“Family law as a discipline has badly lagged behind the social sciences in incorporating the evidence that marriage matters to children and society,” a press release on the document notes. Many respected and influential voices in family law … reject the idea that law and society should support and affirm marriage, arguing instead for a family diversity model,” the signatories write.
The family-diversity model promotes the idea that no family form is superior to any other family form. It also “transforms family fragmentation from a social problem into a sign of progress” and maintains that marriage is not the preferred context for childraising, but only one of many possible and equal family forms from which adults have the right to choose.
“But 40 years of social experimentation has demonstrated conclusively: the ‘family diversity’ experiment has failed,” the signatories bluntly state.
“A major goal of marriage and family law should be supporting civil society’s efforts to strengthen marriage, so that more children are raised by their own married mother and father in loving, lasting unions,” the signatories say in what they describe as their common commitment in the ongoing national debate.
The document, called "Marriage and the Law: A Statement of Principles," was released this week by the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy.
The document leads with a statement on marriage that appears in a ruling, written by Justice Stephen Johnson Field in Maynard v. Hill, which says: “[Marriage] is something more than a mere contract. . . . It is an institution, in the maintenance of which in its purity the public is deeply interested, for it is the foundation of the family and of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.”
Justice Stephen Johnson Field, Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190, 210-11 (1888)
The signatories said they come together “to affirm seven great truths about marriage and the law.”
The first truth, they say, is that “marriage and family law is fundamentally oriented towards creating and protecting the next generation.”
The second truth is that marriage protects children. “The primary way that marriage protects children is by increasing the likelihood that a child will know and be known by, love and be loved by, his or her mother and father in a single family union,” they say.
Thirdly, “marriage is first and foremost a social institution, created and sustained by civil society.” While the law sometimes creates institutions, sometimes the law recognizes an institution that pre-exists law and which it cannot meaningfully create.
“No laws, and no set of lawyers, legislators, or judges, can summon a social institution like marriage into being merely by legal fiat,” the signatories write. “Marriage and family therefore can never be reduced to a legal construct, a mere creature of the state.”
Fourth, the law’s understanding of marriage is powerful. Fifth, marriage is irreplaceable social good, which impacts on the well-being of society and children. Sixth, a high divorce rate, unmarried childbearing, as well as violent or high-conflict marriages, hurt children. And finally, a good society cares about the suffering of children.
The Institute for Marriage and Public Policy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to high quality research and public education on ways that law and public policy can strengthen marriage as a social institution.
For more information, go to www.marriagedebate.org
.- For the first time, more than 100 legal and family scholars have signed a collective document declaring that family law should do a better job protecting marriage for the benefit of society and children and noting that the “family-diversity model” has failed.