Should the Indiana Republican Party change its definitions of marriage and families?
Republican leaders recently gathered in Evansville for their state party convention, an event that was not without some excitement and controversy. Before the convention, party leaders proposed deleting traditional marriage language from two broad platform sentences known as the strong families plank.
This move was a far cry from the national GOP platform, which has two pages of language explaining why marriage matters in society. In response to criticism, some Republicans said the proposed new language would be “inclusive.” However, Indiana has the 15th-highest marriage rate in the nation. With more than 52 percent of all households led by married couples, what is inclusive about excluding half the homes in the state?
Others said “marriage is not important” and is just a word. Is marriage just a word? Are all living arrangements essentially the same, as some party leaders claimed? Does marriage matter?
The collapse of marriage is the primary cause of child poverty in the United States. A child raised by a never-married mother is seven times more likely to live in poverty than a child raised by his married parents. Overall, 80 percent of long-term child poverty in the United States is found among children of unmarried families.
A major study in England looking at family structure confirms that a child is also safest when his biological parents are married—and least safe when his mother is cohabiting with a man other than her husband. Children were up to 33 times safer living with their biological, married parents than in other family configurations.
Extensive research shows that married adults are happier and more productive on the job, earn more, have better physical and mental health, and live longer than their unmarried peers.
Researchers Lee Robins and Darrel Reigier, in their study “Psychiatric Disorders in America,” found that married individuals have the lowest rate of severe depression. UCLA researchers have noted, “One of the most consistent findings in psychiatric epidemiology is that married persons enjoy better health than the unmarried.”
Education spending makes up more than half of Indiana’s state budget. Research shows that children from married families on average have higher test scores, higher grade-point averages, are less likely to be expelled, and are more likely to finish college than children living outside a married home.
An analysis of 50 separate studies appearing in the journal Social Problems found that the rate of criminal juvenile delinquency was 15 percent higher among children living in homes where their mother and father were not married.
A study titled “The Community Context of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use,” published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, found rates of illegal drug use were the lowest among children living with their married mother and father.
Indiana policies should, and do, support nearly all living arrangements. Hoosiers routinely defy odds, grow, live and thrive in a variety of arrangements. The 2016 GOP platform recognized this. No one denies it.
Yet, because addressing poverty, child abuse, health, education and crime are such major components of what government does, and because marriage plays a critical role in these issues, it was foolish to scrub marriage from the Republican platform. Thankfully, delegates recognized this truth and overwhelmingly voted to replace the proposed language with the 2016 wording recognizing that marriage is more than a word to be cast aside.•
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Clark is executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana.