NOTE: This is the third column in a series of columns related to National Marriage Week, Feb. 7-14, 2013. The second column is available here.
G.K. Chesterton observed in The Superstition of Divorce that “reformers of marriage . . . do not know what it is, or what it is meant to be, or what its supporters suppose it to be . . . .” Marriage opponents, who today seek not to reform but rather redefine marriage, appear to suffer from the problem diagnosed by Chesterton almost a century ago.
In their heedless rush to establish the legitimacy of same-sex marriage, they ignore what marriage is and what marriage does.
Marriage between a man and a woman is a universal good that diverse cultures and faiths have honored and relied upon throughout history. An organic phenomenon of human society without parallel, it has emerged spontaneously and instinctively, as if in answer to a deep and abiding human need for order and stability.
Rooted in biological and social reality, marriage has always been marked, for good reason, by its male-female nature and its undeniable link to procreation and responsible childrearing. Not every couple has a child, but every child has a mother and a father.
A healthy marriage culture helps the gold standard prevail, wherever possible, that children are raised by the parents who brought them into this world. The strong families which result from this arrangement produce a vibrant and self-sustaining society which serves as our best guarantee of limited government.
The Supreme Court itself has repeatedly noted that marriage and the family are necessary foundations of a free and properly functioning democratic republic. This is why the state, although it did not create marriage, has consistently supported and encouraged its flourishing.
In contrast, until very recently, no government in human history has ever officially recognized same-sex relationships as marriages, precisely because they do not further society’s important interest in the natural procreation of the next generation of citizens.
Same-sex marriage does not provide the same benefits or solve the problems that marriage does. In fact, at a time when our marriage culture is already in severe distress, a redefinition of marriage offers only uncertainty and consequences that will not be fully known for some time.
The reason for this uncertainty is not difficult to divine. State-created substitutes for marriage propose to replace an institution defined by sacrificial nurturing with an unproven construct of self-fulfillment which will exist only to serve the emotional needs of adults at the cost of society at large.
Those seeking to redefine marriage trumpet self-serving notions of equality and justice for a small coterie of adults but ignore that marriage has always been uniquely suited to the generation and care of new life. This is not hyperbole, but apparently the very point of the endeavor.
For instance, marriage opponent E.J. Graff has predicted that once “same-sex marriage becomes legal, that venerable institution will ever after stand for sexual choice, for cutting the link between sex and diapers.” And Michelangelo Signorile, another marriage opponent, has stated that same-sex couples should “demand the right to marry not as a way of adhering to society’s moral codes but rather to debunk a myth and radically alter an archaic institution.”
The erosion of marriage and the breakdown of the family in America have unleashed social problems that are all too real and must be remedied. But the remedy will not come by accepting same-sex marriage as valid, necessary, or constitutionally required.
Marriage does not need redefinition, but rededication to its core meaning, the union of one man and one woman, and to its core purpose, uniting children to their own mother and father. In a few short months, the U.S. Supreme Court will have a chance to preserve the institution we call marriage, the anchor of the family and society. Let us pray it judges wisely.