On The Supposed Inevitability of Abortion, Eugenics and Same-Sex Marriage
Princeton Professor Robert P. George wrote an essay on marriage law that I've been noodling over since I read it last week. It begins:
It was only yesterday, was it not, that we were being assured that the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex partnerships would have no impact on persons and institutions that hold to the traditional view of marriage as a conjugal union? Such persons and institutions would simply be untouched by the change. It won’t affect your marriage or your life, we were told, if the law recognizes Henry and Herman or Sally and Sheila as “married.”
Those offering these assurances were also claiming that the redefinition of marriage would have no impact on the public understanding of marriage as a monogamous and sexually exclusive partnership. No one, they insisted, wanted to alter those traditional marital norms. On the contrary, the redefinition of marriage would promote and spread those norms more broadly.
He recalls how some people thought the claims were hogwash, but were accused of "fearmongering" or engaging in "slippery-slope reasoning." Everyone was told that changing marriage law wouldn't affect anyone but gay couples. Religious non-profits wouldn't be forced to place foster or adopted children in same-sex households. No one would require religious schools or social service agencies to treat same-sex partners as spouses or face penalties. And no one was suggesting that open relationships be normalized.
That was then; this is now.
I must say, though, that I still can’t fathom why anybody believed any of it—even then. The whole argument was and is that the idea of marriage as the union of husband and wife lacks a rational basis and amounts to nothing more than “bigotry.” Therefore, no reasonable person of goodwill can dissent from the liberal position on sex and marriage, any more than a reasonable person of goodwill could support racial segregation and subordination. And this, because marriage, according to the redefiners, consists principally of the emotional union of people committed to mutual affection and care. Any distinctions beyond this one they condemn as baseless.
Since most liberals and even some conservatives, it seems, apparently have no understanding at all of the conjugal conception of marriage as a one-flesh union—not even enough of a grasp to consciously consider and reject it—they uncritically conceive marriage as sexual-romantic domestic partnership, as if it just couldn’t possibly be anything else. This is despite the fact that the conjugal conception has historically been embodied in our marriage laws, and explains their content (not just the requirement of spousal sexual complementarity, but also rules concerning consummation and annulability, norms of monogamy and sexual exclusivity, and the pledge of permanence of commitment) in ways that the sexual-romantic domestic partnership conception simply cannot. Still, having adopted the sexual-romantic domestic partnership idea, and seeing no alternative possible conception of marriage, they assume—and it is just that, an assumption, and a gratuitous one—that no actual reason exists for regarding sexual reproductive complementarity as integral to marriage. After all, two men or two women can have a romantic interest in each other, live together in a sexual partnership, care for each other, and so forth. So why can’t they be married? Those who think otherwise, having no rational basis, discriminate invidiously. By the same token, if two men or two women can be married, why can’t three or more people, irrespective of sex, in polyamorous “triads,” “quadrads,” etc.? Since no reason supports the idea of marriage as a male-female union or a partnership of two persons and not more, the motive of those insisting on these other “traditional” norms must also be a dark and irrational one.
And so those who support redefining marriage to include same-sex unions are becoming more open about their view that these disputes aren't honest disagreements among reasonable people of goodwill. No, it's the battle between reason, enlightenment and equality against bigotry and discrimination. And even though American voters routinely support defining marriage as a heterosexual union of two partners, their error was in thinking that they could strike a reasonable "grand bargain" with those who want marriage redefined.
In other words, if only Americans would accept a legal redefinition of marriage, those who believe marriage is a conjugal union wouldn't be discriminated against. But, as George points out, such a grand bargain was never possible.
The lesson, it seems to me, for those of us who believe that the conjugal conception of marriage is true and good, and who wish to protect the rights of our faithful and of our institutions to honor that belief in carrying out their vocations and missions, is that there is no alternative to winning the battle in the public square over the legal definition of marriage. The “grand bargain” is an illusion we should dismiss from our minds.
Of course, with sexual liberalism now so powerfully entrenched in the established institutions of the elite sector of our culture (and, let us not kid ourselves, fully embraced by the President of the United States and the leadership of the Democratic Party), some view the defense of marriage as a lost cause. I think that is another mistake—one that sexual liberals have every reason to encourage their opponents to make, and ample resources to promote. We’ve all heard the argument (or taunt): “The acceptance of same-sex marriage on a national scale is inevitable. It’s a done deal. You had better get on the right side of history, lest you be remembered in the company of Orval Faubus.”
George says it's possible that this is true but he reminds people of other inevitable arguments. The "right" to kill unborn children was supposed to be settled in the mid-70s. But far more Americans are pro-life now than were then.
And eugenics was embraced by all the elites in the 1920s and 1930s. That includes churches and the Supreme Court. Everyone agreed that we needed "social hygiene" as they euphemistically called it. Only the most backward religious people seemed to have a problem with it. Only the most backward religious folks were on the "wrong side of history" as progressives put it.
Now, maybe it's true that marriage as a conjugal union of man and wife is done for. But the inevitability arguments have been made before on other hot-button issues, too.
Same-sex marriage and the assaults on liberty and equality that follow in its wake are “inevitable” only if defenders of marriage make their adversaries’ prophecies self-fulfilling ones, by buying into them.