Robert George Can’t Believe Judges Don’t Buy His Arguments

Robert George, the most influential anti-gay legal scholar in the country by a mile, gave an interview to the Christian Post in which he said he simply can’t believe that judges have not accepted the brilliant legal arguments he’s been making against marriage equality. That fact, of course, makes them all liberal activists who are ignoring the Constitution.

“The argument is very inconvenient, it gets in their way. They are in a headlong rush to redefine marriage for their own ideological purposes, so they refuse to engage the best arguments that are available on the other side, despite the fact that those arguments are being made,” he said…

Marriage is, and historically has been, the relationship that brings together man and woman as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children who are born of that union.

Not every marriage will produce a child, but every child has a mother and father and deserves to be known and loved by, and to be able to know and love, those parents who gave that child life. So, our marriage laws, our conjugal understanding of marriage, as embodied in our laws, has historically fulfilled the purpose of maximizing the chances, it doesn’t work every time, but it maximizes the chances that a child will be brought up with a very great blessing of knowing and being known by his mother and father in the marital bond, the loving bond of man and woman that brought that child into existence.

That’s the ideal. Now when the ideal doesn’t happen, we have ways of dealing with that. Adoption, for example, is a wonderful way the we have historically provided, where possible, a mother and father to orphan children. There are ways we deal with the cases where the ideal cannot be realized. But we want the ideal to be realized as much as possible for the sake of children, boys and girls, who do best when brought up in the loving bond of their mother and father.

This claim that judges haven’t addressed such arguments is simply nonsense. The judge in the Michigan case, for instance, pointed out that we simply do not decide who gets to get married on the basis of whether they meet some ideal that studies show is statistically better for children. Even if it were true that children are statistically better off with both parents remaining married (which I would argue is not always true), in no other situation do we use such statistical analysis to determine who can and can’t get married.

Studies show that children raised by more affluent parents are statistically more likely to have good outcomes as adults, for instance, but we do not forbid poor people from marrying or having children. Studies show that people who are more educated and don’t have a criminal record make better parents, but we don’t even ask whether a couple seeking to get married have a college degree or a criminal record. The judge in the Michigan case noted that if we were actually to apply that logic consistently, we would only allow wealthy Asian parents to get married and have children. These arguments have been made and they’ve been engaged and debunked.

George also argues that it’s wrong to use the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause to justify approving same-sex marriage because the framers of that amendment did not anticipate that it would be used that way. But if that argument is to be taken seriously, George must also argue against the result in Loving v Virginia and say that the court was wrong to strike down bans on interracial marriage, because not only did the framers of the 14th Amendment not anticipate that outcome, they explicitly said that the equal protection clause would not affect such laws. Wanna place a bet on whether George is consistent in his argument here? I’d be willing to bet he would not be.

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  • smrnda

    Also, if the *purpose* or marriage was solely children, couples who got married who didn’t or couldn’t have children would not be allowed to remain married. Would your marriage only become official once you had a child? Would elderly people be permitted to get married?

    I would bring that topic up more often, you know, should 2 65 year old people be allowed to get married since they won’t have kids, but the way anti-equality bigots go, they would probably be less likely to admit their position is invalid than they would continue the attack on all non-procreative relationships.

  • D. C. Sessions

    Also, if the *purpose* or marriage was solely children, couples who got married who didn’t or couldn’t have children would not be allowed to remain married.

    And if we’re talking <voice=”tevye”>”tradition!”</voice> it should be noted that Jewish law requires a man to divorce a barren wife (so that he can marry a fertile one) unless he already has offspring. This only goes back to the days when polygamy was becoming a problem, but that’s still a lot farther back than marriage in Christianity.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kemibe kevinbeck

    Robert George’s argument reads very well in the voice of Deepak Chopra. Instead of throwing around word salad consisting of terms from quantum physics and neuroscience, George serves up garbage like “conjugal understanding” and “a very great blessing of knowing” and other pithy human-relationship nonsense meant to appeal to Christians.

    Also, it is very rare to see a compelling argument delivered in large measure in the passive voice. When people truly believe what they say and wish to make strong points, they don’t resort to language like George uses here. It seems that either he would do poorly in college English comp or he doesn’t fundamentally believe what he’s saying.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    If marriage is for children, and an ideal marriage is its platonic form, and platonic is “just friends”, then did I just destroy logic?

  • Chiroptera

    Marriage is, and historically has been, the relationship that brings together man and woman as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children who are born of that union.

    Not in US legal tradition, it hasn’t. How could a respected legal scholar (I looked him up: he really does seem to be a legitimate and respected scholar) not understand that?

  • steve84

    His entire oeuvre on the topic can be boiled down to “a marriage is only when a penis goes into a vagina”

  • dhall

    “They are in a headlong rush to redefine marriage for their own ideological purposes . . .”

    Fortunately for those in opposition to gay marriage, there are no ideological underpinnings to their arguments . . . oh, wait.

  • gshelley

    Does he have any explanation for the fact that with few exceptions, marriage laws do not mention children and nond of the benefits of marriage are contingent on producing offspring?

  • D. C. Sessions

    How could a respected legal scholar (I looked him up: he really does seem to be a legitimate and respected scholar) not understand that?

    If he could reason rationally about anything touching his faith‘s dogma, would he still be faithful?

  • http://howlandbolton.com richardelguru

    Chiroptera:

    I think that belief and bias always trump reason and knowledge. Or as near as dammit always. :-(

  • http://howlandbolton.com richardelguru

    @ D. C. Sessions: just because you can type faster than me…

  • John Pieret

    every child has a mother and father and deserves to be known and loved by, and to be able to know and love, those parents who gave that child life.

    Really? Even the parents that beat them, starve them, sexually abuse them, deny them medical care in favor of prayer, subject them to bizarre and dangerous rituals because they have “demons” inside them? This is the fallacy of biology makes right.

  • addiepray

    This argument might make sense if anyone was advocating scrapping heterosexual marriage in favor of gay marriage, but as it stands (and as Ed has pointed out a bazillion times) broadening the definition to include gay couples has no bearing whatever on hetero couples and their choices on childrearing.

  • dugglebogey

    Again.

    I don’t want children, I’ve never wanted children, I made sure when I got married that my wife did not and will not want children. We didn’t have children and we will not be having children.

    And I’m sick of these motherfuckers telling me that my marriage is not legitimate. That’s none of your goddamn business. NOBODY ELSE’S MARRIAGE IS ANY OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS. PLEASE GO FUCK YOURSELVES, AND AFTER THAT PLEASE KILL YOURSELVES.

  • Michael Heath

    The supposedly best conservative Christian legal expert can only conjure up a fundamentally moronic argument. Who could have predicted that?

    A NYT’s 2009 article asserts he also the most influential conservative Christian thinker: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/20/magazine/20george-t.html?_r=0. And yet . . .

  • howardhershey

    Weren’t the sodomy laws originally designed so that only procreative sex (penis to vagina or, in a few well-documented cases, spilled seed near the vagina) was legal. None of that mouth to genitals stuff or the use of vibrators or sex toys. Not even (at least technically) between consenting heterosexuals. Why not go whole hog and introduce a law that states that sex is only legal if it occurs during the most fertile time of the month? And, to further the idea that sex should only be for procreation and not enjoyment, legalize cliterodectomy (so-called female circumcision), like certain other countries do?

  • Pierce R. Butler

    kevinbeck @ # 3: … it is very rare to see a compelling argument delivered in large measure in the passive voice.

    Oh, I dunno – maybe if you rephrased this…

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Pierce R. Butler, “…maybe if that statement was rephrased…”

  • Jared Ragland

    Maybe if that statement were rephrased, Modus. One should endeavor to use the subjunctive as often as practical when utilizing passive voice to render a quotidian and banal argument sesquipedalian and obtuse.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.rhetts Chris Rhetts

    The underlying assumption of Mr. George’s comments is that the institution of “traditional” marriage is somehow harmed by the legalization of same sex marriage. I’ve read through all the recent rulings and in none of the cases have defendants been able to demonstrate that this is true.

    I’d love to hear Robert George explain exactly why he and people like him are so afraid of gay marriage. I mean seriously. Why should he or anyone like him give two shits if a couple of gay people get married? Is he worried that people contemplating traditional marriage (or are already in one) will look at same sex marriage and think it looks like a better deal? Oh the horror!

  • eric

    Studies show that children raised by more affluent parents are statistically more likely to have good outcomes as adults, for instance, but we do not forbid poor people from marrying or having children.

    I’m sure the only thing preventing some conservatives from advocating exactly that restriction is they know how massively unpopular it would make them. After all, they already want to remove tax breaks to the poor for children and in other ways punish minority single-parent mothers. “Fining” poor people for having kids is pretty much just one step away from legally restricting them from having them.

  • freehand

    eric says: I’m sure the only thing preventing some conservatives from advocating exactly that restriction is they know how massively unpopular it would make them. After all, they already want to remove tax breaks to the poor for children and in other ways punish minority single-parent mothers. “Fining” poor people for having kids.”

    .

    Sorry, I’m not sure I buy that. If the rich get rid of all the poor, how will the rich know they are happy? And how can they demonstrate that they are superior people if there aren’t loads of inferior people to hold in contempt? And who will do the gardening? This is not to say that they aren’t expendable; of course they are. But that assumes they will always produce more litters of poor people