Defending Marriage–No “Hate” Required

by Matthew J. Franck

In the May issue of First Things, I have an article titled “Religion, Reason, and Same-Sex Marriage.”  It’s adapted from a lecture I gave last month at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta at the invitation of my friend Joe Knippenberg.  That lecture in turn was inspired by the reaction I got from liberal readers (and radio listeners) after I published an op-ed in December in the Washington Post and was interviewed about it on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.”  Here’s a brief excerpt from my First Things essay:

In the most telling passage of [Judge Vaughn Walker's] opinion, he claimed—as a “finding of fact,” no less—that “religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful . . . harm gays and lesbians.”

There we have it. Marriage only between a man and a woman is a mere “tradition” with no claim on our attention when a claim of “discrimination” is made on the other side. All that this tradition has going for it is the “moral and religious views” of its supporters. But the law embodies moral choices, so why is this moral viewpoint illegitimate as the basis of a law? The problem is that it is driven too much by the religious commitments of those who hold it—and so it must be dismissed from public life and relegated to the realm of “private moral choice,” disallowed from enactment as the view of the majority in a democratic society. So toxic is it to hold certain religious views that merely believing them works a “harm” to other people. Those who hold these views must not only be prevented from enacting those views as the will of the democratic majority; they must, to the extent possible, be silenced in the public square. They must . . . shut up.