Are We at a Stalemate or is Gay Marriage Inevitable?

Last May, after Obama’s unsurprising reversal on gay marriage, I argued that the long-term future of the gay-marriage debate wasn’t an inevitable national victory for same-sex marriage but rather a stalemate, with red states staying conservative on the issue, and many of the blue states embracing further liberalization of marriage laws. The only real way to break the logjam — after the passage of dozens of state constitutional amendments properly and clearly defining marriage — would be a sweeping, Roe-style pronouncement from the Supreme Court.

After reading the transcripts of the oral arguments (and with all the caveats about the dangers of predicting court outcomes based on oral arguments), I’d be quite surprised if the high court ruled the Constitution protects a right to same-sex marriage. Even if the Court upheld the Ninth Circuit’s rejection of Proposition 8 and struck down DOMA, without a sweeping constitutional ruling, the gains for same-sex marriage would be marginal and incremental. Swinging for the fences, same-sex marriage activists are realistically looking at perhaps a bunt single.

What then? Same-sex marriage advocates will likely be able to make progress in solidly blue states, but they’ll soon run into the brick wall of the dozens of state marriage amendments passed in the last decade. Then we should enter a period of relative stability, where the red states ideally supplement their “red model” of fiscal policy with a similar red model of social policy — tightening abortion restrictions to their absolute (judicially-permitted) limit, enacting and enforcing state religious-freedom-restoration acts that protect vibrant religious communities, and preserving the definition of marriage while experimenting with policies designed to encourage marriage while reducing the divorce rate and reversing the rise in illegitimacy.

The last element — thinking creatively about reinforcing the marriage culture — is absolutely critical. The same-sex marriage argument never would have gained cultural traction without heterosexuals — in word and deed — redefining marriage away from a child-centered lifelong commitment towards an adult-centered at-will contract for mutual romantic benefit. Same-sex marriage is the fruit of the poisonous tree of our no-fault divorce culture, and unless we can deal with that culture, gay marriage will indeed be inevitable.

Building a sustainable red social model (post–sexual revolution) won’t be glamorous, and it won’t happen overnight. In fact, many of the red states are far more prone to divorce and illegitimacy than the allegedly more libertine blue states. We’ve got work to do. And if we don’t do it — if we as parents, as church members, and as citizens allow our own families, communities, and states to slide ever-further into the sexual-revolution culture of self-indulgence, then there is no fiscal model that will save us from financial and cultural oblivion.

(Oh, and if I’m wrong about the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling and it does find a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, then please forget I ever wrote this post.)

This post first ran here on National Review Online.

Follow David on Facebook and Twitter, and read more of the French Revolution blog.

  • Ed Sarlls

    Marriage originated as a religious ordinance. It was only in the 1800′s that governments started recognizing civil marriage as an alternative. This led to well meaning people tying government benefits to marriage relationships. I believe the solution would be to separate government sanctioned relationships into “civil unions” and leave the churches to perform “marriage”. So all marriages, by the standard of the church performing them, could be registered as civil unions. And the state could sanction relationships as civil unions without being in conflict with church definitions of marriage. Different churches, too, could have their own standards and choose to recognize or not marriages performed by different churches or with other standards. Where current law refers to marriage/spouse, it could be changed to civil union/partner. This avoids the conflict of forcing a government definition of marriage on religions and separates the civic interests and religious practices.

  • RAF

    The problem the above-post describes (the libertarian model) is that people will not be able to freely exercise their religion. As is seen in Washington state (and elsewhere) if a baker or a photographer does not want to participate in something that is against his/her religious beliefs–tough–you will lose your license and have lost the right to freely exercise your religion because of same-sex marriage.

  • Ryan

    I’m all for strengthening the marriage culture, but I don’t think repealing no-fault divorce laws is the way to do that. All that leads to is couples who want to divorce hiring private detectives to find some grounds on which to divorce their spouse, thereby making a bad situation messier and harder on the kids. But with that one nit-pick aside, most of this article (especially the last sentence prior to the parenthetical disclaimer) was right on the mark.

  • Sven

    The “red model of social policy” reduces divorce rates? You might want to check your statistics on that.
    The lowest divorce rates in the US are in some of the bluest states, and vice-versa.

    • David French

      I’m very aware of the statistics. I said this in the piece itself:

      “In fact, many of the red states are far more prone to divorce and illegitimacy than the allegedly more libertine blue states.”

      The red model I urge would have to “build” a culture that respects marriage. Because it doesn’t exist right now.

      • Truth

        Isn’t is interesting how evangelicals have as high (or higher) divorce rates than normal, moral people?

  • http://byzantium.wordpress.com Kullervo

    What about the full faith and credit issue? Without Section 2 of DOMA (which I don’t think is at issue now but inevitably will be, because it’s probably unconstitutional), red states will have to recognize blue states’ same-sex marriages. Voila, de facto same-sex marriage everywhere.

  • http://stowellbrown.blogspot.com/ Flyaway

    Praying for revival. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can this whole mess be straightened out!

  • Parker

    Have you read Ryan Anderson’s argument on the (re)definition of marriage? http://www.amazon.com/What-Is-Marriage-Defense-ebook/dp/B00A69JZG0/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1
    He was on all the news shows leading up to the oral arguments and presents a strong argument in defense of traditional marriage and the role of the state.

  • Joe Canner

    I’m with you on the likely outcome of the cases the Supreme Court court is considering. But you lost me here:

    “Same-sex marriage is the fruit of the poisonous tree of our no-fault divorce culture, and unless we can deal with that culture, gay marriage will indeed be inevitable.”

    Care to support this rather inflammatory statement with facts?

    I grant you that rampant divorce, widespread unmarried cohabitation, and out-of-wedlock births have made the same-sex marriage argument easier (e.g., “we’re not redefining marriage; straight people have already done that by divorcing so much, etc.”). However, even if there were *NO* divorce, there would still be the issue of granting same-sex couples the same legal benefits that opposite-sex couples have. (Edith Windsor and Thea Spyer, for example, were partners since the mid-60s, long before the no-fault divorce revolution.) This to me is a much more compelling reason to legalize same-sex marriage than a rationale based on a comparison with the sorry state of marriage today.

  • Gregory Peterson

    “Same-sex marriage advocates will likely be able to make progress in solidly blue states, but they’ll soon run into the brick wall of the dozens of state marriage amendments passed in the last decade. Then we should enter a period of relative stability…”

    I think you mean: “…a period of relative economic and social injustice…”


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X