Philosopher kings: Transformative decisions best left to people's representatives

Published: Sunday, July 13 2014 12:00 a.m. MDT

When they did consider children, the majority focused on child rearing rather than child bearing, simply noting without concern that children of same-sex couples “may lack a biological connection to at least one parent.” Yet decades of research, and a generation of fatherless children, confirms that children do best when they grow up with both biological parents.

The majority unhesitatingly condemns as a “palpable harm” the effect of Amendment 3 to “deny to the children of same-sex couples the recognition” that the couples are married. But it dismisses, as merely “a claim of uncertainty,” the reality that children need a mother and father. This value judgment makes societal recognition of being raised by a married couple more important than the sociological reality of being raised by a married mother and father.

The two-judge majority insists that same-sex marriage is a constitutional imperative, but Judge Kelly’s dissenting opinion clarifies that “this case is best understood as an effort to extend marriage to persons of the same gender by redefining marriage.” The catalyst for that change may be well-meaning support for diversity, but the impetus is actually society’s changing attitudes about the fundamental meaning of marriage.

Prioritizing adults’ choice and status in marriage diminishes children’s needs for completeness and stability from marriage. Of course, democratic peoples are free to change marriage’s meaning. But such transformative decisions are best left to the people’s representatives, rather than to unelected judges faced with the temptation, in Judge Kelly’s words, of being “philosopher kings.”

Michael Erickson is an attorney. Jenet Erickson is a family science researcher. They live in Salt Lake City.

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