Last week the New Hampshire Senate Judiciary Committee heard public testimony on HB 437, a bill to legalize "same-gender" civil unions (essentially homosexual marriage). There was a lot of excellent testimony against this ridiculous plan. Sadly I cannot reproduce most of it here, but only my own testimony. Sadly the Judiciary Committee recommended passage of the bill, which the Senate passed on to the Governor's desk.
(The political background to this entire sordid affair is that the Democrats, thanks to disorder in the state and national Republican Party organizations—thanks President Bush!—, took control of the NH legislature for the first time since 1911. Governor Lynch is also a sly Democrat, with whom the state GOP leadership have dim-wittedly made peace.)
But first here is the reasoning I sent to an libertarian acquaintance who favors the civil union bill:
The civil union bill is really an attempt to use the power of the nanny state to commandeer benefits given to heterosexuals for the good of the community.
I agree that all people should be equally protected under the law (including the unborn), but are homosexual unions actually equal? Do they equally serve the common good as well as heterosexual marriages? Definitely not. It's been extensively experimentally verified over millennia that homosexual couples don't produce children. If it were an equality issue, then why wouldn't the bill's proponents allow civil unions for non-sexual couples or groups?
The problem with civil unions is that they are just a relabelling of marriage (notice that they change the marriage RSAs, and the dissolution of a union is through the divorce protocol), and the attempt of a relatively wealthy minority (homosexuals are largely DINKs) to tap into priviledges the state affords to heterosexual married couples to make it easier for them to have the children that form the future of the state. From the state's perspective, marriage is a very practical thing--nothing sacred about it.
There are other legislative ways to provide for any two people to have access to each other's medical records, inheritance, etc. Civil unions aren't necessary for that. It's an attempt to redefine marriage. A state that already has a birth dearth (and future shortage of workers) can ill afford to tinker with redefining marriage and family life (yes, the law has a pedagogical effect). The fact that states with civil union laws (Maine and Vermont) are the oldest states in the country (Mass. only escapes by having a large immigration rate--legal and otherwise) should give us pause before we decide to follow them down the population toilet (to the future ruin of our economy).
The hearing began at 1:15pm. After two hours of testimony by legislators (almost entirely in favor—the House had passed the bill by a large majority), the people finally got to speak and they were mostly against the bill. My turn to speak arrived at 5:15. What I said played off the previous spoken testimony and covered the following points:
- There's been a lot of talk of individual rights, and individual feelings and beliefs, but very little about the common good of the people of the state.
- There's been a lot of talk of equality. But are same-sex unions equal in ability to contribute to the common good? No, same-sex couples cannot produce children.
- Same-sex unions have been portrayed as the wave of the future, but the future of the state will be formed by the children of traditional families.
- How do you want to be remembered by posterity? As the anomalous generation of short-sighted lawmakers who voted in a perk for a vocal minority—a perk that diluted the uniqueness of marriage at the expense of children and the economic future of the state? Or do you want to be remembered as the far-sighted defenders of a now-voiceless posterity?
Previous testimony had covered these two points (and because of shortage of time, we were asked not to repeat what had already been said:
- Research shows how important both mother and father are to the well being of children.
- The law has a teaching function.
The following is the testimony I submitted to the NH Senate Judiciary Committee. One paragraph may look familiar to regular readers of this forum.
Say 'No' to Civil Unions
- Civil unions will erode the uniqueness of traditional marriage.
- The structure of the traditional heterosexual family is inscribed in our human nature; the future of our state is born in the traditional family.
- Same-sex couples do not conceive children and raise children.
- In addition to drawing on the financial incentives given traditional families, civil unions would dilute the uniqueness of marriage as a sexual union that produces an objective good for the community.
- New Hampshire has a dearth of young people to join the work force (see data); we can ill afford to exacerbate this situation by enacting anti-family legislation.
- We don’t want to follow the rest of New England down the population sink hole. Our economic future rides on our children.
- How do you want to be remembered by posterity—a posterity that will almost entirely be raised in traditional families?
Many opponents of this bill will argue that on some sort of religious grounds. In contrast, I argue that it is simply foolish public policy. Our common human nature and the health of the state argue that you should oppose this bill.
Human Nature and the Essentialness of the Traditional Family
Independent of religious beliefs, whether one believes in almighty God or almighty evolution, there is a wisdom in nature that we ignore at our peril. There’s a reason that it takes one man and one woman to produce a baby. The uniqueness of traditional one man-one woman marriage needs to be preserved because it is the only institution that has any consistent success in raising well-adjusted adults. This is not to say that traditional marriage is flawless, but simply that it is the best and the largely the only way that human have raised children throughout history.
Why is the family so essential to raising children? How do we know? Notice that human children aren’t born with claws or fangs or fast legs. Unlike other animals who know what to do by instinct, human behaviors are largely learned. The child is born into the world tiny and defenseless, but nature has provided the community it needs to sustain its life in the persons of its parents. The presence of both parents is the optimal setting for the child’s maturation. Please note that I’m not saying that it’s impossible to raise good children without certain conditions, but merely about what is optimal. Studies show, for example, that children from two-parent families have higher educational achievement and lower dropout rates. Studies also show that the presence of both a mother and a father is important, that they fulfill complementary roles in child development. A child’s emotional bond with its mother builds its capacity for intimacy and empathy, and its sense of self-worth. Children whose fathers are involved in their upbringing have better emotional health, academic achievement, and, on growing up, higher job status. Daughters especially benefit from their fathers by learning that they are loveable and how to appreciate their own femininity. The presence of both parents models for the children interactions between the sexes. (Maher) Marriage is the way that human culture provides for the upbringing of children, and this is the reason that societies with even the most exotic moral beliefs and practices have treasured marriage. Detracting from marriage hurts the well-being of children.
Same-sex couples do not produce children, and by and large they do not desire to raise children by adoption. The same-sex couples who would be united civilly will not produce coming generations; by their nature they disqualify themselves from the Darwinian struggle for survival, and drag the state as a whole into the same category.
It might be argued that same-sex unions won’t detract from traditional families. The problem with that argument is that it ignores the pedagogic function of law. By normalizing same-sex unions, the state will be giving them a tacit approval that weakens traditional heterosexual marriage by diluting its uniqueness, saying that sexual unions are primarily for the satisfaction of the couple and need not contribute to the common good by being open to children, as the dynamic of natural human sexuality indicates. (Certainly not all heterosexual couples can produce children, but notice that if they did, it would be unusual, but not contravention of nature—a man and a woman are the kinds of beings whom nature intends to be united.)
Perhaps you’ve been listening to the NHPR series this week on “The Graying of New Hampshire.” Our state is suffering from a dearth of young working-age people (see appendix). Lower growth in working-age population creates labor shortages, a more expensive business environment in which employers having trouble finding workers. Certainly this is part of the larger trend of young people from New England and the Northeast to migrate south and west, but New Hampshire has always had an independence of spirit that has allowed it to buck regional trends.
New Hampshire has a diminishing population growth rate. At 0.6% per year, it is overall much lower than that of the nation as a whole. Meanwhile our elderly population is growing 2% per year. Five of the ten counties of NH have a net negative growth rate from natural causes (i.e., death rate higher than birth rate). (Knoy, et al.)
NH has a median age of almost 40 and is the sixth oldest state in nation. (The oldest is Maine, followed by Vermont). In 1990 we had same median age as rest of country, so we've grown older more rapidly. New Hampshire has the third lowest fertility rate in nation (for reasons not wholly negative). (Knoy, et al.)
Northeast has been subject to a long-term downward demographic trend. New Hampshire has historically managed to buck this trend by being the one state with substantial growth in New England. (Knoy, et al.) Will we throw away our New Hampshire distinctiveness, our advantage, to follow the losing crowd by enacting such anti-family policies as same-sex unions?
The traditional family is the granite bedrock of our state’s future. Licensing same-sex unions will erode the uniqueness of traditional marriage and family. The same-sex couples who would be united civilly will not have children. They will not produce the coming generations who will write history. The future of our state is born in the traditional heterosexual family.
This is not to say that rejecting civil unions will reverse the aging of our state, but that enacting them is part of the general trend of slighting the upbringing of children and the future of our state. Enacting civil unions will exacerbate a bad situation. Certainly the world won’t come to an abrupt end if civil unions come to NH, but the world can pass away slowly too. Civil unions would contribute to the decline of the state’s population.
We can follow the rest of New England down the population sink-hole, or we can retain our identity, our distinctiveness.
Civil unions are portrayed as the way of the future, but what seems unavoidable and permanent often times becomes a thing of yesterday. A few decades ago the Soviet Union seemed like an eternal verity, but then in the span of a few years it just faded into a bad memory. Civil unions will likewise be come to seen a temporary fad, something that belongs to the old days. Scientific data backs common sense in telling us that they are part of dead-end anti-family policies.
How do you want to be remembered by posterity? As the anomalous generation of short-sighted lawmakers who voted in a perk for a vocal minority—a perk that diluted the uniqueness of marriage at the expense of children and the economic future of the state? Or do you want to be remembered as the far-sighted defenders of a now-voiceless posterity?
For the future of our state, I urge you to oppose the civil union bill.
Appendix: Demographic Data
New Hampshire has a diminishing population growth rate. It was formerly over 1% per year and above the national average and now at 0.6% is much slower than nation as a whole. Meanwhile our elderly population growing 2%/year. (Knoy, et al.)
[Polecon Research Chart: “The Concern: Labor Force Growth in NH Will Decline Significantly, It Will Be Concentrated Among Older Workers, and Combined With Retirements Will Create Severe Labor Shortages”]
[Polecon Research Chart: “NE is Older: A Big Reason NE is ‘Aging’ is VT, ME, and NH Have the Lowest Fertility Rates for Women 15-44 Among All States, Boosting Median Age”]
“NH’s Fertility and Mortality Rates Are Lower And Declining Faster Than The US Rates, Boosting Median Age More in NH…. Had NH’s fertility rate matched the US average, another 67,000 children would have been born in the state since 1985, significantly reducing NH’s growth in median age.” (Gottlob presentation)
“Aging is a permanent, irreversible consequence of low average family size and longer life expectancies in developed societies. Because NH has both wealthier and healthier older citizens (on average) than does the US, we expect greater longevity. As we discuss below, NH also has among the lowest fertility rates of any state in the nation and this, more than anything, accounts for our increasing median age relative to the US. From an economic and fiscal perspective, the importance of population aging is that it implies a reduction in the ratio of economic production to consumption. In demographic terms, there is an increase in the number of “dependent” citizens relative to the number of citizens who can support them.” (Gottlob newsletter)
[Francese graphic: “Chart II: Shifting New England age structure 2000-2005”]
- “People ages 65 + are rising rapidly in NH but not in other New England states
- “People age 18-24 are growing fast, but little incentive for them to stay as they age
- “The highest growth rate & largest increase is, as expected & planned, ages 55-64”
[Francese graphic: “Chart III: New Hampshire age profile in 2015”]
- “By 2015 Baby Boomers will be ages 50 - 70 & NH’s median age will be nearly 45
- “A smaller pool of young workers suggests more jobs are likely to go unfilled”
Peter Francese, “New Hampshire Futures: Demographic trends to inform your planning decisions,” accessed March 9, 2006.
Brian Gottlob, “Will Demographics Be New Hampshire’s Downfall?” (presentation to the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, January 24, 2007), accessed March 9, 2007.
Brian J. Gottlob, Trend Lines NH: Economic, Fiscal, Demographic and Policy Insights for NH (newsletter), accessed March 9, 2007, p. 2.
Kay S. Hymowitz, “Marriage and Caste,” City Journal (Winter 2006).
Laura Knoy (host), Brian J. Gottlob, Peter Francese, “How Are We Growing Old - And Why?” The Exchange, NHPR broadcast on Monday, April 9, 2007.
Bridget E, Maher, “The Benefits of Marriage,” Family Research Council Website.
Brenda Hunter, Ph.D., The Power of Mother Love (Waterbrook Press: Colorado Springs, 1997) 104.
Mohammadreza Hojat, "Satisfaction with Early Relationships with Parents and Psychosocial Attributes in Adulthood: Which Parent Contributes More?" The Journal of Genetic Psychology 159 (1998): 203-220, as cited in The Family in America New Research, The Howard Center (October 1998).
Jay Teachman, et al., "Sibling Resemblance in Behavioral Cognitive Outcomes: The Role of Father Presence," Journal of Marriage and the Family 60 (November 1998): 835-848.
Timothy J. Biblarz and Greg Gottainer, "Family Structure and Children's Success: A Comparison of Widowed and Divorced Single-Mother Families," Journal of Marriage and the Family 62 (May 2000:) 533-548.
David Popenoe, Life Without Father: Compelling New Evidence That Fatherhood and Marriage Are Indispensable for the Good of Children and Society (Cambridge:Harvard University Press, 1996) 143-149.