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Dr. Morse’s remarks for the MN House of Reps re: a Marriage Amendment for SSM

May 23rd, 2011

Prepared remarks for Minnesota House of Representatives, hearings on the marriage amendment Dr Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage    May 2, 2011, St. Paul, Minnesota

I am Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage.  My doctorate is in economics, from the University of Rochester, in NY. I have taught at Yale and George Mason Universities. I have had fellowships with the University of Chicago, Cornell Law School, and the Hoover Institution at Stanford.  I have written two books on the social purpose and significance of marriage. I am the mother of an adopted child and a birth child. My husband and I were foster parents in San Diego County for three years.

I urge you to allow the citizens of MN the opportunity to vote on the proposed marriage amendment.  Same sex marriage redefines marriage. Redefining marriage redefines parenthood.  Redefining marriage affects the balance of power between the state and civil society. The citizens of MN have the right to make up their own minds about these important issues.

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.

For instance, Judge Vaughn Walker, who overturned Proposition 8 defined marriage this way: “Marriage is the state recognition and approval of a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another and to join in an economic partnership and support one another and any dependents.”

Under this definition, marriage doesn’t have anything at all to do with children, permanence, sexual exclusivity or even sex itself.  Some college roommates could call themselves married under this definition. The essential public purpose of marriage has vanished, and has been replaced with inessential private purposes. Instead of being a bedrock social institution, marriage becomes nothing but a government registry of friendships, a pointless legal convention that frankly doesn’t deserve any government benefits or recognition at all.

But children still need to be attached to mothers and fathers.

We sometimes hear claims that studies show that same sex couples make fine parents. The most recently reported study was in the June 7, 2010 issue of the journal Pediatrics.[1] This study was based upon the self-reported results of an unrepresentative sample of lesbian mothers of 78 teenagers, hardly a sufficient data set for drawing sweeping conclusions. Yet the headlines went around the world, “Lesbians make the best parents.”  And a 2010 survey of 80 studies admitted that there is very little evidence about male couples as parents.[2] We simply do not have enough data to draw such strong conclusions as, “lesbians make the best parents.”

On the other side of the equation, we have mountains of data showing that children do need both their mothers and their fathers,[3] and that fathers make distinct contributions to the well-being of children.[4] Mothers and fathers are not interchangeable. But redefining marriage will require us to say that they are. In fact, courts are saying silly things like, “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.”[5] This statement by the Iowa Supreme Court in Varnum v Brien is simply false as a general statement.

But the impact of same sex parents on their own children is not the main problem that redefining marriage presents for children. As of 2005, an estimated 270,313 of the U.S.’s children are living in households headed by same-sex couples,[6] less than 4 tenths of one percent of the total children in the US. [7] The more significant problem is how redefining marriage affects other aspects of the legal and social system.

Same sex marriage redefines parenthood, as a side effect of redefining marriage.  Up until now, marriage has made legal parenthood track biological parenthood, with adoption for exceptional situations.  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. What is being called “Marriage Equality” requires a dubious move from “presumption of paternity” to the gender neutral “presumption of parentage.”  This sleight of hand transforms the legal understanding 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 a parent.

But biology will reassert itself.  And in fact, in some cases, biology already is reasserting itself. Some women who have children with female partners find that sharing the care of their children with another woman is not as easy as they thought it would be, and really isn’t comparable with sharing the care with the child’s father. Some men who agree to be sperm donors as “friends” find that they want more of a relationship with their own children than they had anticipated.[8] And some children are having feelings about their absent parents, uncomfortable questions about their origins, and complex emotions about being partially purchased.[9]

Advocates of so called marriage equality typically respond, “That’s just biology,” as if biology were nothing. They are asking people to set aside the natural attachment of parents to their own children, the natural difficulties of treating another person’s child as if they were your own, the natural desires of children to know who they are and where they came from.  Suppressing all these feelings in all these people will not be possible indefinitely.

In addition to all these unanticipated feelings, redefining marriage will have far-reaching legal consequences. Courts are awarding parenting rights to individuals who neither biological parents nor adoptive parents.  Let us call these people “non-parents.”  The courts and now even some legislatures, are giving parental rights to non-parents. Perfectly fit parents are having their rights diminished because they once had a sexual relationship with someone.[10] To do this, the state must establish multi-part tests for determining whether a person warrants the status of “de facto parent.”  The court ends up scrutinizing the minutiae of family life to make a determination about whether a person meets the criteria for being a de facto parent.

Let us be clear: the alternative to the biological principle for determining parentage is the principle that the government decides who is a parent. Instead of simply recording parentage, the state will determine parentage, not in exceptional cases, but routinely. This is what “getting the state out of the marriage business” will eventually come to mean.

In short, redefining marriage from the union of a man and a woman to the union of any two persons jettisons three foundational principles: first, the principle that children are entitled to a relationship with both parents, second, the biological principle for determining parentage, and third, the principle that the state recognizes parentage, but does not assign it.

These are not insignificant changes. Please note that these concerns do not assert that anyone is unworthy of marriage, do not make anyone a “second class citizen,” and do not disparage anyone.  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 people of Minnesota are sensible mature people, who want to be accountable for what happens in their state.  The people of Minnesota deserve a chance to vote.  Redefining marriage will have far-reaching consequences that ought to be fully aired.  Putting this amendment on the ballot will allow that discussion to take place.  Let the people vote.


[1]“US national Longitudinal Lesbian Family Study: Psychological Adjustment of 17-year-old Adolescents,” by Nanette Gartrell and Henny Bos, Pediatrics, 2010, Volume 126, Number 1, July 2010.

[2] “How does the gender of parents matter?” by Timothy Biblarz and Judith Stacey, Journal of Marriage and Family 72 (February 2010):3-22. “Comparable research on intentional gay fatherhood… has scarcely commenced…We located no studies of planned gay fathers that included child outcome measures and only one that compared gay male with lesbian or heterosexual adoptive parenting.” Quote at page 10.

[3] Among the many citations that could be given, “Why Marriage Matters: 26 Conclusions from the Social Sciences,” (NY: Institute for American Values, 2005), summarizes some of the most important research.

[4] See David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem, (New York: Harper, 1996) for the general overview of the issue. In one study, for instance, father involvement with children was the biggest single predictor of having fewer behavior problems, as important as higher parental education. See “Parental Involvement and Children’s Behavior Problems,” Paul R. Amato and Fernando Rivera, Journal of Marriage and the Family, Volume 61, No. 2 (May 1999), pp. 375-384

[5] Varnum v Brien Supreme Court of Iowa, No. 07–1499, Filed April 3, 2009, pg 54, footnote 26

[6] Census Snapshot, US, by Adam P. Romero, Amanda K. Baumle, M.V. Lee Badgett, and Gary J. Gates, (Los Angeles: Williams Institute, UCLA, 2007). The Williams Institute specializes in demographic and economic research on gay and lesbian populations.

[7] According to the American Community Survey, “General Demographic Characteristics, 2005” there were a total of 73,131,688 persons under the age of 18 in the US in 2005. (Calculated by subtracting total number of persons over 18 (215, 246,449 from total population of 288,378,137.) http://factfinder.census.gov/servlet/ADPTable?_bm=y&-geo_id=D&-qr_name=ACS_2005_EST_G00_DP1&-ds_name=D&-_lang=en Dividing the 270,313 children in households headed by same sex couples by the total number of children under 18 in the US, yields a figure of .00369,  which is the less than 4 tenths of one percent figure quoted in the text.

[8] “Gay Irish sperm donor wins visiting rights to lesbian couple’s child,” Irish Central, December 11, 2009; http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Gay-Irish-sperm-donor-wins-visiting-right-to-lesbian-couples-child-79055562.html

[9] See Elizabeth Marquardt, Norvell Glenn and Karen Clark, “My Daddy’s Name is Donor: A Pathbreaking Study of Young Adults Conceived through Sperm Donation,” (NY: Institute for American Values, 2010).

[10] “Court upholds woman’s “de facto” parental rights,” Delaware On-Line, April 18, 2011; http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20110419/NEWS01/104190347/Court-upholds-woman-s-de-facto-parental-rights?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Home|s

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  1. Vast Variety
    May 23rd, 2011 at 10:53 | #1

    If not marriage then what sort of legal protections or recognition should same sex couples be given? I ask this becuase there will always be same sex couples. Gay’s and Lesbians are not simply going to disappear. We have always been here and always will be.

    Should we not be allowed to visit our partners in the hospital?

    Should we not be allowed to make end of life decisions for our partners?

    Should we not be allowed to raise our children?

    Should we not be allowed to commit ourselves to one another for life and build a family together?

    Without marriage you are denying all of these and more to us. Why should we accept being forced to live a life without love and happiness?

  2. Heidi
    May 23rd, 2011 at 13:14 | #2

    “Some women who have children with female partners find that sharing the care of their children with another woman is not as easy as they thought it would be, and really isn’t comparable with sharing the care with the child’s father.”

    I’ve said this before and will say it again. This is the weirdest statement ever. First, there is no citation to support this claim. Additionally, it can be presumed that a woman having a child with a female partner is either lesbian or bisexual. She’s probably been artificially inseminated by an anonymous donor. To say that this lesbian or bisexual woman would think of the sperm donor as “the child’s father” is a bit of a stretch. The contribution of genetic material is not what makes someone a parent. Doing the hard work of parenting is what makes someone a parent.

    A lesbian woman who is raising a child with another woman is not going to wish that she was raising the child with the sperm donor instead of with her partner. What a bizarre statement. Have you actually talked to any lesbian moms lately or ever?

  3. May 24th, 2011 at 06:22 | #3
  4. Meg
    May 24th, 2011 at 07:24 | #4

    Obviously, we got off the train of reason when we started trading in sperm, eggs, surrogacy and other means to manufacture children. The rights of the child require a father and mother united to nuture and educate them in their dependency. Children are the unrepresented victims of our license to claim rights for any and all lifestyle alternatives. Shall we do what we want and let the courts sort it out?

  5. Deb
    May 24th, 2011 at 10:18 | #5

    @Heidi

    “Have you actually talked to any lesbian moms lately or ever?”

    Yes, and she bailed on their adoptive kids (gave up all legal rights) when the going got tough after they split up. Sad part is, the kids were more attached to her then the other woman and they had special emotional needs.

  6. May 24th, 2011 at 10:44 | #6

    Glenn, can you explain why you consider them a perfect example of lesbian parents? Specifically, explain the evidence on which you base your generalization.

  7. Ruth
    May 24th, 2011 at 13:25 | #7

    @Meg
    I wonder if “the greatest generation” was so, necessarily, focused on protecting their children that they unintentionally created a state of permanent childhood.
    Many of these “children” have never grasped the baton of mature adulthood, but live in a perpetual search for self-fulfillment.
    Children need adult parents, and we all must advocate their interests.

  8. May 24th, 2011 at 13:26 | #8

    @Rob Tisinai Same-sex parents bring harm to children in many ways, mostly psychologically, but also because it is a fact that homophiles recruit children and want to indoctrinate them in the perversion of homosexuality.
    http://apprising.org/2011/05/20/gay-writer-we-do-want-to-indoctrinate-children/
    This is very damaging to people; they will not learn what human sexuality is for, nor will they learn what a normal marriage is, etc.
    This lesbian pair who abuse their children are just a perfect example of the types of abuse homophile couples direct towards children. This one is beyond just emotional and psychological abuse, and just as bad as sexual abuse and physical abuse.

  9. May 24th, 2011 at 18:21 | #9

    Oh Glenn. There’s nothing I can say in response to your sad, sad fantasies that won’t get me banned. I feel bad for you and your obsession grounded in unfounded fear, I really do. Good bye.

  10. May 25th, 2011 at 07:14 | #10

    Glenn, why do you hold up abusive lesbian parents as the “perfect example” of same-sex parenting, but not hold up abusive heterosexual parents as the “perfect example” of heterosexual parenting?

    It seems that your mode of operation in this matter is to find the most extremely offensive parenting possible and say this the norm.

    So by your argument, just as an example, heterosexual couples should be banned from adopting children because Vanessa and Raymond Jackson starved and beat their adopted sons. (http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=2027969&page=1)

    Obviously this is a silly argument, when it comes to any group of parents.

  11. May 25th, 2011 at 07:15 | #11

    @Rob Tisinai “Unfounded fear.” What a laugh. I only “fear” the damage done to children on a daily basis by the indoctrination of the public schools, and the children who are sadly stuck in these homophile relationships. The harm done has been proven.

  12. May 25th, 2011 at 15:02 | #12

    @Emma Abusive parents in normal marriages are the extreme and not common, while abusive parents in homophile couples is the routine, especially since EVERY homophile couple is emotionally and psychologically abusing children with homosexualization.

  13. May 26th, 2011 at 07:02 | #13

    Glenn E. Chatfield :
    @Emma Abusive parents in normal marriages are the extreme and not common, while abusive parents in homophile couples is the routine, especially since EVERY homophile couple is emotionally and psychologically abusing children with homosexualization.

    That’s ridiculous, and just demonstrates your open hostility to gay men and lesbians.

  14. May 26th, 2011 at 07:05 | #14

    I have a question for Dr. Morse, who writes, “Instead of being a bedrock social institution, marriage becomes nothing but a government registry of friendships, a pointless legal convention that frankly doesn’t deserve any government benefits or recognition at all.”

    Do you, Dr. Morse, have any loved ones who are in a same-sex relationship? And if so, what do they think about your assertion that their love for one another is nothing more than friendship, and thus not deserving of any recognition at all?

  15. John Noe
    May 26th, 2011 at 18:55 | #15

    Great blog Dr. Ruth and why we need this marriage amendment. It is about the children over selfish sexual desires. You have highlighted all of the problems that come with SSM.

  16. May 26th, 2011 at 19:03 | #16

    @Emma I have no hostility to homophiles, so you have made a false accusation. I have hostility to the homosexual agenda which is forcing society to accept homosexual behavior as right and proper or else be punished by the law. I also have hostility to any and all sexual immorality because it is a blight on society and degrades society as well as humanity.

  17. Sean
    June 4th, 2011 at 17:55 | #17

    Well, I have no hostility towards heterophiles but I don’t believe their relationships are better than the relationships of gay and lesbian Americans. Sexual immorality is in the eye of the beholder and so long as straight people are allowed to behave sexually immoral, and it’s perfectly legal, I don’t see how banning same-sex marriage solves the problems of sexual immorality, whatever you conceive it to be.

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