Voices For Life

Voices for Life is an e-publication dedicated to informing and educating the public on pro-life and pro-family issues. We cover issues from conception until natural death, as well as all family life issues.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Why “Value” Families?

by Bruce Frohnen

In responding to a recent post of mine criticizing our liberal culture for its hostility toward the traditional family, a commenter wrote: “I don’t know a single liberal who … doesn’t value (and participate in) both traditional and non-traditional families.” I think it is important to examine this liberal response to conservative criticism, not because the issue can be “settled,” but because it can tell us why liberals and conservatives so often seem to be talking past one another when it comes to social issues.

Conservatives (like me) often are accused of being unfairly censorious in accusing liberals of undermining primary institutions like the family.  After all, the argument goes, we talk about “attacks” on relationships liberals genuinely value.  And there is a way in which this is true—a way that shows why the “culture wars” are not likely to end any time soon.

When someone tells you that he and his liberals friends “value (and participate in) both traditional and non-traditional families” that person expects a fight about just what a “non-traditional family” might be. Most liberals, in my experience, are loaded for bear on this question. “What, you mean just because both parents aren’t present, or both happen to be male, or female, or the family is a mixed one, having been through one or more divorces, or there is no marriage certificate, that it somehow isn’t ‘real’?  Well how intolerant and narrow-minded is that?”

If true, this charge would be a serious one. But it is not. Tragedies occur, as they always have. Children are left to be raised by a single parent—neither death nor abandonment is new. Children are raised by maiden aunts, struggling uncles, and other relatives or adoptive parents. Broken families seek to reform in the wake of one or more tragedies.  And common law marriage grew up to recognize the rights of children and spouses in situations where marriages are difficult to obtain or one spouse (or both) persists in refusing to solemnize the relationship.

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 Bruce Frohnen is Professor of Law at the Ohio Northern University College of Law. He is also a senior fellow at the Russell Kirk Center and author of many books including The New Communitarians and the Crisis of Modern Liberalism, and the editor of Rethinking Rights (with Ken Grasso), and The American Republic: Primary Source.

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