On May 8th of this year, Amendment One was passed in North Carolina, by a surprising margin getting 61 percent of the votes, solidifying the illegality of same-sex marriage by adding the ban to the State Constitution. Civil unions and domestic partnerships were also a part of this mandate which added they’re own branches of complication to an already obscure order. Strangely enough, the next day the President, in a Good Morning America interview, came out in favor of gay marriage, despite his Christian upbringing. It is pretty clear, however, Vice President Joe Biden forced his hand by this announcement he made a few days earlier.
It was barely two years ago that gay marriage was effortlessly defeated by the Senate, with all Republicans voting against it. On June 24 2011, after much uncertainty, four Republicans joined twenty-nine Democrats passing the bill by two votes. Thirty days later (July 24, 2011), “Hundreds of gay couples dressed in formal suites and striped trousers, gowns and T-shirts…triumphantly hoisted their long-awaited marriage certificates as New York became the sixth and largest state to recognize same-sex marriages.” The first legal same-sex marriages in the United States took place in Massachusetts in 2004. Since then, a total of six states have joined the ranks – Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa, as well as Washington, D.C., legally recognizing gay marriage. With the recent Amendment One debate, my peers (as well as myself) have manned their soapboxes either in favor of, or against this hugely controversial issue. But regardless of your personal stance, the scope of relationships and sexuality in America has to be recognized as a dynamic topic that will likely shape the way we think about relationships.
Along with same sex relationships and the laws that accompany them, there are a number of other factors in the current American society that have and still are rapidly changing. The family demographic for example, has completely transformed. If we look back forty years, our parent’s childhood memories, a family snapshot would include two approximately middle-aged parents. The family portrait would include a multitude of faces – kids, parents, and grandparents from both sides of the family. Fast-forward to 2012 and that same snapshot may include a middle-aged grandparent along with her teenage daughter. This family portrait may only hold three people – the small child, the teenage girl, and her mother, who very well could have been a single parent herself. The percentage of children living with only one parent has tripled, from 9 percent in 1960, to 27 percent in 2009. Of that 27 percent, 87 percent of the children live with their mother, which speaks to how much the maternal role has changed over subsequent decades. Although not all instances reflect these circumstances, realistically, the entire landscape of relationships in our society continues to change.
What about heterosexual marriage? Research finds that, “in comparison with unmarried persons, married persons tend to exhibit greater physical, emotional, and economic wellbeing.” But research also shows that one out of every two couples are getting divorced, and seeing that happen time and time again, our generation is resorting to cohabitation at record rates. Even though statistics show that cohabitation before marriage has no significant benefits, the thought of couples “living together” or “trying it out” shows that young adults are traumatized at the thought of commitment – or rather, the thought of commitment and then messy divorce.
If you could peer through a window in the future, what do you think you would find? Like the economy and its cyclical nature, could there ever be a rebound of conservatism and religious governance, or are conservatives attempting to swim upstream? Would you find a time where marriage rates greatly surpass those of divorce and families are “whole” once again, or is the definition changing? The thoughts of what lies ahead for the next generation entice us. With every senate vote, news story, and every relevant discussion, we are dispersing the seeds of our philosophies and social principles of relationships and culture, throughout our community.