WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 10, 2006
Children who are raised by parents
who are not married are at a greater
risk of depression, suicide, child
abuse, domestic violence, academic
failure, criminal activity and poverty.
So says Maggie Gallagher, president
of the Institute for Marriage and
Public Policy and contributor to
the book "The Meaning of Marriage"
Gallagher shared with ZENIT findings
from studies on children with parents
who never married or divorced, and
the importance of traditional marriage
for a child's well-being and the
Q: Why should Catholics be concerned
about marriage in the public square?
Gallagher: For Catholics, marriage
is a sacrament. But the Catholic
tradition has always understood
marriage as a natural relation as
well. People of all faiths can get
married and their marriages matter
to God, children, each other and
Marriage helps create and care for
the next generation, helping to
satisfy men and women's deep human
longings for connection with each
other, and children's longing to
know and be known by their own mother
Q: You say marriage is important
for children. What's the evidence?
Gallagher: A large body of social
science research now affirms the
importance of marriage for the common
For example: Marriage reduces the
risk of poverty for children and
communities. The majority of children
whose parents don't get or stay
married experience at least a year
Fatherless households increase crime.
Boys whose parents divorced or never
married, for example, are two to
three times more likely to end up
in jail as adults.
Marriage protects children's physical
and mental health. Children whose
parents get and stay married are
healthier and also much less likely
to suffer mental illness, including
depression and teen suicide.
Parents who don't get or stay married
put children's education at risk.
Children whose parents divorced
or never married have lower grade
point averages, are more likely
to be held back a grade and to drop
out of school. They are also less
likely to end up college graduates.
When marriages fail, ties between
parents and children typically weaken,
too. Adult children whose parents
divorced are only half as likely
to have warm, close ties to both
their mothers and their fathers.
For example, in one large national
survey, 65% of adult children of
divorce reported they were not close
to their fathers -- compared to
29% of adults from intact marriages.
Caring about marriage is thus part
of our shared Catholic concern for
children, the common good and social
Q: Does it matter whether mothers
and fathers actually marry? Can't
they just live together?
Gallagher: Yes, marriage matters.
Just living together is not the
same as marriage.
Married couples in the United States
who cohabit first are 30% to 50%
more likely to divorce. People who
just live together do not get the
same boost to health, welfare and
happiness, on average, as spouses.
Neither do their children. Children
whose parents cohabit are at increased
risk for domestic violence and child
abuse and neglect. Children born
to parents who were just living
together are also around three times
more likely -- in both the United
States and Great Britain -- to experience
their parents' breakup by age 5.
Q: What about same-sex couples?
Should marriage be redefined to
Gallagher: Same-sex marriage teaches
the next generation that there is
nothing special or unique about
husbands and wives who can become
mothers and fathers. It separates
marriage from its great, historic,
cross-cultural task of bringing
together male and female to make
and raise the next generation together.
A loving and compassionate society
comes to the aid of motherless and
fatherless children, but no compassionate
society intentionally deprives children
of their own mom or dad. Same-sex
marriage announces that society
has repudiated this goal and has
placed adult desires for diverse
family forms as its core goal.
Q: How do you respond to people
who say our marriage laws are discriminatory?
Gallagher: Laws against interracial
marriage were about keeping two
races apart, so that one race could
oppress the other -- and that is
Marriage is about bringing male
and female together, so that children
have mothers and fathers, and so
that women aren't stuck with the
enormous, unfair burdens of parenting
alone -- and that is right.
Q: How would same-sex marriage hurt
any one's marriage?
Gallagher: This is not just a discussion
of benefits. If it were, we could
come to some accommodations.
The logic of gay marriage is that
there is no difference between same-sex
and opposite sex unions, and that
anyone who thinks otherwise is either
irrational or bigoted.
Same-sex marriage advocates thus
seek to use the law to force everyone
to dramatically and permanently
alter our definition of marriage
and family. The law will teach your
children and grandchildren that
there is nothing special about mothers
and fathers raising children together,
and anyone who thinks otherwise
is a bigot.
It's going to be extremely hard
to raise, say, young men to be good
family men in a society that teaches
the idea that anyone who thinks
fathers and mothers should raise
children together is a bigot.
And anyone who says otherwise may
get subjected to legal punishments
of various kinds.
Q: What do you mean by that? And
what is the threat to religious
liberty posed by same-sex marriage?
Gallagher: It's very real. Right
now in the state of Massachusetts,
for example, the government is set
to strip Catholic Charities of its
adoption license unless Catholics
agree to place children with same-sex
If you follow the racial analogy
being made here -- that opposing
gay marriage is akin to racial bigotry
-- then ultimately the law is going
to pressure Catholic and other religions'
institutions and punish those that
fail to conform to its new vision
of marriage. I'm talking about things
like broadcasting licenses and ultimately
tax exempt status for Catholic schools
and other faith-based organizations.
This may sound incredible. But who
would ever have imagined that here
in the United States a government
would prevent Catholics from helping
poor, abandoned, needy babies, unless
they agree with the government's
position on gay adoptions?
Q: What can we do in the United
State to support marriage and protect
religious liberty on these issues?
Gallagher: First, the Senate is
going to vote on a Marriage Protection
Amendment, protecting marriage as
the union of husband and wife. Write
or e-mail your senators.
Second, ultimately I think we are
going to need some kind of "conscience"
legislation from Congress on marriage,
similar to that which protects facilities,
organizations and individuals from
being punished by state governments
for refusing to participate in abortions.