Supporters for traditional marriage focus on children

Published: Thursday, Sept. 18 2014 10:25 p.m. MDT
Updated: 3 hours ago
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People hold signs during a "Stand for Marriage" rally at the Utah State Capitol, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014.
Michelle Tessier, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Supporters of traditional marriage returned to deck the Utah State Capitol in pink and blue Thursday night, a week before the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to hear Utah's appeal on behalf of its amendment banning same-sex unions in the state.
Their focus Thursday was on the children being raised by same-sex parents, citing the experiences of some of those children, now adults, who say their upbringing was incomplete without fathers in their home.
Mary Summerhays, the event's organizer, again emphasized the group's stance that the best place for children to be raised is in a home with a mother and a father. Summerhays displayed a picture of a lesbian couple from Salt Lake City holding up their baby girl in a press conference.
"These children are being created for the purpose of never having a father," a passionate Summerhays told the crowd. "It strains the credibility of the courts to suggest that children must give up their most formative relationships when they get in the way of adult relationships."
The event included a video message shared at previous traditional marriage rallies from Robert Oscar Lopez, a conservative author known nationally for sharing his experience being raised by same-sex parents. Lopez argues that children need both mothers and fathers, something that pained him throughout his life as he never knew his biological father.
Matt Spencer, communications director for the group Restore Our Humanity, working in support of same-sex marriage, issued a statement prior to the event asserting that regardless of what happens in the growing court battle, gay and lesbian couples will continue to form families and raise children.
"Gay and lesbian couples have, for decades, successfully raised beautiful and prosperous families and we will continue to do so with or without legal recognition," Spencer said. "These opponents claim to be pro-family and pro-children while at the same time, they promote discrimination that puts our families and our children in harm’s way."
Jennifer Roback Morse, founder of the Ruth Institute, said at the rally that redefining the civil and public purpose of marriage — legally linking children and their biological parents together — will lead to the eventual abolition of marriage in general.
"Vulnerable, helpless children deserve to know who their parents are," she said.
The group cheered as Rep. LaVar Christensen, R-Draper, who authored Utah's Amendment 3, read from the amendment as the event began. Christensen affirmed his belief that the state's definition of marriage, made into law by 66 percent of voters, is constitutional.
David Hunsaker, a young father and Ph.D. student who calls himself an advocate for children's rights, encouraged attendees to support traditional marriage simply by talking about what it means to them, beginning with conversations in their homes with their own families.
Hunsaker said conversations with his wife, and later with their friends, eventually led them to CanaVox, an activist group seeking to strengthen "marriage culture" across the country. He urged the same kind of conversation, whether it be kept to the privacy of a family's home or extend to involvement with other groups.
Gene Schaerr, lead counsel for the team defending the state, was greeted with a standing ovation as he took the stage to explain the status of the case and the next possible steps as the U.S. Supreme Court considers the appeals of Utah and four other states, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin.
Schaerr said he disagrees with recent local polls that say a growing group of Utahns and Americans now see same-sex marriage as inevitable.
"I'm not guaranteeing a victory, but I'm optimistic about our chances," he said.
Similar events were staged at the state Capitol earlier this year and last spring, both times met by counter protests from supporters of same-sex marriage. Lawrence met with a small group of supporters outside the Capitol prior to Thursday's rally, which devolved into a confrontation between one of the protesters and a woman on her way to the rally. For the most part, the protesters didn't come into the Capitol during the event.
Thursday's traditional marriage rally was smaller than previous events but still attracted about 600 people, according to organizers. Attendees were invited to register for a full-day Stand for the Family conference in Provo on Friday discussing the role of the traditional family and what supporters can do to discuss marriage issues with their friends and neighbors.