What’s Next for Marriage?
After the Supreme Court



The Supreme Court’s Defense of Marriage Act decision is the flower girl in the wedding march of same-sex marriage. Here come the brides, and the grooms, and a whole lot more. 

The same logic that led from Griswold v. Connecticut to Roe v. Wade will lead from the expansive language of equal protection in this ruling to the push for same-sex marriage in all 50 states. With that will come, I predict, the most protracted contest over religious liberty and freedom of conscience since the First Amendment disestablished the state churches. 

Despite this rather gloomy forecast, I don’t take a “slouching toward Gomorrah” read on our marriage future. This is partly because I believe in the resilience of natural marriage, and partly because I think the push for same-sex marriage isn’t really about marriage at all, at least not marriage in anything but name. Putting aside the professional activist community for a moment, most gay and lesbian Americans really believe legal recognition will grant them the same sort of union their parents had. Because I think sexual complementarity is of the essence of the one-flesh union, I don’t think this will happen. In the aftermath of the disappointment sexual libertarianism brings, there will be a time for a new word about more permanent things, such as marriage as a permanent, conjugal, one-flesh reality between a man and a woman. 

The marriage debates will prove trying for those of us who believe marriage is something other than a civil contract and a “celebration of love.” Catholic and Evangelical and Orthodox Christians, along with Orthodox Jews and Muslims, will seem increasingly freakish in American culture. But with that comes the opportunity to turn back from our own slow-train sexual-revolutionary ways. 

The Bible Belt marrying parson who marries whosoever will show up and rent his church, his day is over. The gelatin-spined neighborhood priest who hitches the cohabiting couple and hopes to see them at church for their children’s first communions, his time is up. In a day when churches must fight for the cultural freedom to define marriage, laissez-faire wedding policies, and the nominalism that goes with them, are done for, and good riddance. 

Sure, there will be some nuns-on-the-bus types calling for marriage equality. And we will always have those mainline Protestants who dress up as Evangelicals in order to reach a marketing niche. But the churches won’t capitulate, because we can’t. To dispense with marriage is to dispense with a mystery that points to the Gospel itself, the union of Christ and his church, as the Apostle Paul says to the church at Ephesus. 

Again, this will seem freakish and nasty and bigoted. Marriage will decline, and children will be hurt, because the marginalization of marriage always empowers predatory men. But the Gospel flourished in places known for temple prostitutes and gladiator fights, and it still stands. As churches recover healthy marriage cultures, and contrast these with the sexually libertarian carnival around them, there will be a time for a new conversation about men and women, and mothers and fathers, and the meaning of sex and life. 

Our task, between now and then, is to keep lit the way to those old, old paths.

— Russell D. Moore is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention

Okay, I get it. I’m a mean, hateful person, animated only by unlawful animus against gay people, because I voted for Proposition 8. I continue to believe in it, in spite of all the public lecturing and admonishment I’ve received since 2008. How Justice Kennedy and the Court know my feelings, why they think it is their business to inquire about my feelings, I do not know. But never mind. The Court has spoken.

Here is what I want to know: Does the Supreme Court in its DOMA incarnation really believe that marriage has literally nothing to do with procreation? Why should the government should take any interest at all in sexual relationships, unless those relationships have at least the potential to produce helpless children? Is the Supreme Court really prepared to go to Anacostia, where whole neighborhoods have no fathers, and tell people that children don’t need a mother and a father? Does the Supreme Court really think it is supporting “equality” by telling some children that they are not legally entitled to a relationship with their mothers and fathers, to know their genetic and cultural heritage, while other children do have that entitlement?

Does the Supreme Court in its Prop 8 incarnation really think that there is anything left of the citizens’ initiative process after they have gutted it? What recourse does the Court think that citizens have when their elected officials refuse to do their constitutionally sworn duty?

The Supreme Court has reduced the institution formerly known as marriage to a government registry of friendships. And the Supreme Court has reduced the citizens’ initiative process to a very expensive popularity contest that has no ability to alter the course of public policy.

Not a bad day’s work of empowering the state and attacking the institutions of civil society.

— Jennifer Roback Morse is the founder and president of the Ruth Institute.