Today, four states – Maryland, Maine, Montana, and Washington – will vote on the redefining of marriage, rousing a firestorm of hostile debates, negative TV ads, and downright name-calling.
Among the name-callers is author Kathryn Shelton, who in her Doublethink article for America’s Future Foundation titled, “In Marriage Business, Government is Picking Winners and Losers,” claims that conservatives are hypocrites for believing marriage is a divinely-ordained institution that cannot be changed by man-made actions, and meanwhile encouraging the government’s regulating of that institution. Although I disagree with her conclusions, Shelton raises an important question that deserves an answer. Why is government involved in marriage at all?
I agree that marriage is a divine institution, ordained by God with which no man can tamper.
But that divine appointment in no way negates the very real public policy interests upon which it touches. There are many other things that are divinely appointed in origin, yet of immense and undeniable public interest. Thou shall not murder. Thou shall not steal. It is that public interest, and only that, which concerns government. The fact is that public interest demands limits, and that is the real debate we are having. Not whether there should be limits, but what those limits should be.
In her piece, Shelton criticizes conservatives as discriminatory for picking “winners” and “losers” in marriage. Her argument seems strong when she limits it to same-sex “marriage,” but why is she limiting it to that? What about polygamy? What about those who want to marry children or a dad marrying his daughter? Should the state leave that to the church and just recognize whatever? The simple answer is, “no.” There are real consequences to society by the actions our citizens make.
The federal government plays an important role in protecting the public’s welfare. This is one of the major functions of the state. Central to protecting the public’s welfare is protecting our future. The next generation. Children. The relationship between a man and a woman is the only relationship that has the potential to create life. And because marriage has been proven to be the most stable, prosperous environment for children to develop into good citizens, it is essential for building a prosperous nation. It must be protected and supported.
Forty years of social science data details the damaging outcomes of children raised without both a mother and a father, something we are already seeing today especially in minority communities. Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Senior Fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute and author of Children at Risk, finds that “poverty and fatherless families are inextricably linked.” Dr. Crouse explains that children missing a father are more susceptible to worse grades, are more likely to drop out of school, have greater health problems, and are more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol and early sexual promiscuity.
The most comprehensive study to date clearly evidencing that children develop best when raised by both a mom and a dad is the New Family Structures Study conducted by University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus. Compared to adults raised in married-mom-and-dad homes, those adults raised by lesbian mothers had negative outcomes in 24 of 40 categories, and those raised by “gay” fathers had negative outcomes in 19 of the 40 categories. Specifically, 69 percent of adults raised by a gay couple received welfare growing up, while only 17 percent of married two-parent households received public assistance. While 36 percent of the adults raised by gay couples were sexually abused during their childhood, only eight percent of adults raised by straight parents had such terrible experiences.
Even the United Nations understands the immeasurable importance of a married mother and father in the life of children. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child– which should be opposed on other grounds – states that “Children also have the right to know and, as far as possible, to be cared for by their parents” (Article 7).
Discrimination, as Shelton penned, should not be the focus of the state. And it is not in the case of marriage. Any man and woman can marry, regardless of their sexual orientation. Marriage is simply the union between one man and one woman.
It should be pointed out that the government’s promotion of same-sex “marriage” is not the only threat destroying the family. The extremely high rate of divorce is perhaps a bigger problem (thanks in large part to “no fault divorce” laws), but that’s another column.
If the God-ordained institution of marriage fails, then the family unit fails, and America ultimately fails.
Every American – liberal, conservative or libertarian – should support the government upholding the sanctity of marriage in order to secure both citizens’ freedoms and our national well-being.
No other institution has such a powerful impact on our nation’s future generations. Strong marriages produce strong citizens and therefore strong nations. Marriage between one man and one woman is the most productive investment a government can make.