The 12 Republicans who joined all 50 Democrats in the Senate to advance the deceptively named Respect for Marriage Act did much more than threaten religious liberty by agreeing to change the definition of marriage in federal law.
They are also making it much harder for conservatives to promote natural marriage — one man and one woman for one lifetime — as the cornerstone of the American family. This affirmative vision goes far beyond the romantic feelings of consenting adults.
It also puts the needs of children over the desires of adults, since we know that kids do best when they are raised by married biological parents in a loving household.
House Republicans are the only hope conservatives have now for preventing this bill from becoming law. A recent Washington Post article should give them a window into the future of American family life if they choose to follow their Senate colleagues.
The Post recently did a profile of black women who are concerned about the fact that fewer than 2 percent of sperm donors at cryobanks across the country are black men. One early quote belies the actual intentions of the speaker.
“There’s so many good African American men out there. … Maybe they just don’t know how much they’re needed to create families.”
This sounds like a rallying cry to reverse the 70 percent nonmarital birth rate among black Americans. But in fact, the woman speaking isn’t encouraging African American men who want to marry and have children. Her concern is for black women who want children but not husbands.
The intentional creation of fatherless children — and absent fathers — is a sad coda to 60 years of liberal social policy and shifting cultural norms around sex and sexuality. The passage of the (Dis)Respect for Marriage Act would only accelerate our current downward spiral by making adults the central focus of public policy and social norms related to marriage and family.
Scientific advances in reproductive technology have given ever more LGBT adults an opportunity to fulfill their desire for a biological connection to a child. Gay men like Bravo talk show host Andy Cohen and conservative comedian and podcaster Dave Rubin have used surrogates to carry their children.
The author of the Post profile takes readers on a journey through the other side of conception’s sex binary. One woman spent more than 800 hours scouring websites with hundreds of potential donors, only to see her options dwindle once she narrowed her search to black men. She eventually settled on a Peruvian donor and welcomed a healthy baby girl in 2021 shortly after breaking up with her girlfriend.
Another, described by the author as a “single lesbian,” was matched with a married father of four on a donor app. They met at a hotel and used an at-home insemination kit. When the first attempt failed, they used the kit and had sex to improve the odds of conception.
Concerns about the shortage of black sperm donors were not confined to women who identify as LGBT.
A 40-year-old author acknowledged the zero-sum nature of the black male donor market: “You know that if you get what you need, that means another sister won’t get what she needs if she wants a Black donor, too.” She added, “I’m crying, fasting, praying and believing for a donor.” Her appeal for divine intervention is one that women in an earlier era would have reserved for a husband.
The women in this profile saw men as a means to create the families of their dreams, not partners in love needed to raise a child. This nexus of feminism, human sexuality, and social justice is the context in which the concerns about redefining marriage and family are taking place. One of the women profiled in the Post who chose to pursue single motherhood said she believes “there is a true and divine right of women to create the lives of their choosing.”
But this worldview omits one key factor: children need the love and support of both their mothers and fathers.
Put simply, no adult has a right to someone else’s child or another adult’s reproductive capacity. If they did, it would create obligations on the part of individuals and governments to supply sperm, eggs, and wombs to hopeful parents. But every child has a right to love and support from the mother and father who created him.
Parents are expected to sacrifice for their children. We lose free time and personal space after a new addition to the family. We trade day parties for children’s birthday parties and spontaneous weekend getaways for carefully planned family vacations.
The prevailing wisdom today — rarely stated in explicit terms — is that children should be willing to sacrifice for our desires. This is exactly what happens when a child is deprived of maternal or paternal love so that adults can build the families of their dreams.
Our national priority should be promoting a culture where men and women commit to one another and the families they build together, not creating fatherless (or motherless) children for the sake of adult fulfillment.
Unfortunately, some of the most prominent voices in the fight to redefine marriage have been conservative evangelicals who applaud Martin Luther King Jr. for making distinctively Christian arguments about the nature of human dignity, but refuse to do the same in defending God’s design for the family.
Elected officials who reject this design — and the definition of sex itself — for the sake of political expediency are not showing respect for marriage. They are demonstrating contempt for the laws of God and nature.