So what is marriage anyway, and why is the Supreme Court case so important? I’ll let one of the smartest men I know fill you in.
As we wait for the Supreme Court to decide whether there’s a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, I’d like to take a moment to go over what’s at stake.
But I’m not going to tell you what I think. Instead, I’m going to tell you what someone who understands this issue a lot better than I do thinks.
That someone is Robert P. George – “Robby” to his friends – of Princeton University, and he recently summed up the issue at ThePublicDiscourse.com.
George begins by saying that “If marriage were simply a form of sexual-romantic companionship or domestic partnership, then the equal protection clause of the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment would require the Supreme Court to strike down state laws limiting marriage licenses to male-female partners.”
That’s because “any two (or more) people can feel affection for one another . . . and make a commitment to caring and sharing.”
Thus, “if our law understood these things as the essence of marriage, then restricting it to two-person, opposite-sex partnerships would be invidiously discriminatory—a denial of equal protection.”
But folks, that’s not how state laws have historically viewed marriage, and that’s why the step the Court seems to be prepared to take is so momentous.
George tells us that state laws “have understood and defined [marriage] as a relationship shaped by the needs of children for mothers and fathers, rather than as an institution whose purpose is to serve the interests or desires of adults by facilitating sexual-romantic companionship.”
Rather than children being the by-product of a sexual-romantic relationship we call “marriage,” marriage has been understood as a “social institution” that “aims to secure for children the inestimable blessing of being brought up in the committed love—the marital bond—of the man and woman whose union brought them into being.” So, as George puts it, “the very idea of marriage is rooted in the male-female complementarity that makes sexual reproduction possible.”
Although not all marriages produce children, either because of infertility or because of choice, that does not change the fact that our laws and traditions “have always understood marriage as the type of relationship that would naturally be fulfilled by the spouses having and rearing children together.”
As George tells us, “The question before the Court is whether the Constitution requires states to adopt the [sexual-romantic idea] of marriage” in place of the “conjugal conception of marriage.”
While nothing in the text of the Constitution supports such a requirement, a ruling in favor of same-sex marriage would, in effect, codify this idea. The Court can only rule this way by rejecting sexual complementarity and making the wellbeing of children subservient to the interests and desires of adults.
Dr. George’s clear-sighted and articulate defense of marriage is why I’m thrilled to tell you that he is this year’s recipient of the Colson Center’s annual William Wilberforce Award.
Chuck Colson said that “Few Christians in our culture live out their worldview as consistently or effectively as” Robby George. And you can hear from this fearless defender of marriage and the dignity and sanctity of human life in person by joining us at the annual Wilberforce Award dinner in Washington DC on Thursday, June 11.
I promise, this will be a great evening. For more details or to register, please come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary.
And don’t miss Dr. George’s outstanding interview with John Stonestreet on “BreakPoint This Week.”
(This commentary originally aired May 26, 2015).