This article first appeared in the May 2006 issue of BreakPoint WorldViewmagazine. Subscribe today—or get a friend or family member a gift subscription. Call 1-877-322-5527.
“The way to abolish marriage, without seeming to abolish it, is to redefine the institution out of existence,” wroteNational Review Online’s contributing editor Stanley Kurtz in February. “If everything can be marriage, pretty soon nothing will be marriage.”
On June 6, the United States Senate will once again consider the definition of the fundamental institution of society: marriage. The Senate vote, followed by a comparable vote in the United States House of Representatives, will aim to decide whether marriage is defined solely within the parameters of one man and one woman.
The buzz on marriage extends from the heart of American voters to the mahogany desks inside state court rooms. In an era that prizes tolerance as a supreme value, articulating the case for one man/one woman marriage can prove difficult. The failure to articulate and understand marriage’s basic definition, however, opens the door for a myriad of false definitions. With an open-ended definition, marriage could morph into unions representing various numerical and gender combinations. By being everything, marriage, as noted by Kurtz, would ultimately become nothing.
Does the definition of marriage really matter? The majority of the general public seems to think so and, consequently, supports a specific understanding of marriage. In fact, nineteen states have constitutional amendments defining marriage as solely between one man and one woman. Twenty-six other states have statutes that likewise uphold traditional marriage.
Not only has nearly every society and major religion in all of history recognized marriage by this definition, but marriage also positively benefits communities. Marriage provides the best environment in which to raise children. According to the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, statistics demonstrate that marriage correlates with lower poverty rates among children and local communities. Children raised without a married father and mother are more likely to experience mental health problems and/or criminal behavior.
Despite the widespread support for traditional marriage in the states and evidence suggesting its intrinsic societal benefit, lawsuits challenging traditional marriage laws continue to surface. Furthermore, six states recognize domestic partnerships or civil unions. While some argue that publicly sanctioning homosexual “marriage” will not produce negative outcomes, it is clear that broadening marriage’s definition is cause for concern. One does not need to look to HBO’s new series Big Love or watch a British woman wed a dolphin (as occurred this past winter) to see that if one follows the argument in favor of homosexual “marriage” to its logical conclusion, it will also legitimize other types of non-conventional unions. Charles Krauthammer pointed this out in his Washington Post article “Pandora and Polygamy”: “If traditional marriage is defined as the union of (1) two people of (2) opposite gender,” he explains, “and if, as advocates of gay marriage insist, the gender requirement is nothing but prejudice, exclusion and an arbitrary denial of one’s autonomous choices in love, then the first requirement—the number restriction (two and only two)—is similarly arbitrary, discriminatory, and indefensible denial of individual choice.”
But polygamy is not the only concern that arises in considering a redefinition of marriage. By tampering with traditional marriage, issues of religious liberty, freedom of speech, and education policy arise. In Massachusetts, Catholic Charities has withdrawn from its prominent role in adoption work due to the conflict between its religious beliefs and the state’s allowance of homosexual adoption. Furthermore, if marriage is broadly construed, advocating solely for heterosexual marriage could be deemed to be discriminatory hate speech. Organizations supporting marriage as only between one man and one woman could risk losing tax-exempt status. Even public education curriculum may well change (and in some cases is already changing) to accommodate and normalize homosexuality. Massachusetts’s Department of Education already has the “Safe Schools Program for Gay and Lesbian Students,” and it is currently considering adding a health education element (including sexuality and homosexuality) to the core curriculum for public schools.
Marriage between one man and one woman must be upheld, because it provides the firmest foundation for families and civil society. By redefining it, the government would tragically undermine the unmatched benefits traditional marriage provides for children and communities.
Mariam Bell is the national director of public policy for the Wilberforce Forum. Erin McCormick is a government affairs specialist for the Wilberforce Forum.
For Further Reading and Information
Action: Urge Congress to support the Marriage Protection Amendment! Call the Capitol switchboard: 202-224-3121. Or visit www.house.gov and www.senate.gov to reach your legislators directly.
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