It seems many people have long assumed that certain parameters constrain the institution of marriage. Those parameters are changing, not just in front of the Supreme Court, but in the very fabric of our culture. Stanford political scientist Peter Berkowitz has argued that, where marriage is concerned, we are all children of the 60s. “The sexual and cultural revolutions of the 1960s have pushed the bearing and rearing of children from the core of marriage’s social meaning. …children, once at the center of marriage, have now become negotiable, and what used to be negotiable—love, companionship, sex—has moved to the center.”
What’s the Big Idea?
For any talk of how marriage has changed in the last couple generations, that is nothing compared to how the institution changed in the preceding generations, when marital commitments were primarily an economic transaction. Today’s rising divorce rate provides some evidence for the claim that love and companionship were just as essential for our grandparents as they are for us. Raising children once consumed a smaller proportion of a marriage than it does today, when couples marry much later than just a generation ago. Once children left the house, couples had to content themselves with each other’s affection.