Father’s Day is this Sunday. A time to celebrate fathers throughout America, it is also a time to bring renewed attention to the consequences of fatherless households.
President Obama has been a powerful spokesman for those growing up without a father, drawing on personal experience that he recalls frequently. Consider his words in a commencement address last month at all-male Morehouse College:
I was raised by a heroic single mom, wonderful grandparents — made incredible sacrifices for me. And I know there are moms and grandparents here today who did the same thing for all of you. But I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved.
Didn’t know my dad. And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father was not for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle where a father is not at home — where a father is not helping to raise that son or daughter. I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man.
The President’s words offer heartfelt testimony to the sadness and loss of never knowing the love and support of a father. It is just as important, however, to emphasize marriage as the context that gives the greatest permanence and stability to a father’s relationship to his children and their mother. Sadly, though, President Obama overlooked that significant connection in the same commencement address to the young male audience:
Keep setting an example for what it means to be a man. Be the best husband to your wife, or your boyfriend, or your partner. Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important.
There’s a conflict between these two statements, between the President’s stated desire to have had a father in his life alongside his mother and his support for same-sex marriage. President Obama has beautifully stated that fathers are essential, but his support for same-sex marriage would enshrine fatherless households into law and teach that fathers are optional.
This Father’s Day, as Americans await the Supreme Court’s decisions this month in two cases challenging state and federal marriage law (Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act), too many have lost sight of what marriage is, why it matters and the consequences of redefining it.
Redefining marriage would further separate it from the needs of children. It would put the desires of adults before the needs of children. As social science confirms, children need a mom and a dad. Marriage exists because of that reality.
Even as we pause this Sunday to honor fathers, it’s good to know that no poll, no pundit, no politician can undo that truth.