Children Need Our Marriage Tradition

John Smoot – Public Discourse 13 June 2013
John M. Smoot served as a trial court judge of Boston’s Probate and Family Court from 1990 to 2012. He currently serves as a mediator at Boston Area Mediation and blogs at Peter’s Bench.
Redefining marriage will make it harder for our children to develop their self-understanding and will sanction procreative methods that treat children like commodities.

The mantra of the revolution, “If it feels good, do it,” ultimately weakened the institution of marriage with its inherent restraints and responsibilities, ballooned the divorce rate, and brought the number of out-of-wedlock births to 40 percent of all children born in America. All of which translates into poverty, crime, and suffering.

Over the course of twenty-one years as a judge in Boston, I granted thousands of divorces and heard thousands of cases involving children of unmarried parents. Yes, there were adults and children who benefited from divorce just as there were children of single parent families who did fine or excelled. Overall, however, the revolution that encouraged “pleasure, freedom, [and] self-expression” brought an immense amount of pain and misery. Was it bad for everyone? No. Was it bad for millions? Yes.

Social policy and cultural change have an impact on all of us. And clearly, the impact is not always for the good. Now, we are transforming marriage by eliminating its inherent gender distinctions.

Children

We need to be careful not to project our adult understandings onto children. They will develop identities based on the culture around them, not on the culture we grew up in. In the past, boys knew that if they married when they grew up, they would marry a woman; and girls knew that if they married when they grew up, they would marry a man. Children understood that marriage brought men and women together to form families because every aspect of our culture conveyed that message. There was nothing automatic about it. Change the culture, and you change the outcome…..

Commodity Futures

The second harm that is often overlooked, as Alana Newman has addressed here on Public Discourse, is that same-sex marriage will enshrine in our culture the ongoing industrialization of collecting and distributing sperm and eggs. This would include perpetuating the callous practice of anonymous gamete sales. Unlike adoption, whereby a child already born is placed in a home, the sperm- or egg-purchase method deliberately creates a child but separates him or her from one half of “who he or she is,” as numerous donor-conceived children describe their experience…..
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