Advocates of same-sex "marriage" are known to reach for one of the oldest arguments in the liberal arsenal ? that a vote in favor of their point of view is a "smart" vote, and a vote against it is the mark of a knuckle-dragging reactionary.
Well, is it?
The question takes on added prominence as the House of Representatives prepares to vote Thursday on a constitutional amendment protect marriage as the institution of one man and one woman. Congress must pass the amendment before it can be considered by the states, where three-fourths of the nation's state legislatures would have to approve it before it became law.
So what is the smart vote? Well, as is the case any time we're considering big, important national questions, we have to answer that question with this one: What are the goals? When we think of what the American government's policy toward marriage should be, we need first to establish what it is we want that policy to encourage.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the goal of marriage policy is the same as the goal for most other policies ? to make the lives of most Americans better. If that is the case, one need only check out what the research says about the significance of marriage. To get a quick snapshot, take a look at the new database from the Heritage Foundation on marriage and family issues.
Social-science experts here at Heritage have taken a long look at the research to date on various households, particularly the traditional family ? one which consists of a man married to a woman and living with their children. And the data is overwhelming. It suggests that, at this fragile time in the history for families, for faith and for other forces for good in society, this is no time to experiment with the basic family form or with the institution of marriage.
Those in Europe, and on a limited basis elsewhere, who have undertaken such experiments, have found that granting same-sex partnerships the status of marriage is not strengthening the institution of marriage nor improving children's chances of growing up with a married mother and father. Either way, the Heritage research came at it from the other angle. What good comes from standing up for the traditional family? What makes it worth defending?
Let's remember our policy goals. The husbands in such families are happier, less likely to endure depression, healthier, wealthier and far more stable mentally. The wives are happier, healthier, wealthier and less likely to experience both depression and physical or mental abuse.
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