Since the 2008 presidential campaign, when then-Sen. Barack Obama told the Rev. Rick Warren that he supported traditional marriage defined as the union of "one man and one woman," the president's position on this topic has "evolved," and now, of course, has reversed.
Indeed, Mr. Obama not only has strayed quite a distance from his original position, he has done everything he can to undermine traditional marriage. What's more, he has sat by idly while activist judges have decided how marriage should be defined. This is bad for marriage and bad for America.
The president's refusal to defend marriage at the federal level has been an abdication of his constitutional responsibility to execute and enforce the law. He has signaled clearly that if re-elected in November, he will continue this abuse of power to redefine marriage.
The people of Maryland, Minnesota, Washington and Maine have the opportunity to affirm core traditional American values by voting to support traditional marriage on Election Day, Nov. 6. Voters in those states can join the 31 other states that have voted "yes" to preserving marriage through a state constitutional amendment, honoring marriage between a man and a woman now and for future generations.
Marriages have decreased and continue to decrease, and the number of newly married couples is at a record low. Like most Americans, I believe children need both a mom and a dad. If our elected leaders continue to undermine marriage, fewer and fewer children will experience the benefits of a mother and a father working together to create a safe and loving home. While there are many heroic single moms and dads doing the work of two parents, children do best with both parents. Redefining marriage cheapens the centuries-old definition of marriage and undermines the cause of strong families, which are foundational to a healthy society. Like Obamacare, it is the wrong prescription for America.
Social science provides overwhelming evidence of the benefits of marriage to children and society. In what other area of public policy would government be neutral when the benefits are so overwhelming? We know work and marriage are antidotes to poverty. Under Mr. Obama, poverty has risen to historic levels with 1 in 6 Americans living in poverty and 1 in 4 children on food stamps. A 2009 Brookings Institution study reported that if Americans do the following three things, they are much less likely to live in poverty: work, graduate from high school and wait to have children until they are married. Do all three, and you will have just a 2 percent chance of living in poverty and a 74 percent likelihood of being middle income (defined as an annual family income of $50,000 or more).
The president has chosen to neglect the issue of marriage. There is a liberal logic to this because, as marriage declines, government expands to try to fill the gaps for children and society. No government program can produce the same positive outcomes for children as marriage. Healthy marriages and involved fathers are some of the best poverty-fighting strategies out there after getting a job. We need a president who will address the importance of marriage and the challenge of absent fathers head-on, because doing so makes sense for our society and our economy.
Today, more than 25 million American children, including 64 percent of black children and 36 percent of Hispanic children, live in father-absent homes. In 1964, when the federal government launched its war on poverty, 6.8 percent of births nationally were to single mothers. Research tells us that low-income children without a father at home are five times more likely to remain poor. In 2010, 31.6 percent of households headed by single women were poor, while 6.2 percent of married-couple households lived in poverty. When marriage is not an option, fathers need to step up, be courageous and be active in the lives of their sons and daughters. Children desperately want and need this. I support state and local solutions that strengthen marriage and responsible fatherhood to the benefit of the family. Our nation's first economy is the family. For America to be strong, we must have strong families.
Not every kind of conduct or institution can or should hope for public governmental affirmation. However, the essential role and special dignity of marriage demand the full support of the government. That's why even when it wasn't popular, I stood up and spearheaded the debate on the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004. Many states have passed amendments affirming and protecting marriage since then. It is critical to have judges and justices who respect the Constitution and understand the proper role of the judiciary.
On Nov. 6, vote for candidates who will vote to give our children what is their right and our country what we need -- traditional marriage.
Rick Santorum, a senator from Pennsylvania, was a candidate for the 2012 Republican nomination. He is the founder of Patriot Voices, an organization committed to promoting faith, family, freedom and opportunity.