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From the Archives: Author Charles Murray argues same-sex marriage is ‘not a big deal’

Publisher's note: This article was originally published on on February 22, 2012. The publishing platform was discontinued July 1, 2016, and its web site went dark on or about July 10, 2016.  I am republishing this piece in an effort to preserve it and all my other contributions to since April 6, 2010. It is reposted here without most of the internal links that were in the original.

Author Charles Murray argues same-sex marriage is ‘not a big deal’
February 22, 2012 8:15 PM MST

Charles Murray gay marriage equality same-sex Rob Schilling Bert Ernie Rick Sincere
Appearing February 22 on “The Schilling Show,” a Charlottesville talk-radio program, conservative social scientist Charles Murray stated that the advocacy of gay marriage is “not a big deal” with regard to the general decline of marriage in American society. Murray also explained how his own attitude toward same-sex marriage has changed over time.

Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington is the author of What It Means to Be a Libertarian and the current release, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010, which was the focus of the discussion with talk-show host Rob Schilling.

Collapse of an institution

In their on-air conversation, Murray noted that in 1960, for the age cohort from 30 to 49, the “white working class was married at well over 80 percent and the white upper-middle class was married at very high rates.” Fifty years later, however, among the white upper-middle class, “84 percent of those ages 30 to 49 are still married in 2010. In the white working class, that had dropped to 48 percent."

That, he said, is “essentially the collapse of a major social institution.”

Because married men and women are better able to participate in civil society – being Little League coaches, attending PTA meetings, running charity drives – Murray explained that “a breakdown of marriage” essentially becomes “a breakdown of community, and it’s focused on working class.”

Schilling asked Murray about the effect of the current debate over the definition of marriage, which differs from the cultural environment in 1960.

‘Not a big deal’

Murray replied that “the advent of the gay marriage movement and the rest of that, I’m inclined to think, is not a big deal.”

He pointed out that, “for one thing, a lot of the rhetoric surrounding the advocacy for gay marriage has been that here are people who want to make a solemn commitment to each other. Writers like Jonathan Rauch and others have made very compelling cases for [how] gays want to engage in this very important social institution.”

A person, he said, does not “have to agree with that to think that, in a way, the visibility of marriage has been raised by that movement, not necessarily denigrated.”

Calling in to “The Schilling Show,” the Charlottesville Libertarian Examiner posed a question to Murray about a recent appearance he made on the Charlie Rose television show. In that TV interview, Murray had said how his own opinion about same-sex marriage had changed.

Midway during the interview with Charlie Rose, he explained, the host asked him about that issue.

‘Loving, faithful relationships’

“I have never,” he said, “made a public statement about that before, but the fact is this: My wife and I have maybe half a dozen friends who are gay and are in couples. I mean they’re marriage-like situations. Some of them are guys and some of them are gals. In all of those cases, they’re acting like married people. They appear to have loving, faithful relationships that they take very seriously.”

More than that, he added, “a couple of them have kids that they are as attentive [to] and loving of as any other parents, and so I say to myself, I still have real problems with using the word marriage for anything except a union which has as its main purpose child-bearing and so forth.”

Still, he explained, “on the other hand, it’s really made me rethink the nature of my opposition, because let’s face it: Heterosexuals have made a mess out of marriage in the last couple of decades -- the last half-century, actually -- in ways which leave us in a weak position to suddenly say, ‘Oh, this wonderful institution that we’ve done so well with, you’re trying to interfere with.’”

As a result, Murray said, “I have backed off from leading the fight against gay marriage or even participating in it, and I’m willing to say that this is one instance in which [a new idea is] working out better than I would have expected it to, as I see it.”

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