The list of those who would defend the right of children to a mother and a father was shortened recently. Rather than uphold the law and social policy of the state, all seven members of the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against the state’s marriage law, legislating instead a new definition “free from the influences” of the majority of Iowans who oppose redefinition.

And in Vermont, at least three votes changed within a few days’ time to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. This change reflects the triumph of a short-term view of political persuasion and correctness, over a long-term view of the needs of future generations of Vermont’s children.

When one considers the social structure of civilization, family is clearly the foundational unit upon which the government rests. Families are created and held together by the lifelong commitment of a man and a woman who live cooperatively and raise and nurture the children born to them. Families are the building blocks essential to the formation of a community, and strong social structure arises from the foundation many families provide.

Not only is marriage vital to society, the benefits for individual adults and children are well-documented. In general, married people live longer, spend less time in the hospital, have higher incomes and enjoy greater emotional support. Children raised by their mother and father are less likely to live in poverty or drop out of school, are less likely to become sexually active in their teen years, and are more likely to finish college.

This beneficial family unit, however, faces unprecedented challenges including divorce, cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births and fatherlessness -– trends which contribute to lessened family, individual and community welfare. One study estimates that divorce and unwed childbearing alone cost U.S. taxpayers more than $112 million a year.

One of the primary concerns regarding the breakdown of the married, two-parent family is the impact on children. There is no mistaking more than 30 years of social science research that indicates children do best on every measure of well-being when raised by their married mother and father. Equally revealing is the research on the impact to children when the father-mother structure breaks down. Whether through divorce, cohabitation or same-sex "marriage," children in these circumstances fail to receive the full benefit of growing up with a married mother and father.

Marriage has thrived for centuries as the primary family unit of human society in a variety of cultures, but current attempts to mainstream same-sex couples and multi-partner groupings include demands to redefine the legal definition of marriage.  If successful, these efforts would intentionally weaken our most pro-child institution to serve a purpose for which marriage is ill-suited -- societal approval of the feelings and relationships of a minority of adults.