The Last Days of the American MarriageAmerican marriage is like a sea cliff which has been gradually eroded at the base by the pounding waves. It may look firm from the top, but one fine day, the neighborhood is bound to topple into the ocean.
Three undermining forces have been at work.
First, contraception. Since the beginning of the 20th century in the US, there was a growing tolerance of contraception. By the mid-60s, the contraceptive pill had become widespread. This was a tectonic shift in marriage culture. Procreation became a mere lifestyle option for a married couple. They could limit their family size to two, one or none – whatever fit their budget or lifestyle.
Second, divorce. Until the late 60s, divorce was relatively uncommon. But after no-fault divorce was legalised, divorce became epidemic. Four or five marriages out of every ten would fail. If couples no longer had to stay together for the sake of the children -- because there were no children, romantic attachment became the only glue keeping couples together.
Third, increasing promiscuity. With the pill came the sexual revolution; free love was free of consequences. Adultery was still frowned upon, but in most jurisdictions, it was decriminalized “Sex is no more a moral issue than eating a good meal,” wrote a prominent sociologist who has taught at the London School of Economics, Catherine Hakim, recently. “The fact that we eat most meals at home with spouses and partners does not preclude eating out in restaurants to sample different cuisines and ambiances with friends or colleagues.” While this may sound radical, it expresses a common attitude.
So, in summary, the last half-century has seen the erosion of the three cornerstones of marriage as traditionally defined: procreation, permanence and fidelity. In the minds of many, a new understanding of marriage has taken its place, marriage lite. This is marriage without children, marriage without commitment, and marriage without exclusivity. And these are precisely the key features of same-sex marriage.