Following up on my Public Discourse essay from last August (“Shut Up, Bigot! The Intolerance of Tolerance”), I have written a second essay that addresses the central objection I encountered to my original piece. The main objection was that tolerance for traditional views of human sexuality and marriage (i.e., opposite-sex relations that are exclusive and permanent) is impermissible, because traditional views are discriminatory and harmful—on the same level as racism, misogyny, and banning interracial marriage. To see how I respond, read my essay below.
Here I am going to explain and defend my essay. This is necessary since I have already recieved some questions, criticisms, and complaints, and also because the argument of this essay is slightly more complex than the previous essay.
Purpose of Essay
It’s important to realize why I wrote this essay. As a follow-up to my previous essay, it essentially continues that conversation. That essay’s purpose was more or less defensive: it defended marriage traditionalists as being rational in their views, and their right to be heard in the public square without being called bigots/homophobes or being shunned. Since this essay is a follow-up to that one, I continue with a defensive stance. In addition, while my first essay was focused on the nature of tolerance, this essay focused on same-sex partnerships and whether they could be marriages and qualify as civil rights. Note that my foray into the same-sex debate was not to opine on that issue, but to consider it vis-a-vis bigotry and tolerance. Simply put, my focus has been on marriage, not same-sex attracted persons and the nature of homosexual relationships.
[Note: I use the term “marriage traditionalists” as a shorthand for “those who believe that the structure of marriage is between a man and a woman, exclusively and permanently.” I do not mean that those who believe marriage is between a man and woman do so because of tradition. There are many sources for believing in the historical understanding of marriage beyond mere tradition].
Structure of Essay
To help you understand the logic of my argument, which, admittedly, can be difficult to follow in prose format, I’ve laid my essay out in argument form with the corresponding sections of my essay in parenthesis.
(I) Civil rights objection (“Denying Gay People the Civil Right to Marriage?”)
(1) If objection is true, then X (“The Limits and Demands of Tolerance”)
(a) Tolerance is not an absolute right if what’s being tolerated is immoral or socially harmful.
(b) The practice of tolerance and intolerance depends upon a shared metaphysical and moral worldview.
(i) Marriage as being between a man and woman used to be a shared belief. Thus, it was easily tolerated.
(ii) Marriage as being between a man and woman has become obscured and is no longer a universally shared belief. Thus, it is now controversial and not tolerated by many.
(1) Therefore, for the traditional view of marriage to be tolerated, it must be rationally and morally defended. And so it has.
(2) If objection is not true, then Y:
(a) Objection and its analogies are false (“False Analogies and Conceptions”)
(i) Analogies to other civil rights are false analogies.
(ii) The defense of marriage between a man and woman as being rational and virtuous has been made and is superior to revisionist views (i.e., I.1.b.ii.1 is satisfied).
(b) Why the objection fails:
(i) Same-sex marriage is an impossibility (“A Valid Analogy”)
(1) By reason, science, and revelation marriage requires sexual complementarity.
(2) Same- and opposite-sex relationships are different in kind, not in degree.
(3) Therefore, because same-sex relationships lack sexual complementarity they are different in kind and so cannot form marriages.
(ii) Implications of (I.2.b.i):
(1) Civil rights are logically dependent upon natural rights (“Natural Rights and Civil Rights”)
(a) Negative rights are inalienable: the civil right is a pre-political moral imperative that governments must legally protect.
(b) Positive rights are socially constructed: the civil right comes into existence when the positive right does.
(2) Marriage is the former kind of natural right grounded in nature and creation, not malleable by governments or courts (“Civil Rights and Same-Sex Marriage”)
(a) Therefore, the civil right to marriage rests upon the natural right to marriage.
(b) Therefore, the civil right to marriage cannot be redefined since the natural right to marriage cannot be redefined.
(c) Since marriage by reason, science, and revelation necessary requires sexual complementarity (I.2.b.i.1), “same-sex marriage” is an absurd and impossible concept.
(i) One cannot have a civil right to an absurdity since one cannot have a civil right to something that doesn’t exist.
(ii) Therefore, no one is being denied a civil right to “same-sex marriage.”
(iii) Therefore, the civil rights objection fails.
Questions and Objections Answered
1. Your definition of “bigotry” is wrong. The Oxford English Dictionary defines bigot as “A person considered to adhere unreasonably or obstinately to a particular religious belief, practice, etc.” This describes you and your essay perfectly, so you are a bigot.
One gentleman objected in this way, but this actually addresses my previous essay, not this one. Still, since I don’t own or have access to the 20-volume OED, I simply couldn’t check or verify his definition. Furthermore, since most people don’t have access to the OED but instead use normal dictionaries like the Oxford Dictionary I used, it is unreasonable to expect people to understand “bigot/bigotry” apart from the accessible dictionaries we do have. Notice that I didn’t use Dictionary.com or Urban Dictionary or some other subpar dictionary; instead I used the best dictionary that exists: Oxford. The online Oxford Dictionary defines bigotry as “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself.” As I explained in my original essay, this definition properly locates the intolerance as directed toward other persons, not other ideas or opinions. If bigotry were defined as intolerance of others’ opinions, then everyone is a bigot, especially the very people who object to and reject my arguments for man-woman marriage. So adopting such a definition of bigotry simply ends up being self-defeating and useless.
What about the definition above, that a bigot is “a person considered to adhere unreasonably or obstinately to a particular religious belief, practice, etc.”? This, along with the definition of “bigot” as “a fanatical adherent or believer; a person characterized by obstinate, intolerant, or strongly partisan beliefs,” is, as far as I can tell, found in the OED. However, these definitions are problematic precisely because they beg the question as to what constitutes “unreasonable,” “obstinate,” “fanatical,” and the like. Believing that marriage by nature is between a man and a woman surely fails to meet any of these pejorative descriptors. If you think otherwise, do you really believe that Aristotle and Aquinas, Descartes and Duns Scotus, Kepler and Kierkegaard, Jonathan Edwards and James Madison, and thousands more honored stalwarts of Western society were all bigots because they believed marriage was between a man and a woman? Basically, before 1980, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone of importance in Western history (or for that matter world history) who didn’t hold that marriage was composed of sexual complementaries. Today, however, the gatekeepers of political, legal, and cultural life in America have dubbed themselves the standards by which certain beliefs are deemed unreasonable, obstinate, or fanatical. And of course, they apply such labels to the historical understanding of marriage — unfortunately, to great effect. So while I don’t mind working with the OED, its definition is problematic and thus we should stick with the Oxford Dictionary I originally used.
2. I don’t understand your analogy as it doesn’t seem analogous to me. Can you explain why you picked this example?
The analogy I picked needed to meet two core criteria in order to accurately reflect the views of marriage traditionalists. First, realize that there are two types of disagreements. There are disagreements over two possible options, such as debating whether top marginal tax rates should be 35% or 90%. Both of these are possible, and both have actually been tried; neither option is an absurdity (although the 90% rate is foolish). The other kind of disagreement is where one option is a live possibility (i.e., it actually exists) and the second option is an impossibility (it doesn’t exist, even if some people are deceived into thinking it does). Since the center of my argument is that “same-sex marriage” is a nonsensical and absurd notion (the second kind of disagreement), just like a “married bachelor” or “square triangle,” I needed an analogy that also dealt with a nonsensical idea, but one that everyone would obviously understand as being impossible (i.e., wouldn’t be controversial).
Conservatives insist that the marriage debate is not one where traditionalists are saying that same-sex marriage is a possible but bad idea that others shouldn’t go along with (say, with child marriages or incestuous marriages). No, instead they are arguing that same-sex marriages are an impossibility, and thus a bad idea because legalizing an absurdity is harmful to society. I chose the concept of children, because (so far) we still understand what a child is: the offspring of humans via sexual intercourse. Because children, as humans, are different in kind (not just degree) from animals, it is impossible to adopt an animal as a pet and then call it one’s child. Redefining “children” to include pet animals is a nonsensical notion since there are necessary and sufficient conditions that must be met for a child to be a child, and a pet animal does not and cannot meet those conditions. In the same way, same-sex and opposite-sex relationships are different in kind (not just degree), such that the former cannot make a marriage since a marriage requires sexual complementarity. Although both are human adult relationships, for a relationship to become a marriage it must meet the necessary and sufficient conditions to qualify as a marriage. One of these conditions is sexual complementarity (others would be permanence, exclusivity, fidelity, consensus [?], etc.). In both cases the pet animal and the same-sex relationship are different in kind and fail to meet the necessary conditions to be a child and a marriage, respectively. Thus, in both cases the revisionist options don’t deal with possible but unwise options, but with ideas that are impossibilities. This means that in both cases the revisionists must be self-deceived or deluded into actually believing their option is a real possibility when it is not.
Second, since the objection dealt with civil rights, and since marriage is a civil right that rests on a natural, pre-political right (see fifth question below), I needed my analogy to draw from the natural sphere as opposed to the governmental or cultural spheres where many of the things we invoke as rights are human inventions. For example, I could have given an analogy to the civil right to vote. In this case, if someone came along and revised the definition of “voting” to mean “choosing the person who will win,” this would be incorrect. Voting only allows a person to choose whom they desire to win; but there’s no guarantee that that individual will in fact win the election. This is a good analogy, because it shows that voting is something that just can’t be changed willy-nilly. The problem with the analogy, though, is that voting is not an intrinsic part of the natural world. Voting only comes into existence when a political community does, and then only for certain political communities (democracies, constitutional republics, etc.). Voting in a monarchy doesn’t make a lick of sense. And beyond that, there is nothing intrinsic about our definition and conception of voting that forces us to recognize it as such. If we had wanted to, we could have changed the definition, notion, and process of voting to be something else entirely. Since marriage is a pre-political institution that existed before any government or political body existed, its definition and concept doesn’t depend on government. Therefore, governments can’t change it whenever they desire; instead, governments recognize what already exists. I needed an analogy that resided in the same pre-political natural sphere, and so I chose the metaphysics of procreation, children, and parenting.
A final word on my analogy. The nature of an analogy is that not every part is analogous; that’s the very definition of an analogy. If every part were univocal, it would cease to be an analogy and would instead be an identical statement; or if every part were equivocal, it would become unintelligible. So someone might come along and say, “Such and such part of your analogy isn’t analogous to same-sex marriage,” and depending upon what they point out, I might agree. But that doesn’t invalidate my analogy. Since the core components are analogous (natural, pre-political institutions; revisionist definitions creates impossible ideas), it is a valid analogy even if other components are not (e.g., as I mentioned in my article, I’m not saying that same-sex attracted persons are less than human or a different species as a dog is to a human child). Simply identifying disanalogous aspects of an analogy doesn’t invalidate the analogy. If you want to invalidate the analogy, you have to show that the core components of the analogy that are thought to be analogous aren’t. I welcome critical feedback if anyone wants to attempt to do that with my analogy.
3. You claim that there is no civil right to same-sex marriage, yet this is demonstrably false because the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell that a civil right to marriage exists for same-sex attracted persons (i.e., a civil right to same-sex marriage).
This objection falls prey to the fallacy of jurisprudential positivism or activism, by which one thinks that the courts represent the highest authority in the land. In this view, whatever the courts rule is right because the courts ruled it. But this is false for a number of reasons. First, when America was founded the belief that there existed a higher order of truth and moral authority than the will of humans undergirded every aspect of our origins. By what basis did the Revolutionists throw off the chains of monarchical Britain? On the basis of there being “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God,” of unalienable rights grounded in nature and creation, and in the undying belief that each person is accountable to God first, and to others second. All three branches of the U.S. government were founded on this assumption: that government was provisional and could be abolished (see opening paragraph of the Declaration of Independence) as it was constituted to protect human rights and freedoms, and to promote the Common Good. But you must have pre-existing rights and freedoms, and know what The Good is before you can create a government to protect and promote these things. So the Supreme Court is accountable to an authority higher than itself as it was established to clearly elucidate, defend, and promote the goodness of that authority as found in the Constitution and our laws. Once it attempts to usurp that authority, it loses its legitimacy, something that is happening before our eyes.
Second, legally speaking, the role of the Supreme Court (and all local and federal courts) is to interpret existing law, not create new laws ex nihilo. Unfortunately, judicial activism has been the name of the game for the past 75 years. When one looks at the Constitution, there cannot be a “right” to same-sex marriage in the text because it isn’t there. Of course, you can rationalize and obfuscate about “penumbras and emanations” in the Bill of Rights or 14th Amendment (see Griswold v. Connecticut, 1965) that supposedly protect any and every modern “right,” but this is blatantly incorrect for any objective observer. Historically speaking, it is completely anachronistic to read same-sex marriage back into the text of the Constitution, since no American founder of the 18th century who helped craft the Constitution believed marriage to be anything except a man-woman union. Same-sex marriage not only wasn’t a concept back then, but homosexuality was consider immoral and was illegal. This is also obvious to anyone who is semi-educated about American history and isn’t looking to read their predilections into the text. So the idea that the Supreme Court last year actually found a right to same-sex marriage in the text of the Constitution is simply false. It is historically and legally impossible (and also philosophically impossible as I argue since “same-sex marriage” is a nonsensical notion).
Third and finally, the Supreme Court is not infallible. Just think back to its 1857 decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford in which it declared black slaves weren’t U.S. citizens even if they were born here. This was obviously a false ruling, and was later overturned. The Supreme Court can get it wrong—imagine that! The 1857 Court went wrong because they based their decision on the racist view that blacks were a separate and inferior race of humans and thus were naturally fit to be slaves and not citizens. The Court was wrong because of false beliefs they held about the nature of humans, race, and skin color. We now well know that there is only one human race, and that skin color is genetically determined by melanin pigment, something no one has control over and which makes no one inferior or superior to another.
The points here are two: (1) The Court is fallible and can rule falsely; thus, we must scrutinize each Court’s ruling by the dictates of history, philosophy, morality, American jurisprudence, and the like. If found to be incorrect for whatever reason, this opens the possibility for a future ruling to overturn the current law (something we hope happens with Roe v. Wade and Obergefell). (2) Fallible Court decisions are often based on false beliefs about the nature of reality. Both points are what proponents of man-woman marriage are arguing: that the Court’s decision on same-sex marriage is as false as the Dred Scott v. Sandford case precisely because five members of the Court hold false beliefs about the nature and reality of marriage, something we can know by studying marriage from history, philosophy, morality, natural law, jurisprudence, social science, etc. And what is more, their ruling is doubly invalid because it is rank judicial activism. So, yes, the Supreme Court has ruled that there is a civil right to same-sex marriage, but they are wrong because their beliefs about marriage are false and because their ruling constitutes jurisprudential activism. This means there is no civil right to same-sex marriage.
4. You are just forcing your religious views about marriage down the throats of others. For the government to adopt any one religious definition of marriage is to violate the First Amendment. This is wrong and illegal and shouldn’t be tolerated in a pluralistic society.
This is a common complaint that I’ve heard from religious and secular people alike. My response is obvious: I have never actually forced anyone to believe what I believe. So what that I write about my convictions, seek to persuade others that they are true, and live them out publicly? How does this qualify as “forcing my religious views on others”? Such objections are mere rhetorical clichés. My second response is more nuanced: I did not and have not argued for man-woman marriage from any religious text or tradition, but from reason and science. If people had actually bothered to view the sources I link to in my essay, they would have seen that I point them toward arguments for man-woman marriage that rest on natural law reasoning and the social-scientific evidence that man-woman marriages are the most stable and healthy (as opposed to cohabitation, plural marriages, same-sex unions, etc.), and the best environment in which to raise children (see here, here, here, here, here, and here for only a small sampling). Yes, at one point I did link to Genesis 2:18-25 to talk about marriage being part of the “created order” (which I believe it is). However, this point came after I had already pointed to all the other sources and arguments for man-woman marriage from a non-religious perspective. In addition, I could have easily just said the “natural order” and linked to a different resource. I included this link to spread my net as widely as possible, to include both those who are secular and religious who might be reading my article.
I’m guessing that people think I’m making a religious argument for man-woman marriage for two reasons. First, because I’m holding to the traditional vision of marriage that has historically been held by the three monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). So they simply think that if you argue for this idea of marriage, your argument must be religious. But this is a non sequitur and simply doesn’t follow. Second, they probably saw that I am a graduate student at Denver Seminary, and thus am an evangelical Christian, and therefore my beliefs and arguments must be religiously motivated. Even if my beliefs about marriage being between a man and woman are religiously founded, this is irrelevant to my article and arguments (i.e., that thinking commits the genetic fallacy). What matters is how I argued for marriage in my essay. And there I took a natural law, sociological, and social-scientific approach. If you aren’t familiar with the case for man-woman marriage from these sources, I would strongly encourage you to look into this to discover just how strong the evidence for it is.
Finally, every law encodes and enforces some moral component. The idea that you can’t “legislate morality” is patently false (we forbid murder because it is morally wrong). The issue here isn’t whether the federal government through law and the courts will or will not legislate morality, but what will be the source and grounding of their moral reasoning and legislation? The objection is right to claim that no one religious creed or tradition should be the source of moral lawmaking, but I am not demanding that it should be. I am not making the case that America should somehow strive to be a Christian nation or theocracy, something that I think would not only do a great deal of harm but is also impossible (I don’t believe the idea of a “Christian nation” is intelligible theologically). Instead, I am making the claim that the government should rely upon conscience, judicial sentiment, natural law, philosophy, history, and social science to guide their lawmaking and jurisprudence.
This is actually the theoretical foundations of America, stretching all the way back to Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Montesquieu who then greatly impacted Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and James Madison. Now it just so happens that I believe these sources of law and morality for public life are not inconsistent with Judeo-Christian teachings and revelation, precisely because I believe God created the world to be a rational and morally ordered universe where humans could use their God-given intellectual abilities to discover these truths for themselves. This is similar to Deism, but there’s no need to posit or believe in a distant and uncaring God. However, all this is really beside the point since you don’t have to believe in God to use your conscience and reasoning skills to discern the nature of reality and morality. This is what I meant in my essay when I said, “We may not agree on the ontological bases for these truths, but all that is necessary is agreement that these things are true.” The difference is the one between ontology and epistemology: you need not know the metaphysical grounding of some thing (ontology) to know that it exists and whether it is true or false, good or evil.
5. What do you mean by marriage being a natural, negative right? Does this make every part of civil marriage in the United States a natural occurrence? Can you explain further the link between natural and civil rights? It seems to me that if marriage is a natural institution there’s no need for it to be a legal or government institution. Why involve the government at all?
My analysis of marriage vis-a-vis natural and civil rights is built off the distinction between positive and negative rights (I linked to John C. Goodman’s article). While this distinction certainly isn’t believed by every political scientist, it makes good sense and has been held by many people throughout history. The other popular option is to assert that all rights come from humans, usually those in power. But as Professor Adam MacLeod describes, “If the sovereign lawmaker is the source of rights, then those rights do not bind the sovereign lawmaker. If rights are not authorized and specified by nature, reason, or some source of authority other than the sovereign power, then rights impose on the sovereign power no obligation.” If there is no authority or basis of rights beyond the lawmaker, then there is no such thing as an inalienable right; every right you or I have is actually provisional and could be revoked at any time. The idea of a “natural right” is a right that each person is endowed with before and beyond the jurisdiction of lawmakers and kings (except in extreme cases), and these human rights therefore bind the sovereign in what they are allowed to do and how they are allowed to treat others. So negative rights are natural rights that place obligations of non-interference on everyone (including the president, lawmaker, or chief justice), while positive rights are conventional rights willed into existence by lawmakers that place obligations of provisions upon certain parties pursuant the relevant contracts.
Working within this framework, we then must decide what kind of right marriage is. Someone claims, “I have a right to marriage!” Well, if the institution of marriage is purly conventional—meaning its existence and shape depends wholly upon human effort and action—then there is nothing wrong with crafting and reshaping marriage to fit the relational mold of the person demanding marriage (whether that be same-sex, plural persons, incestuous, child marriages, etc.). There might be prudential reasons not to legalize some of these relationships as marriage, but on this view there is nothing wrong per say with redefining the institution of marriage to include such relationships. However, my contention in the essay is that to locate marriage within the field of positive rights is wrong-headed. Clearly, marriages existed before governments exists; clearly if government were to collapse or be abolished, people would still get married, and these marriages would be valid and binding. Thus, marriage is a pre-political, natural institution that does not depend upon the government to exist or function. This is why it is located within the realm of negative rights. No one who wants to get married should be prevented from doing so (i.e., the obligation of non-interference), but because marriage is a natural institution beyond government malleability, this means those who marry must conform to what marriage is. They cannot shape marriage around their preferred relationship as marriage has a fixed nature.
It’s also important to see how civil rights relates to negative and positive rights. In my article I said that for negative rights, the civil right flows from it as a moral imperative. If I have the negative right to life, then the civil right to life is a moral imperative that the government must recognize and protect with the appropriate laws and punishments. For the government to fail in this regard would put their very legitimacy as a governing body—and therefore their existence—at stake. For positive rights, the civil right only comes into existent when the positive right does; in fact, it would be accurate to say that the positive right is the civil right. Given a homeowner’s contract that you and the mortgage company mutually and voluntarily sign, the positive/civil right to live in that home comes into existence at that time and only at that time. For you to insist that you have a “right” to a home before you sign the contract to pay the mortgage and property taxes and a thousand other things, is simply incorrect. The civil right to a home is a positive right whose legitimacy is dependent upon the contract agreed upon. Break the contract and the right (and your home) disappears. Our society has become deeply confused because we have failed to maintain the distinction between negative and positive rights. We wrongly think that the right to a job, a certain wage, education, housing, food, transportation, and healthcare are all akin to the right to life, liberty, speech, religion, self-defense, travel, etc. Yet the former are positive rights (and thus conventional and contract-binding), while the latter are negative rights (and thus naturally and universally occurring).
Finally, while marriage is a natural institution that is open for all to pursue and fulfill, the particular contours of the civil rights of marriage in the United States are part of our custom. The provisions of property rights, custodial responsibilities, child care, end-of-life care, tax breaks, etc. that are accorded to married couples are not naturally occurring or moral imperatives. Instead, these can be changed. So why does government get involved in marriage in the first place? Why doesn’t the government simply protect the right to be married (like the right to free speech), without having to provide all these other amenities? The basic answer to this is that historically in English common law and American constitutional law, government regulation of marriage has been for three purposes: (1) to ensure that every child has rightful access to their biological mother and father and so has the best chance to develop and flourish as a healthy individual; (2) to encourage the discipline and restraint of men’s sexual appetites in order to prevent the creation of illegitimate and unwanted children that the state then must care for; and (3) by succeeding in (1) and (2), to build and maintain the foundations of civil society that make it possible for government to exist in the first place. So while we could do away with the tax breaks given to married couples or change the nature of end-of-life care without any damage done to marriage itself, the government is primarily involved in marriage for the sake of children, for the sake of healthy families, and for the sake of cultural flourishing and civilizational common good (since marriage and the family are the foundation of civilization).
Why children? And what about infertile couples or those who get married later in life? While the infertility and old-age objections have been thoroughly treated and refuted by marriage traditionalists, I’ll just say a couple things. Obviously not every marriage results in a child. But every child has a mother and father, and every marriage is naturally and biologically ordered toward children whether or not it actually happens. For children not to happen you’d have to (a) not have sex, which won’t happen, (b) have 100% contraception success, which is rare, or (c) be infertile or old. This is to say that on average and for the most part, children within marriage are the norm. And marriage laws are shaped around averages and norms, not outliers and exceptional cases. If the infertile or older couple remain faithful to each other that means the man won’t get other women pregnant. What helps accomplish male fidelity in these cases? The norms of marriage, namely, permanence and exclusivity, both through legislation and cultural mores and values. So the law cares about shaping a community in which every child has their mom and dad and is properly cared for; and where men and women don’t run around sleeping with hundreds of people and producing illegitimate children who then get stuck in the custody of the state — which then requires tremendous taxpayer resources to care for these children (i.e., the welfare state). Much better by far is to culturally and legally encourage men and women to stay married and care for their biological children instead of outsourcing this critical parental role to taxpayers and the government, a poor and pathetic substitute.
6. Your argument is question-begging. You assume that “marriage” is a man-woman conjugal union and then use that to exclude same-sex couples. Besides, you misunderstand gay couples’ desires: they don’t want a conjugal union, they want legal recognition of their spiritual and emotional partnership, and calling that “marriage” is simply the easiest way to proceed legally.
In response to the first assertion that I’m question-begging, I’ll just return to what I’ve already said: my essay rests upon the previous work of what marriage is that has been advanced by lawyers, social scientists, philosophers, and political scientists. I’m not question-begging because my contention that marriage requires sexual complementarity is the conclusion to a long train of previous arguments. Obviously, given the limitations of the essay, I couldn’t rehash those arguments. Instead I linked to them for anyone willing to explore them for their own merits. I have thoroughly explored them myself and have found them convincing, which is why I use them as the conceptual basis for my view of marriage.
As to the latter issue of the desires of same-sex attracted persons, this is irrelevant. The whole point of my essay is to challenge the assumption that marriage is shaped by adult desires. Human sexual, emotional, or companionship desires have never, do not now, and will never determine what marriage is. Marriage has an essence, a nature, that is fixed and cannot be twisted to fit our personal desires. If desires make a marriage, then how can revisionists consistently reject the idea of plural marriages, incestuous marriages, child marriages, self-marriages, and even bestial marriages—all of which depend upon various desires? The revisionist definitions of marriage that rest on desire, attraction, or attachment fall prey to reductio ad absurdum arguments. They open the Pandora’s box for any and every “marriage” to be legalized, and if this is rejected, to come under the charge of discrimination—the very tool the revisionists used to legally overturn man-woman marriage in the U.S.
In addition, the second part of the objection rests upon a false view of marriage, namely, that marriage is nothing other than romantic domestic partnership between consenting adults. This has been the working model of marriage since 1970, when the first no-fault divorce laws were enacted. On this model, marriage is a contractual, romantic, and soulmate relationship; so if the contract is voided, if the romance wanes, or if the soulmates no longer find themselves bound to one another, the marriage ends and a divorce ensues. From this perspective, it is clear that long before the same-sex marriage campaign began, heterosexuals were at fault for adopting a false understanding of marriage and severely weakening the institution by abolishing permanence, exclusivity, and the procreational components (e.g., on-demand contraceptives divorced marriage from children, allowing men and women to fulfill their sexual desires at will and without consequence). So I place the blame squarely on heterosexual confusion and sexual deviance that has paved the way for the acceptance of homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
Of course this is not what marriage is, and the resources I pointed to paint a different picture: marriage is a comprehensive (or conjugal) body-soul union between a man and a woman that is ordered toward new life (children) and family. For the union to be comprehensive, it must involve sexual complementaries, be exclusive, and permanent. So both heterosexuals and homosexuals get marriage wrong. Therefore my essay, while aimed primarily at the phenomenon of same-sex marriage and civil rights, was also directed toward the broader heterosexual population that falsely conceives of marriage as a romantic, domestic partnership that can be entered into and abandoned at will.
Some people probably think that I have it out for the LGBT community, but I don’t. Instead, I have it out for those who bully, censure, and exclude certain views and voices from the public square simply because they disagree with them. In all this, my highest goal and purpose is to defend and preserve marriage for what it really is, and in the process teach others about it as well. Hopefully I’ve been able to explain and elucidate my Public Discourse essay in this post. As always, I welcome feedback, constructive criticism, and further questions.
Ben is a graduate of Denver Seminary, having completed his MA in New Testament Biblical Studies. He is currently completing a second MA in Christian Apologetics and Ethics, and hopes to pursue a PhD in the near future. He loves reading, drinking coffee, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies. His academic interests include biblical languages and exegesis, theology, philosophy, politics, and economics.