Red, Blue, and Lavender Marriage

While it may be too early to uncork the champagne bottle to celebrate the legality of gay marriage in New Hampshire and the District of Columbia, it is certainly not premature to buy some champagne, nor to celebrate the changing approach to gay marriage. On Tuesday (May 5), Maine’s House of Representatives voted out a bill that legalizes same-sex marriage in the state, sending it to the governor for signature; and on Wednesday, the governor signed it; New Hampshire’s legislature is considering a similar bill; and on Tuesday, the D.C. City Council also voted – 12-1, with former Mayor Marion Barry casting the dissenting vote – to recognize gay marriages performed in other jurisdictions (my colleague, Mary Cheh, and a City Council member, was in the majority).  The Mayor has indicated he will sign the bill but, given D.C.’s peculiar Home Rule status, Congress has 30 days to review the legislation. Gay marriage is already legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont, and New York, where the governor has introduced similar legislation, recognizes gay marriages performed elsewhere.

As June Carbone and I have written in Red Families v. Blue Families (Oxford University Press, forthcoming), it is no surprise that all of the states to legalize same-sex marriage are blue. We have suggested that the new information economy is transforming the family, and has resulted in the development of two different family paradigms: red and blue. Those who live the “blue family” paradigm – they tend to marry later and have children later at an age when both partners reach emotional maturity and financial independence — are reaping handsome rewards.

This new family model has taken hold most completely in the more heavily Democratic and secular urban areas, especially the coasts. In these regions, the average age of marriage and first birth has moved from the early to the late twenties, teen births have plummeted, and overall fertility has fallen below replacement levels. For the families who embrace the new model, marital conflict tends to be lower, divorce rates have returned to those of the early sixties, and non-marital births are rare. Their key to financial and family success: encourage education, embrace the pill, and accept sexuality, including gay relationships, as a matter of private choice. Of course, not all families living within the blue paradigm – nor all blue states (an overwhelming  majorityof all states have enacted  some kind of anti-gay marriage law and/or constitutional amendment) – fully accept gay marriage, but they are much more likely to do so than are red families.

Indeed, the terms of the blue family order are a direct affront to “red families.” Red families generally, and the Republican strongholds in which they predominate (Steve Schmidt notwithstanding) , continue to celebrate the unity of sex, marriage and procreation, and to reject gay marriage. The growing gap between the beginning of sexuality and readiness for childbearing alarms religious parents about the morality of their offspring. Yet, abstinence into the mid-twenties is unrealistic, shot gun marriages correspond with escalating divorce rates, and early marriage, whether prompted by love or necessity, often founders on the economic realities of the modern economy, which lavishly rewards investment in higher education. Moreover, public acceptance of legal rights for gays and lesbians continues to increase.

Family law – the determination of the rules governing marriage, divorce, and parenthood — is state law, and it has always varied substantially across the United States. Family law federalism shows the strength of the gay marriage movement. More champagne?

P.S. June Carbone and I have written MUCH more about gay marriage and liberal federalism, so stay tuned for the book (an early version of our argument is here).

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