SAN DIEGO, CA, March 26, 2013 ( - I saw an “ALL love is equal!” graphic posted up and down my news feed on Facebook this morning.  It’s designed to strike a chord with a person’s sense of justice and compassion, of course; quick and manipulative slogans are the fodder of politics – and fools.  My liberal arts-educated mind kicked in immediately, screaming, “No it isn’t!”  Deliberately disregarding the intended purpose of the graphic, I lectured my computer screen, “There are filial, agape, eros…”  

But, more to the point, although love is most certainly a prerequisite for marriage (these days, at least), it certainly is not the only one.  It is not enough.   Marriage is life-giving.  It is procreative.  It involves children.  Is it not more honorable to care for the wellbeing of children above the love – whatever love it might be – between adults?  Does society not have a greater responsibility to uphold laws that protect children?

Though I write pieces on the marriage debate for, I don’t usually jump into the debate of my own volition.   I live in the state of Prop 8 and in a culture that doesn’t value arguing as an avenue to discovering truth; instead, disagreement is a personal attack.  

My whole extended family on my father’s side is for redefining marriage and against anyone who thinks otherwise.  I qualify that with “my father’s side” because it is the loss of my father that makes my story just as relevant to the debate as that of the woman wanting to marry her girlfriend.

He passed away in 1997 suddenly – a ski accident.   I was thirteen; my brothers were eight and four.  We were devastated, of course.  And, although the youngest was too young at the time of our loss to remember or miss our dad, he joins the rest of us in suffering the absence of a father.  Not just a parental unit, a father.  Another mother - even two more - would not have remedied what we lacked; we needed a man. 

My mom did a great job, but she’d be the first one to say that it isn’t a slight to single mothers to say that fathers are needed.  Any time she attempted to assume a fatherly demeanor, it backfired.  We would either talk back or laugh at her, clearly lacking a healthy fear of “when Dad comes home.”  I have a vague memory of what that means, but I’m convinced my brothers have no point of reference. 

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Equally, children need mothers.  Mothers and fathers compliment one another in the raising of children.  The absence of one or the other (or both) has a devastating effect on children.  That is why “ALL love is equal” slogans really rub me raw.  Children are poised to suffer a severe injustice – one that I suffered - for pithy slogans and the idea that adults have a right to children. 

It’s the other way around: children have a right to a mother and a father.  If either is absent, the child suffers. 

My brothers suffered the absence of a father most noticeably in their transition into adulthood. No boy looks to his mother as an example of how to be a man.  And we live in a society typified by men running from fatherhood for most of their lives only to be trapped by it.  It is very uncommon for men to step into fatherhood for another man’s children. So, how does a boy become a man without a guide?  He struggles.  He looks to his peers.  My brothers did this.  What else were they to do? We had to move my youngest brother across the country to save him from his peer-fathers. 

While I still had the feminine example of my mother to learn how to become a woman, I lacked the unconditional love - and discipline - of a father.  As an adult, I lack the confidence - with men - that comes from the experience of a father expressing that unconditional love.  In the same vein, I am acutely aware of my discomfort with the fathers of my peers, even my own uncles.  I don’t know how to behave, how to relate.  I never had a guide.

Now, it must be said, many Christians will chime in at this point, “God is your father,” and specifically Catholics, “St. Joseph can be your adoptive father.”  Of course, being Catholic, I’ve relied on them.  But, spiritual fathers are not enough.  God placed us on this earth in families.  He designed us to beget children by the complimentary physical, emotional and spiritual natures of man and woman, giving children mothers and fathers.  

God is perfect, he can love the unlovable.  What I lacked was a fallen man - who is not so inclined to love the unlovable - loving me unconditionally anyway.  Girls need that assurance.  Any memory of that experience from my early childhood is too distant to help me now.  I know I am lovable by my intellect, but I don’t have the experiential knowledge of unconditional love.  Girls need their fathers for this, if for nothing else.  

With the debate going on about redefining marriage and rarely any mention of how this will affect the children, I’ve come to a realization about my own family.  Remember, my father’s family is convinced that to uphold the current definition of marriage is discriminatory and, as I’ve interpreted their rants, back-woods hillbilly bigoted.  They don’t know people who would challenge them on this whom they don’t already categorize as ignorant.  

I’m convinced they know my position by the fact that they don’t raise the topic with me.  I just might be an anomaly to them: the one person they know and love who challenges them on their ideas colored by the popular politics of “gender is a construct” and “ALL love is equal.” 

I’ve wondered for most of my life why they didn’t step in and make more efforts to be near my brothers and me after our loss.  But, perhaps I can now appreciate their consistency. I’ve come to suspect that my father’s family doesn’t see my father’s absence as an injustice for my brothers and me.  I’ve told them the effects of his loss on us, but they don’t seem to engage or validate our suffering.  Maybe to do so would put a crack in their advocacy for the redefinition of marriage, if they are to remain consistent. 

Not enough people are hearing the stories of the children raised without a mother and a father.   It is a serious story with consequences much more devastating than that of same-sex couples not being able to marry or adopt. 

Throughout history, the human child has been born to a mother and father.  It is our design and the means by which human societies have grown and flourished.  Therefore, it is an injustice of our fallen world that any child should lose a parent while young, but to say that this loss is no loss at all compounds the damage.  This is what redefining marriage does.