These findings are closely related to debates among those of us who were writing about same-sex marriage back in the early ’00s:
Calling cohabitation a socially “normative behavior,” the article noted an 82 percent increase between 1987 and 2010 of women who have cohabited at some point, as reported in a study by demographer Wendy Manning.
Cohabiting couples are also increasingly more likely to have children. There has been a 15 percent increase in cohabiting parents from 1997 to 2017, a Pew Research study found.
“Due primarily to the rising number of cohabiting parents, the share of unmarried parents who are fathers has more than doubled over the past 50 years,” Pew reported.
“Cohabitation has greatly increased in large measure because, while people are delaying marriage to ever greater ages, they are not delaying sex, living together, or childbearing,” the IFS said, noting that “almost all of the increase in non-marital births in the US since 1980 has taken place in the context of cohabiting unions.”
Nobody claimed that broadening the definition of marriage to include intimate couples that, by their nature, could not create children would produce these trends. Rather, these trends were underway, and codifying same-sex marriage in the law locks them in.
The connection is obvious. With the introduction of same-sex marriage, people simply can’t claim that the creation of children is part of marriage (and vice versa), even thematically. Marriage becomes entirely about the feelings of adults about each other, and any children they create are incidental. That approach is corrosive for both the relationships of the parents and the relationships of the parents with their children, who are no longer conceived as the embodiment of the parents’ joining.
The parents’ relationship, even if a marriage, is now purely contractual and separate from its fruits. This won’t work out well in the long run.