NOTE: This is the fifth column in a series of columns related to National Marriage Week, Feb. 7-14, 2013. The fourth column is available here.
Many of us will recall the song from Sesame Street that begins, “One of these things is not like the other.” The song conveyed to viewers that not everything, or every relationship, is the same; we have different capabilities and purposes.
The government routinely sings this song as it recognizes and seeks to support certain relationships based on their uniqueness, their distinctive purpose, or their benefit to society.
One such relationship that is unlike any other is marriage.
Marriage is the unique relationship between a man and a woman—a relationship recognized throughout human history and by diverse cultures and faiths. Marriage distinguishes itself from any other because it unites the distinct and uniquely wonderful differences of men and women to bring forth and nurture society’s next generation.
While many relationships exist, the union of a man and a woman is unlike any other as no other relationship joins its participants as one united whole to create a new person. No other relationship is similarly situated in this special way.
To define the marital relationship as just like any other would be to deny its specific purpose: creating, nurturing, and raising children with their mom and dad.
Because of this purpose, society seeks to safeguard marriage. Simply put, the government has an interest in marriage because it has an interest in children. Indeed, in the words of the famous philosopher Bertrand Russell, a self-described atheist: “But for children, there would be no need of any institution concerned with sex.” “[I]t is through children alone that sexual relations become of importance to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.”
Recognizing the good of marriage in no way implies an animus toward other types of relationships. On the contrary, the government’s interest in protecting and enhancing marriage simply recognizes the natural reality that children result from sexual relationships between men and women and that children benefit from knowing both their mother and father in a stable home.
Safeguarding marriage furthers every child’s natural desire to know who they are and where they came from. It encourages the natural attachment of a mother and father to their child, emphasizing the vital role of both parents.
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