November 21, 2013
Navy sailor married his high school sweetheart on Tuesday in Reno-Tahoe International Airport, returning from a deployment off the coast of Syria. (Associated Press)
A Navy sailor married his high school sweetheart after returning from a deployment off the coast of Syria. (Photo courtesy of Heidi Jared via Associated Press)

Like a candidate losing every primary, you wonder how long the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) can hold on. Buzzfeed reports: “One of the nation’s leading organizations opposed to same-sex couples’ marriage rights found itself in the red at the end of a year in which it found itself on the losing end of four major state marriage fights, federal records show.” It’s now in the red to the tune of more than a million dollars.

What exactly does NOM do as voters in state after state decide to expand marriage to gay couples? There aren’t enough states for a constitutional amendment. It’s no longer a matter of judicial activism, but a sea change in public opinion that is propelling the legal shift. How many contests does NOM lose before it — or its donors — figures out the argument is not going to carry the day?

The irony is that there is something very important NOM could be doing, without even changing its name. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) had this to say recently at the Heritage Foundation:

[W]e simply must begin to address what we might call America’s “other marriage debate.” It is uncomfortable to talk about, and almost impossible to legislate. But the fact is, the problem of poverty in America is directly linked to family breakdown and the erosion of marriage among low-income families and communities. Implicit marriage penalties in our tax code and welfare programs surely need legislative remedies. But what we’re really talking about is a question of culture, not policy incentives.

For years, politicians on both sides of the aisle have employed terms like “family values” and “marriage” primarily as partisan wedges, cudgels to attack ideological opponents. This fact did not create America’s marriage crisis – but it hasn’t helped, either.

And now, seemingly every week, scholars are producing more evidence about the social and economic consequences of this essentially moral question. We now have scientific consensus supporting what were once thought to be merely traditions and intuitions. According to one study, the taxpayer costs of family fragmentation are more than $100 billion per year — a staggering sum that nonetheless pales in comparison to the social and human costs, borne disproportionately by innocent children.

Lee is modest enough in his political agenda to recognize, as he said, “Public policy need not incentivize people to get married — for most people, life already does. What public policy — and even more importantly, the people who make and influence public policy — must do is to finally accept and embrace and celebrate that fact.” Now there is a job for civic groups and cultural warriors like NOM.

Campaign for marriage, not against gay marriage. Root out marriage penalties in the tax code. Enlist religious and secular groups to tout marriage and inform people about its physical, psychological and economic benefits. Promote private marriage counseling. If MADD can change attitudes on drunk driving, the environmental movement can make recycling delinquents into social pariahs and a conservative talk show host and Democratic senator can set out to raise awareness of adoption, NOM can certainly lead a cultural movement to promote marriage.

 

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.