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people cutting cakephoto of the presidentphoto of a happy couple Join the Discussion:What are your views on the pro marriage movement which aims to cut the American divorce rate and strengthen marriage?  Should government have a role in this?

Dear FRONTLINE,

"Could it be that the conservatives are on to something?"-- Although I am a lifelong Democrat, it is this kind of closed-minded thinking that divides our country into two screaming polarized parties with loudmouth Republicans berating anything "liberal" on Fox and talk radio, AND elitist Democrats refusing to even acknowledge that conservatives or Republicans have ideas worth discussing or exploring. At least this show had the honesty to look at the other side objectively. A step in the right direction.

Liberals can be as closed-minded and intolerant as anybody on Fox. That gets us nowhere. Just remember, no party or ideology has a the market cornered on common sense.

David Berestka
Denver, CO

Dear FRONTLINE,

It is time for all of us, in schools and through out our culture to push not only marriage but the moral upbringing of our children.

Maybe, educating our children, guiding them and removing them from our highly "sexualized" T.V. programs and movies, will provide our future citizens with a more down to earth reason to get married and will give us a more stable society.

Rio Rico, AZ. 85648

Dear FRONTLINE,

The correspondent in the program was pondering the concept of government forcing marriage on young people who make babies. He seemed to doubt that the government had the right to intervene.

I contend that the government sure is in my life as a citizen and business owner big time. We follow many rules as members of society, weather we like it or not. Why should there be choices for youngsters who can't keep their pants on while the rest of us pay and pay and pay?

I have very little sympathy for women who choose poorly over and over again.

mount pleasant, michigan

Dear FRONTLINE,

What struck me while watching the marriage program was that these young people, even the minister, see the decision to marry as a life altering one, causing consternation and much doubt.

However, the decision to engage in non-marital sexual relations, and have children out of wedlock is not considered problematic at all.

The problem is not marriage, it is sex without commitment to the consequences. The women on the show seemed to have a very casual attitude about the children they created through these relations, yet were not sure if they wanted to make the "serious" step of getting married. This is totally upside-down reasoning, it is both the problem and the source of the problem.

The de-linking of sex and marriage is our societal sin and the source of many, many of our society's ills.

Kevin Michael Groeger
Carteret, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a teaching assistant in an elementary school of kindergarten through second grade, every day my co-workers and I see first hand the consequences of young mothers, single mothers, bad marriages, divorce and homelessness.

What strikes us as one of the crucial aspects of children "going bad" is the selfishness of the adults in their lives. A mother will think long and hard about marrying the father of her current newborn because she sees how it will affect her life.

I highly doubt this woman considered the life of her baby when she had sex with this man either for herself as a husband or father to this child. How can we trust the lives of children to men and women who place more importance on their sex drive and the quality of their own life than the life of the child they create?

There is an old childrens song that goes something on the order of, "First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes insert name with a baby carriage." There is a common sense to this little ditty that does not have to be tied up with all the trappings of religion, duty and government. Do these people want a better life?

The odds are phenominally against a woman who finds herself pregnant with little education, no husband worth having and no way out. That point needs to be made perfectly clear over and over and over again to every young girl.

Your progam touched the tip of the iceberg which is to give you "A++" for effort. Thank you for opening up the discussion. I love Frontline and wish it were required viewing, but alas, you can bring a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

virginia woods
madison, wisconsin

Dear FRONTLINE,

Seeing the two mothers in Oklahoma discussing if their daughters were to come home pregnant was appalling - their advice to the girls would be that they don't need to get married! What about these mommies talking to their girls a few years prior about birth control!? I know it's non-pc for the current administration to speak of any birth contol other than "abstinence", but get real... kids these days are not abstaining.

In the Chicago family, the boyfriend/fiance felt he had to deal drugs to support the woman and family that he loves and was willing to take responsibility for supporting. If that was his best choice, I can't imagine he had many viable options for making a living. What about work programs for people in poverty trying to do the right thing? What about birth control for women like the one in this segment? How do you get pregnant 7 times when you're already living on welfare?! Did she want this or were the pregnancies preventable?

I believe educating the youth of these communities is the best way to make a change, not by implementing a government program that speaks to people already in bad situations.

Norwell, MA

Dear FRONTLINE,

The evidence for the benefits of a two parent environment in rearing children is obviously incontronvertible. However, I question the palliative powers of marriage applied retroactively to seven children born out of wedlock.

I was somewhat disappointed by Frontline's failure to bring up the potentially beneficial role of sex education and contraceptives in any public welfare policy that attempts to deal with unwed mothers and children born out of wedlock. Of course, in the current political and cultural climate a shotgun wedding is preferable than a little bit of education and judicious utilization of prophylactics.

Igor Mamedalin
Weed, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

While I understood the focus on low-income families in Chicago as being a way of addressing the heart of the current marriage debate, I felt it obscured the larger question of why people are not getting and staying married.

What happens when you remove the goal of financial stability as a prerequisite for marriage? If that stability is in place, and yet people are still choosing not to get married, then there are clearly many more aspects of the current disenchantment with marriage that need to be examined.

I think it would be useful to look at other socio-economic groups, and I definitely think a greater understanding of why so many financially stable and otherwise-together women are choosing single motherhood would enhance this discussion.

Forest Hills, New York

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a divorced woman who was married for 10 years. I later adopted a 7 year old daughter who is now 19. I raised her as a single parent, which is hard.

I think that marriage is something for which people do need some training. Many people are very unrealistic about what it entails. However, I do not think that the government should spend money on religious groups giving that training. Separation of church and state are a fundemental right is this country.

I have worked as a poverty lawyer for 10 years. I am sure that it is not healthy for children to grow up in poverty. Conservatives do not want to address this issue. But, being married does not guarantee that there will be enough to live on. It is clear that if there were more jobs there would be more marriages. The "welfare reform" has resulted in more children not having enough to live on. This is a real crime.

The other issue is spousal abuse. It is too prevelant. Education can help this issue, but divorce must be readily available to release people usually women and often children from toxic relationships.

Los Angeles, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

It occurs to me that this is another example of people confusing a symptom with a problem. While I don't disagree with preventing people from entering marraiges too hastily, I do disagree with trying to encourage people to marry who ordinarily wouldn't. That is such a typically American approach to problem solving - to go with whatever produces results the fastest, without a second thought given to whether or not it will work in the long run. God forbid we should get to the root of the problem - that would require too much effort.

No, lets just treat the symptoms - and only when they get bad enough to catch the media's attention.

Nathan Clark
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched the entire program with great interest!

And after 3 marriages and 6 children, I think I'm just as qualified an expert as the people studying this "marriage to children situation. I had 2 children with each husband. And there is some age difference between the children, so I can now look back and see the quality of my children's lives with and without a dad.

It is 100 percent better for children to have a father! Even when my children had a "low-quality" father, this did not affect them as negativly as "no-dad" Children do not see their father the same way mom does. Dad not always having a job isn't a big problem for them when he is there to play with them. Being poor, yes, been there, done that is not as hard on kids as being poor without dad. This was the situation with my first marriage, counseling could have helped.

The only man I strongly advise not to stay in the marriage with is the Abusive one, Husband number 2. Very detremental to the kids and to me.

Husband number 3 was an informed choice...and we started out poor, but now have a nice income and my children are more secure, happy people. Money did not make that diffrence in the kids, he did!! I see the difference in my grown married children and the children I have at home still and even if he's a third of what the woman wants her husband to be, that's one third she doesn't have to be, or do! And to the child it comes out to more than one third. The child sees dad with his vision and most of the time, it is with "rose colored" glasses.

I applaud all the people who had the courage to stand up and believe in this enough to know what the critics would throw at them and yet they stand up for it anyhow! Finally, America is getting on the right track and realizing what can truly help our kids!

Minonk, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

It IS all about Economics and Education!!!!!

One hour is hardly enough time for such a huge topic. Yet common sense answers do present themselves in these stories of divorced and unwed mothers. Unfortunately, those answers proposed by the conservative mentality are not entirely sensible.

Have they any idea how silly it sounds to propose marriage as an answer to the financial and education problems these folks suffer from? I am a Christian and I am married two years and I like to think that I am a creative problem solver. Marriage is a huge commitment and requires a huge amount of creativity. Problems and challenges occur everyday and must be worked out TOGETHER. My marriage preparation classes talked at length about this. It is good that it happens here and in the program in Oklahoma. That makes good sense. But has this program adequately addressed the reasons the divorce rate is so high and the marriage rate is so low? Money is up there at the top. Communication is right behind. Money =economic. Communiation = education. The marriage movement seems to be focused on the social and political aspects of this issue. And was their any talk about love? Love of self?

Anyone watching this program with any common sense would not want the lady in Oklahoma to stay in her marriage. And they wouldn't want the young mothers in Chicago to marry the fathers of their children either. We do want them to have an education and we do want the mothers in Chicago to have knowledge and access to birth control. We want them to have good, reliable jobs and excellent child care for their children These families need economic and educational stability. They need food, shelter, and safety, for God's sake!

Steve Langenecker
Milwaukee, WI

Dear FRONTLINE,

Isn't it possible that American society is progressing toward a more enlightened and evolved form of procreation? Virtually all of the persons interviewed began by blindly embracing the idea that the traditional two parent family is a necessity in order to maintain some anecdotal historical high functioning social structure.

I believe the research that suggests children are better off within the traditional structure is valid, however, this quite likely stems from the fact that American society remains collectively willing and able to shun those who choose a different path. In some sense, those who would have us cling to the perceived norm are perpetuating the problem by excluding those who do not fit their idea of normal, whether those in question are parents or children.

If persons were not singled out for the circumstances in which they give or receive birth, children would likely have an equal opportunity to thrive. We as Americans continue to experience a societal bias. It is interesting that the President used the phrase "children born out of wedlock." That must be the current replacement for the time worn bastard slur. Sadly, he is not alone with regard to this tendency.

A child is just a child regardless of the circumstances in which he or she enters the world. Perhaps if "we can all agree on that," we, as a society, will no longer feel the need to blame our child rearing deficiencies on a shortage of marriage contracts.

St. Augustine, Florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your treatment of the issues in "Let's Get Married" was enlightening, informative and disturbing.

In discussing "Let's Get Married" with a practicising psychiatrist friend my comment being that the content of your show might better help us serve our families and understand how to keep marriages together, her answer to me contained the following pargraph that troubled me:

" I do not consider it my duty, right or business to influence or comment on anyone's marriage but my own. I consider it my job to stay out of others marriages and personal problems unless invited to comment or give advice. And then, depending upon the circumstances, I may or may not give an opinion. I make a special point of staying out the marriages of others."

Now I ask what are marriages for? What are families for? If our professionals in this field aren't willing to stick their necks out without a formal client-patient relationship, then what is the view of marriage that these professionals really have? I can come to no other conlcusion but that they view marriage as an activity of personal fulfillment for those involved. In my view marriage is so much more than that; it is commitment, it is an institution, it is the fabric of our society and nation and we are all responsible for maintaining that fabric however we can. Thus we must take risks and we must make personal investments on a continuing basis to care for ourselves and others----that is a lot to give and a lot to ask for.

So many in our society are not willing to give, nor do they seem to understand the importance of giving. For example, the affulent want the masses to work for them yet they are reluctant to pay taxes in the name of individuality and so called conservative philosphies. As a result, the number one industrialized nation in the world has over 40 million people without health insurance coverage and even then, if you have such coverage you may still go bankrupt with a catastrophic illness in your family. What there is of social security is a sham.

The average American works all of his or her life for corporations with corporate boards that frequently lobby for and demand laws not in the interest of the average citizens who work for them. Then those same boards may go on to fabricate lies about their performance that result in outright and robbery from those who have trusted and hold their stock.

Even the Catholic priesthood is not immune from these sins. If you want to talk to your priest in small town American after business hours or during hollidays, in most cases you can't simply call him on the phone anymore. The priesthood has been "professionalized". These professionals don't want to be disturbed after hours, so parishners must call an 800 number where a stranger will make a decision for them on whether or not a priest is really needed. And why shouldn't it be that way?

Everybody in modern society wants to have their cake and eat it too. Why should we expect Catholic priests or other clergymen or service professionals to be any different in a period when need them more urgently than ever before?

Douglas Hauge
Fillmore, , CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a professional tax preparer I know that there are huge econimic incentives to produce children out of marriage. As long as these cash incentives exist there will be a high rate of children who have no fathers.

Eliminate the economic incentives to raise children without marriage and there will be more stable families, married people with children. Basically the head of household filing status needs to go as well as earned income credit. Perhaps we need to look at all welfare type benefits, forcing individuals to act responsibly economicaly or lose their children will in the long run be the only way to encourage people to marry.

Alice Moore
Chestertown, MD

Dear FRONTLINE,

Though I learned much from the recent broadcast, I am disappointed that no hint was given toward the tangent of "same sex marriage".

Although the issue might threaten to detract from the aim of this movement, I hope to remind readers that many such couples wholeheartedly desire a child to rear and love within a stable environment. They often are unfortunately forced to adopt from abroad and, unwillingly, contribute to the demise of the precious children of the very society we aspire to preserve.

Alexander Scribbins
Colorado Springs, Colorado

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