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France Destroys Marriage, then Saves It? Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse   
Friday, 11 February 2011

The debate stopper par excellence in any conversation about homosexual marriage is supposed to be the unanswerable question, the one that highlights the absurdity and reflexive bigotry of marriage defenders: “If gay marriage is so harmful to marriage, how will it harm your marriage?”

Well actually, homosexual marriage would never harm my marriage. In fact, if gay marriage was allowed today and if every living, breathing homosexual got married, my marriage would likely not be affected, even a little bit. It would not drive me to divorce my wife or into the arms of a man.

The point is not that homosexual marriage or even civil unions will harm existing marriages, but that it will harm marriage as an institution. Marriage in general would be denigrated and that will undermine marriage formation among the young.  In short, it will harm my daughters’ prospects for marriage and happiness. Statistics bear this out.

Social science clearly shows the best chance of happiness for adults is within marriage. Toss in weekly religious observance and your chances for happiness grow even more. For children, there is no comparison. Children raised in an intact married family fare better, by any measure, than those who are not so blessed.

A decade ago the French embarked on an experiment in phony marriage called pacte civil de solidarité, or PACS. PACS is a form of civil union that anyone may enter into. It confers tax breaks and other benefits of marriage to any couple who walks through the door, homosexual or otherwise.

The results have been startling. Marriage, already shaky among the French, became even shakier. Almost immediately, marriages began to decline at a much faster rate than before. At the time of the PACS debate, 350,000 demonstrators poured into the streets of Paris claiming that PACS would destroy traditional marriage. They were laughed at. But they were right.

Two things happened. First, the homosexuals were not satisfied with PACS (more on that later). Second, heterosexuals joined civil unions in droves. Within twelve months of the PACS becoming law, fully 75 percent of civil unions were signed between heterosexual couples. In 2009, 173,045 couples entered into civil unions, 95 percent of them heterosexual.


   
Le mariage est terminé.

Does this translate into fewer Frenchmen getting married? The French have shown an increasing disdain for marriage. In 1970, 400,000 Frenchmen married. Twenty-nine years later, in the year of the ratification of PACS , this number had already declined to 300,000, a drop of 25 percent. But PACS has hastened the decline. In just ten years since the adoption of PACS, the married number declined even more steeply – 16 percent – to 250,000 marriages.

A PACS union is remarkably easy to get into and even easier to get out of. All it takes is a written statement, one going in and another going out.

Why the “success” of PACS? Anti-Christianity is certainly one culprit. Wilfried Rault, a sociologist at the National Institute for Demographic Studies told the New York Times that marriage is viewed as “heavy and invasive” and tied to closely to Christianity: “Marriage bears the traces of religious imprint.”

Sophia Lazzaro, who has had a PACS union since 2006, agrees, “Marriage has a side that’s very institutional and very square and very religious.” But she also admitted that she wanted, rather naively, something hard to square with PACS: “I have two daughters, and if something happens to me, I want us to stay together as a family . . . . But without getting married.”

Among all EU countries, the French have just about the least interest in marriage – their disinterest exceeded only by the Swedes. Sweden, by the way, is one of the other early European adopters of civil unions and now allows full-blown homosexual marriage.

What these experiences teach us is this: when anything is a marriage, then nothing is a marriage; marriage is no longer necessary. This, as France has shown, is not lost on the young.

The second interesting and revealing thing that happened with PACS is that the homosexuals were not satisfied with civil unions alone. They began a public campaign to overturn the part of the French constitution asserting that marriage is only for men and women, together. Just last week the French high court decided against them saying the provision of man/woman marriage is constitutional.

This demonstrates, if such a demonstration is still needed, the aggressiveness of the homosexual lobby. They will not rest until law and society not only approve, but also honor their personal proclivities. They think social honor will assuage their uneasy consciences.

There is good news here, at least for Americans. Justice Anthony Kennedy – upon whose shoulders probably rests any future Supreme Court decision on homosexual marriage – likes referring to foreign or at least European law in Constitutional interpretation. There are now two foreign decisions against homosexual marriage – one in the European Court of Human Rights and now another in France. Strasbourg and Paris may be too much for Kennedy to resist. These may coax him into making the right decision.

The other good news is that France did in fact uphold traditional marriage. Ho-hum, who cares any longer? The French don’t seem to. They appear to have given up on marriage long ago, and may never get it back.

 
Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washinton, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.

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Comments (16)Add Comment
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written by Bill, February 11, 2011
Mr. Ruse, thank you for your well researched and well written essay pointing out that we live in a neo-pagan age. It is as though Christ had never come. It is their loss. They will never see God. They will spend eternity in Hell. We should pray for them.
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written by Chris, February 11, 2011
Austin, you and other TCT writers often refer to "social science" and studies that prove such claims as: children are better off in a married home, divorce makes people more unhappy than is admitted, that children suffer the most in divorce. Can you provide links to such studies? Where can one read about these things so as be able to really debate the question of homosexual marriage, and not just parrot an unsubstantiated "social science proves..."
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written by Grump, February 11, 2011
'Social science clearly shows the best chance of happiness for adults is within marriage.'

On the other hand, Trappists have been known to be very happy.

Two quotes, Austin:


I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.
Groucho Marx

It's tough to stay married. My wife kisses the dog on the lips, yet she won't drink from my glass.
Rodney Dangerfield
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written by James, February 11, 2011
The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%
The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%
The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73%
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written by Austin Ruse, February 11, 2011
Chris,

Check out the work of Patrick Fagan at Family Research Council, Brad Wilcox at University of Virginia, the Family Facts database at the Heritage Foundation. There is much more, too.
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written by Austin Ruse, February 11, 2011
James,

Yes, divorce in America should be much much harder to get.
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written by James, February 11, 2011
Austin, how would you do that? On the other hand, maybe marriage should be made much harder?
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written by Robert, February 11, 2011
I think that the drive for same-sex marriage is now present among a significant number of heterosexuals. The reason is, I think, that many heterosexuals have come to the realization that, to paraphrase Dostoyevsky, "if same-sex marriage is approved, then everything is permitted." The sexual revolution of the 60's and 70's left in its wake a catastrophe of divorces, out of wedlock births, single-parent homes, etc. But for all the celebration of "liberation" from "opressive" sexual mores, people, I think, still, deep-down, felt guilty. But if same-sex marriage is "ok", then that, in a way, validates their own sexual-relational sins. This, I think, is a phenomenon that we have to consider.
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written by Achilles, February 11, 2011
Homosexuality is a disorder, a perversion, a psychological abnormality, an addiction much like a drug addiction. It is rooted in narcissism and driven by pride. It is an integral faction in the culture of death. I have a gay friend who is 46 years old and has been to 237 funerals. How do heroin addicts affect the family? In the literal concrete sense they don’t, but their contribution to healthy and prosperous society represents a deficit toll indeed. Just so, the so called “homosexual marriage” as it denigrates the institution of marriage does even worse damage to the family as a building block of society.
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written by Achilles, February 11, 2011
Robert, I think America has fallen for one our new false virtues, that of tolerance, a deeply perverted tolerance. We are to tolerate and even love all humans, even our enemies, but to not tolerate bad behavior, specifically sin, or unjust acts, or addiction. This simple truth sounds bigoted to the modern tolerant ear. But I agree with you, that the back door benefit is that if we can be tolerant of other’s perversions, we excuse our own. The root is the same for all, pride.
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written by Austin Ruse, February 11, 2011
James,
Go back to the old laws before they were changed. Make it long and onerous and costly to get out of a marriage. Give folks time to cool off and figure things out.
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written by Gabriel Austin, February 11, 2011
It is rather simpler than is realized. Religion is the core of all societies. What society has survived without religion supporting and defining its mores? The push to make legitimate such practices as homosexual activity strikes at this core. It is like a blow to the heart.
The only solution is prayer. All the rest is blather. It is not a case of returning to the good old days; it is rather a need to go back to the source and begin again.
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written by The Moz, February 11, 2011
So under the regulations, without prying too forcefully into people's personal lives, would I be able to marry my college roommate buddy to receive the benefits of this so called marriage in France? While we're at it why don't we just allow all people to marry? Seriously, I don't mean to be flippant but why not allow 2 brothers who care and love each other and live together and who may not be romantic but without question display as much real love as anybody else to marry? Inequality is by definition treating same things in different ways: two people are objectively different than 3 or more people and 2 people of the opposite sex are objectively different than 2 members of the same sex, therefore...well you get the picture. It's just a silly argument.
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written by Michael PS, February 14, 2011
The reason for the French court's rejection of same-sex marriage is instructive. It is because they regard the presumption of paternity as the central, distinguishing feature of marriage. Article 312 of Civil Code provides that a child conceived or born during the marriage has the husband for its father.

"The presumption of paternity of the husband rests on the obligation of fidelity between spouses and reflects the commitment made by the husband during the celebration of marriage, to raise the couple's children. The report presenting the order to the President of the Republic rightly points out that " it is, in the words of Dean Carbonnier, the ‘heart of marriage,’ and cannot be questioned without losing for this institution its meaning and value.""

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written by jason taylor, February 14, 2011
Frenchfolk hold marriage in contempt? I bet they've never done that before.
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written by I. P. Daily, February 15, 2011
"Social science clearly shows the best chance of happiness for adults is within marriage."

What does this mean? How does "social science" define happiness? This month's Skeptic magazine has an article on the subject of attempting to define and quantify happiness; their conclusion is that there is no generally definition or metric.

Are you just throwing words around at random here or is there something substantive behind your words?

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