Today, the Supreme Court avoided ruling on the central legal question of whether California’s definition of marriage as between a man and woman violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. That will mean, for now, that the debate over gay marriage will return to the States.  And in the legislative assemblies and courts of public opinion throughout the nation, there is one issue that we cannot afford to avoid–whether children have a right, as much as possible, to be raised by a mother and a father.

And, frankly, unless the rights of children are an issue, it’s hard to argue against gay marriage.

Shouldn’t our society be tolerant, inclusive, and accepting of others? Yes. Even those who are very different from us? Especially them. Aren’t love and commitment at the heart of marriage? Of course. Does marriage make people, on average, healthier and happier? Absolutely. And so shouldn’t society encourage and support people to get married? Our future depends on it.

So why shouldn’t we broaden marriage to as many people as possible by opening it to any two adults, rather than just to a man and a woman? After all, what’s the harm?

That is the question Justice Breyer put to Charles Cooper, the lawyer who defended Proposition 8 during oral argument before the United States Supreme Court. Here’s Mr. Cooper’s answer:

“The concern is that redefining marriage as a genderless institution will sever its abiding connection to its historic traditional procreative purposes, and it will refocus . . . the purpose of marriage and the definition of marriage away from the raising of children and to the emotional needs and desires of adults.”[1]

In other words, if marriage is less about uniting a man and a woman, whose intimate relationship naturally results in children, and more about any two adults who love each other, then the purpose of marriage becomes more about adult desires and less about children’s needs.

Some aren’t very troubled about that possibility. Criticizing Mr. Cooper’s answer, one columnist for the New York Times asked with chilling sarcasm, “Did he miss the last few Me Decades?”[2]

What’s happened in those “Me Decades”? To begin, “Fertility rates and the percentage of households with children have dramatically declined since 1960. Today, adults are less likely to be living with children, neighborhoods are less likely to contain children, and children are less likely to be a consideration in daily life. The needs and concerns of children have receded from our national consciousness.”[3] Not only are adults having less children, but when they do, they are much less likely to have them in marriage. Since 1960, the percentage of babies born to unmarried mothers has increased more than eightfold. Today, more than 4 in 10 infants are born to unmarried mothers. The divorce rate today is nearly twice that of 1960, with a 40% to 50% likelihood of separation or divorce for the average couple marrying for the first time.

Attitudes about marriage and what it means for children have changed so drastically that the L.A. Times could report recently, without public controversy, of a single father who explained his decision to have a child (through contracted surrogacy) this way: “I knew it was going to happen this way because boyfriends and husbands may come and go, but kids are forever. I didn’t want to keep waiting.”[4]

In his book, “The Future of Marriage,” David Blankenhorn recounts his 2003 lunch meeting with a friend, the then executive director of Freedom to Marry. That discussion eventually became the genesis for Blankenhorn’s book. A prominent family scholar-his earlier book “Fatherless America” drew national attention in the 1990s-Blankenhorn based his opposition to same-sex marriage on his belief that “every child deserves a mother and a father.” Blankenhorn describes his friend’s reaction: “Other than telling me that he thought children were adaptable,’ he seemed hardly interested in the issue, as if he had never really thought about it.”[5]

Reflecting on their discussion, Blankenhorn wrote: “Yes, children are adaptable. But what exactly do we as a society want our children to adapt to? To growing up without the mother and father who made them? To being told that whoever happens to be taking care of them at the time is their parent’? To not knowing their biological origins? . . . To listening to a lot of didactic happy-talk about families coming in all shapes and sizes?”[6]

To help explain its reason for supporting Proposition 8, the LDS Church released a document entitled, “The Divine Institution of Marriage.” I’ll never forget reading this sentence: “Marriage is not primarily a contract between individuals to ratify their affections and provide for mutual obligations.”[7] Single at the time, I was stunned. Growing up in the “Me Decades,” I thought about marriage mostly from the perspective of what it would mean for me.

I continued reading, “Rather, marriage and family are vital instruments for rearing children and teaching them to become responsible adults.”[8] That is not to say that marriage is not about love and commitment-it most certainly is! But that love and commitment have a purpose. Marriage is about commitment between adults-but also to children.

Marriage advocate Maggie Gallagher has said it well-marriage should be “strong enough that a child’s heart can rely upon it.”[9]

Because same-sex couples raising children is such a new phenomenon, rigorous social science research (based on large, random, representative samples) on the effects of same-sex parenting has only recently begun to emerge.[10] In its place, some anecdotal examples of children raised by same-sex couples are beginning to surface in public discussions. But you likely have not heard of Robert Oscar Lopez. Raised for a significant portion of his childhood by two women, his experience runs counter to prevailing norms:


Over the last year I’ve been in frequent contact with adults who were raised by parents in same-sex partnerships.

They are terrified of speaking publicly about their feelings, so several have asked me (since I am already out of the closet, so to speak) to give voice to their concerns.

I cannot speak for all children of same-sex couples, but I speak for quite a few of them, especially those who have been brushed aside in the so-called “social science research” on same-sex parenting.

Those who contacted me all professed gratitude and love for the people who raised them, which is why it is so difficult for them to express their reservations about same-sex parenting publicly.

Still, they described emotional hardships that came from lacking a mom or a dad. To give a few examples: they feel disconnected from the gender cues of people around them, feel intermittent anger at their “parents” for having deprived them of one biological parent (or, in some cases, both biological parents), wish they had had a role model of the opposite sex, and feel shame or guilt for resenting their loving parents for forcing them into a lifelong situation lacking a parent of one sex.

I have heard of the supposed “consensus” on the soundness of same-sex parenting from pediatricians and psychologists, but that consensus is frankly bogus.

Pediatricians are supposed to make sure kids don’t get ringworm or skip out on vaccinations-nobody I know doubts that same-sex couples are able to tend to such basic childcare needs.

Psychologists come from the same field that used to have a “consensus” that homosexuality was a mental disorder. Neither field is equipped to answer the deeper existential dilemmas of legally removing fatherhood or motherhood as a human principle, which is what total “marriage equality” would entail.[11]

Concerned for the next generation of children, Robert Lopez reported extensively about the legalization of gay marriage by France’s Socialist government. Strong opposition to the bill came from many diverse elements of French society, including the group Homovox: “French Gays Against Gay Marriage.”[12] The debate in France centered squarely on whether “the rights of children trump the right to children.”[13] One voice at Homovox, “Jean-Pier,” had this to say:

Twenty five years ago-remember, I’m 49-I truly wondered about having a child. Like everyone else, I wanted to have a child; it was a question of transmitting my heritage. But then I realized very quickly that if I were going to have a child that way, it would be for the wrong reasons. The desire for a child, for me, is fulfilled. I am a writer and creator. I create stories for children. That’s a way to address children and respect them. That’s an act of love for them.[14]

Jean-Dominique Bunel, an auteur (filmmaker) raised by two women, wrote in Le Figaro, France’s oldest still-existing newspaper:

I oppose this bill because in the name of a fight against inequalities and discrimination, we would refuse a child one of its most sacred rights, upon which a universal, millennia-old tradition rests, that of being raised by a father and a mother. You see, two rights collide: the right to a child for gays, and the right of a child to a mother and father. The international convention on the rights of the child stipulates in effect that “the highest interest of the child should be a primary consideration” (Article 3, section 1).[15]

Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides about Proposition 8, the issue that will remain is what rights are we willing to give children?


[1] Supreme Court Oral Argument Transcript, Hollingsworth v. Perry, Case No. 12-144, March 26, 2013, p. 23, lines 18-24, transcript available at:

[2] Maureen Dowd, “Courting Cowardice,” New York Times, March 26, 2013.

[4] “Kinder and gentler: The rumors about Perez Hilton are true,” by Robin Abcarian for the L.A. Times, available online at:

[5] David Blanekenhorn, The Future of Marriage, 2007, page 2.

[6] Ibid., pages 211-12.

[7] The Divine Institution of Marriage, 13 August 2008, available at:

[8] Ibid.

[9] The author heard this quote from Maggie Gallagher at a presentation in Salt Lake City. Other references to it can be found here.

[10] Jenet Jacob Erickson, “Debate over gay parents needs more honest inquiry,” Deseret News, Sept. 23, 2012.

[11] Robert Oscar Lopez, “Justice Kennedy’s 40,000 Children,” May 2, 2013.

[12] Robert Oscar Lopez, “Lessons from France on Defending Marriage,” Jan. 14, 2013.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.