The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another. To see the importance of this purpose, we must take the perspective of the child: What is owed to the child? Unlike adults, the child does not need autonomy or independence. The child is entitled to a relationship with and care from both of the people who brought him into being. Therefore, the child has a legitimate interest in the stability of his parents’ union. But no child can defend these entitlements himself. Nor is it adequate to make restitution after these rights have been violated. The child’s rights to care and relationship must be supported pro-actively, before harm is done, for those rights to be protected at all.
Marriage is adult society’s institutional structure for protecting the legitimate interests of children. Without this public purpose, we would not need marriage as a distinct social institution.
We often hear the objection that some marriages don’t have children. This is perfectly true. However, every child has parents. Depriving a child of relationships with his or her parents is an injustice to the child, and should not be done without some compelling or unavoidable reason. The objection that some marriages don’t have children stands the rationale for marriage on its head. It views marriage strictly from the adult’s perspective, instead of from the child’s perspective.
Same sex couples and opposite sex couples are obviously different with respect to this essential public purpose of marriage. And treating different things differently is not discrimination. That is why, in the few cases where courts have found opposite sex marriage to be unlawful discrimination, they have had to come up with purposes for marriage that have nothing to do with procreation or attaching children to parents.
…Changing the law of marriage changes the law for everyone, and puts incentives into place that may affect the behavior of everyone. Redefining marriage is a radical social experiment.
Previous generations of social experimenters have caused unimaginable misery for millions of people. Particular people advocated the policies that led to today’s 50% divorce rate and 40% out of wedlock childbearing rate. None of these people has ever been held accountable.
The Essential Public Purpose Of Marriage
Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse
June 2, 2011
If they had been made accountable, we wouldn’t even be having this debate.