The institution of marriage and issues concerning heterosexual and homosexual relationships and child rearing were all part of a broad discussion at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., Tuesday night, which hosted one of five nationwide ethical discussions during "Doing the Right Thing Week," sponsored by RatioChristi and the Colson Center.
The topic "Sexuality & Marriage: What's Ethics Got To Do with It?" delved into the state of traditional marriage in the United States – the modern-day reasons why each person enters into the marriage contract – as well as the impact same-sex marriage is having on society. Included in the discussion are the myriad of negative impacts single-parent households have had on families since the Johnson administration's slate of Great Society government programs that were created in the 1960s in an effort to reduce poverty.
Instead of helping families, the enacted government programs only led to increased poverty and the dissolution of the American family, according to Ryan T. Anderson, who writes about marriage and religious liberty for the Heritage Foundation, and co-author with Princeton's Robert P. George and Sherif Girgis of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. His co-guest speaker Kellie Fiedorek, litigation counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, also spoke about the implications of an unraveling marriage culture in the United States.
To illustrate his point, Anderson cited a quote made by President Barack Obama: "We know the statistics: that children who grow-up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop-out of schools; and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They're more likely to have behavioral problems or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves."
"Each [sex] is necessary, culturally and biologically, for the optimal development of a human being," said Anderson, noting statistics and research that prove his arguments in support of traditional marriage and the importance of raising children in two-parent, opposite-sex households.
In Anderson's opinion, marriage between a mother and a father, preferably between the biological mother and father, is the best upbringing for children; and from a broader perspective, serves the common good of the community and the country, because the government won't then attempt to "pick up the pieces of a break down in civil society."
He also argues that redefining marriage as no longer exclusively being between one man and one woman abolishes the original intent of wedlock and transforms it into something that's based more on "adult romantic and emotional desire."
Impact on children
When the law "redefines marriage to make father's optional," according to Anderson, one of the consequences is that it will eliminate from law "any institution that upholds as a goal that children deserve a mother and a father – a married mother and father; and that men and women are distinct and are not interchangeable."
The outcome then, of the redefinition of marriage, would put the desires of adults above the needs of the children, claims Anderson, who noted that "the only reason the government's in the marriage business is to protect the rights and needs of children."
Among the other consequences that stem from the legalization of same-sex marriage, he said, is the impact of unions between three-people, known as a thrupple; and the concept of having a wed-lease, the concept of reforming marriage into a short-term contract, opposed to traditional marriage that lasts a lifetime.
Similarly, Anderson cited a recent New York Times profile featuring LGBT activist Dan Savage who introduced the term "monogamish" in which a married couple is sexually open to "enhance the relationship by having sexual relationships outside of marriage." Because, as Savage claimed, U.S. marriage laws place unrealistic expectations on spouses to only have sex with each other for the rest of their lives.
"Think about what the social justice consequences would be," Anderson suggested. "The reason the state is in the marriage business is to ensure that every child that's conceived has a relationship with the man and the woman who created that child. But for every additional sexual partner I have, and short-lived sexual relationship, the greater the likelihood that I create fragmented families and fatherless children."
Thus, the question Anderson poses is "how is the law going to encourage men and women to commit exclusively to each other, for a lifetime," when marriage has been redefined to make it about the "consenting love lives of adults," in whatever form they desire.
Consequences for religious liberty
ADF's Fiedorek cited the many examples of what she sees as the "breakdown of marriage culture" and the impact the redefinition of marriage and the Supreme Court's decision on Prop 8 and DOMA are having on people's First Amendment freedoms.
"A functioning and thriving society hinges on whether we respect and tolerate each other's beliefs, regardless of how much we might disagree with those beliefs," noted Fiedorek, who commented that tolerance and freedom have historically set the U.S. apart from other counties.
That being said, she provided several examples of small business owners who are being sued because they're upholding their religious convictions and are declining to support same-sex marriage by provided goods and services for events that promote the LGBT agenda.
"We have laws redefining marriage in 12 states; laws passed recognizing civil unions and domestic partnerships in nine states; and laws in many states and local communities that have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the states non-discrimination laws," she added.
Fiedorek further noted that the First Amendment gives citizens the right to live their lives according to their beliefs, but said that those who have "sincerely-held religious beliefs have been persecuted and marginalized."
One of the cases Fiedorek is working on for ADF is a case in which a Christian T-shirt company declined to print shirts for a local gay rights march, and are being sued, even though they have LGBT employees on staff, and referred the gay rights group to a T-shirt company that would be able to fill their order.
According to Fiedorek, these cases have ramifications on traditional marriage, especially children, who are impacted by the dismantling of the institution.
"Marriage not only has familial impact, but it also has societal impact," she said, imploring the Rutgers students to be on the right side of history, so that one day a child won't walk up to them and ask, "why did you choose that I shouldn't have a mom; why did you choose that I should never get to know my dad."