The inherent right of children to be raised by their biological mother and father should be the focus of efforts to promote and defend the traditional understanding of marriage, a leading US marriage and family advocate has urged Australians.
“Arguments about religious liberty and freedom of speech didn’t work in the US when we were debating this issue, they were a bit abstract, and sadly, the public’s respect for religion has been lost,” Dr Jennifer Roback Morse told The Catholic Weekly.
Dr Morse is a widely read author on the importance of traditional marriage and family as well as the founder and president of the Ruth Institute which provides support for sufferers of post-divorce family breakdown, the hook-up culture and other outcomes of the sexual revolution such as anonymous donor conception.
“I think the way [that approach] came off is that people felt that we were just worried about ourselves and how we were going to be inconvenienced. It sounded like we were whining about ourselves – and that’s not very attractive.”
Dr Morse visited Australia this month to advise and assist those promoting natural marriage in the lead-up to the anticipated national plebiscite on same-sex marriage after the election.
She also had the advantage of being able to set out where American pro-family groups had made tactical mistakes and the hard lessons learnt from the loss of the fight for the definition of marriage.
“Someday the kids [of this generation] are going to want answers from us about what we were thinking,” she told The Catholic Weekly.
She warned that redefining marriage by permitting same-sex couples to obtain marriage licences under the law will usher in an era where the right of children to be raised by their biological mother and father, where possible, will be undermined as never before.
She says that contraception and no-fault divorce had already paved the way, helping to separate sex from marriage and procreation, and marriage from procreation, and fostered an adult-centric notion of family.
The creation of genderless marriage will lead to the normalisation through surrogacy of children being born and raised without relationship to their biological parents, their parents’ culture, traditions, and ancestral heritage.
“If you redefine marriage, you redefine parenthood,” she said.
“Instead of parenthood being a natural reality that the state records; parenthood is going to be something that comes about through contracts among interested adults that the state then adjudicates and enforces.
“There have already been cases in the UK where four adults [two same-sex couples] were in court contesting parental rights and custody of a child. These types of situations are unresolvable in a way that is just to everyone. It is important to ban them in the first instance.”
Dr Morse is the author or co-author of four books including Love and Economics: It Takes a Family to Raise a Village, and Smart Sex: Finding Life-Long Love in a Hook Up World.
She and her husband are parents to a birth child, an adopted child, and godchild. They also fostered eight children.
“I know from my own experience how much a child needs his or her own mother and father,” she said.
“It is an injustice to children to separate them from one of their parents without a very good reason.”
In adoption, she argues, people stand in for parents lost through an unavoidable tragedy, which is completely different from deliberately denying a child a relationship with one or both parents through surrogacy.
She believes that the use of surrogacy will become more prevalent if same-sex marriage is introduced, along with a renewed push for legal commercial surrogacy in Australia.
Dr Morse also believes that the gay marriage lobby’s own agenda will be hijacked by others if marriage is redefined.
“All kinds of things will change because if we change the law to redefine the institution of marriage, for the sake of the few people who identify as gay or lesbian, we change it for everyone,” she said.
“If you change family law to say marriage is between any two persons, then it can be any two persons for any reason. Two women or two men would be able to get married without proving that they are gay. The incentives will change for people.
“I think there will be some women who will say all things considered I think it’s easier to put up with another woman than a man. I’ll have my kids and she’ll have her kids, and we’ll get married although we’re not sexual partners. The gay lobby can’t stop that from happening. If you redefine the institution; you’re going to change it for everyone.”
This is similar to what happened with easy divorce, she pointed out, which has caused an untold level of suffering among the children of divorce.
“What [divorce’s advocates said at the time] was that no-fault divorce is just going to make it easier and cheaper for the small percentage of couples who are going to get divorced anyway, never realising that they were making divorce easier and thinkable for people. A lot of people began calculating and acting in ways that would have been unimaginable before.”
Dr Morse has real hope that proponents of natural marriage will succeed if we are to have a plebiscite on the issue here.
However, she concedes that given the momentum that the sexual revolution has garnered over the last 50 years, and the fact that most large English-speaking countries have permitted same-sex marriage, we may end up with it in Australia.
In that case, she believes that most people will look back on the decision with regret.
“It wasn’t so long ago that eugenics was seen as the most progressive, enlightened way to go for society. That idea horrifies us now,” she said.
“I think that down the road if these policies come into effect that these so-called progressives want, we are going to look back and be ashamed.
“We’ll say, ‘What were we thinking, that children could get along without a mother; that they could get along without a father; that children could get along with no rights in that respect at all’.
“We already have the situation where two gay men can get a donor egg from a friend and a surrogate mother from some other country, in order to get a baby. That child is likely to never be meaningfully connected to either of those women.
“The Catholic Church can be proud of the fact that we were the only ones who were against eugenics consistently from the beginning.
“In the same way we are the only ones, from the beginning, who have consistently been against the deconstruction of the family in whatever form that may take.”
In promoting natural marriage and family life to young people Dr Morse agrees that there can be no turning back the clock to a time before there was a divorce and contraceptive culture.
She says that one way to inspire young people to help rebuild a marriage and family culture is to look to the past to find inspiration and hope for going forward.
“When Jesus appeared to St Thomas, he said to him, ‘You believe because you’ve seen, blessed are they who gave not seen and yet believe.’
“That’s what we have to say to young people who have not really experienced what a culture centred on marriage and family is like; you need to believe that it is possible.
It’s important to feed the imagination if you don’t have the lived experience of a culture geared toward supporting marriage and family. I have a friend in the US who is a professor of Renaissance poetry.
“He tells his students that this is how men and women treated each other, and isn’t it charming? This is possible for us today; this is our species, it’s not completely alien to us.”
In families that are reasonably intact and functional, she says, it is important for people to talk to their older children about sexual mistakes they have made, apologise for any affect these have had on the family, and listen to their children without judging.
“That makes us much more credible to our children when we then discuss these issues with them.”
While in Australia, Dr Morse had some other advice for those defending natural marriage in the public sphere and ordinary Catholics wanting help in how to defend marriage in conversations with their friends, family, and work colleagues:
We need to mind our language
It’s more precise to speak of redefining marriage than marriage equality, same-sex marriage, or gay marriage, Dr Morse says. This is because language not only reflects but guides the way that people think.
“If you talk as though there’s such a thing as gay marriage you’re conceding a crucial point,” Dr Morse said.
“Our position is that there’s no such thing as gay marriage. Whatever two men or two women in a same-sex relationship are doing together it’s not marriage. So it’s important to say that and not implicitly affirm it by using the term gay marriage.”
“If you say instead: Changing the terms ‘man and woman’ in the family law with the term ‘any two persons’, it makes people stop and think about what is really being asked for here.”
Transgender rights is next in line
Promotion of transgender culture and a push for transgender rights is “the next step” for the LGBTQ lobby, she says.
“We can ask people who want to know why we don’t support gay marriage, ‘Do you think gay marriage is the last thing you’re going to be asked to accept?’
“Look at the US and most people will see right away that that transgenderism is part of the next step. In the US they’ve almost stopped talking about gay marriage. That battle’s been won and so they’re onto transgenderism which is the next thing.
“People have the idea that if we just give the gay lobby what it wants, it will leave us alone and go away. But they will not go away. The deconstruction of gender is very important to them. They want a completely genderless society.”
It confuses the issue to say children are better off in heterosexual households
This is one argument sometimes used in the context of the marriage debate. But whether or not measurable outcomes are better for children raised in heterosexual households misses the point, Dr Morse says.
“It’s a poor argument. You could just as well say that maybe we should remove all children from poor people and give them to wealthier people so they will get a better education and job prospects.
“Rather, we need to think about what is owed the child; a relationship with both of their parents, and the fact that they don’t get it is what is driving a lot of bad outcomes.
“They may have no role model of the opposite gender, or of their same gender. They may have feelings of loss associated with the biological parent who’s not present.
“That’s why the donor conception issue is so important.”