Interview: Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council

( [email protected] ) Nov 01, 2004 05:58 PM EST

Many pro-family issues are taking centerstage in the upcoming election, which explains why Family Research Council has been busy. One of the key focuses of the group has been the effort to protect traditional marriage. In addition to sponsoring a series of pro-traditional marriage rallies entitlded, "Battle for Marriage," FRC also took part in the recent "May Day for Marriage" rally at the National Mall in Washington D.C.

The Christian Post had a chance to speak to Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, on the main pro-family issues going before voters this election.

What are the top 5 pro-family issues at stake in this election?

The first is very evident. It's the issue of marriage. We have seen over the last eight months, with the actions of activist judges, the real possibility that marriage could be redefined out of the existence of our country.

Secondly, there is the all encompassing issue of the future make-up of the U.S. Supreme Court. The future of the court will be impacted greatly by the upcoming election. The next president will appoint anywhere from one to four justices.

Of course, under the courts, there are a number of key issues; you take the issue of abortion. Abortion was imposed by the courts. It has been maintained by the courts. If you give the people or their elected representatives the opportunity to speak on this matter a clear majority would restrict abortion, but their voices have been muted by the courts.

You got the issue of religious liberty, the Pledge of Allegiance, the Ten Commandments, prayer in schools--all these issues lead right back to the court.

That would be the third issue?

I think that there are a number of issues under the banner of the courts. I think you could take five issues right there under the umbrella of the courts. Domestically, those are the major issues.

Are you familiar with Bush's recent statement on civil unions? What would you say in response to Bush's statements on "Good Morning America"?

You have to understand that the party's platform. FRC and others amended the platform with that language, I actually wrote the language referenced in the interview, which pertain to the benefits of marriage. The platform does not say anything about civil unions. It talks about preserving the rights to the benefit afforded couples should be preserved for the unique and special union of one man and one woman which has historically been called marriage be preserved as such. The platform deals not only with national politics and what happens in the federal city, but it also pertains to the Republican Party and its activity in the 50 states. And at FRC, we hold the opinion and a number of states seem to hold the opinion, as shown by the amendments they have put on the ballot this fall, that marriage should be protected not only from same-sex marriage but other types of counterfeit unions, whether domestic partnerships or civil unions.

I'm fine with letting the states decide that issue. But we are encouraging the states to decide it the right way. And the Party is right for taking that position in its platform.

Most pro-family groups would agree that a family with a mother and father is the best for the well-being of the children. Supporters of gay marriage would argue that a family with two men as fathers or two women as mothers is preferable to a single-parent family. How would you respond to them?

Well, there is no evidence that actually supports that assertion. We have 30 years of social science that says the best environment for a child is to be with their biological mother and father who are married in a life-long relationship. And as you move further away from that arrangement, the benefits to the child diminish. The question we should ask what is the role of public policy? Should it not promote what is best? If that's the case, then what public policy should reflect is the preference for mothers and fathers having children, and the children being with their mother and father.

None of the social science suggests that it's two caregivers that make the difference - that it's just two caregivers in the life of a child, then three would be better than two and four better than three but that's not what it shows. It shows that children are better off when they have both a mother and a father. To adopt public policy that would promote same-sex marriages, you would deny children a mother or a father.

What kind of impact do you feel the MayDay for Marriage rally had on the American voters?

I think it's just another example and another display of where the American people are on this issue. 100,000 people gathered together at the nation's capitol to celebrate the institution of marriage as it is historically defined between a man and a woman, publicly declaring that they're going to work to protect that institution. I think that's significant. You had people coming from every state in the nation. I don't know that we can gauge the impact of this event two to three weeks later but I think it's going to be more evident as we see how the election plays and the amendments in the various states and what Congress does next time it goes before Congress.

If every registered American voter is listening to you right now, and you had 30 seconds to speak to them, what would you say?

I think we need to resist the temptation that has long been in American politics to vote one's self-interest. Alexis de Toqueville, the French historian, in reviewing the 1828 election, when he wrote “Democracy in America.” in the 1830s, pointed to the fact that the chief motivating factor for elections in America would be the self-interest of the people. Well, we need to go beyond self-interest and what history tells us is best for this country, what's best for society is to promote a fostering environment in which families prosper, in which children grow up with mothers and fathers who are committed to one another. In the end, it's good policy to promote families.

Tony Perkins is the president of the Family Research Council, which shapes public debate and formulates public policy that values human life and upholds the institutions of marriage and the family. For more information on FRC, visit