The Right Opinion

Beck, Marriage and The State of The Union

By Ken Blackwell · Dec. 8, 2012

My buddy, Glenn Beck, has made a great contribution to the TEA party movement and to a renewal of popular interest in our Founding Fathers and their ideals. For all that he deserves praise.

But, I believe, he is making a serious error in abandoning the civil right of marriage. The Republican Party was founded in opposition to two historic wrongs. The party’s first platform in 1856 denounced “slavery and polygamy – the twin relics of barbarism.” Slavery was finally put down with a terrible toll – 630,000 Americans dead in the Civil War. The new movie, Lincoln, tells the dramatic story of the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery.

Polygamy was successfully fought with laws. Throughout the latter third of the nineteenth century, Republican presidents and Republican Congresses fought against this relic of barbarism. President Rutherford B. Hayes called upon Congress to make it a law for the western territories: an American must take an oath he is not a polygamist before he could vote for statehood, before he could even serve on a jury! That’s a pretty strong stance for marriage.

Faced with this unyielding opposition, the Mormon Church wisely reconsidered its position on polygamy. Mormons desperately wanted to be included in the American Union. They were willing to give up a sincerely held tenet of their new religion in order to gain acceptance.

This turnabout led to one of the funniest episodes in congressional history. When Church Elder Reed Smoot was elected by Utah to serve in the U.S. Senate, he was vigorously opposed. Critics said that even though Smoot was not a polygamist himself, he had strongly supported polygamy as one of the Mormon Council of Twelve. Idaho Sen. William E. Borah, a fellow Republican and also a Mormon with only one wife, rose to argue for seating Smoot. “I would rather serve in this august body with a polygamist who doesn’t polyg than with a monogamist who doesn’t monog.” Smoot was seated. Washington scuttlebutt had it that T.R.’s daugher, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, was only with difficulty dissuaded from naming her newborn daughter Deborah (from Borah).

The LDS Church has since become a mainstay of support for traditional marriage. BYU Family Science Ph.D.s have provided some of the best scholarship supporting the tradition family. They clearly understand the difficulties that arise for the dignity and standing of women – and especially the hardships for children – that stem from plural marriage.

Glenn should have been at the Newseum four years ago. There, before an overflow crowd, George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley said: “I know opponents of gay marriage say it will lead to polygamy. Well, I’m for that.”

Turley’s shocking comments were wildly cheered by the room full of journalists, liberal congressional aides, and federal law clerks. True to his word, Prof. Turley has gone to court trying to overturn bans on polygamy.

Glenn told an interviewer: “The question is not whether gay people should be married or not, the question is: why is the government involved in our marriage.”

Okay, it’s a civil question that deserves a civil answer: Children need and children have a right to the married love of a mother and father. Every reputable social science study shows that children do best when they have a loving, married mother and father in the home. They have better outcomes for health, education, and welfare. Children of married parents are less likely to commit crimes, far less likely to be victims of violence and sexual abuse, far less likely to fail in school, far less likely to drop out, use drugs, get pregnant out of wedlock.

If we care about children and the future of this nation, we cannot casually dismiss the institution of marriage.

Secretary Tim Geithner certainly understands the fiscal impact of out-of-wedlock births. Liberal that he is, Geithner said we cannot cut Medicaid spending – the main driver of deficits – because forty percent of all children born today are eligible for Medicaid. He means the 41% born out of wedlock.

Married parents want to care for their own children. They usually do not want the Nanny State. Single parents and cohabiting parents are often forced to rely on government assistance.

If you want Socialism, abolish marriage. If you want “Julia” to be the future of America, vote against the civil institution of marriage. Julia, of course, was the Obama campaign team’s fictional single woman target voter. Julia goes from Head Start to college, parenthood, to retirement in a seamless web of dependency on government. She decides to have a child at age 29. No man in her life is even hinted at – no husband, no father, no brother, not even a male friend or business partner. Except one. The One: Mr. Federal Government.

It's hard to understand why anyone would want to end traditional marriage. It’s the HOV lane to the Welfare State. Why any conservative, libertarian, or Republican would want to advance this process is a mystery.

Hollywood star Mae West was certainly no model for married life. WWII sailors called their buoyant life jackets their Mae Wests. But Mae West was onto something when she said: “Marriage is a great institution. I’m just not ready for an institution.”

I invite Glenn to spend just one hour with the Family Research Council’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute’s (MARRI) scholars. They are his type of intellectuals, and I think he would be moved by their body of work.

Traditional marriage is a great institution. And it’s never been in greater danger.