Can Marriage Be Saved?


On Sunday, men will marry men and women will marry women, by law, in the State of New York. As we see the photos — and watch the protests — we should ask how and why it matters to anyone but the same-sex couples who marry. What have we learned in the Empire State and what’s next for marriage, in New York and elsewhere? National Review Online asked some experts.


Brian S. Brown
Same-sex marriage comes to New York on Sunday. Whom will it impact other than the couples involved? The answer is: almost everyone. The New York legislature did not create a category of marriage called “gay marriage,” but instead redefined marriage for everyone. That means that anyone who doesn’t go along with this new politically inspired understanding of the historic institution of marriage will be treated under the law as the equivalent of a racist. Already, town clerks with deeply held religious beliefs about marriage have been told they will be fired if they refuse to sanction gay marriages. Some have already been forced to quit. We know from the experience in other states that professionals with strongly held moral beliefs about marriage will be threatened with loss of their professional licenses — and thus their livelihood — if they resist. Christian counselors will be put out of business unless they violate their religious principles and condone gay marriage. Wedding professionals who don’t want to be involved in gay weddings will be sanctioned. Most troubling, children as young as kindergartners will be taught in school that gay marriage is the same as traditional marriage — and parents will be powerless to do anything about it. In short, the consequences to society will be profound.

But this is far from over. People all across the state are rallying to restore marriage by putting a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Thousands are attending marches throughout the state on Sunday, and volunteering in droves at We are determined to let the people of New York have the final say on marriage, just as voters in 31 other states have been able to do.

— Brian S. Brown is president of the National Organization for Marriage.

William C. Duncan
Sunday’s media celebration of same-sex marriage in New York will surely miss the true significance of the change it heralds, a change that will extend far beyond the meaning it gives to new spouses. This is what makes same-sex marriage so unique in its impact on the institution. The decision to forego (through cohabitation) or end (through divorce) marriage undoubtedly has a broad social impact, especially when these individual decisions accumulate as they have in recent decades. But these kinds of decisions can be understood only as a departure from an ideal. Redefining marriage to modify its very nature is different. It involves the substitution of the ideal with an entirely different one. The new ideal, that marriage is the state’s way of endorsing adult relationship choices, will necessarily displace the old one, which had the potentially procreative relationship between men and women at its core. The widely ignored reality is that New York’s official policy will now be that children do not need a mother and father, because men and women are fungible. Will polygamy or open marriages be next? To some degree, that’s beside the point; the shift that will have already occurred is radical enough.

William C. Duncan is director of the Marriage Law Foundation.

Chuck Donovan
What will a few thousand same-sex weddings in New York do to alter what thousands of years of marriage have accomplished for society? In isolation — over weeks and months — nothing cataclysmic. Durable institutions take time, like boulders under a waterfall, to dissolve. But, in our time, marriage has already been subject to Niagaras of erosion.

The civilizing work of marriage has been a centuries-long enterprise, as societies sought and found four sources of stability between the sexes and, from their cooperation, within communities. Those four sources of stability are mutuality, exclusivity, longevity, and intergenerational integrity (the comfort, that is, of having ancestors and descendants — a place in this world).