The Roe of Marriage
Where do we go from the Supreme Court?

Maggie Gallagher



LOPEZ: Why are opponents of same-sex marriage so wedded to marriage? Is reclaiming the “man and woman for life” definition, and strengthening that, in our best interests for way more than a same-sex-marriage fight?

GALLAGHER: I don’t speak for anyone but myself: Marriage is the word and the idea that incarnates a series of tremendously important ideas our contemporary post-sexual-revolution culture is inclined to deny — and now disparage as bigoted. Our bodies matter. They are part of who we are. Men and women are different, and the whole society needs — because our children need it, and because our future depends on it, on culturally creating it — a pathway from male to female (and vice versa) in which we do not hurt each other or our children with our sexual desires. To become the kind of people who care for our children, not kill them, or hurt them, require a tremendous commitment that adolescents make only in a society where adult society is committed to these norms.

Gay marriage is only plausible because our background commitment and capacity to recognize these ideas — in particular as ideals — is overridden by a number of ideological imperatives.

In the name of equality, we have schools now that massively fail boys — injuring the life prospects of both boys and girls. And yet it’s hardly a social problem. By refusing to recognize masculinity, we refuse to engage in the work of identifying what boys (or girls) need, and creating a civilized social order.


LOPEZ: At some point are proponents of marriage as between a man and a woman going to have to call it something else?

GALLAGHER:Holy matrimony”? It’s not a question I’ve thought about. Changing the language will change the battlefield only briefly. Can we sustain a cultural vision that sustains marriage as a norm and an ideal in the next generation? We need a powerful influx of culture-creators: artists, filmmakers, poets, novelists, journalists (not op-ed writers), songwriters, storytellers — as well as credentialed social scientists and intellectuals.

And we need philanthropists willing to sustain these networks, and entrepreneurs opening up for-profit markets and audiences for these creators.

And politicians with the courage of Ronald Reagan.


LOPEZ: What would you like to see Congress consider?

GALLAGHER: I would like the House to repass an expanded DOMA — including a clause that makes it clear that polygamous marriages need not be recognized if the second DOMA effort is struck down.

We also need urgently new protections for traditional believers. How about making it clear that unlike Loving v. Virginia, Windsor will not lead to the IRS taking away the tax deductions of groups with a traditional view of marriage, to give just one example.


LOPEZ: In your book with John Corvino, Debating Same-Sex Marriage, you argue that we’re not actually debating same-sex marriage. Can we ever? Or will emotions overtake reason?

GALLAGHER: I don’t know that I’m any less emotional than the other side. I don’t see emotion and reason as opposites. Emotion gives important information about oneself; it’s food for reason.

For gay-marriage advocates, almost without exception, gay marriage is primarily a debate about orientation equality, and about marriage only incidentally. How much does the culture care about marriage to resist this formulation? Not enough, not yet, at least among the cultural elites.


LOPEZ: What’s your advice to people who are a wee bit bewildered, looking at the human body and human history and not understanding how we have the authority to redefine marriage?

GALLAGHER: Be not afraid. Go reread City of God. Our political order has just shifted and you are now in a disempowered and disfavored minority group in the Supreme Court’s eyes. Don’t let that be your eyes.

Trust the truth. This is not over because the questions raised cannot be settled by fiat.

— Kathryn Jean Lopez is editor at large of National Review Online.


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