- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2003

The Greek philosopher Aristotle said in “The Politics” that the “family is the association established by nature for the supply of men’s everyday wants.” The association of different families led to the creation of communities and towns, and so on. For Aristotle, the family was the basic building block of society.

For many of our world’s major religions, marriage and the family are basic to civilization.

The Koran states that God “has made for [man] the marriage relationship” (25.54). The Jewish Torah states that both man and woman are made in the image of God and “for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” The Christian New Testament tells us, “Each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”

In all their diversity, the world’s many cultures are unanimous in their belief in the fundamental importance of the nuclear family. Child Development Specialist Alice Sterling Honig once said the “family is the first school for young children, and parents are powerful models.” That’s a statement with which we can all identify. There is a special cultural significance in family that means a lot for our children.

Right now, however there is a movement made up of a few activists who want to impose a different definition of family on our society.

Poll numbers show the majority of people believe marriage should continue to be defined as the union of one man and one woman. In March, 62 percent of those surveyed by Wirthlin Worldwide agreed with this statement: “Marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”

The Wirthlin poll found overwhelming numbers of Hispanics (63 percent) and African-Americans (62 percent) support a constitutional amendment to protect marriage from lawsuits to alter that definition. In addition, working-class and low-income Americans (by 63 percent majorities) are also among some of the strongest supporters of a constitutional amendment to protect marriage.

The conviction marriage is vital to the health of our culture has animated efforts to protect children, promote stable families and rebuild inner-city communities. Healthy families are the key to unlock our nation’s full potential and the only way to revive at-risk communities.

Around the country, community leaders have decried the significant rise in out-of-wedlock births, absentee fathers and broken families as a primary cause of the endless cycle of poverty and violence that grips our cities today. Social statistics have shown that children who grow up with two parents — mom and dad — who live at home, are married and involved in the lives of their children are more successful and less likely to be abused or engage in risky behaviors such as drug use, binge drinking and sexual promiscuity.

Understandably, those of us who believe marriage should be protected for this reason, reject the argument by some that any effort to promote and protect marriage is the latest strategy by right-wing fanatics to discriminate and impose morality on the rest of the nation. It is patently absurd to suggest that supporters of marriage, some of whom marched alongside the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and sat in the wrong section on buses in the 1960s, are somehow engaged in a campaign to discriminate.

Most Americans agree marriage has verifiable benefits for our society. This consensus cuts across racial and economic lines.

The real issue is that courts are being used by a small group of activists to redefine marriage and family. This strategy has been so successful that the highest court in Massachusetts has just overturned the commonwealth’s marriage laws, ruling that gays and lesbians cannot be denied the right to marry. Such a ruling presents a threat to every other state.

The courts, not legislatures, are being abused to change the idea of marriage over and above the voice of the majority of Americans and without open and honest debate among elected leaders. While this might seem harmless enough, its practical effect will be to destroy the foundation we rely upon to continue our civilization and raise our children.

The value of marriage and family flows from the concept they are sacred and possess importance apart from anything else in our culture. Religious faith aside, Aristotle identified the family as the foundation of any culture. Breaking this foundation would threaten civilization itself.

The majority of Americans support marriage and want it preserved. I look forward to working with you toward that goal.

Joseph R. Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican, is a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

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