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FIRST-PERSON: A silly amendment?

Editor’s note: The Marriage Protection Amendment, S.J. Res. 1, is scheduled to be debated in the U.S. Senate in June.

DALLAS (BP)–Retired U.S. Sen. John Danforth doesn’t like the fact that Congress is looking at amending the Constitution to preserve traditional marriage. Speaking last month at a gathering of Log Cabin Republicans, he said that if there was ever a proposed constitutional amendment “sillier than this one,” he’s never heard of it.

The Log Cabin members say they’re run-of-the mill Republicans who support small government, tax cuts and, by the way, “gay marriage.” After Sen. Danforth addressed their St. Louis chapter in a separate speech last August, their website highlighted his comments labeling the Marriage Protection Amendment “gay bashing” and calling for the nation to take steps to honor “committed and loving same-sex relationships.”

Sen. Danforth, an ordained Episcopal priest, is known for his stances against abortion and judicial activism. But, in recent years, he has been quite vocal about the fact that he thinks the political influence of evangelical Christians is hurting the GOP, and the quest to protect the definition of marriage is his strongest evidence. In a New York Times op-ed in March 2005, he expressed worry that the Republican Party is becoming the means to carry out a “religious program.” During the recent National Day of Prayer Christians across the country asked God to bless our nation. Sen. Danforth may not have a problem with that. But if we want God’s blessing, we ought to go along with His “program” for marriage.

Retaining the traditional definition of marriage isn’t just someone’s religious preference. Leaving an entire sex out of marriage makes it something else — not marriage. Protecting marriage, defined as between one man and one woman, is good public policy. Marriage has been at the root of all successful societies. It is meant to keep partners faithful to one another; it provides a safe haven for children. All marriages do not work out that way, but the standard is good.

Homosexuals, wanting “equality” and “benefits”, hope to win something that is not, and never will be, marriage. If we officially call the union of two men or two women “marriage,” the meaning of the word will change. Defenders of traditional marriage are often asked, “What will gay marriage do to your marriage?” The answer is that gay marriage will do nothing to my marriage, but it eventually will marginalize the institution of marriage and destroy its positive impact on our culture.

Europe is ahead of the U.S. on the “gay marriage” curve. In the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain there is full, legal “same-sex marriage.” Many other European countries have marriage-lite — civil unions which confer on cohabiting couples most of the benefits of marriage. Similar unions are also legal for homosexuals in Vermont, Connecticut and California. Some people call these arrangements “marriage without the name.” But they are far less permanent. Couples can enter them and take advantage of the benefits: insurance coverage, hospital visitation rights, tax advantages, etc. — and then leave when they wish. They don’t need a divorce. To some people, this sounds convenient. But it’s not so convenient, or beneficial, for children. And the cost to society is staggering.

Author Maggie Gallagher describes a phenomenon called the Second Demographic Transition, which is characterized by skyrocketing out-of-wedlock births and collapsing fertility. Most major European countries have fertility rates of 1.7 or below. (It takes 2.1 children per woman to replace the population.) Unchecked, SDT leads to demographic death. In a Townhall.com column, Maggie Gallagher cited a recent study by European demographer Ron Lesthaeghe, looking for evidence of the Second Demographic Transition in America. Leading in the postponement of marriage and children are California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Of these, Rhode Island is the only state not battling a lawsuit seeking “gay marriage.” (Massachusetts’ highest court has already legalized “gay marriage.”)

The European retreat from marriage teaches us that if dropping fertility rates don’t get us, rising illegitimacy rates will. More than half of the children in Europe are born to unwed mothers. In some parts of Europe, a generation is growing up literally without the influence of the traditional family. When governments subsidize single motherhood, marriage is discouraged. In Scandinavia, mothers simply are better off financially if they do not marry. In the U.S., the welfare reform enacted in the late 90s curtailed the financial incentives for women to have children out of wedlock and injected some sanity into the system. President Bush’s emphasis on marriage as good social policy is reaping societal and economic benefits. But, we’ll reverse those gains and more if we redefine marriage out of existence. Legal “same-sex marriage” eventually will result in government subsidy of many different variations of families and the cheapening of marriage.

Right now our laws encourage marriage. But nine states are involved in lawsuits challenging their traditional marriage laws. States are, wisely, amending their constitutions to protect themselves against these attempts to force “same-sex marriage” on the country through the courts. Yet the homosexual groups’ quest for marriage will find a path to the Supreme Court through the states that do not have marriage amendment. Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, predicts: “This issue is going to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it’s not going to give a [expletive] what these state constitutions say.” The “silly” federal Marriage Protection Amendment had better be in place by then.
Dexter is a board of trustee member with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a conservative activist and an announcer on the new syndicated radio program “Life on the Line” (information available at www.lifeontheline.com). She currently serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas, and as a producer for “Washington Watch Weekly,” a broadcast of the Family Research Council. She formerly was a co-host of Marlin Maddoux’s “Point of View” syndicated radio program.

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  • Penna Dexter