It’s difficult to see why people would want to sacrifice the general good of 98 percent of the population to support the narrow desires of 2 percent of it, but that’s what will happen if Mainers vote to approve same-sex marriage on Election Day.

Contrary to claims made by those supporting this radical change in our culture’s central social institution, this law will not be “harmless to anyone else’s marriage.”

Instead, it will greatly weaken the essential nature of marriage between a man and a woman as society’s principal institution for the bearing and raising of children.

Adam J. MacLeod, law professor at Faulkner University, is typical of many analysts when he points out, “The cultural institution of conjugal matrimony, understood as the committed union of one man and one woman, has long performed a valuable task for civil society.” It created “incentives for parents, especially fathers, to care for the children they produced. And this was long understood to be a good thing.”

That we have fallen far away from that, however, is a serious problem for our society.

Yes, there are childless marriages, and marriages that continue well past the time children leave the home. Such exceptions still honor the institution, however, because they are not exceptional in the way that matters most.

They continue to be composed of one man and one woman, the bonded complementary pairing that over the span of human history has proved to be the best way to bring up children to become solid, balanced, healthy adults.

Countless studies show that children raised in families without both a mother and a father are at much greater risk of failure in school, poor career prospects, higher involvement in substance abuse and/or criminal activity, and the failure of their own marriages — if they ever marry.

Yes, same-sex couples can adopt, and if they are composed of two women, one can become pregnant; but in neither case does the relationship provide the balanced pair of parenting role models children need the most.

Those who say there’s no proof of harm for children lacking a mother or a father ignore not only social science, but thousands of years of human history, with no evidence to support their own view: There are almost no credible studies showing a favorable long-term impact of homosexual parenting, as University of Texas sociology professor Mark Regnerus has pointed out in recent research supported by his institution.

Isn’t it already sad enough that single-parent families already lack one or the other of those role models — mostly fathers, as MacLeod noted?

As the child of a widowed mother, I know what a father’s absence means.

It is to our society’s detriment that, by failed government policy and social permissiveness, we have encouraged births out of wedlock to the point where they are more than 40 percent of total births (and 80 percent among some minority groups).

Sowing the whirlwind of generations of fatherless children, we have reaped a predictable hurricane of damage.

Now, however, we are told we can double down on our failed bet and somehow produce a different result. Fat chance.

When Americans are asked about the percentage of homosexuals in the population, they say it is as high as 25 percent. Others cite the 10 percent figure listed in the badly flawed Kinsey Report.

Numerous modern surveys show the number to be around 2 percent, a minority that wants the majority to bend to its will.

Identification by sexual preference (there is no scientific evidence that homosexuality is innate) clearly has emotional strength behind it — indeed, emotional appeals seem to be the center of this campaign.

But if we are to alter society down to the foundational level, should we not instead be listening to reason?

In the words of Melanie Baker, an advocate for natural marriage, “Rational discourse seeks truth; it employs premises that flow together to yield a sound conclusion. The pathos-laden language that is being employed in this issue is simply not a valid response to rational discourse. … We seem to be trying to think with our emotions, and the result is to forfeit thinking altogether.”

There’s another danger: Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon predicts our fate by citing the experience of nations such as Canada that have approved same-sex marriage:

“Proponents use the language of openness, tolerance and diversity, yet one foreseeable effect of their success will be to usher in an era of intolerance and discrimination. Every person and every religion that disagrees will be labeled as bigoted and openly discriminated against.

“The ax will fall most heavily on religious persons and groups that don’t go along.”

So, to support natural marriage as good for children — and defend your friends and neighbors who do — vote “no” Nov. 6.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: [email protected]