St. Cloud Times: Your Turn—Marriages Have Duty to Society

(by Jason Adkins, Editorial section)
March 3, 2012

Too often, it seems, the good of marriage, if it is discussed at all, is confined to its private purposes: the fulfillment of individual needs and the social recognition of the mutual love between two people — as though marriage is about nothing more than personal happiness.

But is that really all marriage is? Or does marriage in fact serve a public purpose that goes beyond the happiness of the couple involved to include what is best for any children they might have, and for society as a whole?

Those promoting the marriage amendment believe marriage is not just about recognizing the love and commitment of the adults involved in the relationship. Love and commitment are surely necessary, but marriage is more.

A special place

So how does marriage serve the good of everyone? Marriage occupies a special place in society because it provides a universal good that not only includes love but — in the vast majority of cases — children, too, which are, of course, essential for the very continuation of society. Just ask the Russians or the Danes, who are paying citizens exorbitant sums of money to have children because their national birthrates are so low.

Marriage is the most important social institution we have that is child-focused and that encourages men and women to marry before having children so that any kids they produce will be known and cared for by their own parents.

Certainly, there are different kinds of families — single parents, adoptive parents, etc. Many parents in these circumstances work overtime to provide the best for their children, and they deserve our thanks and appreciation. Still, while death and divorce too often prevent the ideal, the “gold standard” for children is to be raised by their married mother and father.

In this way, marriage serves a vital and universal societal purpose by channeling biological drive and male-female sexual activity into enduring families that have the best opportunity to ensure the care and education of children.

Children raised by their married mother and father receive numerous benefits: an increased likelihood of fostering healthy relationships, decreased likelihood of divorce, reduced incidence of becoming an unwed parent, reduced poverty, higher educational attainment and much more.

The report, “Sustainable Demographic Dividend: What Do Marriage and Fertility Have to Do With the Economy?” emphasizes that children raised in married, mother-father families have an advantage when it comes to acquiring the skills and social capital they need to become well-adjusted, productive workers. The overwhelming body of social science evidence establishes that children do best when raised by their married mother and father.

Whether we’re talking about poverty rates, physical health, mental health, education attainment, or general happiness, science shows that children are better off when raised in an intact home by their own married parents.

Mom AND dad

Speaking of parents, media commentators and others sometimes go out of their way to talk about things like “parenthood” rather than acknowledging the importance of “fatherhood” and “motherhood.” But mothers and fathers are not interchangeable. Children need both a mom and a dad — as in the love of a mother as a female and the love of a father as a male.

Whatever one’s view of same-sex “marriage,” it is undeniable that every child living in a same-sex household is intentionally denied the unique and essential nurturing that comes with being raised in an intact home by her mom and dad.

No one has a right to a child, but every child has a right to a mom and a dad. And, in fact, every child has a biological mother and father. Same-sex couples may choose to adopt or be inseminated because they wish to experience parenthood, but it certainly isn’t what we as a society should be promoting.

The public purpose of marriage is to serve the interests of children and society, and thus the common good. Shouldn’t the needs of children and society be put ahead of individual adult desires?

This is the opinion of Jason Adkins, vice chairman of Minnesota for Marriage, the official campaign supporting the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment.