Sex and the Empire State
Losing marriage to sexual liberalism.


LOPEZ: What does it mean for the meaning of marriage in New York?

GEORGE: It means that New York has abolished marriage as a matter of civil law and replaced it with a counterfeit that New Yorkers’ children and grandchildren will be taught to accept and approve as if it were the real thing. What New York now offers its citizens is “marriage” in name only. In reality, it doesn’t give marriage to same-sex partners — the nature of marriage makes that impossible, just as it makes it impossible to offer marriage to parties of three or more persons in polyamorous sexual partnerships. Rather, it takes away the legal recognition of marriage — a comprehensive union of persons ordered to having and rearing a family (on procreation’s intrinsic link to marriage, see here and here) — and offers in its place legal recognition of a form of domestic partnership for romantic-sexual partners (in pairs for now, but that will not hold), be they same-sex or opposite-sex. Because these domestic partnerships are not actually marriages, despite the appropriation of the label; there is no intelligible basis in them for the norms of monogamy, exclusivity, and the pledge of permanence that structure and help to define marriage as historically understood in our law and culture. Of course, many people’s understanding of, and authentic commitment to, these norms has already eroded substantially since the 1960s under the pressure of sexual-revolution ideology. They will now erode further, though for a while some people who are still “evolving” (as President Obama might put it) toward the complete embrace of that ideology will be moved by sentimentality (which will seem increasingly quaint) and the residue of the “old morality” to cling to the belief that “marriages” (same-sex or opposite-sex) should be monogamous and sexually exclusive. And the erosion of these beliefs (and practices in line with them) will further wound our communities — especially mothers, children, and the poor.

Of course, among the activists and leaders of the movement to redefine marriage, it is already difficult to find anyone who believes that same-sex marriages demand as a matter of moral obligation sexual exclusivity. If you have time to poke around a bit on the Internet, just try to find leaders in the movement who say that they do. Hardly anyone among the leading activists will say that it is immoral and contrary to the integrity of marriage for same-sex marriage partners to agree to sexually “open” marriages. Rather, most will say that the “commitment” that makes a marriage (as in the slogan “commitment, not gender, makes a marriage”), is fundamentally an emotional commitment and a commitment to provide mutual care and support; it does not exclude a formal or implicit agreement by the partners that sex outside the partnership is acceptable. As a recent San Francisco State University study (as reported by the New York Times) shows, the “open secret” (as the Times puts it) about same-sex “marriages” is that a huge proportion of them are sexually open. Sexual activity with parties outside the relationship (sometimes with disclosure to the other partner, sometimes without) is accepted and practiced. Monogamy and sexual exclusivity are simply not regarded as integral to “marriage.” (This shows just how far the redefinition of marriage takes us from what has historically been understood as marriage in our law and culture.) For anyone who has examined the sexual-liberationist ideology whose hegemony in the elite sector of the culture makes the idea of same-sex “marriage” even possible, this is as unsurprising as the sun rising in the East. On sexual-liberationist premises, there is no reason (apart from the subjective tastes of this or that particular set of partners) for “marriages” to be monogamous and demand sexual fidelity.

LOPEZ: It’s a significant thing, isn’t it, that this was brought about by elected representatives, not judicial fiat?

GEORGE: That’s not the news here. The news is that a state senate controlled by the Republican party caved in to a liberal Democratic governor’s agenda to redefine marriage. It’s bad that it happened — bad for the party and bad for the state and nation. But if it was going to happen, it is better that it happened by the actions of the people’s elected representatives, and not by the fiat of judges pretending to be enforcing constitutional guarantees while, in truth, usurping democratic legislative authority. What happened in New York further damages marriage, to be sure, but it does not damage the Constitution and the rule of law, as Roe v.Wade notoriously did (and will continue to do until it is overturned), and as state judicial decisions redefining marriage did in Massachusetts and Iowa. Whatever one’s views on the question of how marriage should be defined, any friend of the Constitution should pray that the Supreme Court rejects the invitation on offer from Ted Olson and David Boies to pull another Roe v. Wade by redefining marriage for the whole nation in Perry v. Schwarzenegger.