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One Marriage Under God

One Marriage Under God: The Campaign to Promote Marriage in America

Melanie Heath
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 273
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  • Book Info
    One Marriage Under God
    Book Description:

    The meaning and significance of the institution of marriage has engendered angry and boisterous battles across the United States. While the efforts of lesbians and gay men to make marriage accessible to same-sex couples have seen increasing success, these initiatives have sparked a backlash as campaigns are waged to protect heterosexual marriage in America. Less in the public eye is government legislation that embraces the idea of marriage promotion as a necessary societal good. In this timely and extensive study of marriage politics, Melanie Heath uncovers broad cultural anxieties that fuel on-the-ground practices to reinforce a boundary of heterosexual marriage, questioning why marriage has become an issue of pervasive national preoccupation and anxiety, and explores the impact of policies that seek to reinstitutionalize heterosexual marriage in American society. From marriage workshops for the general public to relationship classes for welfare recipients to marriage education in high school classrooms,One Marriage Under Goddocuments in meticulous detail the inner workings of ideologies of gender and heterosexuality in the practice of marriage promotion to fortify a concept of one marriage, an Anglo-American ideal of Christian, heterosexual monogamy.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-4490-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Marriage Promotion, Heterosexuality, and “Being American”
    (pp. 1-22)

    It was a sunny but chilly February day in Oklahoma City as I gathered at the state capitol with approximately four hundred people to rally for an issue that David Blankenhorn—the founder and president of the Institute for American Values, a pro-marriage organization—has characterized as a “national preoccupation.”³ The Protect Marriage and the Traditional Family rally drew a mostly white crowd, along with approximately forty-five elected local, state, and federal officials, radio personalities, and religious leaders. Adults and children held handmade signs with phrases like, “Kids need both a mom and a dad”; “God made us male and...

  6. 1 Unite! Marriage and American Identity
    (pp. 23-42)

    Former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating gave the quote above at a lecture for the conservative Heritage Foundation, an influential public policy research institute that promotes the principles of “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense.”³ He describes how he was surprised by an economic report stressing that, along with the standard “recommendations on the economic ledger side,” Oklahoma needed to combat divorce among families with children and its out-of-wedlock births to improve the state’s prospects for economic growth. Keating decided to address these social issues by forming the marriage initiative. Its initial goals...

  7. 2 The Stakes of Gender and Heterosexuality
    (pp. 43-70)

    On a dreary, rainy January day, I attended my first weekend marriage workshop at a church in Oklahoma City that I had located on the marriage initiative’s website. After introducing myself as a researcher who was studying Oklahoma’s efforts to strengthen marriage to the workshop leader and the two couples present, I was given a workbook. I sat down and tried to hide my astonishment as I read the cover: “ ‘So they are no longer two, but one.’ Jesus Christ.” This was the Christian version of the Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program (CPREP). I had read about the secular...

  8. 3 Widening the Marriage Gap
    (pp. 71-92)

    The cover of Kay Hymowitz’s bookMarriage and Caste in Americapresents a picture of a white nuclear family—husband, wife, daughter, and son—standing in a museumlike room with their backs to us as they gaze at three gilded photographs of single-mother black families from behind a roped partition. This representation is key to a central argument of marriage promotion: America has become a “nation of separate and unequal families.” Marriage advocates argue that the cause of this inequality is the breakdown of marriage. The story for them begins in the late 1960s when the marriage rate began to...

  9. 4 Teaching Marriage to Single Mothers and Inmates
    (pp. 93-122)

    Some high-profile marriage advocates aim to restore a time when there was greater stigma for divorce or unwed childbearing. The political scientist James Q. Wilson differentiates stigma from prejudice, where prejudice is about mistakenly imputing group traits on individuals and stigma is blaming an individual for immoral or dishonorable behavior such as lying, cheating, or extramarital sex. Prejudice causes discrimination and stigma causes shame: “Shame once inhibited women from having children without marrying and men from abandoning wives for trophy alternatives.”³ Wilson laments that society has “stigmatized stigma” so much that it no longer blames people for “immoral behavior.” Those...

  10. 5 Marriage Recitals in High School
    (pp. 123-150)

    In May 2009, Diane Sollee posted on the Smart Marriages listserv coverage of a recent documentary, “Oral Sex Is the New Goodnight Kiss,” and she lamented, “Why we need to focus on youth: Read it and shudder.”³ Interestingly, the documentary examines not American but Canadian middle-class, white girls who describe oral sex as a common activity among their peers. A few depict partaking in sex for trade such as selling their virginity or performing oral sex for a designer handbag. The story was picked up byGood Morning America, which included a discussion with a group of American girls who...

  11. 6 Contesting Native American Marriage
    (pp. 151-174)

    Marriage in the United States has been a central mechanism to confer national identity, citizenship, and rights. Three predominant levels of American society shape marriage. The first level contains the communities that offer approval or disapprobation of particular family configuration and practice. At the next level, legislators and judges set the terms and limits of marriage and divorce through state law. Finally, federal laws, policies, and values circumscribe the meaning of monogamous, heterosexual marriage.³ For individuals whose marriages have been policed or legally excluded, access has been a site of struggle for equal status. Accordingly, marriage laws and practices in...

  12. Conclusion: The Power of the “M-Word”
    (pp. 175-196)

    For over a decade, same-sex marriage has been a contentious issue in the United States, marked by contending ballot initiatives, legislation, and lawsuits to legalize or ban it. California exemplifies this factiousness. The Supreme Court of California ruled in 2008 that its law banning same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, but a referendum in November—Proposition 8—passed and restored it. After withstanding a challenge in the state Supreme Court, a federal judge found the ban unconstitutional in a ruling that will likely move its way up to the United States Supreme Court. In the federal lawsuit,Kristin M. Perry v. Arnold...

  13. Appendix A: Methods
    (pp. 197-202)
  14. Appendix B: Sample Characteristics: In-depth Interviews of Participants in Workshops for the General Population
    (pp. 203-204)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 205-226)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-246)
  17. Index
    (pp. 247-259)
  18. About the Author
    (pp. 260-260)