Jennifer Roback Morse Testimony to RI House Judiciary on Marriage
[Jennifer Roback Morse stands at a podium as she addresses the Rhode Island House Judiciary. There is an audience behind her. A purple strip is across the screen, identifying the case being heard, the following is “11 H 5012, 5260: Acts Relating to Marriage.”]
[Several audience members quietly hold signs that advocate for traditional marriage.]
[Jennifer Roback Morse]: Madame chairwoman, members of the committee, thank you very much for having me come here. I flew in on the redeye from San Diego last night; my name is Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse; I’m founder and president of the Ruth Institute, which is a project of the National Organization for Marriage, and I was told to limit my remarks to between four to six minutes, which I calculate to be about five minutes, so I will read my prepared remarks in the interest of keeping within that time limit.
I’m here today to address those of you who have, perhaps, already made up your mind to redefine marriage. In my view, history will not be kind to you. Previous generations of social experimenters have caused unimaginable misery for millions of people. Particular people advocated the policies that led to today’s 50 percent divorce rate and 40 percent out-of-wedlock childbearing rate. None of these people has ever been held accountable, but I am here to hold you accountable for what you’re about to do, or for what may take place here.
Let me remind you of the essential public purpose of marriage. Marriage attaches mothers and fathers to their children and to one another: once you replace that essential public purpose with inessential, private purposes, marriage will not be able to do its job, but children will still need secure attachments to their mothers and fathers—a need which will go unfulfilled. Your redefining parenthood is a side effect of redefining marriage, without even considering what it is you’re about to do.
Up until now, marriage makes legal parenthood track biological parenthood pretty closely. 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, in the social practice of sexual exclusivity, marriage attaches children to their biological parents. Same-sex couples, of course, do not procreate together. Marriage equality requires a slippery move from the presumption of paternity to the gender-neutral presumption of parentage. This sleight of hand transforms parenthood; the same-sex partner of a biological parent is never, in fact, the other biological parent. Rather than attaching children to their biological parents, same-sex marriage is the vehicle that separates children from the parent, the opposite-sex parent having been safely escorted off of the stage somehow.
No longer will the law hold the children need a mother and father; under the inspiration and guidance of advocates of same-sex marriage, courts and other states are saying things like, quote, “the traditional notion that children need a mother and a father is based more on stereotype than anything else,” close quote. This statement, made by the Iowa Supreme Court in Varnum v. Brien is certainly false as a general statement.
Mountains of data show that children do need their mothers and fathers, and that children care deeply about biological connections. The gay community is certainly not responsible for today's generation of fatherless children, but they will be responsible for the next generation. And don’t remind me that we already have lots of children unattached to their parents; in my view, we should be taking steps to place responsible limits on things like divorce, rather than careening headlong into further, and more institutionalized, injustices to children. Are you really prepared to accept responsibility for the consequences of detaching legal parenthood form the natural moorings of biology? Do you really want a world in which children may have three or four legal parents? Are you ready for contract parenting, in which adults parcel out responsibilities among themselves? That’s the world that we are bringing into being here.
The next generation of children of divorce may be shuttling between three and four households with their backpacks and their sleeping bags. Whether you’re ready for that or not, that’s what’s coming. And please don’t try to say that nothing so terrible has happened in Massachusetts. Redefining marriage redefines the way in which generations relate to one another. It is foolish to believe that we would feel the full impact of such a change in just a few years; it will take at least a generation, a full 30 years or more, before the full effects of redefining marriage work themselves out throughout the social system, just as it has taken a full generation to see the full impact of no-fault divorce.
The only argument that we have really heard is the so-called equality argument. I believe that you’ve taken a venerable, American concept, and twisted it out of recognition. Equality used to mean limiting the power of the state to make irrelevant distinctions among citizens, but in this case, equality has become a battering ram for smashing every aspect of social life that has any aspect—any hint—of sexual differentiation. No more mothers and fathers: only parent one and parent two.
Far from limiting the power of the state, this version of equality has become a tool for the hostile takeover of civil society by the state: Churches are already under attack for daring to dissent from the new state-imposed orthodoxy that marriage is whatever the government says it is; parents are losing the right to direct the education of their own children; foster parents of the UK must submit to the state’s view about marriage; reputable adoption agencies have been put out of business. And honestly, the pettiness of some of the complaints brought by same-sex couples is simply staggering: Christian bed-and-breakfast owners have been sued for not allowing unmarried couples to stay in double rooms, even when the bed-and-breakfast was their own home. This couple would have gladly rented separate rooms to them, but that was not good enough. Same-sex couples have brought legal complaints against wedding photographers, as if there were a constitutional right to have your picture taken by the person of your choice—all in the name of civil rights.
Let me remind you that the vast majority of African Americans completely reject same-sex marriage, and they are deeply offended by the hijacking of the moral authority of the civil rights movement. When slavery was abolished, all slaves became free men and women. When women obtained the right to vote, the discrimination ended with the very next election, but for children of same-sex marriage, the situation will be different. When we come to our senses 30 years from now, and realize that we have perpetrated a grotesque injustice, not a single child, born fatherless or motherless, within a same-sex marriage will get his missing parent back. Only prevention will protect children’s rights. The thin disguise of marriage equality will not mislead anyone, nor will it atone for the wrong this day done. And to those of you who plan to vote for man-woman marriage: I say stay strong—history is on your side. Thank you very much.