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President Bush declared this week, October 12-18, Marriage Protection week. For months, the nation has heard a barrage of arguments from those who want to elevate same-sex unions to the status of traditional marriage between a man and a woman. During Marriage Protection Week, America will hear from more than two dozen groups who will explain why it is important for America to protect the institution of marriage from the attacks of activist judges and Leftist groups.

Skeptics say it is too late to rebuild marriage. Kathlee Kierman, a family scholar, says, “Parenthood rather than marriage contracts should underpin family relations.” Arlene Skolnick, another family scholar, says, “There’s no way of going back to where we were before.”

But we must.

Most of the arguments for broadening marriage to apply to any group of people who want to have the legal and financial benefits of a formal union are built on concern for the needs of individuals. As a society, we must be concerned with the broader picture; we must care for those who cannot care for themselves children.

Children need marriage.

Children need both a mother and a father; and they need them to be married and in a stable, committed, loving relationship. The absence of marriage in a child’s life is a gaping wound. That wound is gaping because no one is obligated by duty and love to care for the child. You can’t delegate love through a program. You can’t ensure vigilance through a program. A child knows when he is no one’s treasure no one’s special joy!

We are all familiar by now with the data that has been accumulating to support these statements. Children in traditional two-parent families are less likely to be involved in drugs, less likely to become pregnant out-of-wedlock; more likely to do well in school the list goes on and on.

But, in addition, the data on infant mortality and infant homicide indicate that the formidable American medical system is only able to do so much to care for vulnerable babies. The front-line of defense is their mothers and fathers. We are indebted to Nicholas Eberstadt for his ground-breaking research that demonstrated conclusively that marriage protects children from their earliest moments of life.

There are not enough government programs in the world to counteract the deficits that arise when a society doesn’t have the institution of marriage operating effectively to provide for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of children. The experience of the past 40 years shows that attempting to provide for the material needs of children in a negative relational setting one where the child constantly encounters bad role models and emotionally harmful interactions increases the likelihood that the child will not develop a capacity for empathy and responsibility, basic ingredients of our humanity.

Without these elements of character to restrain their self-centered impulses, children’s capacity for self-indulgence and/or violent, evil behavior towards others knows no limits.

Women need marriage.

If there is one characteristic that defines the 20th century it is the disintegration of marriage and the family. In 1999, only 66 percent of the population lived in a married couple family. Divorce now severs more families every year than the total number of maternal deaths did from 1915 to 1998. Cohabitation has dramatically increased, as has the number of women living as “unrelated individuals.” Do we really want to legitimize and add single-sex unions to the unstable and disastrous relationship arrangements that are producing such bad results for women and children?

Women have born the brunt of the 20th century cultural trends. We are all familiar with the problems of divorce, cohabitation and single motherhood. A less acknowledged problem is the steady, unrelenting growth in the number of unmarried women who either live alone or as “unrelated individuals.” During the twentieth century, couples declined to get married and men and women progressed through serial “hook-ups.” Not surprisingly, there was also a significant increase in the number of women who remained single and alone. This is not the outcome that most of the women expected when they bought into the idea of “free love.” An article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, (Vol. 232, April 28, 1975, p. 392) reported the results of a poll at a Midwestern university 80 percent of the women versus 12 percent of the men who engaged in sexual intercourse expected to marry their partner. Because of the sexual revolution, women take most of the risks emotionally and physically thus enabling men to remain irresponsible, carefree playboys.

As a result, at the end of the 20th century, the number of married women as a proportion of all women was at the lowest level ever recorded. The number of unmarried women, after declining until the early 1980s, is now inching upward; it is now 24.7 percent compared to the peak at the beginning of the century of 31.3 percent. The result is that a significant number of women live isolated and alone with less and less connectedness. The loneliness resulting from a lack of connectedness was recognized by Mother Teresa as a “terrible” poverty in Time Magazine, Dec. 29, 1979, “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”

Protecting marriage is necessary for the future well being of America’s women and children.

The nation needs marriage.

People are rejecting the liberal activists’ attempts to relegate marriage to history as an antiquated institution inherently harmful to women. They are also rejecting the push for so-called “gay marriage.” At first, the public was hesitant to appear judgmental, but rationality is prevailing. People are seeing the harm that will come from counterfeit marriages not just to the individuals involved, but also to the nation if marriage and family, the foundation for society, continue to weaken.

Marriage is a sacred institution a covenant between a man and a woman and God that is honored by people across the faith traditions. It is also a legal contract carrying both responsibilities and privileges. Same-sex relationships generally are notoriously unstable and short-term commitments; thus neither the sacred covenant nor the legal contract carries the same meaning as traditional marriage. Marriage has been weakened already by divorce, cohabitation and the unwillingness of many young people today to make a commitment. To broaden the definition of marriage to include same-sex unions would further weaken the institution that should be the foundation for a strong and vital society. Marriage is the essential foundation for democratic government to flourish providing as it does both stability and the nurturing of the values and beliefs that are essential for democracy.

The promise of the 21st century rests on whether America reverses the disintegration of marriage and the family. The restoration of marriage and the family is no longer a luxury that would be nice; it is a necessity for the survival of American civil society.

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