Redefining marriage will redefine parenthood, marriage expert says

Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, testifies May 2 in St. Paul before the House Civil Law Committee. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Love is a wonderful thing, says Jennifer Roback Morse. But there’s no compelling reason for the government to register the simple fact that people love each other. It serves no essential public purpose.

Marriage, on the other hand, does serve an essential public purpose: attaching mothers and fathers to their children and one another, said the founder and president of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage.

“It’s obvious that same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are different with respect to that core purpose,” Roback Morse said. “If you’re different with respect to that purpose, it’s not discrimination to treat people differently.

“The courts know that, because when they go to redefine marriage, they have to get rid of that core purpose,” she added. “They will tell you the purpose of marriage is something else. They’re wrong.”

Roback Morse recently visited St. Paul to testify in favor of House and Senate bills that would allow Minnesotans to vote in 2012 on a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Supporters of the amendment approach cite recent court rulings and legislative actions in other states that have changed — or sought to change — the legal definition of marriage. Five states plus the District of Columbia currently allow “same-sex marriage.” Illinois recently passed a law legalizing civil unions and giving them the same status as marriages in the state.

If written into the Minnesota constitution, the state’s definition of marriage as the union between a man and a woman could not be changed by the Legislature or court system.

Separating child, parent

In her testimony, Roback Morse, who holds a doctorate in economics and has written two books on the social purpose and significance of marriage, said “same-sex marriage redefines parenthood as a side effect of redefining marriage.”

“Up until now, marriage has made legal parenthood track biological parenthood, with adoptions for exceptional situations,” she said. “The legal presumption of paternity means that children born to a married woman are presumed to be the children of her husband. With this legal rule, and the social practice of sexual exclusivity, marriage attaches children to their biological parents.

“Same-sex couples, of course, do not procreate together,” she continued. “So-called ‘marriage equality’ requires a dubious move from ‘presumption of paternity’ to the gender neutral ‘presumption of parenthood.’ The same-sex partner of a biological parent is never the other biological parent. Rather than attaching children to their biological parents, same-sex marriage is the vehicle that separates children from parent.”

Some courts have demonstrated their agreement with this change. Roback Morse cited the Iowa Supreme Court, which in 2009 stated as part of same-sex union case that “the traditional notion that children need a mother and a father to be raised into healthy, well-adjusted adults is based more on stereotype than anything else.”

She called that a false notion in light of the “mountains of data” that show children need both mothers and fathers and care deeply about biological connections. It is one way same-sex marriage would alter the social structure.

“The biological principle of determining parentage will have to be suppressed and eventually replaced with another principle,” she said. “That principle will be that the state will decide who counts as a parent.”

Wrong side of history?

Roback Morse, who is a Catholic, wife and mother of two children, addressed critics who say that supporters of traditional marriage are on the “wrong side of history” because today’s younger generations favor it.

She said opponents of abortion also heard they were on the “wrong side of history” in the aftermath of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing the practice. But, she said, young people today increasingly express pro-life views and don’t buy into the abortion culture.

There is a similarity between the issues of abortion and same-sex unions, Roback Morse said during an interview with The Catholic Spirit.

“The parallel is that it was the interests of the children that were set aside for the abortion regime,” she said. “The interests of children are set aside for the pleasure and convenience of adults. That’s exactly what’s happening with same-sex marriage.

“Marriage is turning into something that has to do with adult desires, adult affirmation, adult convenience,” she added. “The idea that marriage attaches mothers and fathers to their children and to one another, the idea that the bond between a child and his biological parents is important — that’s being completely set aside. It’s the interests of the child that are being downgraded in order to accommodate the desires of adults. Over time, that will become more obvious.”

The opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment regarding marriage will give ordinary citizens the kind of say they should have in the matter, Roback Morse said. “Doing this on the constitutional level is the highest guarantee that the people of Minnesota could give themselves that marriage is what it should be,” she said.

For more information about the Ruth Institute, located in San Marcos, Calif., visit

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