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We must defend marriage as the union of one man and one woman. More broadly, we need a renaissance of marriage if our civilization is to survive.

Let’s start with an unlikely source. Actress Raquel Welch was a symbol of the new sexual freedom of the 1970s. The star of “One Million Years B.C.” was voted the most desirable woman of that era by the readers of Playboy magazine.

But in a 2010 commentary on CNN.com, Welch decried the sexual freedom and sexual irresponsibility that came with what’s come to be known as the “Pill.”

Regarding marriage, Welch confessed: “I’m ashamed to admit that I myself have been married four times, and yet I still feel that it (marriage) is the cornerstone of civilization, an essential institution that stabilizes society, provides a sanctuary for children and saves us from anarchy.” She summarized the case for marriage eloquently, in just 26 words.

And yet, marriage is everywhere in decline. In the United States, in 1960, 72% of adults were married. By 2008, that figure had fallen to 51%. In other words, whether through divorce, the death of a spouse or a failure to marry at all, almost half of all adults in America are single. Among those in their prime childbearing years (ages 18 to 35), 65% were married in 1960, compared to only 26% today.

People are marrying later in life, if at all. Fewer marriages and later marriages equal fewer children. The flight from marriage is the primary cause of dramatically falling fertility. Every developed nation now has below replacement fertility – in many cases, well-below replacement.

The decline of marriage has led to a loss of social cohesion. Marriage and children force men to grow up. Marriage makes them responsible, by giving them a sense of purpose. It gives women the security to become mothers.

Marriage tames destructive male instincts. The most potent force for social chaos is unattached males in their teens and twenties. As a rule, married men don’t join gangs, deal drugs or commit random acts of violence. They work harder, and are more likely to save and contribute to the community. Marriage humanizes us.

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