But “accidents” happen. Women get pregnant. And the same couples who had been eager to go to bed together decided that they didn’t really have enough in common to justify marrying, notwithstanding the impending birth of the child they had created. With empathy (and, perhaps, a measure of respect for the mothers who chose not to abort), the larger culture refrained from criticizing unwed mothers; elites even celebrated their “choice” to rear children on their own (as those who remember the “Murphy Brown” brouhaha can attest). The fallout – rampant illegitimacy, child poverty, boys deprived of an example of what it means to be “manly,” and girls so starved for male affection that they’ll give up their bodies to any man who asks – is apparent.
With cultural precedents establishing that marriage is irrelevant both to sexual activity and to childbearing (or –rearing), traditionalists now find themselves in the awkward position of trying to explain why it should, nonetheless, be off limits to gays. To complicate things further, activist judges have arrogated to themselves the power to resolve the foundational issue underlying the entire debate: Whether a society still has the right to codify its collective beliefs about sexual morality in its laws. By finding a constitutional right to consensual homosexual conduct in Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court has, in effect, suggested that it does not – that such decisions are properly made only at the individual level.
Apparently, the California Supreme Court agrees. In fact, the reasoning enshrined in the California Supreme Court’s ruling last week could be applied just as validly to a whole host of hitherto-unimagined (and unimaginable) intimate relationships.
Whatever the ultimate outcome on the issue of gay marriage in California, this is only latest in a series of skirmishes over whether there are limits to state-sanctioned sexual behavior in America. If the traditionalists are going to have any hope of prevailing in the marketplace of ideas, they will first have to find a way to explain to an ordinary American why, sometimes, “private” sexual behavior is, in fact, everyone’s business.