On Tuesday, voters from my home state of Minnesota may decide the future of the institution of marriage there. Some have argued that the Marriage Protection Amendment is unnecessary because state law already defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman. However, Minnesota’s current legal definition of marriage is being challenged on multiple fronts.
Gov. Mark Dayton and several state legislators support redefining marriage to mean the union of any two consenting adults. Moreover, an active lawsuit in Hennepin County seeks to declare Minnesota’s current definition of marriage unconstitutional. Consequently, marriage could be redefined in Minnesota as early as next year.
The marriage amendment debate is thus a debate about the future of the institution of marriage in Minnesota. Should marriage remain the union of one man and one woman, or should it be transformed into the union of any two consenting adults?
I support the current definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman for two main reasons.
First, marriage is not just about love and commitment; it is also about the procreation and rearing of children. While love and commitment are certainly present in marriage, they are also present in other relationships, such as friendships. But government does not recognize or regulate friendships, so there must be a characteristic that distinguishes marriage from friendship. This distinguishing characteristic is the inherent capacity of the marital relationship between a man and a woman to generate new human life.
Sex between a man and a woman generates children. Social science has repeatedly shown that, all else equal, those children do best when raised by their mom and dad. For precisely this reason our government saw fit long ago to grant marriage legal recognition, binding husband and wife to each other and to any children generated by their marriage.
Redefining marriage to mean the union of any two adults, regardless of gender, severs this link between marriage and children and amounts to a statement by the government that the influence of a mother and a father on the life of a child isn’t important. Children would be negatively affected by such a move.
Second, changing Minnesota’s legal definition of marriage would automatically change every law in our state that mentions marriage. We know from other states and countries that have redefined marriage that these changes have devastating consequences for individuals and religious organizations that cannot accept the government’s new definition.
In Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, Catholic Charities was forced to abandon its adoption and foster care programs. Additionally, Massachusetts schools began teaching children as early as first grade that same-sex unions were equivalent to marriages. Parents were not allowed to opt their kids out of these lessons. Lastly, in Canada, a sports reporter was fired from his job for tweeting his support for traditional marriage on his personal Twitter account.
Passing the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment maintains the intrinsic connection between marriage and procreation, affirms the common-sense notion that kids need a mom and a dad, and prevents the erosion of religious freedom that has occurred in states and countries where marriage has been redefined.
(A version of this article appeared on the Minnesota Public Radio website on Oct. 3, 2012)