The following is edited from testimony delivered before the United States Senate.
One Man, One Woman, And The Common Good
As debates rage about budget deficits, debt ceilings, and jobs, I am pleased that the Senate is discussing what are arguably the two most important jobs in our society – the jobs of mothers and fathers. The Defense of Marriage Act gives us a chance to think about the roles of each in our society, and to consider a question often overlooked in these debates: why is government in the marriage business?
Congress enacted DOMA in 1996 by an 84 percent margin, with broad bi-partisan support. At the time, Congress stated that "at bottom, civil society has an interest in maintaining and protecting the institution of heterosexual marriage because it has a deep and abiding interest in encouraging responsible procreation and child-rearing. Simply put, government has an interest in marriage because it has an interest in children." This statement still holds true. As evidenced by the most extensive national research survey on Americans’ attitudes about marriage, 62 percent agree that "marriage should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman."
What DOMA addresses is not just a law or creature of statute, but a social institution that has universally crossed all political, religious, sociological, geographical, and historical lines. Marriage doesn’t proscribe conduct or prevent individuals from living how they want to live. It doesn’t prohibit intimate relationships or curtail one’s constitutional rights. Federal legislation that protects marriage as a binding, exclusive, and procreative relationship has the public purposes of marriage – most notably, to continue human existence – at heart.
For that reason, our discussion of DOMA and its repeal should not be about the private reasons why individuals marry, why the institution of marriage benefits any particular couple, or why any two people should or should not marry. Instead, we must speak about social policy for our country as a whole and the government’s interest in marriage as an institution.
Due to the public nature of the government’s interest in marriage, a couple’s entrance into marriage has never been conditioned on their ability and desire to find happiness together, their level of financial entanglement, or their actual personal dedication to each other. Marriage laws stem from the fact that children are the natural product of sexual relationships between men and women, and that both fathers and mothers are viewed to be necessary and important for children.
Studies and data from the social sciences have long demonstrated that for children, the ideal family structure is one headed by two opposite-sex biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.
"Some may argue that times have changed, but they cannot credibly argue that humanity, as a gendered species, has changed."
Austin R. Nimocks
But advocates for redefining marriage ask us to cast aside the natural attachment of parents to their own children, and the natural desires of children to know who they are and where they came from. They ask the whole of society to ignore the unique and demonstrable differences between men and women in parenthood: no mothers, no fathers, just generic "parents."
Some may argue that times have changed, but they cannot credibly argue that humanity, as a gendered species, has changed. Men and women still compose the two great halves of humanity. Men and women are still wonderfully and uniquely different, and both still play irreplaceable roles in the family. As stated by the Supreme Court, "The truth is that the two sexes are not fungible; a community made up exclusively of one is different from a community composed of both; the subtle interplay of influence one on the other is among the imponderables."
Since children will always be the product of sexual relationships between men and women, and men and women each bring something distinctive to the table of parenting, this government maintains a compelling interest in protecting and preserving the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.