The decisions Windsor v. U.S. and Hollingsworth v. Perry reached by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 26 reflect attitudes held among many youth today. Statistical studies have shown in recent years that large numbers of the Millennial Generation – those born since 1977 – favor legalizing homosexual unions and think effective parenting has little to do with marriage. As financial worries now surface as an even higher priority among millennials than getting married and having children, we need to ask what can be done to start turning such a troublesome tide of opinion.
In March 2013 the Pew Research Center released a report titled “Growing Support for Gay Marriage: Changed Minds and Changing Demographics” as the latest addition to its research initiative “Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next.” It found among millennials that:
70 percent support allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally.
74 percent say homosexuality should be accepted by society.
78 percent agree that same-sex couples can be as good as parents as heterosexual couples.
The report also revealed that millennials make up 27 percent of adults in 2013, up from just 9 percent in 2003.
Millennial views on marriage and parenting aren’t the only ones shifting.
Hadley Malcolm reported recently in USA Today that repaying student loan debt now trumps getting married and starting a family in most young minds. Student loan debt per college graduate in 2013 averaged approximately $27,500 when adjusted for inflation. Millennials loathe the idea of still paying off their own loans as their own children go off to college. To cope, Malcolm learned, they’ve decided that marriage and family are investments with too high a price.
Such attitudes and financial factors, bleak as they are, can still change. The solution starts with witnessing – with civility, humility and understanding – to what the faith tells us about the relationship between strong marriages and healthy families. Our present culture produces a politics that believes no union is worth preserving. Millennials must hear from their parents about the negative consequences that result when a mother and father do not live with their children under the same roof. They must understand that for one man and one woman to keep their marriage together for the sake of their family was, still is, and will always be worth it, whatever the private tears or public struggles.
Millennials must also see what families staying together would mean for society. The Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the “values and principles” of the family “constitute the foundation of social life” (457). The millennials who have gotten married, dared to start families, and are now reaching milestone wedding anniversaries are literally making the future.
It is worth knowing that the Millennial Generation reached adulthood during the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Millennials may fear their financial futures. Days may come when it is all too easy to conclude that millennials are helplessly and hopelessly hostage to the false idea that only bigotry speaks with moral absolutes. But we must never be afraid to spend moments with millennials, telling them the truth about God, the Church and the future, and thus continue the fight against the dictatorship of relativism they live under.
Jason Godin teaches United States history at Blinn College in Bryan, Texas. You can find him on Facebook here.