BURLINGTON, Vt. – The president of a Utah-based traditional marriage advocacy group warned Vermont citizens on Jan. 19 that a movement to legalize gay marriage in their state could have detrimental effects on the family and children.
“Marriage is a vital social institution. There's a reason that marriage as an institution is virtually universal around the world,” the Burlington Free-Press quoted attorney Monte Stewart of the Marriage Law Foundation as saying.
Stewart told the crowd of 100 people at the University of Vermont, mostly students and gay marriage supporters, that defining marriage as the union of two people regardless of gender would harm the traditional family and deny children the right to be raised by their biological mothers and fathers.
The crowd overwhelmingly decried Stewart’s position.
Saturday's event, sponsored by a newly formed, Rutland-based Vermont Marriage Advisory Council, drew a mostly negative response from students and community members who spoke during a question-and-answer session toward the end of the forum.
”It's nonsensical that marriage can't have multiple meanings,” Burlington resident Paul Deslandes told Stewart. “That's simply scare tactics.”
“Yes, marriage has evolved in your lifetime and in my lifetime,” Stewart responded. “But one thing has never changed. It is the union of man and woman at its core. Now, that could be changed legally, sure. But would it be wise?”
Stewart was joined by Patrick Fagan, a senior fellow for Family Research Council, a Christian Washington, D.C.-based marriage group. Fagan told the gathering that studies have shown children who grow up with their biological parents do better financially and socially throughout their lives. He also said that not enough studies had been done on same-sex couples to determine whether or not they made good parents.
Previously, Stewart had addressed the Vermont Commission on Family Recognition and Protection on Oct. 29. The legislative task force has been holding hearings about gay marriage to determine how it will affect the state if it is legalized.
The Jan. 19 discussion was sponsored by the Vermont Marriage Advisory Council, which formed last October because of what members say is the task force’s pro-gay marriage bias.
The commission is scheduled to issue a report on its findings in April.
In 2000, Vermont became the first state to offer civil unions to same-sex couples.