FEDERAL LEGISLATION should not require businesses to provide homosexual and cohabiting couples with the same benefits as married couples.
Making benefits such as health care available to all couples would undermine the institution of marriage by making it seem as if all relationships are equal. Marriage is, in fact, very different from cohabitation and homosexual relationships, and therefore it should not be treated as the equivalent of these relationships. Marriage should be privileged because, unlike cohabitation and homosexual relationships, it serves public purposes: namely, procreation and the benefit of children, adults and society.
The evidence suggests that children living with married parents have the best chance of becoming happy, healthy, responsible, morally upright citizens. Compared with children raised in other family structures, they are the least likely to be abused and they have better emotional health and engage in fewer risky behaviors, including substance abuse, delinquency and premarital sex. Also, children with married parents fare better economically and experience greater educational success.
Marriage also positively affects adults, as married people have better emotional and physical health and live longer than do unmarried people. A 2003 study in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that married people are much less likely to suffer from depression than are single people. Also, married people have higher incomes than single adults, and the longer they stay married, the more wealth they accumulate. Moreover, compared with unmarried women, married women are much safer, because they are the least likely to be abused by an intimate partner.
These benefits of marriage greatly impact society. Marriage makes homes safer places to live because it curbs social problems such as domestic violence and child abuse. Communities with more married-parent families are safer and better places to live because they have less substance abuse and crime among young people and less poverty. Also, the beneficial health effects of marriage help to lower health care costs among individuals, private insurance companies and government.
Relationships such as cohabitation and homosexuality do not benefit children and society, and therefore they should not receive domestic partnership benefits. There is no evidence showing that these relationships have the same positive effects as marriage. In fact, there's considerable evidence that they have detrimental effects on both children and adults.
Children living in cohabiting households are more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems - such as not getting along with peers, difficulty with concentration and feeling depressed - compared with children living with married biological parents. Also, they are more likely to do poorly academically and to live in poverty.
Cohabiting couples have much higher rates of depression and domestic violence than do married couples. In a 2002 study published in the Journal of Family Issues, cohabiting couples reported rates of physical aggression in their relationships that were three times higher than those reported by married couples. Also, cohabitants are twice as likely as married people to be unfaithful.
Married couples who premaritally cohabit are more likely than those who do not to have greater communication problems, a lower commitment to marriage and a higher risk of divorce. In a 2003 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, married couples who lived together before marriage had a 65 percent greater "risk of dissolution" than did couples who did not live together before marriage.
Because cohabitation and homosexual relationships negatively affect children, adults and society, these relationships should not be encouraged by receiving the same benefits and status as a marriage.
In fact, offering domestic partnership benefits may even discourage marriage. For example, cohabiting couples with children may see no reason to marry if they receive the same benefits as married couples. Meanwhile, their children are denied the security, love and attention of two married parents.
Only marriage should be privileged. Not only is it a good place for adults, but it provides the best environment for raising children - our future.
Tony Perkins is president of the Family Research Council in Washington.