Does Family Matter? Assessing Marriage photo: copyright Paul Toepfer Photography

POSTED 4 DEC 2003

1. Marriage: A panacea?

2. Good for the old folks?

3. Is bridal sweet?

4. Love for sale?


Walking down the aisle: Will this bliss last? Photo: Sarah Goforth

Numbers like these (charts) give advocates of marriage the willies. Data: U.S. Census Bureau, cited at Divorce Reform Page


Photo (and at top of page): (c)Paul Toepfer Photography

Not very gay: National marital dispute
Smiling newlyweds walk arm in arm.The recent decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court legalizing marriage for gay people aroused a predictable word-storm. Bad for the kids, say opponents of gay marriage. Good for the kids, say proponents, who argue that kids do better when raised in the kind of stable relationship that marriage fosters.

Bad for society, opponents argue, since it flouts God's law. A humane and necessary expansion of personal liberty, and a realistic acknowledgement of social diversity, say the opponents' opponents.

Graph shows more unmarried adults in 1996 than 1970.

Chart shows more never married in 1996 than 1970. newlyweds kiss below arches and stairway of state capitolUnstable and untenable, shout the traditional-values crowd. Takes one to know one, sneer proponents of gay marriage, who note that half of conventional marriages wind up in divorce courts. (We would add that one-third of American kids are born to single mothers, and half of all American kids will live with a single parent at some point.)

Much as we treasure a good fracas, the Why Files is not going to jump into this fray. Instead, we'd like to focus on conventional marriages. Are they good for men -- and women? What about the kids? As the government has entered the marriage-promotion biz, will that help parents, children and society?

Say "I do." Is marriage a good thing for she and he?

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Terry Devitt, editor; Sarah Goforth, project assistant; S.V. Medaris, designer/illustrator; David Tenenbaum, feature writer; Amy Toburen, content development executive

©2003, University of Wisconsin, Board of Regents.