Find below the video and full transcript of the speech held by Miss Sophia Kuby, Director EU Advocacy ADF International (Brussels), at the International Conference “Referendum for the Family: Analysis and Implications” organized at the Romanian Parliament in Bucharest, on April 25th, 2017 (with the editor’s highlights and subheads) – via FamilyNews.ro.
You, the Romanian people, will soon have the opportunity to pronounce yourself on the question how marriage should be defined in your Constitution.
The marriage debate and marriage status across Europe
The marriage debate – so the question how marriage should be defined – has been going on for roughly ten years all over Europe. So the first thing to know is that you are not an exception: this debate has been going on everywhere and it has been difficult everywhere.
However, some of the outcomes of this debate may surprise you. Out of the world’s roughly 200 countries, 24 countries – and I would say only 24 countries – have redefined marriage (have legalized same-sex marriage).
In Europe, the continent is split over the question – it is one of the very central questions debated in Europe. And you can see on a slide that will come up that the red countries have redefined marriage, the yellow countries have basically made equal civil unions with marriage, but the term “marriage” has not been redefined. And the green countries have defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
So you see that there is a very significant split in Europe that you can even geographically [see]. You can basically say it’s Central and Eastern Europe versus the Western democracies that are really split over that question – more than over any other question really. You wouldn’t have such a clear distinction in Europe on any other question.
It is far from being a marginal debate. Rather it is a central question [about] how the next generation can grow up in the best possible conditions in times where marriage rates go down.
It may be still a little bit better in Romania, but all over Europe marriage rates go down, cohabitation goes up, more and more children are born out of wedlock, divorce rates go up.
So in some major European cities one out of two couples gets divorced and as a consequence more and more children grow up in single-parent homes often with an absent father.
The question how the next generation can grow up in a healthy and good way is a social question of the utmost importance.
Every country is legally and politically entitled to protect marriage
The democratically expressed wish of 3 million Romanian citizens to enshrine marriage as a union between a man and a woman in in their Constitution is one that puts Romania on the rank of many European nations who have done the same thing in recent years.
13 countries in Europe have constitutionalized marriage, which means that 13 countries have done exactly what you are trying to do, namely to put in the Constitution that marriage is between a man and a woman.
Every European nation – as my colleague Adina Portaru pointed out so well – every European nation is free to do so without interference from supra- or international institutions. The European Union has no competence to define marriage and the European Court of Human Rights has consistently upheld in its jurisprudence that there is no so-called “right to same-sex marriage”. And so, as a consequence, there is no obligation to redefine marriage. Every state is free to define marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.
Opponents and proponents of the referendum and of the understanding of marriage as between a man and a woman have one thing in common – everywhere, not only in Romania, but also in Romania: they all agree that marriage matters; they all agree that the understanding of marriage is not an unimportant question but it is crucial for the social fabric of our society.
What is the government’s business related to marriage?
So let’s have a look why marriage matters so much. In international and national law there is only one human relationship that has the status of a social institution which deserves special protection. And that one human relationship is marriage.
Marriage between a man and a woman is a unique form of relationship. It is not just a private arrangement such as for example friendship. It is a public engagement of a man and a woman to form a lifelong union and to raise children together.
This is very different from any other kind of human relationship that doesn’t require a public commitment. It is not the government approving the love life of two adults who love each other.
Were it only a private arrangement of two people who love each other, it wouldn’t be and it shouldn’t be the government’s business. Government should not be interested in people’s love life. What a society and a government should and need to be interested in is how to create a social environment in which the next generation is born and can grow up in the best possible conditions.
So what are these conditions? What are the best possible conditions? Abundant research shows that family based on marriage of a child’s biological mother and father generally produces the best outcomes for children and adults alike.
Social science from across the board – no matter what philosophical or political leaning they have – is unanimous in its findings that children fare best when raised by their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.
A society cannot afford to accept – much less promote – family structures that increase the number of children growing up outside of a family with a married father and a mother.
Current science proves connection between marriage and economic welfare
Marriage is an important social good associated with an incredibly broad array of positive outcomes for children and adults. I will quote you just some of them.
- UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children, in its report on child poverty, says the following: at the statistical level, it is clear that growing up in other environments than with a mother and a father who are married – especially single-parent families and stepfamilies – lead to greater risk of well-being, including greater risk of dropping out of school, of having to leave home early, of poorer health, poorer skills and low pay.
- The Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy published findings of the president of the Marriage Law Foundation Monte Neil Stewart in 2009 which says every stronger current rigorous social science studies have ever more firmly established that family form matters and the children receive maximum private welfare when they are raised by a married mother and a father in a low conflict marriage.
- The liberal-leaning think-tank Brookings Institute – certainly not a fan of our position here – looks at the relationship between marriage and poverty and concluded that strong marriage and high marriage rates in society are among the most successful anti-poverty programs in history.
There is social science evidence that is unanimous and that says high marriage rates and strong marriages raise the economic level of the children and parents alike. Low marriage and family breakup increase poverty. Having two married parents is the best environment for children.
Marriage brings not only clear economic benefits but social benefits as well enabling children to grow up and to be more successful than they may be otherwise.
Marriage matters greatly especially for the socio-economic middle and lower class. In all Western countries, the highest socio-economic groups are much more likely to be married and to raise children within marriage than people in the lowest or lower socio-economic groups. There is a strong connection between family type and poverty.
The less well the family functions, the less people are encouraged to get married and to stay together and the poorer they are.
Being poor lowers the odds of being married, but, conversely, being married lowers the odds of being poor.
One-parent families are more than twice as likely to live in consistent poverty than two-parent families. When parents are not married and the father does not live under the same roof a third of children don’t have contact with their father anymore by the time they turn 3.
Man-woman marriage is essential for the child’s psychological and social development
One of the immediate effects when marriage is weakened (and the best way to weaken marriage is to redefine it): the children are much less likely to grow up with their father.
The one thing that keeps the father in contact and in interaction with their children, the one strongest incentive is marriage.
A systematic review of longitudinal studies on the father’s involvement in children’s developmental outcomes from 2008 shows that there is a positive influence of father’s engagement and the children have better social, behavioral and psychological outcomes.
But besides that, social science also shows that children in intact married homes are less likely to suffer child poverty, are less likely to suffer sexual and physical abuse, are less likely to suffer physical and mental ill-health, are less likely to misuse drugs, to commit crime, to drop out of school, to suffer employment disadvantage and to become divorced and single parents and/or unwed parents themselves.
Marriage, an institution designed to protect children
So out of all human relationships – be they sexual relationships or non-sexual relationships – only marriage provides a child with a mother and a father who have made a public formal lasting commitment to one another.
This is not the same with saying that marriage exists only for children or that people marry simply in order to have children. People normally – let’s hope so – marry because they love each other. But children are the main reason why marriage interests the government.
Why should we consider to put in the Constitution the love life of people? Children are the main reason why this is interesting for the government and why this is relevant for a constitutional provision. And children are the main reason why it is a concern for Social Policy. And children of course are the main reason why marriage receives special status and special support.
Children may be deprived of parents through circumstances: death of a parent or of both parents. There are many circumstances. And these children must receive support.
But social policy should be aimed at ensuring that as many children as possible are raised by a married father and a married mother.
Every society in history has developed the institution of marriage mainly for that purpose. It is this child-centered view of marriage which is enshrined in article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in article 2 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Changing the definition of marriage to include other forms besides the unique union between a man and a woman, a husband and a wife, a mother and the father, to accommodate other types of relationships, including same-sex couples, logically leads us to say that being raised by one’s own mother and father does not matter for children.
This is in sharp contradiction with the overwhelming scientific evidence that both our mother and the father are crucially important for a child. So there is a rational evidence-based reason for keeping marriage to this one unique form: to a union between a man and a woman and for encouraging it through giving it unique status and special protection.
The key question that will be asked to you, the Romanian citizens in the referendum, is (maybe not framed in these words): should you have and preserve an institution which encourages mothers and fathers to raise their children together? This is the key question at stake. And should this unique institution be treated in a unique way, different from any other human relationship?
Those who claim that same-sex couples and married opposite-sex couples should be treated identically – which would be a consequence of course of redefining marriage – must demonstrate that there is no advantage to children in encouraging men and women to marry and stay together. They must demonstrate that it is not the best for children to be raised by their own mother and father.
In short, they have to demonstrate that there is no relevant difference between opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples or between man-and-woman couples and any other form of relationship, especially from the point of view of children. So there is a rational evidence-based reason for keeping marriage as a union between a man and a woman and for keeping the uniqueness of this institution in society.
Marriage benefits society – especially children – like no other relationship can. Romanians, as many nations before you in recent years, are free to keep this unique union unique.