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Debating Same-Sex Marriage

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This week, the full 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to hear any more arguments on gay marriage.

Appellate Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain's dissent was scathing: "Based on a two-judge majority's gross misapplication of Romer v. Evans, we have now declared that animus must have been the only conceivable motivation for a sovereign state to have remained committed to a definition of marriage that has existed for millennia," he said. Worse, the judge went on, the decision overrules the votes of 7 million Californians based on an interpretation of Romer v. Evans that would be "unrecognizable" to those who wrote it.


Serendipitously, this is also the week that Oxford University Press releases my new book, "Debating Same-Sex Marriage," co-authored with professor John Corvino.

Professor Corvino and I break modest new, but important, ground in "achieving disagreement" -- in understanding why and how good, decent, intelligent and loving people disagree so profoundly on gay marriage.

This is the only book in the history of the world that ever has been or likely ever will be endorsed by both Dan Savage and former-Sen. Rick Santorum -- and that alone says a lot about how difficult this marriage debate has become.

Most gay marriage advocates literally do not understand how anyone can disagree with them.

But at the heart of the gay marriage debate for me is a question of truth: Is it true that two men in a union are a marriage? If not, then there is no good reason for government to pretend that they are a marriage or insist we treat them as if they are.

In "Debating Same-Sex Marriage," I look at whether key marriage norms "work" in the same way for same-sex and opposite sex couples. The answer is clearly no. The biggest difference is that no same-sex union can ever make new life and connect that child to his mother and father.

But there are other "norms" attached to marriage that make no sense for same-sex couples. For example, for gay men, being sexually faithful appears to carry no advantage in terms of relationship happiness or permanence, just as it appears to carry no risk of creating children outside the pair-bond. Sexual fidelity is core to marriage -- its happiness and its permanence. But it is not core to how two men sustain a relationship over a lifetime, or prevent their bond from being diluted by children created outside the union.


Yet gay marriage not only will have consequences, it already is visibly having them. "Marriage equality" as an idea means viewing traditional understanding of marriage as morally wicked and illegitimate -- "discriminatory" and "bigoted" and "hateful" in the lexicon of sexual liberalism.

Sexual liberalism is a new public morality that tries to reform society based on two great lies about human nature: Men and women are just the same; and sex has nothing necessarily to do with babies.

At the heart of sexual liberalism is severing the ties between sex and procreation, which requires culturally shoving the reality of procreation under a big, wet mental blanket. Sexual liberalism requires a new set of sexual taboos to blind our minds and divert our attention from great and obvious and important human realities, first in the name of gender equality and now orientation equality.

The most important thing about sex is that it makes new life and either connects or disconnect babies to their mother and their father. A culture that no longer actively and energetically strives with great vigor to connect sex, love, babies, and mothers and fathers, sees these things fragment at great human cost.

The word for how we connect them is "marriage."

That the majority of the American people continue to vote for marriage is a moving testimony to the power the truth exerts, relentlessly but not inevitably, over ideology. To willfully blind ourselves to these enduring sexual truths is a form of self-mutilation to which the human soul only uneasily accedes.


Combining the goods of liberalism (respect for pluralism, diversity, maximum opportunities and social respect across deep moral divides) with the great task of any human civilization in sustaining a marriage culture is hard and would require original and thoughtful moral and social work.

But it begins with the immense project of rejecting the lies on which sexual liberalism is based.

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