Can Marriage Be Saved?


When social philosophers speak of the “pre-political” nature of marriage, they mean something about both its divine origin and its civilizing attributes. The direct and indirect contributions of these attributes to personal happiness and social order are incalculable.

When they break down, when mutuality (the two sexes, paired and equal in status), exclusivity (fidelity), longevity (lifelong marriage), and intergenerational integrity (think of Alex Haley’s Roots) decline, the losses accumulate. Same-sex marriage did not begin this accumulation, but weigh its character against all four attributes, and the ramifications multiply.

— Chuck Donovan is senior research fellow in the Heritage Foundation’s DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society.


Matthew J. Franck
The most notable thing about the arrival of same-sex marriage in New York is that it was brought about by legislative and not judicial fiat. But this confers no legitimacy on what is, at root, a fraud. The legislature and the governor broke the procedural norms of the legislative process; broke their oaths to constituents, in the case of some state senators who had pledged a “no” vote in the last election; and broke faith with the people of New York, who deserved a vote at the polls on this question. The institution of marriage is prior in time and importance to constitutions themselves, and like all constitutional questions, this one should have been referred to the people’s direct democracy. New York’s liberal politicians rightly feared a loss in that venue.

What has been gained by the forces behind this act? Certainly not marriage for same-sex couples. They have gained a name, but not the thing it names. They have only destroyed a word’s meaning. And they have harmed the thing it does name, by teaching — one of the things the law does — that marriage has no connection to children and families, but instead is just a bundle of privileges from the government, to be taken up if it is in one’s self-interest. New York has struck a great blow, in the name of a false “right,” against real freedom. Same-sex marriage is inseparable from authoritarianism, as we will see when New York’s Christians, Jews, and Muslims lose the religious freedom to act on the truth about marriage as they know it.

— Matthew J. Franck is director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion and the Constitution at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

Robert P. George
Institutions that speak and act for all of us will inevitably speak and act in ways contrary to the truth about the nature, meaning, and value of marriage. In so speaking and acting, they will reinforce a sexual-revolutionary ideology that has already taken a heavy toll on our society, giving us the divorce culture, widespread non-marital sexual cohabitation, an out-of-wedlock birth rate of more than 40 percent, and other social pathologies. Redefining marriage locks sexual-revolutionary dogma into New York’s public policy in a profound way, making the reform of earlier misguided “reforms” and the rebuilding of a vibrant marriage culture more difficult. Despite the cosmetic protections of “religious liberty,” New York’s “marriage equality” law will result in a wide variety of impositions upon the consciences of New York citizens. In certain domains, it will impose a form of liberal dhimmitude on faithful Catholics, Evangelical Protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, and devout Muslims. It will certainly make even more daunting the task of parents who are members of these faiths to transmit to their children an understanding of marriage and sexual morality in line with the teachings of their traditions. New York’s legislature did not “expand access” to marriage, while leaving its definition intact; rather, it abolished legal recognition of the reality long known as “marriage” and reassigned the label to something quite different, namely, a form of civil union for romantic-sexual partners (in pairs for now, but that will not hold), be they same-sex or opposite-sex. New York’s governor and legislature can, by purloining a word, call this form of civil union “marriage,” but it will lack what marriage possesses — an inherent, intelligible (not merely sentimental and subjective) basis for the norms of monogamy, sexual fidelity, and the pledge of permanence that structure marriage as historically understood in our law and culture.

Robert P. George is McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. He talked at length about the New York marriage law and its implications here.