Defending the Family

Remarks delivered by Cathy Ruse
Senior Fellow for Legal Studies, Family Research Council
World Congress of Families, Salt Lake City
October 28, 2105

I am Cathy Ruse with the Family Research Council. I’m a Catholic Christian, and that means it’s impossible for me to believe that marriage is anything other than the union of a man and a woman. No law and no judge will ever make me change that belief.

I’m a mother, and as a mother I know that no man can be a mother, just as I could never be a father. And children need both. All mothers know this. Single mothers know it best of all. But elites in the media and in academia laugh at this proposition. They scoff at it. They say everyone knows it doesn’t matter whether children are raised in same-sex households or opposite-sex households. It’s all the same. And if you disagree you’re a bigot and you’re on the wrong side of history.

Well I disagree. If “two fathers” is the same as a “mother and father” then mothers are disposable. Unnecessary. As a mother, I know that’s a lie. My children need what I can give them as a woman and as their mother. I’m not replaceable by a man. No man could do my job.

Finally, I’m a lawyer. So many in my profession are so blinded by ideology that they can’t see the simplest things. There is a simple legal question: Why is government involved in marriage in the first place? Why is marriage a public institution? Why isn’t it simply a private religious rite, like Baptism or Holy Orders? Why is government involved at all?

There is a simple legal answer: Children.

The reason marriage has always been a public institution is because of children. Men and women make babies, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident. That is a fact that every society in all of history has had to deal with and will have to deal with until the end of time. As a society, what ought to be done with the babies that come from the physical union of men and women? Should government institutions be created to feed and clothe them and raise them to adulthood? No. A better idea is to encourage the men and women that become mothers and fathers to raise their children, in stable unions. Because when men and women raise their children in stable unions it is good for the children and good for society. And that is why marriage is a public institution. That is why states give out marriage licenses. Because of children. Children.

The law has never been concerned with love. What you feel is not the government’s business. The law is concerned with less lofty things. Like what are you two going to do with that child you’ve made: Are you going to leave her on the steps of City Hall, or are you going to feed her, clothe her, and raise her to be a citizen of this society? Who you love has never been the government’s business. Until now. Now who you love is the government’s business. Now a public marriage license is a government stamp-of-approval for your personal feelings. Now a government official waits at a desk for people to approach and declare their love. We The Government Approve Your Love. Now go forth and enjoy the dignity we have conferred on your personal feelings.

Those who brought about this change in marriage law did it for one purpose only: to create public sanction for a relationship that was not sanctioned by private religion. Tolerance was not enough. Live and let live was not enough. Official approval was required. And while you’re at bake my cake or lose your house. Americans did not ask for this change. We were not persuaded by the arguments. There is too much Christianity in the American heart to agree to something that is so clearly at odds with the Christian faith. When the question was put to the people in nearly every state of the union, the people voted to keep the institution of marriage as it had always been.

Recall that gay activists were confident going into many of these contests because the opinion polls promised them big wins. Yet when the people stepped into the ballot box, man-woman marriage won. Polls are one thing. Polling places are another. In the privacy of the voting booth, you’re free from the bullies. Free to consider what marriage means. And what children really need.

When historians write about the politics of marriage during the first American decade of the twenty-first century, will they write that in the year 2000 Nebraskans voted overwhelmingly to define marriage in their state law as the union of a man and a woman. And in 2004 Arkansans codified man-woman marriage as the law of their state. And Georgians did too, in theirs. And Kentuckians. And Michiganians. And North Dakotans too.

That in 2004 the people of the great state of Utah voted overwhelmingly to keep man-woman marriage the law of their state. As did Oklahomans in their state. And Ohioans in theirs, and Louisianans in theirs.

That in 2005 Texans voted to keep man-woman marriage the law of the Lone Star State.

And in 2006 Coloradans codified it in their state, Idahoans in theirs, South Carolinians in theirs, and South Dakotans in theirs. And Tennesseans, Virginians, and Wisconsinites in theirs.

That in 2008 Floridians made man-woman marriage the official law of the Sunshine State. And Arizonans made it the law of the Grand Canyon State. And Californians made it the law of the Golden State.

That in 2009 Mainers codified man-woman marriage and in 2012 North Carolinians did too.

Will historians write that by the year 2012, 50 million Americans had stepped into voting booths from coast to coast and said no to changing the institution of marriage.
Historians won’t write this.

What will they write about what happened next. Will they write that in 2013 a federal judge struck down the law that the people of Utah had passed to keep marriage a man-woman institution. That in 2014 a federal judge struck down the law passed by the people of Oklahoma. And another, by the people of Virginia. And another, by the people of Texas. And, another, by the people of Michigan.

Will they write that a handful of federal judges struck down the laws passed by the people of Ohio, of Arkansas, of Idaho. And another struck down the laws passed by the people of Oregon, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Colorado, and Florida.

Certainly they will write that in 2015 five lawyers on the highest court struck down the rest of the laws passed by the rest of the people – but they won’t write it in that way. Instead, they’ll speak of a “shift in American attitudes.” They’ll use phrases like “tidal wave” and “sea change.” They’ll ruminate on how rapidly Americans embraced the new paradigm. But that will be an illusion. It will be a lie. All that really can be said is that a handful of liberal judges embraced it, and imposed it on the rest of us.

The other side wants those of us who believe in man-woman marriage to think that America is against us and that the world is against us. And certainly it feels that way. But that’s an illusion too. They don’t want us to count the countries that embrace same-sex marriage because there are just 20. Out of 193 UN member states. Out of 220 countries worldwide.

They don’t want us to count the nations that have imposed same-sex marriage on their people by order of a judge, because there are just 2: Brasil, and now the United States.

They don’t want us to notice that Eastern Europeans are changing their constitutions to protect the man-woman definition of marriage. One after another after another. They don’t want us to remember that 1.5 million Spaniards took to the streets of Madrid to protest changing the definition of marriage – the equivalent of 10 million Americans marching on Washington. Or to remember the multiple, massive protests in France: Over a million Frenchmen and women crowding the streets of Paris to fight against changing the definition of marriage.

But we must remember it all. And tell the story of how Americans tried to preserve man-woman marriage, and how a few liberal judges threw 50 million votes in the trash.

In order to move forward in the future we have to understand the past. We have to understand what just happened. The truth of it, not the spin. Mothers must proclaim the importance of motherhood, and fathers of fatherhood. That children need mothering and fathering, not just two grownups in the home. This is a fundamental truth that can no longer be taken for granted, it must be taught.

And finally, we must fight for the right to live and work according to our beliefs. Our enemy in this fight is not our neighbor, not even the 1.6 percent of our neighbors who identify as gay. Our enemy are those who would be our masters: The judge who jails a clerk for failing to write her signature. The magistrate who takes the home of a baker for want of a cake. No government official can force us to bend the knee at the altar of a foreign god. If we cannot secure this freedom in law, we must live it in peaceful civil disobedience of the law.

cathy ruse
Cathy Ruse
Senior Fellow – Legal Studies
Cathy Ruse has devoted her professional career to promoting the dignity of the human person. Her professional experience spans the fields of communication, public policy, and law.

Mrs. Ruse was Chief Counsel to the Constitution Subcommittee in the House of Representatives where she had oversight of civil rights and human rights issues, as well as religious freedom and free speech matters which came before the House.

Mrs. Ruse received her law degree from Georgetown University and a certificate from the National Institute for trial advocacy during her work as a litigator in the District of Columbia. She holds an honorary doctoral degree from Franciscan University of Steubenville.

She has published scholarly legal articles on a variety of constitutional issues, has filed “Friend of the Court” briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court in cases involving abortion, euthanasia, and pornography, and has testified as an expert in congressional hearings in the U.S. House and Senate.

Mrs. Ruse served for several years as the chief spokesperson on human life issues for the U.S. Catholic Bishops. She was co-host of the cable television program Legal Notebook, and has made national and international media appearances, including PBS’ “Firing Line,” CNN’s “Crossfire,” and Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” among many others. Her writing has been published in the Wall Street journal, USA Today, The Christian Science Monitor, the Washington Times, and other national and regional newspapers and publications. In 1997 Wired magazine called Mrs. Ruse “one of the most influential opinion shapers in the country.”

Mrs. Ruse served as legal director of Family Research Council in the mid-1990s and was legal counsel and program director for the National Law Center for Children and Families, a law firm devoted to strengthening and defending laws against pornography.

In 2004 she and her husband, Austin Ruse, received the John Paul II Award for Advancing the Culture of Life from the Institute for the Psychological Sciences. In 2006 they received the Defender of Life Award from American Collegians for Life.