Some Notes on How the Move toward Same-Sex Marriage is Changing Our Culture and Our Constitutional Order, and How It Will Do So in the Future


A fundamental political insight that shouldn’t be forgotten


Proponents of same-sex marriage often demand to know how legal recognition of certain homosexual relationships as “marriage” will damage traditional heterosexual marriages.  In fact, they frequently address opponents directly:  How, they triumphantly ask, will ratifying Bob and Tom’s partnership hurt you?


It’s a very effective rhetorical approach.  But here’s one possible answer:


The fact is, of course, that seemingly small historical events — e.g., the rise of the Jesus movement in Palestine, the invention of the stirrup, the development of moveable type, the arrival of the railroad, the GI Bill, the introduction of no-fault divorce, the Islamization of Europe — don’t automatically transform everything overnight.  But they sometimes can and do fundamentally transform the world.


The law, as is often said, is a teacher.  That’s why it was so important an objective of the American Civil Rights movement to get non-descrimination legislation enacted.  Attitudes toward blacks that were once very common and brazenly open in the American South are now marginalized, and are, at the most uttered privately and with a sense of embarrassment even by most of those who hold them.  And far fewer now hold them — largely as a result of changes, including laws and legal decisions, dating from the 1950s and 1960s.  So it seems reasonable to ask precisely what, if anything, a given law or set of laws is going to be teaching.


And when the issue is as fundamental as the transformation of what it means to be a family, perhaps at least a little bit of deliberation is in order.


In the meantime, though, evidence continues to surface (and not merely at the IRS) suggesting that some moral, religious, and political positions that dissent from the rising orthodoxy regarding gay marriage and related matters are coming to the potentially coercive attention of the state:


I’m not leveling final judgment; I realize that these are partisan sources.  But they raise issues that, I think, merit examination and justify concern.


And here’s a great column by Mark Steyn.


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  • Chris Baker

    As it relates to the article from the public discourse, all I can say is “eww.”

    • Joe Steve Swick III

      Eww: the proper response of any libertarian to such stuffs.

      • Chris Baker

        Oh, come now. Do I have to give a proper response 100% of the time to 100% of things on the web? What, you saw one thing. Give me a break.

  • Joe Steve Swick III

    Dan: “Seemingly small historical events . . . don’t automatically transform everything overnight. But they sometimes can and do fundamentally transform the world.”

    One can only hope that the recognition of the equal rights of gays to legally contract will fundamentally transform our world. As did the recognition of the equal rights of blacks and women, and folks who hold religious views we disagree with. As Rose Wilder Lane argued, the impulse is always towards greater freedom.

    Different religious traditions vary in what qualifies as a marriage, and in the precise shape marriages may take. IMO, aside from issues of enforceability of the contractual aspects of such unions, marriage ought not to be a concern of the State: government ought to leave the marriage business to churches and other such religious institutions. But if in fact one wishes to use the coercive power of government to enforce religious conformity in this matter, then at the very least such laws ought to apply equally to all individuals.

    At that recent “Handshaking with Satan’s Lackeys Regarding Marriage” conference at BYU, your point was made. This conference may not transform everything overnight, but you are right, Dan: palling up with those who hate the Church and its historical doctrines, such as Plural Marriage –and who openly disparaged Mormonism right on the BYU campus– may be a seemingly small thing, but it is not. And for us to attempt rapprochement with such traditions over gay marriage is horrifying.

    All this nonsense about “redefining the nature of the family/what it means to be a family” is silliness, especially coming from a religious tradition that did not accept the so-called “normative” definition of family of that day until forced to it by the coercive power of the State. Our current behavior is like someone with the Stockholm Syndrome, in which we come to sympathize with our captors.

    • DanielPeterson

      I couldn’t possibly disagree with you more comprehensively on this matter than I do.

      I think it’s pretty evident that concern about redefining the family is neither nonsense nor silliness, and that doing so will have grave implications for the future of the family — and, accordingly, for the future of religion (see Mary Eberstadt’s new book). No-fault divorce and similar innovations have already weakened the family and the transmission of religious faith, and the newest round of whole-sale changes will accelerate the process.

      • brotheroflogan


  • ClintonKing

    This is a great post. Thanks!