Voters should define marriage

By Chuck Darrell, Guest Columnist

The debate over the definition of marriage has unfolded across America for several years, and is the subject of the proposed amendment on the November ballot to preserve marriage in Minnesota.

But what is the debate really about, how does it affect society, what’s at stake — and who should decide?

What’s at stake are two competing definitions of marriage. One definition —advocated by gay marriage activists — defines marriage as the union of any two people regardless of gender. The other definition, contained in the amendment and reflective of the collective understanding of virtually every nation throughout recorded history, is that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

Why has virtually every society defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman? The answer can be summarized in one word: children. Protecting the interests of children is the primary reason that government regulates and licenses marriage.

Marriage is the most pro-child institution we have — and the only institution that connects children with their parents. Marriage between a man and a woman protects and promotes the well-being of children by allowing the child to benefit from being loved and raised by both her father and mother. Marriage says to society: For every child born, there is a recognized mother and father, accountable to the child and each other.

One of the objections against the marriage amendment is that it’s unnecessary because same-sex marriage is already illegal in Minnesota. This is a short-sighted argument that ignores the fact that marriage is currently under assault in our state Legislature and our courts.

In the 2009-10 legislative session, five bills were presented to redefine marriage. A prominent legislative leader, state Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville, publicly promised to redefine marriage at the earliest opportunity and introduced legislation last session to do just that.

Even more troubling is a lawsuit pending in Hennepin County. Same-sex couples are demanding that the county registrar issue marriage licenses to them and that Minnesota judges invalidate our marriage laws — putting marriage on trial in Minnesota.

This is exactly the type of lawsuit that led to the imposition of same-sex marriage in Iowa, California and Massachusetts.

The answer to these threats is the Marriage Protection Amendment. The amendment secures our traditional definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman into our state constitution where it is safe from meddling by activist judges and politicians.

If this pending lawsuit or legislation succeed in redefining marriage in Minnesota, there will be profound consequences for religious organizations, individuals, and small businesses. Those who don’t agree with this new definition of marriage as a genderless institution existing for the benefit of adults — not children — will be treated under the law like racists and bigots, and will be punished for their beliefs. This is already occurring.

Religious groups who have refused to make their facilities available for same-sex couples have lost their state tax exemption.

Religious groups like Catholic Charities in Boston and Washington, D.C., had to choose between fulfilling their social mission based on their religious beliefs or acquiescing to this new definition of marriage. They were forced to close their charitable adoption agencies.

Whenever schools educate children about marriage, they will have no choice but to teach this genderless institution. In Massachusetts, kids as young as second grade were taught about gay marriage in class. The courts ruled that parents had no right to prior notice, or to opt their children out of such instruction.

More importantly, shifting the focus of our marriage laws away from their interest in children and onto the desires of the adults involved in a same-sex relationship, will result in profound long-term consequences. Such a paradigm shift says to children that mothers and fathers don’t matter — any two parents will do.

What the election really comes down to is this: Who should decide the definition of marriage in Minnesota? We believe it should be you — the voters. Our opponents think that judges and politicians know better than voters, and they should be free to redefine marriage when it suits them.

Our opponents are fond of saying that they are engaging in a conversation with voters about the proper definition of marriage in Minnesota. But the only way to ensure that voters always have control of that conversation — indeed, of ensuring that voters are even included in the conversation — is to pass the marriage protection amendment.

Vote “Yes” on the Marriage Protection Amendment on Nov. 6.

Chuck Darrell is the director of communications for Minnesota for Marriage.