The Bangor Daily News editorial of July 9 approaches the issue of same-sex marriage from a predictable perspective — the desires of “Lucie and Annie” and “Jim and Steve.” Long an advocate of gay marriage, the paper naturally waxes on about the importance of these adults being able to do as they wish — change the definition of marriage to accommodate their relationships.
The debate is not whether same-sex couples should be able to live as they wish or love whom they choose. But marriage is about far more than what adults want for themselves. It’s about what children need.
Marriage provides in large part a mechanism to provide for the next generation. It is society’s bond with children. It says to children that we as a community have recognized a structure, the institution of marriage, that is uniquely focused on connecting children to the people responsible for bringing them into the world — their parents. Indeed, marriage is our only institution that is focused on children in this way.
Were it not for the interests of children, society (read, government) would have no interest in marriage at all. Adults do not need a social institution to “recognize” their relationships. Adults are able to reach their own agreements, to negotiate their own relationship terms and to decide for themselves how they will handle their relationships. But children are not so fortunate.
Children need the love of both their mother and their father. Social science is chock full of data showing that when kids lack either a mother or a father, they suffer. They have more mental and physical health problems, they are more likely to be raised in poverty, they have less educational attainment, and they are more prone to delinquency and criminal activity, among many other problems.
The institution of marriage is our way of trying to bond children with their parents so that they have the benefit of the love and support of their parents. Does the institution fail too frequently to accomplish this? Yes, tragically. And when it does, then government is left to pick up the pieces. But there is no government on the planet with the know-how and resources to fully compensate for the breakdown of the family.
The shortcomings of the institution of marriage (divorce, co-habitation, adultery, etc.) are no reason to abandon it. Rather, we should be strengthening marriage by devoting resources — in churches, in schools and in nonprofit agencies and departments of government — to creating a thriving marriage culture in our state and nation.
The Bangor Daily News joins with backers of same-sex to attempt to make marriage a political issue. It isn’t. Marriage wasn’t created by government; it was merely recognized by government. There is nothing political about marriage in the least. And in making it a political issue, the paper and gay marriage advocates (really, they are one and the same), seek to set up a straw-man confrontation with anyone who opposes redefining marriage.
For example, the paper mischaracterizes the issue of how marriage will be taught in the public schools if it is redefined. The campaign supporting traditional marriage did not argue in 2009, nor are we arguing now, that state law requires that gay marriage be taught in the schools. What we have argued is that when marriage is taught in school, it will be a new genderless version of marriage, one that is at odds with the religious, moral and personal beliefs of many Mainers and one that is forced on children over the objections of parents.
There are many consequences to society when marriage is redefined. Gay marriage would not exist in the law alongside traditional marriage. The initiative petition redefines marriage for everyone. And anyone who disagrees with this new definition of marriage will potentially find themselves facing consequences. In other states and countries we’ve seen churches lose their tax exemptions, ministers hauled before Human Rights commissions, charitable groups forced to end their ministries, small businesses sued, professionals losing their licenses and — yes — gay marriage taught to very young children in public school in a manner that gives parents no rights to prior notice or to opt them out of such instruction.
Maine law already provides substantial legal protections for “Lucie and Annie” and “Jim and Steve. If there was a need to address specific problems that couples like these face, the Legislature was able to do so. But we should not redefine marriage simply because of empathy for the desires of same-sex couples.
Bob Emrich is Pastor of Emmanuel Bible Baptist Church and serves on the executive committee of Protect Marriage Maine. He is chairman of the Christian Civic League.