With the final consideration of the falsely named “Respect for Marriage Act” upon us in the U.S. Congress, it is important that all citizens consider just what marriage is and who gets to define it.
The Supreme Court of the United States radically redefined marriage in its landmark Obergefell decision in 2015 to no longer be about bringing the two halves of humanity together, something marriage has always been centrally about everywhere since the beginning of time. That is, until the last couple of milliseconds of human history. The nation’s highest court declared marriage is no longer about male and female, that fundamental union that uniquely creates and fosters the future of humanity in the form of mother and father. Marriage is now just about people, and thus neutered.
This new piece of legislation would codify this deeply consequential de-gendering redefinition into federal law, making it impervious to the Supreme Court correcting itself as it did this year on the issue of abortion. So we must ask,
Does a nation, and its government, have the right to radically redefine marriage?
No, they do not. And the reason is simple.
Marriage is not a creation of the state. It exists in human experience and tradition prior to any established government. This is clear from human history. Anthropologist Edward Westermarck explains this fact in his magisterial History of Human Marriage. He explains, “As for the origin of the institution of marriage, I consider it probable that it has developed out of a primeval habit.” Westermarck adds, “This habit was sanctioned by custom, and afterward by law…”
Thus, marriage is something that every state must humbly recognize existed prior to itself. No government is marriage’s creator, but its custodian. Therefore, no government has the domain to so dramatically redefine this original institution, especially based on some brand new sexual ideology that had never been considered in any human culture until yesterday.
Marriage is a natural and fundamental institution that predates all others because every new human being has a mother and father. This mother and father are the first team who possess the most natural and enduring motivation to protect, care for, and educate the new human being. No other social source can do what mother and father are naturally suited and driven to do.
Marriage is therefore the institution that holds that mother and father together in the most cooperative form. It also establishes the child’s right to their provision and care before the larger community. As such, marriage operates independent of and prior to the state.
But that is not all.
It actually serves as the foundation for the state itself, for the state cannot exist without wise, educated, productive, peaceful citizens. These are created by mothers and fathers and the help and support of their extended kin. And married mothers and fathers do this more successfully and efficiently than any other team that has ever been considered to date. This fact is what fueled the prehistoric creation of marriage and has sustained its primacy until the present day. This is a fundamental sociological fact.
Even Aristotle recognized this in his Politics where he explains early in Book I, “If one were to see how things developed naturally from the beginning” he or she must recognize that “First, it is necessary that those who cannot exist without each other couple together, as female and male on the one hand for the sake of generation…” He explains this union builds the household. Households build the village. Villages build the city. Cities build the state.
Marriage comes first, and from it, everything else that we call society.
Aristotle noted this more than 300 years before Christ. Thus, marriage is not a Christian or even Jewish institution, as such. It is a natural, common grace, like sunshine and water, that God gave to all people from the very beginning. Therefore, not even religions have the right to redefine it. Marriage is natural and must be respected by all as such.
Thus, the state redefines marriage at its own peril because it defines away that which was and is responsible for its own existence. Those who were responsible for selling our government leaders on the idea of redefining and de-gendering marriage fully understood the radical, revolutionary nature of their idea. Few were bold enough to state it publicly. Celebrated gay writer Michelangelo Signorile certainly was in 1996 in the pages of OUT magazine.
The trick is, gay leaders and pundits must stop watering the issue down – “this is simply about equality for gay couples” – and offer same-sex marriage for what it is: …a chance to wholly transform the definition of family in American culture. …Our gay leaders must acknowledge that gay marriage is just as radical and transformative as the religious Right contends it is. (emphasis in original)
Those responsible for this transformation of a fundamental pre-political, necessary institution are certainly not on the right side of history. They are on the wrong side of reason and human experience. Their actions are arrogant. And the passage of the so-called Respect for Marriage Act by Congress will ultimately be revealed, soon enough, for the serious mistake that it is.
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