Meanings often change with times. The meaning of a word changes when people use it in a new and different way. Take the word, “gay.” Fifty years ago, if a man told you he was gay, it would mean something quite different than what it means to people today.
That is because how people use words helps to determine new meanings.
Marriage is a word, but it is also a civil, legal, and religious institution. The legal and civil purpose for the institution of marriage is to protect and encourage the lifelong commitment between one man and one woman to raise a family. By its very nature, marriage is the institution designed for the creation and nurturing of children.
Americans have not redefined the word, nor the institution of marriage. The effort to redefine marriage has been spearheaded by some lawyers, the legal academic elite, and a handful of judges.
Institutions and morals can change with times. When morals change, the law often changes to reflect the new values. But there is no evidence the meaning of the word marriage has changed through popular usage, nor has the institution of marriage changed.
Both Black’s Law Dictionary and the Oxford American Dictionary— the most recent, comprehensive lexical analysis of American English—define marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman.
Similarly, current statutes reflect the view that marriage is between a man and a woman. The federal Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Clinton, states that “‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.” North Carolina law establishes that same-sex “marriages” are not valid in this state.
However, the force for changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex couples has been a handful of judges and the power of their courts. So far, eight states have redefined marriage to include same-sex couples—three of those, and the first three states to do so, were the result of judicial decree.
Through the legislative process, only five states have adopted same-sex “marriage.” In contrast, 29 states have expressly prohibited same-sex “marriage” by constitutional amendment, and one state, Hawaii, has passed a constitutional amendment authorizing the legislature to prohibit same-sex “marriage.”
The people, not a judge, should decide whether to reject the established definition of marriage in North Carolina. If the Marriage Protection Amendment (MPA) is passed by the voters, then under state law, it could only be changed by a vote of the people.
What is the purpose for the institution of marriage? Is marriage primarily about family or about the individual’s liberty of lifestyle? The answer to this question should largely inform a person’s views on whether the institution of marriage ought to include homosexual partners. There are two very different views on the purpose of marriage that are currently at war in America today: the child-centered view, and the adult-centered view.
In his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster defined marriage as follows:
The act of uniting a man and woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and woman for life. Marriage is contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. Marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.
Webster’s definition reflects the traditional, Judeo- Christian perspective on marriage. This is the definition to which the people of the Carolinas have regulated the legal institution for over 343 years, since the original royal charter of the Province of Carolina. It is the view held uniformly throughout the West for the past 2000 years, until about 20 years ago.
Under this traditional view, marriage is a life-long commitment between a man and a woman, and is the foundation of the family. The family is the foundation of society, as it is the family that creates and nurtures the next generation. In this view, marriage is a sacred bond between the man and woman, in the presence of family, friends, and God.
This traditional view is premised on the idea that marriage and raising children are hard work that requires a lifetime of largely selfless commitment. The institution of marriage encourages and protects that union and labor for the benefit of the children.
The traditional view of marriage is also premised on the idea that society should promote and protect children being raised by their biological mothers and fathers who are committed and legally obligated to the well-being of the family. There is an overwhelming common pathology in prisons and on welfare roles—children raised without their fathers. Every year about one million more children are born into fatherless families. If there has been any policy lesson to learn over the past 35 years, it is that for children living in single-parent homes, the odds of living in poverty are great. The policy implications of the increase in out-of-wedlock births are staggering. Marriage drops the probability of poverty by 80 percent.
Decades upon decades, and hundreds, if not thousands, of empirical studies repeatedly demonstrate that children who are raised in a home with their married mother and father are substantially more healthy, wealthy, happy, and productive than their counterparts who are not.
Under the traditional view of marriage and family, the self is subordinated to the good of the family, particularly to the good of children. Through the institution of marriage, adult society protects, promotes, and encourages a child’s right to be raised in a secure environment by his or her biological parents. Marriage is child-focused.
The moral and legal theory behind the same-sex “marriage” effort finds its genesis in radical feminist and queer legal theory. The motto of the feminist legal theorists and sexual revolutionaries of the late 60s was “smash monogamy.” Marriage was portrayed as an institution of suppression. Now, a generation later, they are fighting for homosexuals to be admitted into the legalized institution of monogamy—marriage.
This is not irony. It is an intentional effort to redefine how society views and lives marriage. From this radical perspective, the primary purpose of the institution of marriage is to fulfill and validate the individual’s liberty of lifestyle, be it heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, transgender, polygamous, or polyamorous. Same-sex “marriage” repurposes marriage from a child-focused institution to an institution focused on validating and facilitating the expressive desires of adults. Under this individual liberty view of marriage, marriage exists as an institution through which adults live and express themselves on the issues of family and sex.
This radical individualism and egalitarianism is not something new. In fact, it is not even new to the institution of marriage. The redefinition of marriage started in the 1970s with no-fault divorce. Today, if marriage does not make a spouse happy, he or she ends it. In the wake of no-fault divorce, divorce rates have vacillated between 40 and 50 percent since the 1980s.
Instead of a lifelong commitment to the family, the perception of the institution of marriage morphed into a perishable commodity. The institution is still focused on family and children, but only for so long as adults feel like it.
The youth of today are the first generations raised in the culture of disposable marriage. It should not be surprising, then, to find that a majority of these youth attach little moral, legal, or emotional significance to the institution of marriage being extended to homosexual adults who want to “enjoy” this celebration of individual liberty.
This concept of marriage as a disposable commodity is not at all healthy for children, nor for the future of this Republic. The proper view of marriage in a healthy society is that marriage is a life-long union between a man and woman for purposes of raising a family together. The underlying issue pertaining to the MPA is not about homosexuals raising children. It is about the purpose of marriage: is it an institution to celebrate individual liberty, or is it a lifelong commitment between a husband and wife for the purpose of raising their children?
Marriage should not be an institution for validating sexual preferences. The acceptance of same-sex “marriage” would change the institution of marriage from a child-focused institution to an adultcentered institution. Deliberately conceiving a child with the life plan that he or she will never have a relationship with his or her father or mother is unjust and cruel to that child. All else being equal, children do better when there is both a mother and father in the home dedicated to raising them. Furthermore, there is already a crisis of absentee fathers in this country. Why should government sanction and promote the legalization of relationships that create more fatherless and motherless families?
The West has led the world in redefining marriage to be about individual liberty interests. There has been a pronounced and undeniable impact, and it has not been family or child friendly.
When marriage stops being primarily about commitment to and raising a family, then marriage stops producing commitment and family. Many talk about the importance of education for equipping the next generation for tomorrow. But there is a more fundamental imperative for our children’s future: the future first belongs to those that show up. Western liberal democracies are showing an ever-fading interest in showing up for tomorrow. To the contrary, there is compelling evidence that Western societies are in a demographic death spiral, particularly in Europe, whose spiral appears to have started with redefining the institution of marriage to be about the wants and needs of adults instead of the creation and sustenance of families, i.e. children.
The family in the West is crumbling and reproductive rates are plummeting. For example:
Procreation is the most fundamental function of a healthy society. Consider how the above fertility rates compare with countries that have not legalized homosexual “marriage,” keeping in mind that a country needs a 2.1 fertility rate to sustain itself:
The nations that have openly and aggressively redefined marriage to be adult-focused are, not surprisingly, not having children. Examining the countries that have led the way on same-sex “marriage,” fertility rates range from 1.48 to 1.78. That is not family friendly.
The West is in demographic trouble. This will result in declining and aging populations, changed social relations, economic pressure from shrinking populations, and if current large immigration patterns with disproportionately higher birth rates persist (which is the case in Europe with robust fertility rates within the immigrant Muslim demographic), the West will have entirely changed cultures/societies within a few generations.
When the institution of marriage ceases to be about children, sustainable reproduction dies and a country literally begins to die.
All citizens of North Carolina, homosexual and heterosexual, are respected and welcomed, and have the right to private commitment ceremonies as they choose. But they do not have the right to redefine marriage for everyone else.
Marriage is the foundational institution for creating, sustaining, and raising the next generation. When the institution of marriage is no longer about a life-long commitment to family and children, it stops functioning to produce commitment, family, and children.
For these reasons, all North Carolinians should vote in favor of the Marriage Protection Amendment on May 8.