CLARK: The fairness of marriage

Keywords Opinion / Viewpoint

Micah ClarkIndiana defines marriage in a singular way—between a man and a woman. As I discussed the merits of this law recently with an opponent, his disagreement fell into two fundamental areas: fairness and civil rights.

One of the primary arguments for walking away from the logical, time-tested standard of marriage is the assumption that reserving marriage to a man and a woman is unfair or discriminatory. Hoosiers’ sense of evenhandedness compels us to consider fairness.

Since the definition of marriage is a standard, its application under the law will not be fair to some—the nature of a standard is that it is not always “fair.” Indiana sets a standard for driver’s licenses, which some could argue is not fair to the young, elderly, blind or intoxicated. Election law restricts those running for office to living in certain areas if they want to represent that locality. During the election season, some candidates would have liked to be the exception. Was that fair?

Marriage is not a universal entitlement open to anyone who has a passion and desires society’s approval. Under Indiana law, a brother and sister or two 13-year-olds cannot marry, no matter how sincere their relationship. Love is not the only standard two people need to meet before they can marry. If our laws are overturned, and any two people can get married simply due to desire, why can’t three men, why not a woman and two men? What if someday it’s a man and a boy seeking “fairness?”

This point angers many proponents of same-sex marriage, but has anyone asked lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender activists if they will be unfair to their own? If a man is married to a woman, but he is bisexual, can he also marry a man? To be fair, they must say yes, and the boundary of both bigamy and polygamy are gone. Little will be left of marriage as we know it.

The largest polygamy organization in the United States has the slogan, “Polygamy: the Next Civil Rights Battle.” This raises a similar claim that reserving marriage to a husband and a wife violates the “rights” of those with different sexual behaviors.

Much like the fairness claim, equating the proposed overturning of marriage law with a civil rights struggle can have an emotional pull (even though courts have rejected this homosexual minority status analogy). We have already established that the law is able to discriminate—when the legal qualifiers are reasonably necessary for the activity’s normal operation.

This demonstrates how our view of marriage is upside down. The essential public purpose of marriage is to attach men to women, fathers to mothers and both to their children. Whatever two men may be, they are not a mom. Children have a right to a mother and a father.

Some counter that not every husband and wife has children. Yet, every child does have a father and mother. This requires us to see marriage not just from the desire of adults, but as a societal responsibility to the needs of children.

Rosie O’Donnell once admitted on ABC’s “Primetime” that her son had asked, “Mommy, why no daddy?” Rosie’s response? “Because I am not that kind of mommy.” Yet, her son, like every other, is that kind of child who needs a mother and a father.

If we change the standard for marriage into anything anyone desires, marriage will mean very little. This unraveling would weaken and devalue marriage and detach more children from mothers and fathers. It would neither be “fair” to children nor “right” for society.•


Clark is executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana. Send comments on this column to

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