Marriage still matters to Washington's children

IT is the birthright of every child to be raised by their mother and father. To redefine marriage is to rob children of that birthright.

Yet, a small group of activist lawyers and judges is putting marriage under siege in the state of Washington. While gays, lesbians and most Americans seek an end to bigotry and hatred, something different is at stake here. The full-court press to legally redefine marriage carries societal implications that are vast and damaging to children and future generations.

The two of us join many of all races, religions and creeds who are alarmed by recent court rulings in King and Thurston counties overturning Washington's Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

We are linking arms as Allies for Marriage and Children to appeal to the vast numbers of Washingtonians troubled by the redefinition of marriage, as well as the decades-long decay of marriage and absence of a common-sense voice defending it. We will work with the state Legislature to find a constitutional solution to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

Some would have you believe this effort is an attack on gays and lesbians. They are wrong. We believe that all people deserve respect. The marriage movement recognizes people's freedom to choose their relationships and will never dictate what other people should believe.

However, we will be working to educate the public and legislators on why marriage matters and why it must be strengthened rather than permanently altered and further compromised. We will work to protect marriage and reinvigorate an institution that has already been depleted by social changes such as no-fault divorce.

In addition to the rights of children, there are other very practical considerations.

Thirty years of scientific research demonstrates that theideal situation for children is to be raised in a healthy family with their mother and father. The research shows that, in general, every other kind of family arrangement has higher incidences of childhood poverty, drug abuse, school failure, mental-health problems, emotional and physical problems, and teen pregnancy.

People on the other side of this debate point out, correctly, that men and women have made a hash of marriage already. But that is only another argument for strengthening, not altering, marriage. Increasing respect between men and women recognizes the unique contributions of both in parenting. In other words, men and women bring qualities unique to them that are essential to the total development of children.

Changing marriage sends both boys and girls the message that a mom or a dad isn't necessary. Lawyers and judges will have made a whole new parenting structure the legal norm. Are we really prepared to send the message that women — moms — are not necessary in a child's life? Or that dads are no longer needed?

Children are confused enough about where they fit in society. If they come from homes missing one gender or the other, and society tells them this is ideal, it is more difficult for them to learn what it means to be a good mother or father, or what it takes to be a good spouse. No small group has the right to dictate to government, society, children and future generations that marriage has changed, or what should be taught to our children in sex-education classes.

The judges who ruled in the cases in King and Thurston counties cited research they thought favorable to the idea of raising children in a same-sex home. The truth of the matter is that very little longitudinal research has been undertaken and that the research that does exist is fatally flawed.

After reviewing the available literature, noted University of Virginia sociologist Dr. Steven Nock said, "Not a single one of those studies was conducted according to generally accepted standards of scientific research."

Two other researchers have written, "The methods used in these studies are so flawed that the studies prove nothing."

Yet, it was with those flawed studies in mind that two judges in Washington ruled against the state's marriage laws.

Before altering the family landscape for all time, we ought to have a vigorous but respectful dialogue, and take time to reflect on the comprehensive and long-term consequences of removing male-female bonds as the essence of marriage.

Washington's constitution places individual rights on a very high plateau.

It should. But the triumph of individual adult rights cannot be allowed to trump the rights of children.

Redefining marriage sends a message to society "that children don't necessarily need or deserve a mother and a father."

Nearly every child would honestly disagree.

Jeff Kemp is president of Families Northwest in Bellevue. The Rev. Harvey Drake Jr. is president of Emerald City Outreach Ministries in Rainier Valley. Web: