Indiana lawmaker proposes "Office of Marriage Promotion"

State Rep. Jeff Thompson hopes to push "traditional" marriage like anti-smoking campaigns, demeaning single parents

Published February 3, 2015 8:11PM (EST)

     (<a href=''>Ivan Galashchuk </a> via <a href=''>Shutterstock</a>)
(Ivan Galashchuk via Shutterstock)

Despite losing the fight to continue denying same-sex couples the right to marry, Republican lawmakers in Indiana are still considering ways to diminish "non-traditional" families -- and they've come up with a pretty creative new option. This week, State Rep. Jeff Thompson offered up a proposal to create a government "Office of Marriage Promotion," which would advocate ("traditional") marriage for all Indiana parents under the auspices of promoting safer communities.

Here is Thompson's explanation of the proposal, via Indy Star:

“Look at the example of what’s happening in this city and the number of shootings,” said Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Lizton. “It doesn’t occur in my community. I don’t like what’s happening. But there are regions and pockets where marriage is not the norm where children are born to.”

As Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s office has put it, “one of the greatest causes of poverty and inequality is the number of children born to unmarried parents.”

The Office of Marriage Promotion would be a state agency aimed at informing young people about research showing that children of married couples are healthier in many ways, Thompson said, while those born to single-parent households are more likely to live in poverty, commit crimes and drop out of school. [...]

Lawmakers such as Thompson say the rise in single parenting costs the public money, through funding free or reduced lunches at school, public housing, jails and unemployment support.

“Taxpayers aren’t getting their money back,” he said, “because they’re paying for other people’s decisions and choices in reality.”

He said traditional marriage promotion would be like anti-smoking campaigns, warning of the risks of single parenthood,

Unfortunately, sociological researchers don't exactly agree with Thompson's premise that marriage produces better outcomes for kids, families or communities. According to a report out last year from the Brookings Institution, the demographic group most likely to get married these days -- better-educated, higher-income adults -- has certain other benefits (stable jobs, financial security, dual incomes and more time) that might contribute to their children's future success and encourage them to get married in the first place. The qualities that allow some married couples to commit more time and money to their children are the same qualities that prompt many of them to get married in the first place.

And the benefits Thompson's proposal ascribes to marriage aren't exactly unique to the institution; mostly, it's the result of a dual-income household, which doesn't even have to mean a "two-parent" household. But let's not forget about the same-sex parents whose marriages would not be promoted (but would presumably be recognized) by the proposed government office, who could provide the same dual-parent support Indiana Republicans seem to value so much.

But beyond all that, there are plenty of ways unhealthy marriages could harm children more than help them, specifically in instances of abuse or addiction. Sometimes, though it might be tough, single parenting is the healthiest and most successful way to raise children. The proposed Office of Marriage Promotion, however, would effectively deny that as blanket policy.

“It’s really an oversimplification to say that single parenting is bad,” Amanda Louden, a single mother from Indianapolis, told Indy Star. “Intact families where both parents are involved in their children’s lives, that’s good. I’m in favor of that. But let’s not demonize families that don’t have that. It’s demonizing people who are doing whatever they can.”

By Jenny Kutner

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