“Our great responsibility to our children and grandchildren is to honor and to pass along the values that sustain a free society. So many of my generation, after a long journey, have come home to family and faith, and are determined to bring up responsible, moral children. Government is not the source of these values, but government should never undermine them.

“Because marriage is a sacred institution and the foundation of society, it should not be redefined by activist judges. For the good of families, children and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage.”

These words of President Bush, in his Feb. 2 State of the Union address, abused power.

Advocating this amendment directly contradicts recommending that we “sustain a free society.” Is he promoting the desire to raise responsible and moral children, while at the same time opposing the right of more than 15 million gay and lesbian Americans to participate in this process? I don’t think I like those values.

Also, such an amendment would guarantee the government’s undermining of the values of religious freedom and the basic civil rights of law-abiding consenting adults.

As for “natural law,” there is an ever-deeper pool of evidence that homosexuality is a normal sexual variant, one that is fundamentally natural. Modern biological research has generally concluded that homosexuality is programmed by a complex interaction among genetic differences and subtle hormonal influences during early fetal development. It strikes me as ironic that neuroscience is finding a similar biological basis for religious fanaticism! True. It is also true that homosexuality is found in almost every mammalian species.

Engaging in religious arguments on marriage, we give credence to the assertion that religious morality has a role in defining civil-marriage rights. It does not.

God did not create hospital-visitation rights, the U.S. tax code, inheritance laws or the hundreds of laws granting specific rights only to married adults. And no, we are just not going to discuss civil unions right now; “separate but equal” is never “equal under the law.”

Ultimately, this will be a federal issue, as it speaks to our most basic civil liberties. States do not have the right to prevent women from voting, to return to slavery or to make interracial marriages illegal again. Those activist judges have been busy!

If God made me, too, I think he understands me for who I am, biologically destined to be gay to the very core of my being: not a choice, not a “lifestyle,” but my life and the essence of who I am _ no different from or any less immutable than a heterosexual’s core self-identity.

Although many will forever feel we are sinners, are we criminals? Since the Supreme Court’s 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that states cannot regulate private sexual relationships, this really shouldn’t even be up for discussion anymore. The sexual relationships of consenting gays and lesbians remain private and legal.

The reality is that while paying full taxes and doing my fair share for the community, I remain less than a citizen. Despite a lifetime together, if I were to die before my partner, there would be no Social Security benefits for my partner, even though I pay fully into the system. Taxes become an interesting civil-disobedience discussion that the 15 million of us should entertain.

What about the children? If gays and lesbians seek in-vitro procedures, surrogacy or other means of having children, are they any less parents than heterosexual couples who avail themselves of the same procedures? The American Academy of Pediatrics’ co-parenting policy statements says that children raised by same-sex couples are as well-adjusted, responsible and moral as any child raised in the milieu of heterosexual family structures across America.

The AAP writes: “Children deserve to know that their relationships with their parents are stable and legally recognized. This applies to all children, whether the parents are of the same or opposite sex. The AAP recognizes that a considerable body of professional literature provides evidence that children with parents who are homosexual can have the same advantages and the same expectations for health, adjustment and development as can children whose parents are heterosexual.”

The 2000 U.S. Census indicates that about one in three lesbian couples and one in five gay couples are raising children. Hundreds of thousands of children in these homes do not have the security of a legally defined family, and the hopes, dreams and inherent rights that come with that in America.

There is no question that those who would marginalize us will remain divisive – the voices that demonize and attack the security of same-sex families will not remain silent. Then neither should the rest of society, gay or straight, whose family values support all families: the ones that protect the rights of the committed couple and the children they raise to Social Security, inheritance rights, making decisions for children or incapacitated spouses, step-parenthood and even divorce, guaranteeing an equitable division of property and governing custody decisions.

As a pediatrician, community leader, children’s advocate, homeowner, taxpayer and otherwise law-abiding adult, I have dedicated my life to bettering the health and well-being of children. I see families of all kinds, in countless home situations. With the innumerable environments and situations in which families live across our nation, it will require teaching tolerance, understanding and compassion to raise healthy, adjusted, responsible and moral children.

Let us pay attention to those matters that truly represent a danger to our families, such as war, lack of education and health care, and poverty.

(Andrew Snyder, M.D., lives in Warwick, R.I.)