STEUBENVILLE, OH—"Marriage will be what this generation makes of it," said Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute. "My generation had its turn. It's time for the millennials to step up to the plate."
Morse answered the question "Same-Sex Marriage: Why Not?" before a packed house Wednesday, February 2, as part of Franciscan University's Distinguished Speakers Series.
"Marriage in every society is the preferred place for sex and childbearing. Childbearing and sex are somehow related," said Morse, author of Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village. "The sexual revolution took these three things—marriage, sex, and childbearing—apart."
She compared the culture to a runaway train. "People think you can disintegrate the three related functions of marriage completely. Same-sex marriage is just one more stop down the track—it's not the end of the track."
And this disintegration matters hugely. "The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another—because you've got a mother and father for reproduction and a long period of dependency. Someone's got to take care of the kids," said Morse, author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook Up World.
The institution of marriage serves to protect the vital interests of the most helpless, of the defenseless. "Children are entitled to a stable relationship with both parents. Kids can’t march to protect their own interests. A society has to protect a child's interests in advance of harm being done. Marriage is adult society's way of protecting children's rights proactively."
In order to permit same-sex couples to perform an act society would call "marriage," the state has to redefine marriage. Morse quoted Judge Vaughn Walker's decision overturning the pro-traditional marriage constitutional amendment Proposition 8 in California, then pointed out, "There's nothing about children. Nothing about sex. Under this definition, you and your roommate would count as married. All kinds of people could fit this definition. This is not what we'd normally think of as marriage."
Morse laid out four principles underlying traditional marriage in law and society that redefining marriage would change:
- children are ordinarily entitled to a relationship with their mothers and fathers, and something extraordinary has to happen for that not to be true;
- mothers and fathers are not interchangeable;
- biology is the primary, normative way we define parenthood;
- and the state normally recognizes parentage as a biological fact and does not define or control parentage.
In treating same-sex couples as parents, a child's right to a stable relationship with both biological parents would go away, mothers and fathers would be assumed to be interchangeable, and biology would become irrelevant to state recognition of parentage. Recognition would now rest on state-created tests for parentage, investigating family lives to determine who took care of the child, who was legally married to the biological parent, and other such criteria.
"Natural marriage is an organic, self-sustaining reality," Morse, who'd campaigned for Proposition 8, explained. "Same-sex marriage is a totally state created and enforced reality. It will survive with the help of the state."
Morse laid out the challenges families and society would face as a result of the brave new world created by redefining marriage, pointing out the difficulties for religious freedom, for children, and for those left holding the bag in the face of the disintegration of the family.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is what's headed toward us," Morse concluded. "There's a lot at stake in this battle. We need you to be active. We need you to pray. We need your generation to step up to the plate and tell the whole truth about what marriage is."
Sponsored by the student club Love Revealed and the Franciscan University Advancement Office, Dr. Morse's lecture was the latest event in the Distinguished Speakers Series, which features leaders recognized for exemplary service to the Church and society.
For more on the Ruth Institute and Dr. Morse's work for life and marriage, visit the Ruth Institute Web site.