Marriage isn’t too cool these days.

On network television, marriage is frequently stigmatized or ridiculed.

This week on NBC’s “Ed,” a female character discovered that her boyfriend was actually married. The boyfriend explained to the title character (who is, by the way, divorced because his wife cheated on him) that his marriage had gone on four years too long, and that the woman he has been dating had actually taught him just how unhappy he truly was with his wife.

Till death do us part just doesn’t mean what it used to.

On NBC’s new series “Leap of Faith,” the main character has an abrupt fling with an actor, causing her to cancel her wedding in the premiere episode.

This is pretty typical territory for marriage on the networks these days, especially at NBC. In fact, NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa, suggesting in January that audiences no longer have interest in family programming, said the network was concentrating on “upscale, urban comedies.” This means marriage will no doubt continue to take a hit at the network.

It is within this climate that President Bush has proposed $100 million in funds to be appropriated for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. As part of his welfare-reform agenda, this money would be utilized in efforts to support marriage as an important step toward ending intergenerational cycles of dependency and poverty.

This is an important governmental effort to promote marriage in our society. When President Bush announced this effort at St. Luke’s Catholic Church in Washington, D.C., the largely black audience enthusiastically applauded. These folks understand that children’s lives would be far better if their fathers got involved in their upbringing. And President Bush wants to foster the participation of fathers with their families.

“Single mothers do heroic work,” President Bush said. “They have the toughest job in our country and, in many cases, their lives and their children’s lives would be better if their fathers had lived up to their responsibilities.”

Statistics on the benefits of marriage show that Mr. Bush is on the right path. Research overwhelmingly indicates that children are better off in two-parent homes. Likewise, the president noted that “children from two-parent homes are less likely to end up in poverty, drop out of school, become addicted to drugs, have a child out of wedlock, suffer abuse or become a violent criminal and end up in prison.”

National Fatherhood Initiative President Roland Warren said the first thing we have to recognize is that children, on average, have much better outcomes when they grow up with a married mother and father. Children who do grow up with their married, biological parents are two-times less likely to be victims of child abuse or neglect, abuse drugs, be involved in crime or drop out of school than children who grow up in father-absent homes.

Mr. Warren noted that, in 1999, eight percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty compared to an astounding 42 percent of children in mother-only families. This statistic alone should tell us that Mr. Bush’s plan is desperately needed.

“Stable families,” Mr. Bush said, “should be the central goal of welfare.” Therefore, he will highlight forums that strengthen marriage – programs where couples can get pre-marital counseling and training on how to treat each other with respect. He proposed that experienced couples can mentor young couples by helping them work through seemingly insurmountable problems. In one such program, he noted that 70 percent of the marriages survived and grew stronger.

Mr. Bush also proposed spending $135 million on abstinence-education programs.

“Abstinence,” Mr. Bush said, “is the surest way and the only completely effective way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.”

This announcement angered school sex educators who concentrate on teaching our nation’s students that they should explore their sexuality and ignore the consequences. But Mr. Bush said the government can teach children how to exhibit sexual control. Again, the audience applauded intensely. They have grown up in a society that teaches free sex and have seen how that message endangers the lives of men and women.

I am so happy to see President Bush attempting to remodel failed government programs that foster the continuing breakdown of the American family. While Hollywood continues its assault on marriage and pre-marital abstinence, I thank God that President Bush has valiantly unveiled these programs that would once again encourage the values of fidelity, accountability and self-respect in America’s families.

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