Talking Politics: ‘Is this the best way of raising our children?’

editorial image

If I’d been an MP when civil partnerships were debated, I’d have voted in favour - because that was about legal equality. The demand for same-sex marriage is said to have the same premise of equality.

This is where I fundamentally disagree.

Obviously, some married couples don’t have children, however, in law and the understanding of every human society throughout history, marriage is, by definition, the union of a man and woman principally for the purpose of procreation and raising children. Jewish and Christian tradition strengthens this by mandating monogamy. Is this the best way of raising children? If so, adult demands for ‘equality’ are irrelevant and damaging to children’s interests.

The effect of legalising same-sex marriage would be to replace the tried and tested family unit, with all its problems, with one in which children are brought up by only one biological parent and only one gender. Indeed, marriage would lose its close identification with childrearing since it would explicitly and intentionally encompass relationships in which there is neither the possibility nor intention of conceiving children who are the genetic heirs of both parents.

All available evidence shows that children are most likely to do best when raised by both married, biological parents and that the presence of mum and dad is critical in the formative years. With that in mind, is it a good idea to embark upon such a radical experiment when our understanding of the processes which shape the formation of the child’s emerging mind and personality is still in its early stages? We know that the processes are complex; we do not yet know quite how the many factors involved – genetic, psychological, emotional, cognitive, social, the parental gender combination – interact with each other.

What is clear is that a great mountain of evidence shows that family instability and breakdown is among the biggest causes of poverty, deprivation and underachievement.

Without monogamous, man/woman marriage, which institution will specifically protect the rights of children to a relationship with parents of both sexes within the core family?

By removing the welfare of children as the primary reason for supporting marriage it becomes just another vehicle for the working out of adult desires and relationships, no different from civil partnerships or living together. It becomes harder to resist the calls of those who think marriage should be opened up to any combination of relationships that adults want. Satisfying present desires takes precedence over long term commitment to a shared future and the future happiness, beyond the parents’ own lives, of the children. Traditional marriage is about the future not primarily fixated on gratification here and now.

In the Netherlands, legalising gay marriage has been followed by the legal recognition of relationships involving more than two people cohabiting – a step towards legal acceptance of polygamy. Mexico City legislators have given serious thought to allowing fixed-term marriages: instead of divorcing, the partners would simply not renew the contract. Several jurisdictions have stopped referring to mothers and fathers: in Spain they became Progenitor A and Progenitor B on birth certificates. Same-sex marriage legislation in 2005 replaced the term “natural parent” with “legal parent” in Canadian law.

The potential for confusion does not stop there. Our constitution is threatened too.

If Parliament, which legislates in the Queen’s name, passes a bill legalising gay marriage, it will be asking her to sign into law a definition of marriage which the Church of England, of which the Queen is Supreme Governor under God, opposes. This would call into question the Church’s status as the established church.

Surely, before legislating traditional marriage out of legal existence we must first believe the alternatives to be wiser and more deeply rooted in human experience. In my view, the supporters of ‘equality’ in marriage are far from making that case.

By spurning both age-old wisdom, represented by the Church, among others, and the findings of science, we chip away at building blocks essential to our welfare and happiness.

I place huge value on the child-centred institution of marriage and sincerely believe that weakening it would be extremely detrimental to our society.