The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 3, 2013

Rulings on same-sex unions place spotlight on the weathered institution of marriage

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The Rev. Layne Kulwin performed same-sex weddings in the brief time they were legal in California, and expects to officiate more now that the Supreme Court has cleared the way for those marriages to resume.

But the nondenominational minister in San Jose is also a realist about what will happen long after the “I do’s” have been said.

“I’m sure gay marriages are the same as any others because we’re all just people,” said Kulwin, 62, who also wed his partner, Stephen Kline, in 2008. “Some are successful, and some are dissolved.”

The long-sought prize of last week’s twin high court victories, solidifying the legal standing of same-sex unions, means California gays and lesbians can embrace a venerable institution that has seen better days.

People are exchanging vows at a historically low rate. They are waiting longer than ever to wed. More are choosing to just live together instead.

Marriage, if judged strictly by the numbers, is on the rocks.

“The million-dollar question is why, and we really don’t have a great answer,” said Krista Payne, a data analyst at Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research in Ohio. “There is a group that just doesn’t feel like marriage is for them. They feel it’s an antiquated institution and they don’t need a church or the government to validate their relationship. It’s no longer just about people wanting to walk down the aisle.”

But Jerrold Lee Shapiro, Santa Clara University’s chair of the Counseling Psychology Department, said delaying marriage is not the same thing as outright rejection. He believes it would be a mistake to think of marriage as an outdated tradition with declining relevance — even in a rapidly changing society that is redefining the concept of family.

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