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Friday, June 05, 2009

June Wedding Announcements


Gay marriage is, once again, in the news.  As of Wednesday, New Hampshire became
the 6th state to allow same-sex marriage, and gay marriages can be officiated there
as of January 1; Dick Cheney, whose daughter, of course, is gay, thinks that gay 
marriage is something the states should work out; and some 18,000 same-sex 
California marriages are legal, even though same-sex marriage is otherwise illegal
 in the state. And then there’s Surrogate (and former CUNY Law School Dean)
Kristin Booth Glen’s opinion in In re Sebastian (N.Y. Surr. Ct.

Apr. 9, 2009).  She granted one lesbian spouse's petition to adopt a son born to the other spouse.  Judge Glen acknowledged that while "an adoption should be unnecessary because Sebastian was born to parents whose marriage is legally recognized in this state, the best interests of this child require a judgment that will ensure recognition of [both his mothers] as his legal parents throughout the entire United States.”


Not surprisingly, all of the states in which same-sex marriages are recognized or in which they are legal are blue.   June Carbone and I have written in Red Families v. Blue Families (Oxford University Press, forthcoming) that the new information economy is transforming the family, resulting in the development of two different family paradigms: red and blue.  The blue family paradigm emphasizes the

importance of women’s as well as men’s workforce participation, egalitarian gender roles, and delay of marriage and childbearing until both parents reach emotional maturity and financial self-sufficiency.   In this world, teen childbirth is a tragedy, gay and lesbian neighbors commonplace, and the consensual sexual lives of adults a matter of privacy.  Red families, or more accurately, those who have pushed a “moral values” agenda, reject the new culture.  They continue to emphasize religious teachings that celebrate the unity of sex, marriage and reproduction.  Red regions of the country, however, have higher teen pregnancy rates, more shot gun marriages, and lower average ages of marriage and first births.     


Same-sex marriage is, in many ways, critical to the terms on which the two paradigms will be defined going forward.  Recognition of same-sex marriage has the potential to revitalize discussion about what marriage is for – and for whom it is compelled.   The fear within the red family world is that recognition of same-sex marriage underscores the point that marriage is a socially constructed institution, governed by the law, rather than part of an eternal divine order.   If marriage is humanly created and defined, then it is also changeable – and ultimately optional as a way to order intimate relationships.  

On the other hand, the ultimate challenge to the red paradigm does not, of course, come from gays and lesbians. Instead, the real issue is sex – and the question of continued societal support for a principle – limiting all sex to heterosexual marriage – that no longer commands support from a majority of the population even in red states (though not necessarily the core red constituencies).  



Posted by Naomi Cahn on June 5, 2009 at 02:58 PM in Gender | Permalink


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I think that New Hampshire also fails to meet a blue state test. As someone who grew up around Boston, New Hampshire has always been very economically conservative, and generally pretty much "live free or die" on social ones. It's not a Mass, California, or other classic blue state

Posted by: A different Adam | Jun 7, 2009 10:53:12 AM

To this Hawkeye-in-Exile, it seems a stretch to assert that Iowa is "Blue" such that it fits your "Blue Family Paradigm" rather your "Red Family Paradigm." It voted GOP in 2004, and it was almost perfectly split down the middle in 2000.

(Which is not to say that Iowa is a red state, either, as I repeatedly told anyone who'd listen after 2004).

Iowa's cultural values are pretty consistent with the greater Midwest. It has disproportionate social-liberal weight in Iowa City, and it has a union stronghold in Dubuque. But anyone familiar with Iowa would scoff at your notion that the state (other than Iowa City) matches your blue-state paradigm.

Then again, I suspect that few Iowans would claim the mantle of your red-state paradigm, either. (But who would claim such a disparaging description?)

I did get a bit of a chuckle from your suggestion that the red-state paradigm -- by contrast to its blue-state counterpart -- is heavily influenced by "a 'moral values' agenda" Many of your paradigmatic blue-state characteristics (e.g., "importance of women’s as well as men’s workforce participation, egalitarian gender roles") demonstrate moral values. You simply use "moral values agenda" as shorthand for values that you don't like.

Posted by: Adam | Jun 5, 2009 1:38:40 PM

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