For every high-profile celebrity wedding that makes headlines, it seems we are treated to at least two high-profile celebrity divorces. I am praying for people like Kim Kardashian whose marriage problems seem to suggest that there should be a public exam for marriage prior to the issuance of a license. Unfortunately, celebrities are not the only folks whose marriages are caving in under the cultural pressures of our generation. The depressing state of marriage in our nation today provides more fuel for the fire for those that advocate redefining marriage to include same-sex couples. After all, as the joke goes, how can homosexuals make more of a mess of the institution of marriage than heterosexuals already have?
On the surface, same-sex “marriage” advocates appear to have a point. And I would be among the first to admit that marriage as an institution was terribly weakened by both the no-fault divorce laws first passed in the 1970s and by a general willingness of our culture to separate marriage from childbearing. Neither of these factors had anything to do with homosexuality, and both dealt severe blows to the strength of American families. However, these are not reasons to further weaken marriage by defining it out of existence. (I am not the first to observe that words that mean everything mean nothing, and “marriage” is headed down that very road.) The enfeebled state of marriage today is all the more reason to fight to preserve it and hopefully to restore it to its former strength.
At the heart of the marriage argument is whether marriage exists primarily to satisfy the needs and wants of adults, or to provide the optimal environment for nurturing the next generation. If marriage is only for individual gratification, then there is no reason to restrict it to opposite sex couples. Marriage has always been the union of one man and one woman because children need one mother and one father.
Multiple studies confirm that children raised by married biological parents have by far the best outcomes in terms of physical and emotional health, educational achievement and long term success in life.
As a black man, I take particular objection to the claim that not redefining marriage to include same-sex couples is akin to approving of past bans on interracial marriage. This reasoning is flawed in several respects: first of all, “race” has always been a cultural designation more than a biological reality. A pure “white” person in American may have ancestors who hailed from the tribes of the Ostrogoths, Vandals, Celts, Burgundians, Franks, Slavs or any number of “white” people groups that began to populate Europe in the waning days of the Roman Empire. A native-born “black” American most certainly has an ancestry that includes multiple African tribes, American Indian nations, and yes, probably “white” people as well.
Second, interracial couples provide children with both a father and a mother, which is the point of a family. Third, bans on interracial marriage were implemented to reinforce the supposed inferiority of blacks and thus justify their continued oppression. Gays and lesbians are legally free to live as they please; they just should not be allowed to redefine marriage for the rest of us.
What have the effects of redefining marriage been around the world? Denmark was among the first nations in the world to introduce “registered partnerships” which conferred marriage-like rights on gay couples in 1989. Other Scandinavian countries soon followed suit. The result was not so much a change in the behavior of gays and lesbians (Scandinavian countries report between 1 and 7 registered partnerships per thousand marriages), but a dramatic shift in heterosexual behavior. Rates of out-of-wedlock childbearing rose (about 60% of firstborn babies in Denmark are born to unmarried parents) as did the rates of family dissolution, including both divorces and breakups between cohabiting parents. It seems that when a society no longer holds the institution of marriage to be sacred, people simply stop bothering to get married at all, and break up when it pleases them.
In the few states where marriage has been redefined to include same-sex couples, various churches and ministries have already been threatened with the loss of their tax exempt status if they refused to perform ceremonies for same sex couples. Earlier this year, California governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill mandating that public schools teach their students “the role and contributions of” homosexual American historical figures, and forbade the use of any resources that “contain any matter reflecting adversely” upon gays on the basis of sexual orientation. The legislation also urged charter schools and private schools “take notice of the provisions of this act.” It does not take much imagination to see that if marriage is redefined nation-wide, such pro-homosexual propaganda will be mandated in every public school in the country.
Lastly, we are fools if we think that redefining marriage to include homosexual couples is the end of the story. To the contrary, it is only the beginning. Groups advocating polygamy and polyamory have their arguments prepared and will begin advocating for the definition of marriage to be relaxed further to accommodate their preferences. Children may then be born to and even adopted by any number of “families” with any number of mothers and fathers, sleeping with whomever they depending in their whims. Redefining marriage will be the beginning of the end of the family as we know it.
This January, the Maryland state legislature will once again be bombarded by both local and national same sex marriage advocates. Movie stars, members of the DNC, political luminaries like Bill and Hillary Clinton, and even members of the administration will once again cajole, arm twist, and intimidate the state legislature. Millions of dollars will flow into the state in an attempt by these zealots to further affirm, in their minds, that same-sex marriage is inevitable. Fortunately, for the citizens of the state there is a coalition of coalitions that currently represents over 250,000 Maryland voters, over 500 churches (including Southern Baptist, Orthodox Jews, Multiple Baptist, Maryland Catholic Diocese, the Latter Day Saints community and a large portion of Maryland’s mega- churches).
Please join us in protecting the nation's greatest institution. Get involved! Three simple things will make a difference: 1. Tell your state and federal representatives that you are in favor of maintaining the definition of marriage. 2. Contact your friends and family in Maryland and let them know about the battle. 3. Log onto the Maryland Marriage Alliance’s website and make a significant donation today.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.