague of divorce. Many now see it as the morally right thing to do in most circumstances.

Those marriages that remain intact often suffer from other curses, like sexual dissatisfaction, financial woes and role confusion.

Tocqueville lauded the 19th-century American family for accentuating the “diverse” roles men and women undertook in marriage. “They have carefully separated the functions of man and of woman so that the great work of society may be better performed,” he said. The roles of husband and wife, he explained, perfectly complemented one another. “You will never find American women,” Tocqueville wrote, “in charge of the external relations of the family, managing a business or interfering in politics; but they are also never obliged to undertake rough laborer’s work or any task requiring hard physical exertion. No family is so poor that it makes an exception to this rule.”

Of course, the way marriage and family was arranged back then was much closer to the way God designed it from the very beginning. In Genesis 2, God organized mankind’s first family by making the man first and then creating the woman out of his rib. In verse 18, He called the woman a “help meet,” meaning opposite or counterpart.

According to Tocqueville, Americans understood that while men and women were made to fulfill different roles within the family hierarchy, each role was equal in importance.

Today, these unique roles have been reversed. Men have forsaken their responsibilities in the home as the family’s primary leader, provider, protector and educator. A growing number of wives (and children) simply miss out on the positive impact an involved father has on the family.

Making matters worse, a deafening chorus of politicians, activists, psychologists and entertainers maintain that husbands and fathers are unnecessary for the overall health and well-being of society.

Wives, meanwhile, have largely abandoned their most important duties at home—being a supportive helpmeet and loving mother. In 1950, for example, one in four married women between the ages of 25 and 44 were employed outside the home. Today, three in four are. While the hours that men and single women work are roughly the same as they were 50 years ago, married women’s hours working outside the home have tripled. Caring for children while Dad is at work is no longer the primary responsibility for most mothers.

As a consequence, children are largely left to themselves—growing up without proper, godly direction or a clear code of ethics upon which they can build their future families.

Targeting Children

Without a strong parental influence at home, children have become easy targets for evil forces—particularly regarding sex. Most Americans and Britons have now accepted premarital sex as inevitable for teens, which is why the primary focus for government-sponsored sex education is on teaching young people to be “safe” once they become sexually active. This approach, of course, encourages sexual activity among teens, which in turn increases the frequency of illegitimate births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortion.

In July, the level of sexual depravity reached a new low in Britain when the National Health Service produced a sex education pamphlet for schoolchildren. According to the Daily Mail, the publication complained that when it comes to sex, sociologists pay too much attention to “safe sex” and “loving relationships” and not enough to the subject of sensual pleasure. Teenagers, says the pamphlet’s author, have as much right to a good sex life as do adults.

Britain, it should be noted, has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Europe and second highest in the developed world, trailing only the United States. Of the 40,000 British girls who will be impregnated this year, half will opt for abortion (article, page 37).

The Homosexual Agenda

Sociologists aren’t the only ones working overtime to undermine the traditional family in Britain—political leaders are too. This past summer, British Conservative Party leader David Cameron issued an apology on behalf of his party for legislation passed in 1988 banning the promotion of homosexuality in schools. Known as “Section 28,” the law was introduced by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and was repealed by Tony Blair in 2003. For 15 years, the bill banned local councils from using taxpayer money to fund anything that showed homosexual relationships as normal, and made promoting “the teaching … of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” illegal in schools.

Conservative mp Dame Jill Knight, one of the main supporters of Section 28 back in the ’80s, spoke in 1999 about why the law had been introduced: “Parents certainly came to me and told me what was going on. They gave me some of the books with which little children as young as 5 and 6 were being taught. There was The Playbook for Kids About Sex in which brightly colored pictures of little stick men showed all about homosexuality and how it was done.”

Britain’s leading “conservative” politician has now apologized for his nation having ever banned such perversity.

Not to be outdone, the Labor Party is also working diligently to woo homosexual voters. Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently hosted leading homosexual advocates at his house on Downing Street. “I’m very proud of all that this government has achieved on lgbt [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] rights these last 12 years—often in the face of fierce opposition,” Mr. Brown said.

In America, President Barack Obama also played host to a large gathering of homosexuals at the White House on June 29. He had proclaimed June as “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month” to commemorate the 40-year anniversary of the lgbt rights movement in America. This struggle, Obama told more than 250 homosexuals at the White House reception, is “incredibly difficult.”

“There are unjust laws to overturn and unfair practices to stop,” he continued. “And though we’ve made progress, there are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors or even family members and loved ones, who still hold fast to worn arguments and old attitudes; who fail to see your families like their families; and who would deny you the rights that most Americans take for granted” (emphasis ours throughout).

He thinks we still have a long way to go. But just imagine what defenders of more traditional family values from generations ago would think about where we are today!

According to the New York Times, the first time homosexual leaders were even invited to the White House was in 1977. And in that instance, President Carter skipped the meeting and sent a mid-level aide instead.

What a difference 30 years makes. Today, Britain’s National Health Service, of all institutions, encourages teenagers to enjoy promiscuous sex. The leading “conservative” in Britain is apologizing for a 1988 law that prevented homosexual propaganda from being poured into the super-absorbent minds of 5-year-olds. The White House is hosting celebrations for homosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders. And we have a U.S. president who sees it as his duty to change the minds of Americans who still have “old attitudes” about homosexuality.

Truly, the most basic building block of a strong and stable civilization—the traditional family structure—is suffering attack from every direction. And sadly, as traditional family life crumbles, movies, television and popular songs glorify the dysfunction.

Sign of the Times

Herbert W. Armstrong recognized this war on the institution of family decades ago—and accurately predicted where it would lead. The threat, he wrote in 1976, was twofold. First, there is the prophesied breakdown of traditional marriage and family relationships. Added to that, he continued, “there is a widespread and aggressive conspiracy to destroy the institution of marriage” (Plain Truth, July 1976).

As alarmist as that might have seemed in 1976, who can deny it today?

“This is a war which is being vigorously and fanatically waged,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “Every subtle method is being employed to capture the minds of those of pre-marriage age.” Clearly, those minds were captured. Now they are 33 years older and, trapped in their own ignorance and error, have raised another generation even more deceived about marriage and family.

Most people have followed blindly along with the trend. But even among those who recognize it as a destructive drift that should be resisted, few understand just why it is happening and what is so wrong with it!

Why such a vicious assault on marriage and family? Why is the downward trend so rapid?

There is an unseen spiritual reason!

True, as Mr. Armstrong said, the breakdown of traditional marriage and family relationships was prophesied. In fact, it was a sign the biblical prophets gave of the last days—the days right before Jesus Christ’s Second Coming.

Everything about our modern-day dysfunctional society is exactly as the Prophet Isaiah said it would be: with women ruling the homes, children oppressing society and behaving arrogantly against their elders, and people parading the most heinous of their sins with pride (Isaiah 3:12, 5, 9). The Apostle Paul prophesied of our epidemic selfishness, preoccupation with material things, disobedient children, loss of natural familial affection (such as is manifest in the appalling abortion rate), and other rampant problems (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Christ Himself foretold that just before His return to this Earth in power and glory, our sophisticated, ultra-modern, anti-God society would revert back to the way it was in the days of Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:28-30).

Compelling evidence that we are indeed living in the very last days!

Civilization, as Mr. Armstrong wrote in The Missing Dimension in Sex, is on the way down and out—except that God prophesied to intervene with a mighty hand to save us from utter destruction!

But the question yet remains: Why is mankind following this destructive course? Who is behind it? How did God know this is the road we would travel? And how can we resist this trend and win this war in our own homes?

The answers have everything to do with why God created marriage and family in the first place.

God Created Man

Did you realize that marriage and family are institutions unique to human beings among all of God’s creation?

That’s right. No other animal on Earth—in fact, not even any of the angelic beings that God created—was meant to enjoy the blessings of family life! Marriage and family relationships are utterly unique to us. Do you know why?

In the first chapter of the Bible, you see God adorning the Earth with all manner of plant and animal life, creating conditions ideal for human beings. It then informs us, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26-27). There is much to note in these pivotal verses.

First, who is this “us”? Scripture shows that there were in fact two Beings here, members of the one Godhead (see, for example, John 1:1, 14). These two later became a Family—when the Most High God begat Jesus Christ in the womb of the virgin Mary. At that point they became Father and Son.

What does it mean that mankind was created after God’s likeness, in God’s image? It means that we look like God, and that we are meant to be fashioned after His very own perfect character. That is because He has implanted within us an incredible potential far greater than that given to anything else He has created!

Finally, why did God create male and female? Clearly, He made the conscious decision to divide us into these two groups. In His design, family begins with the joining of a man and woman—though science is working to eliminate this inevitability. Sex is not an accident of evolution, nor an arbitrary ornament on creation, but a conscious, deliberate choice with design and intent made by a super-intelligent Creator!

The relentless drive over the past half century in particular to equalize the sexes has completely obscured and destroyed the very deep and important reasons for God’s creative implementation of sex differences. Homosexuality, in effect, treats this essential component of creation as if it were mere decoration—even a mistake on God’s part. But are you willing to consider the reasoning, the logic, in His decision? This God who reveals Himself in the Bible claims that His thoughts are higher than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Why Marriage and Family?

In the next chapter in Genesis comes the truth that God created Eve as a “help meet” for Adam, and bound these two for life within the unique institution of marriage.

Again, why? Look at the animals and you can see that marriage is not necessary for procreation. Animals may exhibit a certain loyalty to certain other animals, but only humans have the multifaceted emotional and legal relationships associated with marriage and family.

Until a few generations ago, the concept of marriage and family was taken for granted—generally accepted as desirable—a means of rearing responsible children and producing a stable society. However, even then the deep understanding of why marriage was widely unknown.

Why? Because this is fundamentally spiritual knowledge!

Marriage is not a mere tradition. It is actually a sacred institution, established by God at the creation of humankind! It was created for specific purposes and designed to function according to definite laws. God also created our anatomies so that this two-person relationship is what generates children. He designed human development to occur slowly in order to make family life necessary: Children are completely dependent upon their parents, and parents must love, nurture, protect, educate and discipline their children.

God intended these covenant relationships to bring stability into our lives, to teach us faithfulness and loyalty, and to give us the opportunity to learn to live unselfishly with others as a harmonious team.

God could have made us all alike, never established marriage, provided some other means of reproduction, had us born with fully developed bodies and minds. He could have done things any number of other ways. But He did it this way for a reason.

Why? To one who doesn’t understand God’s purpose for mankind, it might seem somewhat arbitrary. Why male and female? Why marriage? Why do we reproduce through sex? Why children? Why family?

But the answer is clear to anyone who understands the truth revealed in the Bible but not generally understood—that of the incredible human potential.

The way God designed male, female, marriage and children, the family unit naturally creates a government structure patterned after the God Family pattern.

God designed all of these things the way He did to prepare us for eternal life in His Family!

The truth of this reality far surpasses the insipid view of an afterlife spent sitting on a cloud strumming a harp. God is about to establish a Kingdom, here on Earth, ruling all nations, with literal positions of king-priesthood to be filled by human beings transformed into Spirit-born members of the God Family! (Request our book The Incredible Human Potential for a thorough biblical explanation of this truth.)

This is why the human family is so critical in God’s mind. We need family, as God designed it, in order to really prepare for positions in God’s Family! Done right, marriage is intended to teach spiritual lessons about the God Family (e.g. Ephesians 5:31-33). A child growing up in a godly family learns spiritual lessons. In other words, if a family is run as God intended it, there are God-plane dynamics at work—living lessons in God’s government and family love!

Behind the Anti-Family Front

It is true that not being in such a family does not in any way disqualify someone from God’s Kingdom. However, they still must learn deeply about why marriage and why family.

To take it upon ourselves to redefine what a family is, to spurn God’s standard and set up our own, to presume that our ideas which are totally contrary to God’s are in fact superior in design and in the results they produce—this is the height of both arrogance and folly!

Yes, there is a war being waged over marriage and family. On one side are those trying to preserve God’s design; on the other are those trying to destroy God’s design!

Marriage and family have everything to do with the gospel of God—which is the good news of the coming Family of God. This is why it is so important to God. “Adultery, fornication, masturbation, homosexuality are so colossally sinful because they violate, pollute, profane and destroy something so holy and so monumentally righteous in God’s sight!” (Herbert W. Armstrong, The Missing Dimension in Sex).

The true force motivating the anti-family front is a spirit being, revealed in Scripture, who was never offered the opportunity to be in God’s Family (our free book Mystery of the Ages explains this truth). He was never given the creative power to reproduce himself. He hates family and wants to blot it out forever! This is the adversary—Satan the devil—who first deceived Eve into turning against God (Genesis 3:1-6) and has since deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9). He is bent on nothing less than the destruction of humanity.

Satan seeks the complete destruction of family. He knows that by destroying families, he can destroy nations and can blind people to the simple, hope-filled truth of God—so he is doing everything he can to devastate that God-plane relationship!

Truly, we are witnessing a titanic war over marriage and family. But God is not going to lose this war!

God’s Solution

God created humankind in His own image and likeness—to be productive, noble and free—to grow in godly character through the rich experiences and responsibilities of family life—to, ultimately, gain entrance into His own Family.

The anti-family agenda breaks down character, tramples on that potential, and destroys the family vision of God. But in our sophistication, that is considered good! What God esteems, men scorn—and what men exalt, God calls an abomination!

Thus, God thunders this message to our modern world: “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20-21).

Yes—woe! Track the prophecies of our family breakdown—of our upside-down marriages, of our lust-filled, adulterous culture, of our failure to govern our children, of our return to the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah—and you will see that God also promises to forcibly correct those problems!

Peter, the chief apostle, spoke of the anti-family history of Sodom and Gomorrah as a prophecy. God turned those cities “into ashes,” and in so doing He made them “an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly” (2 Peter 2:6). The epistle of Jude speaks of these two cities as suffering the “vengeance of eternal fire.” Jude wrote that God set them forth as an example for our day!

These men were warning that any people getting caught up in those sins should expect the same end! When you live in cities polluted like Sodom and Gomorrah, look out—they are about to be destroyed by fire!—this time, likely in the form of nuclear bombs and other modern means. It is probably the strongest warning example in the Bible!

This is not an outdated Old Testament story—it is New Testament doctrine. Christ Himself prophesied that in the last days, evil conditions would again warrant the cataclysmic destruction that Sodom faced (Luke 17:28-30). He warned about destruction so thorough that unless He personally intervened, no flesh would be saved alive (Matthew 24:22).

Jesus also reminded us of Noah’s day, saying, “And as it was in the days of [Noah], so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that [Noah] entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27). Obviously God doesn’t condemn eating or drinking; nor does He condemn marrying and giving in marriage. This is a prophecy of a society whose behavior in these areas has careened completely offtrack! It is speaking of the horrific effects of today’s war on family!

And God says that, just as He left Sodom and Gomorrah in ashes, and just as He inflicted worldwide destruction in Noah’s time, He is about to destroy today’s sin-sick world.

But the prophecies do not end in that destruction. They end in hope! And it is there that we find the solutions we seek—solid answers on how to win this war on family in our own homes, even today.

The Answer Is Family

Once God brings a swift, decisive end to the anti-family trends, He will begin to set things right. And do you know how He will do so?

By educating mankind in and implementing the same family law that He put in place from the beginning!

When He establishes His Kingdom after Jesus Christ’s return, family will be restored to its rightful place at the heart of civilization. Christ will marry His bride, the Church (Revelation 19:7). That blissfully perfect marriage will set the example for marriages throughout the Earth. “Thus saith the Lord; Again there shall be heard … in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem, that are desolate … The voice of joy, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the voice of them that shall say, Praise the Lord of hosts: for the Lord is good; for his mercy endureth for ever …” (Jeremiah 33:10-11).

Children will no longer oppress their elders. They will be taught respect, and everyone will be the happier for it. “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof” (Zechariah 8:4-5).

These are the wonderful effects that implementing God’s law will produce. Among these laws are those governing the marital roles (e.g. Ephesians 5:29-33; 1 Timothy 5:8), the safeguarding of sex within the marital relationship (e.g. Exodus 20:14, 17), and the lifelong nature of the arrangement (Luke 16:18; 1 Corinthians 7:39). Also among them are the laws and principles governing the parent-child relationship (e.g. Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 6:6-7) and establishing godly government and order in the home.

Those laws are as absolute as the physical laws governing the universe. When they are broken, unhappiness and dissatisfaction result—as our sick society amply proves.

But when they are kept—when they are taught, cherished and obeyed—everyone benefits!

This is how—even today—you can successfully fight the war on family. Study and obey God’s basic spiritual laws governing the family! Even if one lacks the spiritual understanding of their spiritual purposes, keeping those laws—set in inexorable motion by the Creator of marriage, family and all that exists—will bring stability, harmony, happiness and peace into your own home.

God is a Family! He created the physical family as a means to introduce us into His Family! What is more beautiful than a strong, godly family? We must learn the beauty of family. That is where the excitement is. Once you understand God’s purpose, it is clear that real hope comes through the family—as God designed it! What it leads into boggles the mind!

We can be thankful to God that His supernatural intervention in the affairs of mankind, as prophesied in hundreds of biblical passages, is now just ahead of us. In the not-too-distant future, the world-ruling Family of God will vigorously teach all of mankind the just and holy laws He always intended to govern the sacred institutions of marriage and family!

Our free booklet Why Marriage!—Soon Obsolete? gives a stirring explanation of the reasons for marriage and family. The Missing Dimension in Sex goes further into the God-ordained purposes for sex. The Incredible Human Potential explains in hope-filled detail the inspiring future these institutions are intended to prepare us for. You need this knowledge! You need the genuine hope that comes from a deep understanding of this beautiful, inspiring subject.

The War Against Family | theTrumpet.com.