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Category Archives: Debating Marriage

ICYMI: New Heritage Research Piece Explains Why the Analogy between Same-sex Marriage and Interracial Marriage is a False One

From Ryan Anderson, on The Foundry blog at Heritage:

Bride and GroomIs opposition to same-sex marriage at all like opposition to interracial marriage? One refrain in debates over marriage policy is that laws designating marriage as exclusively the union of male and female are today’s equivalent of bans on interracial marriage. Some further argue that protecting the freedom to speak and act publicly on the basis of a religious belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman amounts to the kind of laws that enforced race-based segregation.

These claims are wrong on several counts, as I explain in a new Backgrounder Report... “Marriage, Reason, and Religious Liberty: Much Ado About Sex, Nothing to Do with Race.

You can read Ryan's full blog piece here, or read the larger report here.

"The post-totalitarian system demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline"

In a brilliant piece by Mollie Hemingway at The Federalistshe draws upon the thinking of Czech leader Vaclav Havel (who once observed that "the post-totalitarian system demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline") to comment upon the recent dust-up at Mozilla over Brendan Eich's views on marriage.

Hemingway's piece is entitled "The Rise of the Same-sex Marriage Dissidents," and you should read the entire thing today. Here's a snippet:

Havel-FirefoxTo explain how dissent works, Havel introduced the manager of a hypothetical fruit-and-vegetable shop who places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: “Workers of the world, unite!” He’s not actually enthusiastic about the sign’s message. It’s just one of the things that people in a post-totalitarian system do even if they “never think about” what it means. He does it because everyone does it. It’s what you do to get along in life and live “in harmony with society.” (For our purposes, you can imagine that slogan is a red equal sign that you put up on your Facebook page.)

[...]

Did we mindlessly put up red equal signs when we hadn’t even thought about what marriage is? Did we rush to fit in by telling others we supported same-sex marriage? Did we even go so far as to characterize as “bigots” or as “Hitlers” those who held views about the importance of natural marriage?

[...]

In the greengrocer scenario, Havel notes that if the text of the sign read “I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient,” he might be embarrassed and ashamed to put it up. The dissidents are the ones who, by refusing to put the sign up, or refusing to recant, shine a huge light on the system, including the ones who go along to get along. All of a sudden those Facebook signs, those reflexive statements, those cries of “Bigot!” look less like shows of strength and more like shows of weakness.

If you haven't yet followed NOM's call-to-action over the Eich controversy, please take some time to do so today.

"A climate of intolerance and intimidation"

Almost from the start of the debate over redefining marriage, experts on both sides have warned of the coming conflict over religious liberty.

IntimidationWhat were once hypothetical conflicts have now become very real, as people of faith—those who believe that God designed marriage as the union of one man and one woman—have repeatedly been the ones forced to compromise and violate their consciences in the name of same-sex marriage.

Ryan T. Anderson and Leslie Ford of the Heritage Foundation write today in the National Review Online about the present state of these conflicts and the growing governmental coercion demanding that people of faith step back from the public square:

A growing number of incidents show that the redefinition of marriage and state policies on sexual orientation have created a climate of intolerance and intimidation for citizens who believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman and that sexual relations are properly reserved for marriage. Now comes government coercion and discrimination. Laws that create special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity are being used to trump fundamental civil liberties such as freedom of speech and the free exercise of religion.

[...]

Under the newer laws, family businesses — especially photographers, bakers, florists, and others involved in the wedding industry — have been hauled into court because they declined to provide services for a same-sex ceremony that they viewed as a violation of their religious beliefs. [READ MORE.]

America must stand up against this coercive attack on our First Amendment right of the free exercise of our religion. This basic American principle does not simply apply to what happens in our houses of worship – it is fundamental to how people of faith carry themselves every day as they are parents, employees, business owners, and civil servants.

Are Marriage Advocates "Asking the Wrong Question"? An Opinion and a Response

Last month, we told our readers about a symposium being hosted by The Intercollegiate Review entitled "Sex and the Polis: Perspectives on Marriage, Family, and Sexual Ethics."

QuestionsLast week's entry by Chris Damian, "Defining Marriage Isn't Defending Marriage," caught our attention for obvious reasons.

In his piece, Damian asserts,

Conservatives aren’t losing to the culture on marriage because they’re wrong. They’re losing because they’re answering the wrong question, because they’ve failed to grasp what the issue actually is.

His article goes on to grapple with a horse-and-cart problem addressing the understanding of marriage alongside the more general understanding and role of friendship and community. The phenomena implicated are difficult, to be sure, and there can be much legitimate dispute about which is the cart and which the horse and which, therefore, should come before. But unfortunately, the ultimate effect of Damian's article seems to be that the cart topples upon the horse and both are a bit the worse for wear.

For example, Damian alleges:

The rise of 'gay marriage' does not come primarily from a crisis in the understanding of what marriage is. It comes from a crisis in the understanding and practice of love, commitment, and community.

Wedding Rings

But some might respond that one of the important roles of the triadic family of husband, wife, and children is that it is the essential 'school' for any culture in how to practice love, commitment, and community.

Fortunately, the work of responding to Mr. Damian's article has been undertaken by Michael Bradley at Ethika Politika.

Bradley lays out his thesis that "[Mr. Damian's] Chris’s narrative of how  the marriage culture has reached its present point is mistaken, chiefly because he misunderstands the same 'proponents of traditional marriage' whose view he critiques in his piece, or at least, he understands that view to be narrower than it actually is."

He goes on to elucidate:

[I]n defining marriage, one recognizes and calls attention to distinctions between marital relationships and non-marital ones, including the sorts of non-marital friendships the cultural reinforcement of which Chris advocates. It is the burying of just such relational distinctions—which Chris laments later in his piece—that is constitutive of and in turn spurs the revisionist view of marriage.

This leads Bradley to get to what seems to be the chief error in Damian's reasoning: a conflation of two fundamentally different kinds of relationship. Marriage, Bradley explains, "is different in kind and not degree from non-romantic friendships."

The entire exchange is worth reading, and we commend both these authors for their admirable interest and evident acumen. You can read Damian's piece here, and then Bradley's response.

A Marriage Case to Watch

City Hall, Old Town AlexandriaAn article at USA Today draws attention to "A Case With All the Angles" - a legal challenge to the Virginia marriage amendment adopted by the voters of that state in 2006 by an overwhelming majority.

The article explains, "The case of Bostic v. Rainey could become the standard-bearer for the same-sex marriage movement as it emerges from last summer's victories at the Supreme Court."

Why is that?

For starters, it challenges a state constitutional amendment that's all-inclusive in its exclusions: It bans same-sex marriages, civil unions and domestic partnerships, and denies recognition in Virginia for those performed legally in other states.

The purpose of the amendment, the state says in its brief at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, was "to prevent Virginia judges from changing the definition of marriage under the state Constitution as state judges had done elsewhere."

NOM will certainly be keeping an eye on this case, and you should too.

Obamacare's Marriage Penalties

At The Heritage Foundation's The Foundry blog, Chris Jacobs writes of "How Obamacare Discourages Work and Marriage."

Jacobs explains that " the law perpetuates some of the country’s worst trends that trap people in poverty. It includes disincentives for individuals to marry and for Americans of low and modest incomes to work."

The two marriage penalties included in Obamacare, "one for families with low and moderate incomes and another for families with higher incomes," are revealed by Jacobs by use of a concrete illustration:

PenalizedA 50-year-old non-smoker making $35,000 per year would qualify for a sizable insurance subsidy, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s insurance subsidy calculator. The individual’s premium would be capped at 9.5 percent of income, resulting in an insurance subsidy of $2,065 paid by the federal government.

However, if this 50-year-old is married to another 50-year-old who also makes $35,000 per year, the couple would receive no insurance subsidy at all. This couple would incur a marriage penalty of $4,130 in one year—equal to the $2,065 that each individual could have received if they were not married.

Click here to read Jacobs' full article.

Anderson: "The Social Costs of Abandoning the Meaning of Marriage"

The first submission to this week's symposium at The Intercollegiate Review is a reprint of a great essay by What is Marriage? co-author and Heritage fellow Ryan T. Anderson, "The Social Costs of Abandoning the Meaning of Marriage."

Married Couple HandsAnderson points out why the question of how we define marriage is a social issue which cuts across differences of religion or philosophy: it's just good common sense.

Whatever one thinks about the morality of sexually open marriages, multi-partner marriages, and by-design-temporary marriages, the social costs will run high. The marital norms of monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanency make a difference for society.

Concern about the direction of our society's norms about marriage as reflected in law are accessible to anyone who cares about the social welfare and about the role of government, Anderson explains, because "[a]fter all, law affects culture. Culture affects beliefs. Beliefs affect actions. The law teaches, and it will shape not just a handful of marriages but the public understanding of what marriage is."

Redefining marriage to say that men and women are interchangeable, that "monogamish" relationships work just as well as monogamous relationships, that "throuples" are the same as couples, and that "wedlease" is preferable to wedlock will only lead to more broken homes, more broken hearts, and more intrusive government.

Click here to read the rest.

Symposium on "Sex and the Polis" Hosted at the Intercollegiate Review

The indefatigable Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) is hosting a symposium beginning this week at their online publication, The Intercollegiate Review, which our readers may want to follow.

Man Woman SculptureThe symposium is entitled "Sex and the Polis: Perspectives on Marriage, Family, and Sexual Ethics," and the Review's Associate Editor Christopher Fisher explains its "mission" is "to better understand what effect these cultural trends in sexual ethics have on relationships, families, and the pursuit of the common good."

Fisher elaborates:

Our culture’s understanding of sexual ethics is largely defined by a seismic shift in the modern conception of marriage and family. This includes a rising tendency to delay marriage and children until later in life (or not have children at all, as evidenced by our lowest-ever birthrates); an acceptance and even expectation of pornography as an appropriate means of sexual gratification outside and inside of marriage; an equal expectation that all "normal" young adults will engage in pre-marital sex; openness to homosexuality and gay marriage; and a secular, non-sacramental definition of marriage and reproduction.

[...]

Yet most teachers, school administrators, students, health "experts," pundits, and even parents fail to see what effect sexual standards have on our culture and behavior, or the vast array of costly social problems caused by this breakdown.

One of Fisher's most compelling points is that these social costs lead ineluctably to a growth in government: "Smart libertarians ought to pay attention to the many ways that libertinism encourages the breakneck growth of the state."

Read his entire essay here, and keep an eye on The Intercollegiate Review for future submissions, including the opener by none other than NOM's good friend Ryan Anderson.

Sometimes There's Only One Right Word

The French writer Gustave Flaubert famously spent weeks sometimes pondering a single word looking for just the right one - what he called "le mot juste."

flaubert

Flaubert recognized that sometimes there really is only one perfect term to describe the essence of a particular thing. Well, there is one perfect word to describe our culture's dissonant approach to marriage and family, and that word is incoherent.

An article in yesterday's Washington Times reports that there is a growing concern about "irresponsible fatherhood" in our society: "Despite myriad efforts by fatherhood programs, too many men are ending up in multiple relationships, with multiple children from multiple mothers."

An expert quoted in the article suggests that men need to "advised... to 'slow down,' 'prepare for fatherhood,' realize that a mother and child are 'a package' and 'take time' to select a loving partner and future mother."

Erasing the First Amendment

But these efforts to address a very real concern are incoherent in a cultural context where powerful forces are pushing a radical agenda to redefine marriage and thereby necessarily redefine the roles of parents, making 'fatherhood' an expendable option and devaluing the unique services that men and women each provide in raising children.

To preserve and promote fatherhood requires first that we preserve and promote the true definition of marriage. Marriage is like a key-word for a cipher which, when you get it wrong, causes all the connected code-words to fall apart too. Fatherhood depends on the meaning of the unique and special union of one man and one woman.  And for that union, le mot juste is "marriage."

"The age of liberation from sexual roles and standards has also been an age of ever greater inequality."

A wonderful article from earlier this month in The Catholic World Report deserves to be read, studied, and shared by anyone who engages in conversation and debate over the definition of marriage.

The remarkable piece by James Kalb lays out in a compelling way how the standard for public discourse today - "the view that recently led the Supreme Court to treat restriction of marriage to opposite-sex couples as an expression of intent to harm same-sex couples" - needs to be attacked and shifted to more solid ground [emphasis added]:

Pink-Blue-TowelsLiberal thought is entrenched as the basis for public discussion, and it doesn’t like the idea of a network of expectations and obligations to which people are subject other than those generated by state and market. What’s just, liberals believe, is for individuals to be free from all social pressure in their private lives as long as they perform their duties as employees, taxpayers, and citizens of a diverse, tolerant, and multicultural society. If people are pressured to act one way or another for some reason other than the needs of liberal institutions, that’s bigotry and discrimination, and eradicating it is one of the central duties of government.

However strong and entrenched that way of thinking is, it needs to be disputed and overthrown.

Kalb also explains in very clear terms the importance of the definition of marriage and why it matters so deeply:

Man-Woman-ChildIf marriage is to be something we can rely on, it can’t be a sentimental celebration or optional lifestyle choice whose content depends on the orientation and goals of the parties. It has to be understood as something definite that, simply because of what it is, has intrinsic functions that are basic to human life. To be itself, it must therefore be understood as a union of man and woman that accepts the natural consequences of such a union, and there have to be distinct understandings of men, women, the relations between the two, and what they owe and have a right to expect from each other.

Take some time to read and re-read the entire essay today.

What Can One Person Do?

One of the questions NOM always gets is, “What can one person do to make a difference?”  Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert got the same question at last weekend’s Values Voter Summit hosted by the Family Research Council.  Watch and listen to his simple 90-second response:

Redefining Marriage "Consistently Heedless of Logic"

Writing today in The Public Discourse, Matthew J. Franck probes "the prominence of [the] assault on reasoning itself" within the movement to redefine marriage:

Rather than say what marriage is—which anyone can see is an absolute prerequisite to saying whether "equality" demands its availability to partners never before thought capable of marrying—these advocates simply shout "marriage equality" ever more loudly, point to an array of "government benefits" linked to marital status, and make their desire for the thing substitute for an argument about what the thing is that they want.

You can read the rest of his article here.

M.Franck

The Difference Between a "Platform" and a "Forum"?

Providence College, a Roman Catholic higher education institution in Rhode Island, made news this week when it cancelled a planned speaking event for same-sex marriage advocate John Corvino.

The New York Times reports:

ProvidenceThe event at Providence College was initially planned as a solo lecture, though Mr. Corvino said he suggested that it be a debate and provided the names of several potential sparring partners. Last week, the organizers added Dana L. Dillon, a theologian at Providence College, to present a response.

But Dr. Lena, the provost, said in an interview late Monday night that the event was canceled because it was largely a platform for only one side, and that it could be rescheduled if it included a philosophy professor with experience arguing against gay marriage.

In cancelling the event, organizers cited a 2004 document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops which stipulates that "Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles."

The point seems to be not that Dr. Corvino is unwelcome to engage the issue or provide his perspective at the college, but that this would need to be in the context of a balanced presentation that gives the Catholic Church's position alongside. What do you think? Is this a fair application by the college of Church discipline, or too cautious?

Grappling With the Arguments

Oregon PolitiChick State Director Maggie Wilson-Mars writes at the PolitiChicks blog about "The Very Real Slippery Slope of Gay Marriage." Wilson-Mars is a Mormon woman and a conservative with a homosexual son with whom she often argues about same-sex marriage - with him arguing against it, and her in favor.

Throughout her piece she is dismissive of many of the arguments in favor of traditional marriage that we here at NOM know are based in greater logic and evidence that she seems willing to credit them. Nonetheless, despite her reasoning and convictions in these matters, she wrote her article to admit that there's one argument that can't be so easily dismissed -- even though, ironically, it's the one most frequently waved off in our society: namely, the so-called "slippery slope." She writes:

Sweet CakesHere in Oregon, a bakery refused to provide a cake for a same-sex wedding. They will sell to anyone, but draw the line at providing wedding cakes for same-sex weddings. The community was outraged. Portland/Gresham is a liberal, pro-gay town and they weren’t having it. It caused such a ruckus that the Oregon Attorney General opened an investigation. [...]

A few days ago, the Oregon bakery ... decided to operate from home. The emails, messages, phone calls and threats are so bad they can’t take it. Remember, they’re still the focus of an investigation by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries into possible violation of the states discrimination laws. There’s no reassurance for churches, etc. if businesses are already being forced to participate in ceremonies that they are morally opposed to or face fines, attacks and shutdown. Just in my own personal life, I know many conservatives who have no problem with gay marriage itself, it’s just that supposedly non-existent slippery slope that rears that its ugly head time and time again. I can’t help but look into the future when I see things like bakeries getting investigated and terrorized.

Of course, just like we here at NOM have more evidence and reasons to support the arguments Mrs. Wilson-Mars rejects, we (sadly) have more proof of this danger that follows in the wake of marriage redefinition as well.

What is the Core of Marriage?

"Probably the most important thing to remember about [the marriage] debate is that it is framed in entirely the wrong way." -Sherif Girgis

Sherif Girgis, co-author of What is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense, is a Princeton graduate and Rhodes Scholar. At Australia's Campion College last month, Girgis gave a brilliant talk on the marriage debate, explaining that by framing the marriage debate in terms of “equality” and “freedom,” same-sex marriage advocates completely bypass a foundational question: what is marriage in the first place? For anyone who wants to learn how to more effectively speak about protecting marriage, check out the full video: