Fortunately for us, the founding fathers did not give God term limits or make religious liberty stand for re-election every two years. Nevertheless, same-sex marriage advocates in Ohio are campaigning for signatures to put marriage on the ballot once again even though the question was settled decisively in 2004, by a margin of 62% in favor to 38% against the traditional and longstanding definition of marriage as one man and one woman. Assuming the group that styles itself “Freedom to Marry Ohio” is able to collect enough signatures, the question will appear on the 2014 ballot.
Worn down by the perpetual campaign and constant attacks, many Republicans of a more libertarian mindset often ask: why should the government even be in the marriage business at all? Reading the text of the proposed amendment to the Ohio constitution illustrates why (emphasis added):
Be it Resolved by the People of the State of Ohio that Article XV, Section 11 of the Ohio Constitution be adopted and read as follows: Section 11. In the State of Ohio and its political subdivisions, marriage shall be a union of two consenting adults not nearer of kin than second cousins, and not having a husband or wife living, and no religious institution shall be required to perform or recognize a marriage.
Unless we are to legalize bigamy, the state has some responsibility to keep track of who is lawfully married. Leaving it to individual religious sects to keep track of marriages would not only make it cumbersome and impractical to verify someone’s marital status, but it is also worth noting that there are plenty of religions that have at one time or another encouraged polygamy, and indeed there are still some that do to the present day. This columnist likes to joke that it would greatly simplify matters if we could put the Catholic Church in charge of all marriages, but this would obviously run afoul of the First Amendment.
The next argument in vogue among liberals and moderates is that if two people love each other, nobody should stop them from being able to spend their lives together. This is spurious for two reasons. First of all, cohabitation may be immoral according to Catholic teaching, but it is not a crime. If people feel an attraction to each other, they are free to do as they wish. See the First Amendment mentioned earlier. Secondly, as discussed, the state does not have an obligation to recognize every attraction. There are active polygamists living in the United States right now, but their arrangements are not recognized by the government.
This goes to the heart of why same-sex marriage is such an emotional issue. Same-sex marriage advocates fully understand how important marriage is to our society and they want the same government recognition of homosexual relationships. However, they are not content to settle for an approximation of marriage. Same-sex marriage supporters will argue they don’t want to redefine marriage, but that is exactly what they are doing. They say marriage is just about love and faithfulness, but this ignores the third aspect of marriage which is procreation. They do not say this explicitly, but same-sex marriage would radically alter longstanding and settled law.
Moreover, you do not have to believe in Catholic teaching to see why procreation is a vital part of marriage. Even the same-sex marriage advocates agree that the law should prohibit incestuous marriages between cousins or siblings. This is because we know that such unions are not only deviant and immoral, but also because they lead to severe genetic defects and physical deformities. Perhaps history’s most famous example was the House of Hapsburg which ended its rule of Spain with Charles II who was both sterile and unable to chew his food because of the inbreeding of his forebears. The Hapsburgs were motivated by love of wealth and power, but there are examples of people today who are in relationships which are—if we discount all moral considerations—no less valid and genuine than those of homosexuals.
Even most same-sex advocates who claim they just want to be free to love who they choose recognize that not all kinds of love are healthy or legitimate. The proposed amendment recognizes that bigamy, polygamy, and incest are not sound foundations on which to build a family (although not all same-sex marriage supporters are in agreement on this question). Supporters of same-sex marriage will say that all this talk of polygamy is a classic slippery slope fallacy, but people are already talking about it. Love alone is not a sufficient limiting principle for the validity of marriage. There are other considerations.
The law either goes too far or it does not go far enough. Either procreation is an essential part of the marriage bond or it is not. If it is, then by granting homosexuals the same rights as heterosexuals, this must include the right to produce children, which of course the law cannot do. The divine ordering of the universe is immutable in this regard. Every child must have a biological mother and a biological father. Otherwise, if procreation is not an essential part of marriage, what is left except an arbitrary number of consenting adults? Indeed, as long as we’re changing the definition of marriage into a mere contract, why do they even have to love each other?
Nobody expects the courts to ask probing questions to determine whether a bunch of frat boys who show up at the courthouse are actually looking for a lifetime commitment to one another or are just pulling off an ambitious and grandiose prank while availing themselves of tax benefits during their four or five or six years of college. Or what if a small business owner wants to avoid the estate tax by marrying his top manager? Recall the discussion earlier: the state is in the marriage business because we need to keep track of couples that are already married. Ironically, by redefining marriage through the power of the state, that same power will no longer be required because marriage will become meaningless.
Over the next 16 months, we can expect that opponents of this initiative will be branded as hateful bigots by supporters and the media, but this is not about hate or love. As we have shown, this is about the facts of life. Supporters of traditional marriage are merely defending the obvious truth of the universe as it is against the illusory and deceptive claims of those who seek to live in a world as they wish it to be. Traditional marriage defenders acknowledge that to obey the divine and immutable laws of our creator is our only safeguard of what little happiness we can ever hope to obtain in this world. We have a good definition of marriage that works. Let’s keep it.