Marriage promotion

Marriage promotion is a policy aiming to produce “strong families” for the purposes of social security; as found in 21st-century American maternalism.[1]

The George W. Bush Administration had focused on government marriage promotion as the solution to the high poverty rates experienced by single-parent families, diverting to marriage promotion tens of millions of dollars appropriated by Congress for other purposes, and successfully lobbying Congress to establish a federal marriage promotion program.[2] These programs seek to get unmarried parents to marry and to deter separation or divorce.[2]

One of the earliest known marriage promotion laws, the Lex Papia Poppaea, imposed penalties on those who refused to get married before a certain age. Provisions against adultery were also made in this law. Caelibes could not take an hereditas or a legacy (legatum); but if a person was caelebs at the time of the testator's death, and was not otherwise disqualified (jure civili), he might take the hereditas or legatum, if he obeyed the law within one hundred days, that is, if he married within that time (Ulp. Frag. xvii.1). If he did not comply with the law, the gift became caducum (subject to escheat).

Background: the decline of marriage in the United States

Margaret Talbot, a staff writer at The New Yorker, wrote:

More than half of all births to American women under the age of thirty now take place outside of marriage, and children who grow up without married parents are less likely to go to college and to find employment, and are more likely to live in poverty, to become pregnant as teen-agers, and to go to prison than children with married parents.[3]

The late James Q. Wilson wrote:

Almost everyone agrees that children in mother-only homes suffer harmful consequences: these youngsters are more likely than those in two-parent families to be suspended from school, have emotional problems, become delinquent, suffer from abuse, and take drugs.[4] - February 17, 2002


Marriage promotion includes laws, budget allocations, administrative regulations, think-tank recommendations, and operating programs that work in the favor of married people while disfavoring unmarried people.[5] Heterosexual couples are told to enter and stay in government-certified marriages in order to be economically successfully and responsible citizens.[5] This concept more or less coincides with the concept of a covenant marriage. Same-sex marriage and cohabitation are ignored by all marriage promotion programs[5] due to moral reasons. This promotion has its roots in the roots in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.[6] This legislation permitted American states to deny assistance to fully qualified applicants - resulting in the abrogation of some applicants' constitutional rights.[6]

Childbirth with marriage is supported along with the marriage promotion as two people can raise a baby better than an unwed mother or father.[7] Marriage was promoted in the 1990s in order to promote family values. Rising divorce rates in the 1980s and 1990s in addition to plummeting marriage rates,[7] however, allowed then-current U.S. President George W. Bush to pass a nationwide marriage promotion law in the 2000s.

A major impetus behind marriage promotion is increasing father involvement.[8] Low-income fathers are forced to take more responsibility for childrearing and their relationships with female partners.[8] From a starting point of underfunded schools, poverty and family chaos, they often do poorly in school and drop out.[8] The men usually end up selling illegal drugs while their girlfriends are at higher risk for pregnancy - one of the few ways that both genders can have a sense of power.[8] Fathers are urged to get married to the women that they impregnate so that they can establish traditional families, according to the Alliance for Marriage.[9]

Marriage promotion may also lead to discrimination against single-parent families that actually increases their poverty and hardship.[2] Some marriage promotion supporters advocate promoting marriage by excluding single-parent families from some public benefits.[2] Marriage promotion also teaches women to be dependent on a spouse instead of being economically independent.[2]


  1. "Not Just Maternalism: Marriage and Fatherhood in American Welfare Policy". Oxford Journals. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 "Legal Momentum: What is Marriage Promotion". Legal Momentum. Retrieved 2011-06-01.
  3. Taking Control - Margaret Talbot New Yorker magazine - March 19, 2012
  4. The Decline of Marriage
  5. 1 2 3 "Government Mandated Marriage Promotion". Alternatives to Marriage Project. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
  6. 1 2 "Marriage Promotion". Dollars and Sense. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
  7. 1 2 Nock, Steven L., Laura Ann Sanchez, and James D. Wright. Covenant Marriage: The Movement to Reclaim Tradition in America: Rutgers University Press, 2008. UNC-CH Online Library. Web. 8 Nov. 2009. <>.
  8. 1 2 3 4 "Marriage promotion: a simplistic fix?". American Psychological Association. Retrieved 2011-05-12.
  9. Karen S. Peterson, Man Behind the Marriage Amendment, USA Today, US News, April 12, 2004
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