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"Children are the world's most valuable resource and its best hope for the future."
-- JOHN F. KENNEDY
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There are countless wonderful programs and organizations dedicated to making sure that kids are safe, involved in school and off drugs, out of poverty, eating healthier, not engaging in self-destructive behavior, and achieving their dreams.
I remember practicing "stop, drop and roll" in first grade, completing "Dare to Keep Kids Off Drugs" in fifth grade, and having teachers and counselors guide me through the right classes and activities to set me on a successful path to college. As a former teacher, I adapted curriculum to better meet individual student needs.
Politicians at both state and federal levels often focus their debates on whether policies will help or hurt children. Even courts are guided by the legal principle that family conflicts should be adjudicated to provide for "the best interests of the child."
It seems everyone realizes that what's best for kids should guide our governmental policies and social institutions. This is because children really are our most precious resource, and government and society have a compelling interest in seeing them thrive.
It is surprising, then, that the conversation about what the definition of marriage in Minnesota should be has left many who speak up about the best interests of kids labeled as "bigots," "haters," "discriminators" and worse.
Marriage is the most prochild institution we have -- and the only institution that connects children with their parents. Through marriage, men and women come together complementarily to form one union, not only for the benefit of the couple, but also for the children who benefit from being loved and raised by their mother and father.
Marriage says to society as a whole: For every child born, there is a recognized mother and father, accountable to the child and each other. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court has said that marriage is "fundamental to the very existence and survival of the [human] race."
The overwhelming body of social science supports what we already understand to be true -- children do best when raised by their married mother and father. As the journal Child Trends affirms, "[R]esearch clearly demonstrates that family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage."
Every child has a right to know and, to the extent possible, be cared for by the two people who brought them into the world. Not every marriage produces children, but every child has a mother and father. And we all have a right to live in a society that recognizes the importance of mothers and fathers for a child's well-being.
Men and women are equal in God's eyes, but that does not mean they are the same or interchangeable. Marriage brings men and women together to share unique and complementary gifts that have both individual and community benefits and forms a relationship with the capacity to bring forth new life.
Marriage between a man and a woman is a relationship unlike any other, and government has a compelling interest in supporting it. There are lots of loving and committed relationships in our lives, but they are not marriage.
The Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment simply preserves our current, timeless definition of marriage in our state Constitution, recognizing that kids do best when raised by their married mother and father. The amendment also honors what most Minnesotans understand to be true -- that marriage is about more than just the desires of adults who want to commit themselves to each other. Children are also an integral and indispensable part of the marital relationship.
The amendment also keeps voters in charge of the definition of marriage in Minnesota. Our opponents believe that judges and politicians in our state should be allowed to change our definition of marriage to something genderless that doesn't take kids into consideration, without permission from the people.
This very thing happened in Iowa in 2009 when the Iowa Supreme Court used a case that was factually nearly identical to a case pending in the Hennepin County District Court right now to overturn that state's statutory marriage laws (also very similar to Minnesota's own statutory marriage definition) and legalize same-sex "marriage."
Iowans never got the chance to vote on the issue, and polling at the time showed a strong majority in favor of maintaining the one-man, one-woman definition of marriage in Iowa.
The marriage amendment would prevent the same negative consequences to kids and parents in Minnesota that we have seen happening to parents and kids in the wake of Massachusetts's decision to legalize same-sex "marriage" in 2003. Children as young as kindergartners are taught about homosexual relationships. One brave parent who protested such instruction to his 6-year-old was arrested for "trespassing," spent the night in jail, and was taken to court in handcuffs.
Both the school systems and courts have ruled that parents who object to such instruction have no parental right to opt their children out of this instruction or even to prior notice of such instruction. At the eighth-grade level, students were instructed on lesbian sex, including the use of sex toys. When questioned about parents who would inevitably object, the teacher said, "Give me a break, [same-sex marriage] is legal now." And the list goes on.
There is nothing bigoted, hateful or discriminatory in talking about what is best for our kids. In fact, the time is only a few weeks away in Minnesota when we can speak up on behalf of our kids. We can show them that we do make our policies based on what's in their best interests and not based upon the desires of the day's political activists.
We can show them that they are part of the marital relationship and not just an afterthought, taking a distant second place to adult desire. We can preserve marriage, the most prochild institution ever created, as between one man and one woman in Minnesota.
We can vote "yes" for kids on the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment on Nov. 6.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.