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Preserving Traditional Marriage: A View from the States

Location: Washington, DC

"Preserving Traditional Marriage: A View from the States"
Testimony of Governor Mitt Romney Before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee

Mr. Chairman, Senator Leahy, Senator Kennedy, distinguished members of the Committee, thank you for asking me to join you today.

First, I ask that my written remarks be inserted into the record of this hearing.

You have asked for my perspectives on the recent inauguration of same sex marriage in my state. This is a subject about which people have tender emotions in part because it touches individual lives. It also has been misused by some as a means to promote intolerance and prejudice. This is a time when we must fight hate and bigotry, when we must root out prejudice, when we must learn to accept people who are different from one another. Like me, the great majority of Americans wish both to preserve the traditional definition of marriage and to oppose bias and intolerance directed towards gays and lesbians.

Given the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Congress and America now face important questions regarding the institution of marriage. Should we abandon marriage as we know it and as it was known by the framers of our constitution?

Has America been wrong about marriage for 200 plus years?

Were generations that spanned thousands of years from all the civilizations of the world wrong about marriage?

Are the philosophies and teachings of all the world's major religions simply wrong?

Or is it more likely that four people among the seven that sat in a court in Massachusetts have erred? I believe that is the case.

And I believe their error was the product of seeing only a part, and not the entirety. They viewed marriage as an institution principally designed for adults. Adults are who they saw. Adults stood before them in the courtroom. And so they thought of adult rights, equal rights for adults. If heterosexual adults can marry, then homosexual adults must also marry to have equal rights.

But marriage is not solely for adults. Marriage is also for children. In fact, marriage is principally for the nurturing and development of children. The children of America have the right to have a father and a mother.

Of course, even today, circumstances can take a parent from the home, but the child still has a mother and a father. If the parents are divorced, the child can visit each of them. If a mother or father is deceased, the child can learn about the qualities of the departed. His or her psychological development can still be influenced by the contrasting features of both genders.

Are we ready to usher in a society indifferent about having fathers and mothers? Will our children be indifferent about having a mother and a father?

My Department of Public Health has asked whether we must re-write our state birth certificates to conform to our Court's same-sex marriage ruling. Must we remove "father" and "mother" and replace them with "parent A" and "parent B?"

What should be the ideal for raising a child: not a village, not "parent A" and "parent B," but a mother and a father.

Marriage is about even more than children and adults. The family unit is the structural underpinning of all successful societies. And, it is the single-most powerful force that preserves society across generations, through centuries.

Scientific studies of children raised by same sex couples are almost non-existent. And the societal implications and effects on these children are not likely to be observed for at least a generation, probably several generations. Same sex marriage doesn't hurt my marriage, or yours. But it may affect the development of children and thereby future society as a whole. Until we understand the implications for human development of a different definition of marriage, I believe we should preserve that which has endured over thousands of years.

Preserving the definition of marriage should not infringe on the right of individuals to live in the manner of their choosing. One person may choose to live as a single, even to have and raise her own child. Others may choose to live in same sex partnerships or civil arrangements. There is an unshakeable majority of opinion in this country that we should cherish and protect individual rights with tolerance and understanding.

But there is a difference between individual rights and marriage. An individual has rights, but a man and a woman together have a marriage. We should not deconstruct marriage simply to make a statement about the rights of individual adults. Forcing marriage to mean all things, will ultimately define marriage to mean nothing at all.

Some have asked why so much importance is attached to the word "marriage." It is because changing the definition of marriage to include same sex unions will lead to further far-reaching changes that also would influence the development of our children. For example, school textbooks and classroom instruction may be required to assert absolute societal indifference between traditional marriage and same sex practice. It is inconceivable that promoting absolute indifference between heterosexual and homosexual unions would not significantly effect child development, family dynamics, and societal structures.

Among the structures that would be affected would be religious and certain charitable institutions. Those with scriptural or other immutable founding principles will be castigated. Ultimately, some may founder. We need more from these institutions, not less, and particularly so to support and strengthen those in greatest need. Society can ill afford further erosion of charitable and virtuous institutions.

For these reasons, I join with those who support a federal constitutional amendment. Some retreat from the concept of amendment, per se. While they say they agree with the traditional definition of marriage, they hesitate to amend. But amendment is a vital and necessary aspect of our constitutional democracy, not an aberration.

The constitution's framers recognized that any one of the three branches of government might overstep its separated powers. If Congress oversteps, the Court can intervene. If the Executive overreaches, Congress may impeach. And if the Court launches beyond the constitution, the legislative branch may amend.

The four Massachusetts justices launched beyond our constitution. That is why the Massachusetts legislature has begun the lengthy amendment process.

There is further cause for amendment. Our framers debated nothing more fully than they debated the reach and boundaries of what we call federalism. States retained certain powers upon which the federal government could not infringe. By the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, our state has begun to assert power over all the other states. It is a state infringing on the powers of other states.

In Massachusetts, we have a law that attempts to restrain this infringement on other states by restricting marriages of out-of-state couples to those where no impediment to marry exists in their home state. Even with this law, valid same sex marriages will migrate to other states. For each state to preserve its own power in relation to marriage, within the principle of Federalism, a federal amendment to define marriage is necessary.

This is not a mere political issue. It is more than a matter of adult rights. It is a societal issue. It encompasses the preservation of a structure that has formed the basis of all known successful civilizations.

With a matter as vital to society as marriage, I am troubled when I see an intolerant few wrap the marriage debate with their bias and prejudice.

I am also troubled by those on the other side of the issue who equate respect for traditional marriage with intolerance. The majority of Americans believe marriage is between a man and a woman, but they are also firmly committed to respect, and even fight for civil rights, individual freedoms and tolerance. Saying otherwise is wrong, demeaning and offensive. As a society, we must be able to recognize the salutary effect, for children, of having a mother and a father while at the same time respecting the civil rights and equality of all citizens.

Thank you.

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