The upcoming people’s veto on the proposed same-sex marriage law is one of the most important votes Mainers will ever cast. If we do not veto this proposed law, it will radically redefine marriage, one of society’s oldest and most fundamental institutions. The changes that would result would be so fundamental and far reaching that we certainly should not tamper with it lightly.

Yet, throughout consideration of this bill in the Legislature its supporters argued there would be no negative effects, that it is only about “civil rights” and merely a question of treating all Maine citizens equally. The truth is no society has ever given anyone an unqualified “right” to marry. Instead, they have always regulated marriage entirely for the benefit of society. Parents cannot marry their children, for example, no one can marry someone under a certain age no matter how much they might love them and no one can marry someone who is already married.

Social science research has now documented what societies throughout human history have learned from practical experience about the importance of marriage: children do best by far on every measure of health and welfare when they are raised by their married biological parents. No other arrangement works nearly as well. This body of scientific evidence is now so overwhelming there can be no argument about this fact.

Children are literally the future of any society. A society that fails to do everything it can to protect and support children is literally risking extinction. This is why societies have always given marriage special status and benefits. They have found out the hard way that anything that encourages men and women to have and rear children within the bounds of a married family benefits society. Anything discouraging that relationship harms society.

So, the fundamental question, the issue really at stake in this people’s veto vote, is whether legalizing homosexual marriage would harm this time-tested institution of marriage and thereby harm society as a result. Clearly it would.

It would take a social institution that has always been primarily child-centered and radically redefine it into something completely different, a new institution of genderless marriage. Because it is biologically impossible for two individuals of the same sex to produce children, this new genderless marriage institution would make “marriage” nothing more than an official recognition of two people’s professed love for each other.

Such a radical redefinition would have a dramatic impact on all aspects of society but mostly on our children. No matter what their parents may teach them, Maine schools would indoctrinate their children that homosexual marriage is completely normal and equally desirable as traditional marriage and there is nothing parents could do to prevent it. We know this would happen here because it is happening everywhere that same-sex marriage has been legalized. In Massachusetts, the federal courts have already sided with the schools and against parents on this issue.

As a result, children would view marriage completely different and fewer are likely to set marriage as a goal. That will mean fewer children will be born into the environment that social science has proved is most advantageous to them and society obviously will suffer as a result.

Throughout our history, Maine voters have had to step in from time to time and veto irresponsible and poorly considered measures passed by the Legislature. Now, we must do it yet again on this proposed homosexual marriage law.

Bob Emrich of Plymouth is on the executive committee of the Stand for Marriage Maine Coalition.