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Jennifer Morse
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Jennifer Morse

Traditional marriage apologetics

Marriage | Jennifer Roback Morse of The Ruth Institute defends traditional marriage to young people

Jennifer Roback Morse, an economist, rejects the notion that increasing support for homosexual marriage among young people means that its legalization is somehow inevitable. She is founder and president of The Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund that promotes traditional marriage to college students and other young adults. The arguments for marriage can work with that group, she said, because they’ve never heard them before. Presented well, the case is “extremely powerful.”

Do you focus on college students because they seem to be shifting in favor of homosexual marriage? When I started The Ruth Institute in 2008, Prop. 8 was going on around me in California, but I have always wanted to talk to young people about the whole range of issues, including the fallout from no-fault divorce, cohabitation, sex outside of marriage.

Certainly young people have been swept away with the argument that gay marriage is inevitable. Also, they know kids who are openly gay or openly lesbian and they want to be nice to their friends. But that doesn’t in any way diminish the case for man-woman marriage, that the essential public purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children, and to one another. That is still true no matter how much you love your gay neighbor or your lesbian classmate.

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What kind of a reaction do you get when you step onto the campus of someplace like Berkeley? Typically some student group or campus ministry wants me to be there, so there’s always at least two or three friendly people in the audience. To go to a secular university and make a scientific argument, to make natural law arguments, it’s extremely powerful, both for the students who are inclined to agree with you and for the students who have never heard anything like it before. Often they’re sitting there with their mouths open, and they’ll come up to me afterwards and say, “I didn’t know these arguments existed.” That makes it worthwhile.

How do you approach the issue? Often with young people I’ll start off with no-fault divorce. [As a result] marriage is no longer presumed to be permanent. It’s a huge structural shift and young people have already been wounded by divorce. You go on any college campus, religious or not, and kids in that audience have been hurt by two or three divorces, or their mom going through a series of boyfriends. [When you point out that] a lot of the arguments for homosexual marriage today are quite comparable to the arguments for divorce in the late 1960s, early ’70s, they say maybe this gay marriage issue isn’t so straightforward.

[This also shows] that we’re not just there to be mean to be gay people. They see how the destruction of marriage has impacted culture.

You’ve said that the cultural left is determined to abolish marriage and gender differences. Why? And what are the “fiscal and freedom” consequences of this agenda? Let’s start with the second question. I saw as an economist that the whole society is depending on the family getting the job done. If children have been in too much foster care or in orphanages too long often they have difficulty developing a conscience and developing attachments to other people. If that happens, you’ve got a person who is a real social problem, very expensive to deal with. By one estimate we’re spending over $100 billion dollars a year on dealing with the consequences of out-of-wedlock childbearing and family breakup and family breakdown [through] the criminal justice system and the cost of welfare, health, and education.

Now to get back to your original question. For people on the radical left, equality is their primary value. But it doesn’t even make sense to think about families in terms of equality because babies are never the equal of the parents and men and women can never be equal in the sense of baby-making and child-rearing and development.

So if egalitarianism is your biggest thing, this whole enterprise of baby-making is offensive and disruptive to your ideology. [Marxist theorist] Friedrich Engels saw monogamous marriage as just as oppressive as private property and capitalism. In fact, he saw them as related, so some see the home in terms of class struggle. The home itself becomes politicized. To level all differences between men and women they have somehow to sterilize the sexual act, which is why so many of them see abortion and contraception as absolute values.

What happens if the Supreme Court rules in favor of homosexual marriage in the recent cases on the constitutionality of Proposition 8 in California and the federal Defense of Marriage Act? It would be the Roe v. Wade of the marriage issue. Roe v. Wade energized and created the pro-life movement. It will tell millions of people that they don’t matter in the political process—go home, sit down, shut up. That’s what Roe v. Wade was supposed to do, and of course it didn’t turn out that way.

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