Too Little, Too Late


“Some psychologists, taking a new look at the institution of marriage, are voicing shocking predictions for the near future. Indeed, in their professional eyes, the trend toward obsolescence of the marriage custom has already started, and is gaining momentum!” That’s how Herbert Armstrong introduced his wonderful little booklet Why Marriage! Soon Obsolete? back in 1968.

Today, those who oppose same-sex marriage unions worry that unless we uphold the sanctity of the marriage union, the institution itself may be on the down and out.

In truth, the drift toward marriage obsolescence began long before the latest debate on same-sex marriages, as Mr. Armstrong correctly noted in his booklet.

Society’s views on marriage and family took a turn for the worse at the beginning of the 20th century and became fully evident during the 1960s. Before the “new morality” set in, sexual intercourse was usually reserved for marriage. The stigma of premarital pregnancy was frightening enough to prevent many young gals from giving up their virginity. This, in turn, served as motivation for young men to commit to one woman—to be faithful and devoted to that special one who was “saving herself” for him. Marriage meant something.

But with the onset of the sexual revolution, societal stigmas toppled like dominoes. The invention of the pill removed the fear of pregnancy and family responsibility. Young people no longer had to wait until marriage for sex. Men discovered the “freedom” of sexual relationships without having to commit to one woman for life. Legalized abortion gave women yet another discreet way to avoid stigma, just in case birth control failed.

Soon, however, the stigma against premarital pregnancy evaporated. By the end of the 1970s, 1 million teenage girls in America were getting pregnant every year. (Today, one third of all births in the U.S. occur out of wedlock.) Marriage, we were told, wasn’t necessary for raising children. Thus, the marriage rate plummeted—it has gone down 43 percent since 1960. Today, the most common living arrangement in America is that of two unmarried adults without children.

Then there is the onslaught of divorce. After the sexual revolution, it became quick and easy—without any social stigma attached. As has been commonly reported, half of those married today will one day divorce.

So the issue of same-sex marriage is not the beginning of something dreadful that is about to happen to the institution of marriage. As Donald Sensing wrote for the Wall Street Journal on March 15, same-sex marriage is not the cause of the degeneration of the marriage unionit’s the result of it.