It's a slippery slope. First, a state allows same-sex couples to wed. Next, the state loses the ability to monitor sexual conduct, everyone stops having babies, and the state becomes a veritable ghost town.
That may sound a bit crazy, but it's roughly the defense that lawyers representing the state of Michigan are making as part of a case alleging that a law banning same-sex adoptions is unconstitutional. Attorneys for Michigan state and Gov. Rick Snyder say the state's constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman is vital and that, without it, the state wouldn't be able to "regulate sexual relationships." Which would, you know, lead to nobody having sexual relationships anymore, and then the population declines.
In the attorneys' words, as filed in a recent motion:
One of the paramount purposes of marriage in Michigan — and at least 37 other states that define marriage as a union between a man and a woman — is, and has always been, to regulate sexual relationships between men and women so that the unique procreative capacity of such relationships benefits rather than harms society. The understanding of marriage as a union of man and woman, uniquely involving the rearing of children born of their union, is age-old, universal, and enduring. As illustrated by a plethora of research, social scientists have consistently recognized the essential connection between marriage and responsible procreation and childrearing.
The attorneys continue:
In traditional marriage, there is then both a mother and a father to serve as role models for the children, and the potential for the children to be the offspring of the married couple. Every child has a mother and a father.
The thing is though, defining marriage as between a man and a woman hasn't really led to this kind of traditional life in Michigan. The rate for divorce and annulment in the state in 2011 was 6.9 percent, a bit lower than the national average of 8.0 percent. In 2012, an estimated 30,052 children were involved in divorces or annulments in Michigan, for an average of about one child per divorce.
And it's not just divorce rates that skew away from the state's traditional standard. A 2011 report found that the rate of births to single women was on the rise in Michigan, with a 20 percent increase in such births between 2000 and 2009. Two of every three births to Michigan women ages 20-24 were to single mothers.
So, sure, perhaps a same-sex marriage ban helps Michigan regulate sexual relationships, at least in so far as all sexual relationships occur only among married couples. But the idea that the ban helps preserve some kind of idyllic, traditional life is flawed. Because that state-approved idyll doesn't exist.