should family law treat marriage? In this report, a group of
family scholars and legal scholars come together to acknowledge
some key propositions about marriage and family law in the United
is a key social institution, with profound material, emotional,
and social consequences for children, adults, and society. As
marriage weakens, fewer men are committed to family life, more
women are saddled with the unfair burdens of parenting alone,
and children’s ties to both their parents (especially
fathers) are weakened. Communities face increasing social and
important benefits of marriage are not the sole creation of
law. Social science evidence strongly suggests the prime way
that marriage as a legal institution protects children is by
increasing the likelihood that children will be raised by their
mother and father in lasting, loving (or at least reasonably
harmonious) family unions. Marriage in any important sense is
not a creation of the State, not a mere creature of statute.
to create these benefits, it must be more than a legal construct.
Creating a marriage culture that actually does protect children
requires the combined resources of civil society—families,
faith communities, schools, and neighborhoods—public policy,
and the law in order to channel men and women towards loving,
lasting marital unions. In recent years more Americans, and
more family scholars, are taking marriage seriously.
the recent trend in family law as a discipline and practice
has been just the opposite. Family law as a discipline has increasingly
tended to commit two serious errors with regard to marriage:
(a) to reduce marriage to a creature of statute, a set of legal
benefits created by the law, and (b) to imagine marriage as
just one of many equally valid lifestyles. This model of marriage
is based on demonstrably false and therefore destructive premises.
Adopting it in family law as a practice or as an academic discipline
will likely make it harder for civil society in the United States
to strengthen marriage as a social institution.
and as citizens, we recognize a shared moral commitment to the
basic human dignity of all our fellow citizens, black or white,
straight or gay, married or unmarried, religious and non-religious,
as well as a moral duty to care about the well-being of children
in all family forms. But sympathy and fairness cannot blind
us to the importance of the basic sexual facts that give rise
to marriage in virtually every known society: The vast majority
of human children are created through acts of passion between
men and women. Connecting children to their mother and father
requires a social and legal institution called “marriage”
with sufficient power, weight, and social support to influence
the erotic behavior of young men and women.
We do not
all agree on individual issues, from the best way to reform
unilateral divorce to whether and how the law should be altered
to benefit same-sex couples. We do agree that the conceptual
models of marriage used by many advocates are inadequate and
thus contribute to the erosion of a marriage culture in the
United States. We seek to work together across the divisive
issue of gay marriage to affirm the basic importance of marriage
to our children and to our society. We call on all the makers
of family law—legislators, judges, the family law bar,
and legal scholars who create the climate in which other players
operate—to develop a deeper understanding of and commitment
to marriage as a social institution.
goal of marriage and family law should be to identify new ways
to support marriage as a social institution, so that each year
more children are protected by the loving marital unions of
their mother and father.
a limited time only, the Institute for American Values is pleased
to make available copies of Marriage and the Law: A Statement
of Principles (and its companion piece, The
Future of Family Law: Law and the Marriage Crisis in North America)
for a discounted price of $5.00 each (regular price $7.50).
To order copies, please download this order
form (pdf file, 1 page, 139 kb) or use this web-based
version. Refer to the chart below for pricing information.
no. of copies