Thank you for inviting me to speak to you today
regarding an important institution that is increasingly threatened
in our society--marriage. Several years ago, I addressed "The
Necessity of Truth," and today I will discuss "The Necessity of
Marriage as a Countercultural
answer these questions, let me first address the culture in which
we live and why marriage is an institution that is countercultural.
In its essence, marriage is a selfless act. It is the act of giving
oneself to somebody else and becoming one.
course, it is impossible for two people to unite and remain
separate. And since the essence of marriage is selflessness in a
self-centered society, it faces opposition from today's popular
facets of our popular culture, from the entertainment industry to
our universities, focus on "ME." My colleague Senator John Ensign
of Nevada told me a story that epitomizes the selfishness of our
culture: "When I was a teenager, I had a sticker in my car with a
picture of a bear scratching himself on the tree, and under it was
the saying, `If it feels good, do it!'"
was the motto of the '60s and the '70s, and certainly it is the
motto today. The image of the bear scratching himself highlights a
view of human beings as animals, and that people should do what
pleases them at the moment without a thought to the broader
long-term consequences of their actions.
Marriage and the "Right to
Marriage, on the other hand, is about selflessness, and it is under
assault in the public sphere. Recent federal court rulings
regarding the right to privacy threaten to further undermine
problem is, although privacy is not an enumerated right in our
Constitution, some activist judges are reading that right into it
in their decisions. But rulings that expand privacy--a purely
selfish right--do nothing to serve the common good.
Recently, I participated in an event at
the Constitution Center in Philadelphia on the Preamble to the
Constitution, the five principles that form the basis of our
democracy: "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide
for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the
Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity." My address
focused on "promote the general Welfare," the one principle that
was fundamentally different from all the rest because
responsibility to promote the common good rests not just with the
government, but with all citizens. Indeed, our Founding Fathers
established all the rights in the Constitution not for the
individual's gain, but for the common good.
notion of a right to privacy is not about the common good, but
about "ME." Starting during the sexual revolution with
contraception, it quickly evolved to abortion, and now it has found
its way into today's marriage debate. The reason marriage is
important is that it affirms what our Founding Fathers
understood--that the purpose for this country is to use our
freedoms for the promotion of the common good.
Marriage and the
Marriage promotes the common good by building families and
raising children. Those of you who have children know that every
day that goes by is about selfless acts in nurturing children. But
society is failing to affirm the vital institution of marriage on
any level--legal, societal, any level--and for this reason,
marriage is under assault, with high rates of divorce and
out-of-wedlock births pummeling the traditional family.
Given the high stakes for society, it is
important for public leaders to understand why marriage is
important and to communicate that to the American public. But many
politicians still do not understand what makes marriage worth
example, Senator Max Baucus of Montana asserted during a recent
Senate Finance Committee markup that the federal government should
withhold funding from programs to promote healthy marriages in the
welfare reform reauthorization bill because it is not the
government's place to encourage people to get married--marriage is
not for everyone.
How Marriage Benefits Society
looking at marriage in general, from the utilitarian perspective,
there is no question that marriage is good for society: Children,
women, and men all benefit enormously.
Looking at the benefits for children, there is a wealth of
evidence that children living in two-parent homes are better off
than those in single-parent families. They are 44 percent less
likely to be physically abused, 47 percent less likely to suffer
physical neglect, 43 percent less likely to suffer emotional
neglect, and 55 percent less likely to suffer some form of child
Those living with their two married
parents through age 16 have higher grades, higher college
aspirations, and better attendance records than children in
one-parent families or who experience family disruption. They also
are half as likely to drop out of high school.
Furthermore, children in two-parent homes
are less than half as likely as children in single-parent families
to have emotional or behavioral problems. And children who live
with biological or adoptive parents are about a third as likely as
those living with single parents to use illegal drugs, tobacco, or
alcohol. In addition, boys raised with two parents are about half
as likely to commit a crime leading to incarceration by their early
Clearly, the research shows that marriage
helps children do better on every level, and that is exactly why
the government should encourage healthy marriages.
For women, despite a whole generation of a movement that
has misled them into thinking that marriage is not necessarily in
their interest, the evidence proves otherwise.
Studies show that wives are 30 percent
more likely to rate their health excellent or good than single
women of the same age. In addition, married women (and men) are
less likely to suffer long-term chronic illness or disabilities
than single women. And mortality rates are less than one-third as
high among married women as among non-married women.
Women gain financially as well--marriage
increases income by 50 percent for women (25 percent for men)--and
domestic violence rates decrease substantially. Married women are
far less likely to be victims of intimate-partner violence than
divorced, separated, or never-married women. The rate per thousand
for divorced or separated women is 31.9; never married women, 11.3;
married women, just 2.6.
Finally, the evidence shows that marriage benefits men
significantly and serves as a civilizing influence on them.
Notably, single men have almost six times
the probability of being incarcerated as married men, and men who
live with their biological children are more involved in the
community and service organizations, more connected to their own
siblings, adult children, and aging parents. Fathers living with
their children invest more hours per week in work and careers than
Men's financial gains are substantial.
Married men make 25 percent more money than single men, and
two-parent families are five times less likely to be in poverty
than single-parent families.
Their health and quality of life also
improve with marriage. Mortality rates are two-thirds as high among
married men as among single men. Married men (and women) are less
than half as likely as their divorced counterparts to attempt