Last spring I was invited to speak at the Utah State Capitol about a child’s perspective on marriage. The event was a concert hosted by Alan Osmond and I was to speak immediately after Governor Herbert. The rotunda quickly filled to standing room only-- almost a thousand people showed up. Surprisingly, half of them were protesters. They surrounded the gallery, many wearing costumes, body masks and face paint, blocking the entrances, and holding signs about bigotry and hatred-- sometimes even climbing on stage.
Since we often think of tolerance as a virtue, it was surprising to see signs that said “Close your bible and open your mind.” Several signs called religious people bigots, which didn’t bother me at all because I’m not a bigot. But there was one which said “Mr. Osmond, why are using the children against us.” I was the “child” that they were talking about. They were already watching me, and knew I would be speaking. They thought I was a tool and didn't think I could have an opinion of my own.
With the stage set I realized how crucial it was for a child’s perspective to be heard. Obviously children are often heard complaining about their parents. I'm no exception. My mom doesn't just burn dinner, she sets it on fire. Often. She's not perfect. No parent is. But to every child mothers and fathers are irreplaceable.
When I was eight or nine, I had a close friend whose parents were getting divorced. She asked me, “If you had to give up one parent, which would you choose?” I could not decide. My mom and dad both have their strengths and weaknesses, but when it comes down to it, I need both parents.
It was painful for my friend to be told that she could only have one half of her family because of her parents’ decision. Parents who cannot resolve their differences often choose divorce as a solution, but for the child it is a calamity to lose half of their home.
In the years since, I have seen many of my friends wrestle with fractured homes and families. I have other friends who faced life without ever knowing their fathers, friends taken away from one or both of their parents, friends who had to choose one parent over the other. It was painful for each of my friends. Children are the people most affected by abandonment, adultery, divorce and other marriage or familial "re-definitions."
I sometimes want to ask, why are adult relationships so much more important than a child’s?
Consider looking at marriage from a child’s point of view. Every child deserves a mother and a father. No one can deny that God gave each child that gift. As children we have a legitimate interest in a stable home, protection from fathers and nurture from mothers. We deserve it. And we need it. Marriage is the way society meets those needs. Marriage attaches mothers and fathers to the children they create.
Because children cannot protect this birthright for themselves, government has always recognized and protected marriage. In fact, it is the primary reason that governments and religions recognize marriage at all.
People today claim that it is bigotry to limit the definition of marriage. Was it bigotry to stop marriage between relatives? Was it bigotry to forbid old men from marrying young girls? Was it hatred to forbid people from committing incest? Does anyone have a civil right to eliminate a mother or father from a child’s life in order to meet their own romantic needs?
Marriage promises that children will have the most essential relationships in human experience. It is cruel to deprive children of those natural relationships without a very compelling reason.
While not every family achieves every aspect of the ideal, it is undeniably wrong to dismiss the needs of children. Same sex marriage would change the legal ideal for all of us, not just the homosexuals. It would create an ideal that says children do not need both a mother and a father, but instead declare that the main purpose of marriage is emotional adult satisfaction.
In such a world, government would be responsible to promote and enforce an ideal that separates rather than encourages a child’s relationships with his or her mother and father. Not because it is necessary, as happens in adoption, but just because some adults prefer it that way. From a child’s perspective, that is not “ideal.” It is cruel.
It was surprising to see how differently people responded to my opinion. Although it was fun to have Alex Boye make such a big deal out of my speech last June, many people called me names, sent hate mail, and other people dismissed my opinion, saying that my parents were teaching me to be a hater.
We may have returned to an age where children are meant to be seen and not heard, but I’d like to point out some scientific facts. Children do not need to be “taught” to need a mother and a father. It is a biological instinct. They have to be “taught” to live without a mother or a father because of the selfishness of adults.
It turns out adults are the ones who need to be taught.