From the Institute for American Values comes word that its leadership is considering a major conference on the crisis of parenthood and related issues. It couldn’t come too soon or at a more critical juncture. The Institute also reports that Canada is seeking to erase the term “natural parent” from federal law, replacing it with the term “legal parent”, and in New Zealand an influential commission recommended that children conceived by donors should in some cases have three legal parents. And just recently, Spain has legalized same sex marriage. The encroachment from this insidious worldwide movement to undermine the basic family unit is palpable. In the U. S., this movement is manifest in the trends in family law. For example, the American Law Institute, an association of America’s elite legal scholars, judges, and lawyers, published a report proposing to sideline what it calls “traditional marriage”, re-situating marriage as merely one of many possible and equally valid family forms. In addition, it seeks to break the ties between biological and functional parenthood and recommends full legal marriage rights for same sex couples. In the courts, a recent pronouncement by a California superior court judge struck down the state’s traditional marriage laws which had been reaffirmed in a referendum in 2000, and there is no indication that the political leadership there will attempt to overturn the decision with a constitutional amendment.
In an October 2004 essay, Mary Ann Glendon makes an important point about where the recent history of all this has led: “With widespread acceptance of the notion that behavior in the highly personal areas of sex and marriage is of no concern to anyone other than the ‘consenting adults’ involved, it has been easy to overlook what should have been obvious from the beginning—individual actions in the aggregate exert a profound influence on what kind of society we are bringing into being………affluent Western nations have been engaged in a massive social experiment, an experiment that brought new liberties and opportunities to adults but has put children and other dependents at considerable risk.”
There are those, like David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values, who would like to eliminate the issues of social justice and “rights” from this debate and focus on the purposes of the institution of marriage and the reasons human beings founded it in the first place. But given the current environment, it seems pretty foolish to assume that the proponents of transforming the institution of marriage have any interest in such a dialogue, nor in any compromise resolution of this enormously important issue through the give and take of democratic politics. It has become increasingly clear that the only viable option is a federal constitutional amendment.