Whatever the law or culture may say, we must commit now to witness to the truth about marriage: that men and women are distinct and complementary, that it takes a man and a woman to bring a child into the world, and that children deserve a chance to grow up with a mom and a dad. Too many of our neighbors haven’t heard our arguments, and they seem unwilling to respect our rights because they don’t understand what we believe. It’s up to us to change that perception. We will help decide which side history is on.
Monday’s [Oct. 6, 2014] action from the Supreme Court is, as I noted elsewhere, a setback for sound constitutional self-government and a setback for a healthy marriage culture.
Rather than a single Roe v. Wade of marriage, where the Supreme Court would redefine marriage across the nation, the Court, by refusing to hear any of the marriage cases, has allowed lower federal courts to disregard the constitutional authority of citizens and their elected representatives to make good marriage policy.
Good laws that reflect the truth about marriage, frequently passed with overwhelming democratic support, have been struck down by judges without any compelling argument that they are unconstitutional.
We should recognize this for what it is: Dozens of minor acts of judicial activism, rather than one major one.
If this is the case, where do we go from here? What should we do to continue defending marriage?
- Continue the Legal Battles
Marriage is too important to allow unelected judges to redefine it without a fight. Even if the umpires are colluding with the other team, that’s no reason to allow them an unopposed victory. Even if many of the courts of law are biased, we can still win in some of them—indeed, many who favor redefining marriage think the Sixth Circuit Court will uphold Ohio and Michigan’s marriage laws, and the battle continues in other circuits, including the Fifth Circuit, which will review Texas and Louisiana’s laws (a federal judge recently upheld Louisiana’s law). And the composition of the Supreme Court might well change for the better before the Court ends up actually deciding the marriage question.
We should use these legal battles as opportunities to make the case in the court of public opinion. Each legal proceeding presents an opportunity to educate our fellow citizens on how constitutional self-government works, and to explain what marriage is.
- Make the Case for Marriage
Nothing in these legal opinions changes the actual reality of what marriage is or why it matters—it simply codifies a faulty vision of marriage in law and thus makes it harder for future generations to understand and live out the truth about marriage.
Yes, laws that distort the nature of marriage will have an effect on people’s lives, but conservatives have never thought that law or government is the primary vehicle for social and cultural transformation. Even with bad laws about marriage, we still have a duty to speak the truth and encourage our neighbors to live out the truth.
Some people argue that marriage is simply a committed relationship of two people. My co-authors and I have argued that marriage is a comprehensive union of sexually complementary spouses—and that the state cares about marriage because it can unite a man and a woman as husband and wife to be mother and father to any children their union may produce.
A comprehensive union capable of uniting children with their mom and dad is something only a man and a woman can form. So enacting same-sex marriage would not expand the institution of marriage, but would redefine it. Finishing what policies such as no-fault divorce began, it would replace the historic understanding with a revisionist view that marriage is fundamentally an emotional union. This would multiply the marriage revolution’s harms.
Now is the time for institutions of civil society to redouble their efforts at teaching their own members the truth about marriage and encouraging their own members to live out that truth.