Skip to comments.Stop the premature talk of surrender on same-sex ‘marriage’
Posted on 05/26/2014 6:02:04 PM PDT by Morgana
May 26, 2014 (ThePublicDiscourse.com) - To hear some commentators talk, Americas struggle over the meaning of marriage is already over, and conservatives have lost. Like latter-day Edgar Allan Poes, they are busily preparing a premature burial for marriage as a male-female union. Conservatives should imitate Poes protagonist and refuse to cooperate with this ghoulish enterprise, showing their opponents that they and their cause are very much alive.
Recent suggestions of surrender are noteworthy because they go beyond the now-familiar claims from the left about the inevitability of nationally approved same-sex marriage, claims that were always intended as a substitute for actual argument about the proper understanding of marriage. Now, even some voices on the right are speaking of American conservatisms coming defeat and surrender on the question of marriage.
Calls for capitulation are premature, however, for reasons of both principle and politics.
A Matter of Principle
As a matter of principle, the American right cannot, because of its character and mission, stop making the case for a normative conception of marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Most obviously, to cooperate in treating this historic understanding of marriage as merely optional would be to cooperate in fostering social conditions that are harmful to children.
Defenders of the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples often ridicule the idea that such a redefinition could somehow harm existing marriages. They miss the conservative response that society as a whole, by embracing the redefinition of marriage, would be willfully ignoring the factwell supported by social science over many yearsthat the family made up of one parent of each sex is the best environment in which to nurture a child. The historic definition of marriage does not prevent homosexuals from living however they want to, but it does reserve societys formal approval for the type of union that can connect children with both their mom and dad.
It is clear that the argument in favor of same-sex marriage has been pressed primarily, indeed almost exclusively, on the grounds that it is necessary to meet the demands of the individuals who wish to enter into such a union. Yet a society that decides to redefine a fundamental social institution to suit the desires of adults, while barely considering the implications of the redefinition for the well-being of children, can hardly be said to be acting in the best interests of the next generation. It is hard to see how conservatives could in good conscience acquiesce in such a project.
More broadly, the intellectual identity of conservatismif it is to have any substantive intellectual identity at allis surely bound up with the need to preserve the essentials of our civilization as we have inherited them, and in particular to preserve them against the corrosive influence of dogmatically egalitarian ideology. The movement in favor of same-sex marriage, however, is clearly one manifestation of just such an ideology: it insists on a certain kind of equality, even at the cost of redefining an institution that has been central to human flourishing, the character of which very few people would have admitted to be problematic until just a few years ago.
Indeed, it is hard to see why such a spirit should stop at redefining marriage and still bow with reverence before other received ideas that also might offend against a doctrinaire equalityideas such as private property, the obligation of contracts, or freedom of religion. And it is equally hard to see how a conservatism that chose to capitulate to the redefinition of marriage could find the intellectual resources or the courage to defend these other principles once they come under sustained egalitarian attack.
Finally, any authentic American conservatism must be concerned with preserving the essentials of American constitutionalism and the rule of law. As a practical matter, however, the victory of same-sex marriage must be a defeat for the Constitution and the rule of law. The predicted national victory is not expected to come as the result of a gradual persuasion of the American people through the normal democratic means of social change. That is, no one expects same-sex marriage to have a national victory in the near term through the voluntary redefinition of marriage by legislatures or voters in all of the fifty states. Rather, the anticipated victory is to come through a decision of the Supreme Court declaring a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.
Such a ruling, however, will certainly be a fraud on the public and an attack (however veiled) on constitutional self-government. It will come in the form of an opinion holding that the equal protection clause forbids states to discriminate between opposite-sex and same-sex relationships. The justices who sign on to this opinion will confidently assert that this is a requirement of the clause, despite the fact that no one seriously contended that it carried this meaning, or even had anything to do with questions of sexual orientation, until the last few years.
Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.
This meaning was clearly not in the minds of those who wrote and ratified the Fourteenth Amendment. How then, can it get into the amendment? Only from the minds of the justices who desire it to be so. Such willful judging, by which jurists take it upon themselves not to do what is required by the Constitution but instead to make substantive determinations of their own about what is just, is the opposite of self-government and the opposite of the rule of law. No conservatism that is serious about preserving fundamental principles of American government can stand for this.
In sum, from the standpoint of principle, a conservative surrender on marriage constitutes surrender on everything for which conservatism stands.
The Practical Political Angle
Nevertheless, those who predict defeat and surrender might reply that principle is one thing, but practical politics is quite another. A defense of marriage might be essential to principled conservatism, but conservatism is also a political movement intent on winning electoral victories; once same-sex marriage wins its national victory, American conservatism, or at least the Republican Party, will have to make peace with it in order to remain nationally competitive.
On the contrary, even on purely pragmatic grounds, it is hard to see how such a peace can be in the offing. Political conservatismand its political instrument, the Republican Partycannot afford to abandon the cause of marriage. This inability is rooted in the same-sex marriage battles inextricable connection to issues that are necessary to any realistically conceivable winning Republican coalition.
Let us begin from the aforementioned problem with the way in which a national same-sex marriage victory will come, if it does come. Its success would be due to an anti-constitutional and anti-democratic judicial activism on the part of a majority of justices of the Supreme Court. For the past two generations, the Republican Party has campaigned for the presidency, in part, on the grounds that it opposes such judicial activism. Republican candidates for the presidency have never been terribly good at explaining why such judicial activism is a threat to Americas political way of life, but they have been very clear in their opposition to it. Whether it was Richard Nixons claim to stand for strict construction, or Mitt Romneys promise that he intended to nominate justices such as Scalia and Thomas, the partys stand has been made tolerably clear even to those who have not thought through the problem of judicial activism.
Some of these Republican presidential candidatessuch as Nixon, Reagan, and the second Bushhave won. Somesuch as Dole, McCain, and Romneyhave lost. But they have all been competitive at least in part on the basis of opposition to the remaking of the culture by unelected judicial elites. It is foolhardy to think that the party could improve its political position by simply dropping this issue, but that is exactly what it would have to do if it chose to surrender on same-sex marriage. No doubt, some who call for surrender believe that the party could finesse the issue with its own core voters, but any such effort would require pretending that the Supreme Court decision in question was a responsible exercise of the judicial power, a farce that would be insulting and alienating to the GOPs own core voters.
Some might object that opposition to judicial activism has never been one of the Republican Partys primary themes. Perhaps, then, the party can successfully abandon it while emphasizing other issues that will reconcile its conservative voters to its overall position. This is impossible, however, because of the inextricable connection between the case against judicial activism and what is undeniably an important issue, and an intensely felt one, on the part of core Republican voters: opposition to abortion.
The Abortion Connection
If you ask an uninformed voter about the parties positions on judicial activism, you will in many cases get an answer revealing complete ignorance. This would certainly not be the case if you were to try the same experiment with abortion as the issue in question. Almost everyone, even the most inattentive voter, knows that the Republican Party is generally pro-life.
Better-informed Republican voters, moreover, know very well that any genuine Republican efforts to contain the culture of abortion must also involve a battle against judicial activism. Americas uniformly liberal abortion regimelike its prospective uniformly liberal regime of marriageis not the work of the voters but of the Supreme Court. Pro-life, conservative voters have spent the last several decades arguing that the most obvious way to roll back this abortion regime is by electing Republican presidents who will appoint constitutionalist justices who would be willing to reverse Roe v. Wade when a satisfactory case presented the opportunity.
The Republican Party cannot surrender the cause of marriage, however, without also in practice surrendering the cause of life. To borrow the language of Byron Whites dissent in the Roe companion case Doe v. Bolton, a decision announcing a constitutional right to same-sex marriage will be every bit as much an act of raw judicial power as was the Courts conduct in Roe and Doe. A Republican Party that gives up the fight against judicial activism in order to make peace with same-sex marriage will also be surrendering the fight for a constitutional order more protective of the right to life. There is no way such surrender could be achieved without shearing away masses of morally conservative, pro-life Republican voters.
And conversely, any Republican president who makes and keeps a pledge to nominate constitutionalist (and, implicitly, anti-Roe) justices, will inevitably be hacking away at the foundations of both the right to same-sex marriage and the right to abortion. As a practical matter, it is impossible to imagine a constitutionalist jurist who is willing to revisit and overturn Roea forty-one-year-old ruling that was approved by a seven-person majorityyet who will treat as untouchable a ruling in favor of a right to same-sex marriagewhich will be brand-new, based on a novel theory of the Fourteenth Amendment, and will have passed by a five to four vote.
In The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkiens Gandalf admonishes his discouraged fellows that despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. Neither do we. Such certain knowledge of the future is given no more to us than to the inhabitants of Middle Earth, and we no more than they may rightly invoke it in order to justify surrender to what we believe to be wrong.
Hear that Rand Paul supporters?
...and I like Rand Paul...
Some here get it wrong - Paul wants the STATES to decide which is exactly where this issue belongs because federal interference is flat-out unconstitutional.
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Too bad that Paul isn’t running for governor of a state, he is running for president, the federal government, so you can drop that phony fig leaf, as can the weaselly Rand Paul.
Gay marriage and abortion have a huge presence in federal law.
Gay marriage from the military to federal employment, to immigration and foreign policy and at the U.N., and abortion in federal hospitals and on military bases and in foreign policy and at the U.N..
The president and the federal government have great public influence on these issues, when FBI men and the Military have gay marriage nationally, then the argument among the voters of individual states is close to over.
We’ve only “lost” to the extent that we surrender.
Like abortion, same sex marriage is purely the result of judicial activism. Unlike abortion, entire states have approved traditional marriage by huge majorities only to have “judges” find in our constitution some right to same sex marriage, and that without a shred of historical approval of same sex marriage anywhere at any time.
So, judges have intentionally overturned the will of the people with some nonsense about equality under the law, although even they won’t (yet) say that a man can marry multiple wives, a sibling, a parent, a cow, a computer, a car, etc.
Politically, this is so. However, it seems to me that culturally, the mass of the people are in denial. They carry on with weddings and marriages as if nothing has changed. So, you could say we are entering an interesting phase.
“Gay marriage” is an attempted coup d’etat against God, against nature, and against We the People of the United States. I assure you that neither God nor nature will be overthrown. The only question is whether the American people will allow themselves to be overthrown by lawless judges and their supine enablers in the other two branches. The verdict is still out.
That is a slick way to try to conceal Paul's real positions on abortion and gay marriage and social conservatism.
Rand Paul has come out as not supporting the GOP pro-life position because it is too strict, and he has called for the GOP to drop opposing gay marriage and promoting social conservatism to, "grow the party".
Good article. BTTT.
States decide “Cousins Marriage”, big difference between some states. I agree with you. States have long regulated marriage down to the County Clerk.
In general people follow the crowd.
As long as there is plenty of support for something they personally believe then they can continue supporting it, but once they come to think that the majority disagrees with their position, then their own opposition collapses and they join the crowd.
People can endure public pressure to hold on to possessions like their money, or their guns, or cars, but they are weak in holding on to their social issues like drugs, porn, gay issues, people don’t like to be ‘uncool’.
When conservatives control congress, they need to do a systematic reorganizations of the federal judiciary at several levels, one part of which would be the purging of judges with activist leanings.
Fortunately, right now many of them have made themselves known. Overruling voter referendums, effectively pardoning savage murderers, releasing pedophiles with a slap on the wrist, and generating decisions invariably overturned on appeal for mistakes law students wouldn’t make.
Quite a list of those who should be put out to pasture.
Why does the Feds want to promote a lifestyle that shortens lives and destroys health so dramatically.
Pray America wakes up
Once the public at large sees the social, moral and economic effects of gay marriage on the 19 states that have gay marriage, the people, the politicians and even the courts will turn away from gay marriage.
I certainly hope these scoundrels, the judges you reference, can be tossed out on their ears would be preferable. I hope the law can do this because some of what has been ruled on is absolutely obscene and we would not be putting up with so much of this if not for these men and women in black robes.
That’s right. As the Tenth Amendment confirms, if it’s not expressly delegated to the feds by the Constitution, it’s an issue that belongs to the states and the people respectively.
Marriage also has a place in federal law, that is why the continental congress, and then the Congress was passing law related to marriage in 1780, 1894, 1798, and 1802, and so on, and is how President Obama has made such major rulings on gay marriage at the federal level.
That is why Rand Paul has become more open about his indifference to gay marriage and social issues, and abortion, as he runs to take Obama’s place.
I heard Mike Wallace’s son (I really don’t remember his first name) as a guest on a conservative talk show the other day telling how he went to a sodomite “marriage” ceremony and he saw nothing wrong with it.
The problem with this libertarian perspective it that it focuses solely on individuals but ignores the importance of institutions to society and to the country. Diversity, pacifism, and appeasement all seem like good things until we find ourselves divided amongst one another having to face a foreign totalitarian threat. We don’t live in a post-aggression world.
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Welcome back, wagglebee.
The author is correct. If the conservatives succeed to define the views on same-sex “marriage”, judicial activism and abortion as a unified wedge issue, we win.
So far we’ve allowed the left to define these issues for us.
It is a matter of moral truth. Never give up. Never surrender. The truth is not determined by democratic vote or the rulings of courts.
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