“Steady as she goes” was the advice we received a few years ago after a sudden tragic death. Now that is the message we share with Utahns after the loss of Utah’s marriage amendment.

Judge Robert Shelby’s overturn of Amendment 3, which was originally approved by 2 out of 3 Utah voters, has left thousands of Utahns feeling betrayed and confused. As Utah Gov. Gary Herbert stated, this ruling “created a chaotic situation in our state.”

Shelby’s ruling may have changed the law, but it does not change our view of marriage. Children still need a mother and a father, and marriage between a man and a woman is still the foundation of society.

Marriage is more than an emotional bond between adults; it is about safely connecting children to the mother and father who created them. While it is true that not all married couples have children, every child has a father and a mother. Adoption provides a married father and mother for children whose natural parents cannot. Adoptive parents (including my husband and myself) understand that you don’t have to have “the ideal family” to support the ideal of the family.

One federal judge’s opinion cannot undo what eons of time and decades of social science confirm — that children do best with a married mother and father in the home. Research from the 1950s showed how essential mother love and attachment was for children. Later research demonstrated the many ways a father's presence matters. In addition, copious research has shown the critical impact marriage itself has on children’s safety and well-being. In short, “Over thirty years of research confirms that children fare best when reared by their two biological parents in a loving low conflict marriage.”

Government did not create marriage, it has simply recognized its critical societal contribution. As one traditional marriage advocate testified to the Maryland Legislature, “Society gives ‘benefits’ to marriage because marriage gives benefits to society.” Dr. Robert P. George of Princeton University further explained in a recent visit to Utah, “The family based on the marital commitment between husband and wife is the original and best Department of Health, Education and Welfare. No government alternative can match it.”

In the wake of “Judicial tyranny,” many Utahns feel like their voice has been taken away. But there are many things we can do to show our support for traditional marriage while Amendment 3 is being appealed in the courts. Start by strengthening your own marriage. Teach your children the importance of mothers, fathers and marriage, as well as the importance of treating everyone with kindness and respect. Learn to articulate why traditional marriage matters “because children need a mother and a father.” Then let your voice be heard by signing the petition supporting traditional marriage in Utah and contacting your state legislators.

Steady as she goes, Utah. This is not a time to give up, it is a time to wake up. Our view of marriage is not hateful or irrational, it is time-honored, forward-looking, society-strengthening and a critical viewpoint to be able to discuss and defend in the public square.

Laura Bunker lives in Lehi and is the president of United Families International and co-chairwoman of the Utah First Freedoms Coalition.