Family Research Council

Testimony in opposition to Senate Bill 241
By Peter Sprigg
Senior Fellow for Policy Studies, Family Research Council
Resident of Montgomery County
Maryland State Senate
Judicial Proceedings Committee
January 31, 2012

I would like to respond to one of the arguments used by advocates of redefining marriage: "What harm would the 'marriage' of a same-sex couple do to your opposite-sex marriage?"

This is an improper way of framing the central question at issue, which is not how one couple's relationship would affect another's, but how changing the definition of a fundamental social institution would affect society as a whole.

It has sometimes been said that "the law is a teacher." What would we "teach" society if we redefine marriage as proposed?

1) We would teach that children do not need a mother and a father. The likely long-term result?

  • Fewer children would be raised by a married mother and father.

While not every child has the benefit of being raised by his or her married biological mother and father from birth to adulthood, legalization of same-sex "marriage" would mean that, for the first time in history, society would be placing its highest stamp of official government approval on the deliberate creation of permanently motherless or fatherless households for children.

Scholarly literature leaves no doubt about the ideal family form for children. It consists of a mother and father who are committed to one another in marriage. Children raised by their married mother and father experience lower rates of numerous social pathologies.

A closely related harm is that:

  • More children would grow up fatherless.

Most children who live with only one biological parent will live with their mothers. This is true both of single-parent households and of same-sex couples raising children. Same-sex "marriage" would thus result in an increase in the number of children who suffer the specific negative consequences of fatherlessness.

For example, research has shown that boys without fathers suffer higher risks of incarceration,[1] while girls without fathers are at elevated risk for early sexual activity and adolescent pregnancy."[2] Or, as one scholar puts it, fatherlessness results in "more boys with guns" and "more girls with babies."[3]

2) We would teach that procreation is not longer a uniquely important public interest. The likely result?

  • Birth rates would fall.

The most fundamental task of any society is to reproduce itself. That is why virtually every human society until the present day has given a privileged social status called "marriage" to male-female sexual relationships--the only type capable of resulting in natural procreation.

Extending "marriage" to same-sex couples would eliminate any special incentive to form life-long, potentially procreative (i.e., opposite-sex) relationships. The long-term result would be that fewer such life-long relationships would be formed, fewer such couples would choose to procreate, and fewer babies would be born.

There is already evidence of at least a correlation between low birth rates and the legalization of same-sex "marriage." Four of the first five states to permit same-sex "marriage" rank within the bottom eight out of all fifty states in both birth rate and fertility rate.[4]

Demographers now warn that declining birth rates lead to an aging population, with negative results such as threats to the solvency of Social Security and Medicare.

3) We would teach that adult desires, not the interests of society or the needs of children, should drive the drive the definition of marriage.

If love and companionship are the only necessary elements of marriage, as some assert, why should other relationships that provide love and companionship not also be recognized as "marriages"--including relationships between adults and children, between close blood relatives, or between three or more adults? If same-sex "marriage" is accepted now, we will be having the exact same debate about "plural" marriages only one generation from now.

Please vote to preserve the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Please oppose SB 241.

[1] Cynthia C. Harper and Sara S. McLanahan, "Father Absence and Youth Incarceration," Journal of Research on Adolescence 14(3), 2004, p. 388.

[2] Bruce J. Ellis, John E. Bates, Kenneth A. Dodge, David M. Fergusson, L. John Horwood, Gregory S. Pettit, Lianne Woodward, "Does Father Absence Place Daughters at Special Risk for Early Sexual Activity and Teenage Pregnancy?" Child Development Vol. 74, Issue 3, May 2003; abstract online at:

[3] David Blankenhorn, Fatherless America: Confronting Our Most Urgent Social Problem (New York: BasicBooks, 1995), p. 45.

[4] Joyce A. Martin, Brady E. Hamilton, Paul D. Sutton, Stephanie J. Ventura, T. J. Mathews, Sharon Kirmeyer, and Michell J. K. Osteman, U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, "Births: Final Data for 2007," National Vital Statistics Reports Vol. 58, No. 24, August, 2010, Table 11. Rankings calculated by the author.