What Is Marriage from a Policy Perspective?

Author Amy K. Hall Published on 08/02/2014

Ryan Anderson, co-author of What Is Marriage? is possibly the most clear and well-reasoned spokesman for man/woman marriage out there. His recent speech at Stanford (given amidst much controversy) covered three questions:

  1. What is marriage?
  2. Why does marriage matter?
  3. What are the consequences of redefining it?

Here’s how he opened his remarks:

I’m not going to say anything about morality, anything about theology, or anything about tradition.... I’ll be making a philosophical argument, with some appeal to social science, largely to get at a public policy purpose of marriage. The question that I want to ask and then answer is, what is marriage from a policy perspective? What is the state’s interest in marriage? How does the state define marriage? How should the state define marriage, and why?

Below is the full speech, followed by a Q&A that was both challenging and refreshingly respectful. If you know someone who doesn’t understand the reasons for opposing a change in the definition of marriage, this is the lecture to share.

A summary from Anderson’s response to the second question on why this matters:

What we know is that marriage is the institution that, when it’s stable, it protects children from poverty, it increases the likelihood [that] those children will experience social mobility, it protects children from committing crime, and it prevents the state from having to pick up the pieces in the form of a welfare program or a police program.

So more or less everything that you could care about (if you care about social justice and you care about limited government, if you care about the poor and you care about freedom) is better served by having a healthy marriage culture—a civil society institution that takes care of raising that next generation—than by having the government try to pick up the pieces of a broken marriage culture.

That’s why marriage matters.