Premature Talk of Surrender on Marriage

Some suggest that conservatives should or will surrender in the current contest over the meaning of marriage.  Such suggestions are premature, I argue in an article at Public Discourse.  I think that for both principled and pragmatic reasons we should not expect to see the conservative movement giving up on this issue any time soon.

Here’s one of the principled reasons:

More broadly, the intellectual identity of conservatism—if it is to have any substantive intellectual identity at all—is surely bound up with the need to preserve the essentials of our civilization as we have inherited them, and in particular to preserve them against the corrosive influence of dogmatically egalitarian ideology. The movement in favor of same-sex marriage, however, is clearly one manifestation of just such an ideology: it insists on a certain kind of equality, even at the cost of redefining an institution that has been central to human flourishing, the character of which very few people would have admitted to be problematic until just a few years ago.

Indeed, it is hard to see why such a spirit should stop at redefining marriage and still bow with reverence before other received ideas that also might offend against a doctrinaire equality—ideas such as private property, the obligation of contracts, or freedom of religion. And it is equally hard to see how a conservatism that chose to capitulate to the redefinition of marriage could find the intellectual resources or the courage to defend these other principles once they come under sustained egalitarian attack.

family at church

Here’s one of the pragmatic reasons:

The Republican Party cannot surrender the cause of marriage, however, without also in practice surrendering the cause of life. To borrow the language of Byron White’s dissent in the Roe companion case Doe v. Bolton, a decision announcing a constitutional “right” to same-sex marriage will be every bit as much an act of “raw judicial power” as was the Court’s conduct inRoe and Doe. A Republican Party that gives up the fight against judicial activism in order to make peace with same-sex marriage will also be surrendering the fight for a constitutional order more protective of the right to life. There is no way such surrender could be achieved without shearing away masses of morally conservative, pro-life Republican voters.

And conversely, any Republican president who makes and keeps a pledge to nominate constitutionalist (and, implicitly, anti-Roe) justices, will inevitably be hacking away at the foundations of both the right to same-sex marriage and the right to abortion. As a practical matter, it is impossible to imagine a constitutionalist jurist who is willing to revisit and overturn Roe—a forty-one-year-old ruling that was approved by a seven-person majority—yet who will treat as untouchable a ruling in favor of a right to same-sex marriage—which will be brand-new, based on a novel theory of the Fourteenth Amendment, and will have passed by a five to four vote.

You can read the whole thing here.


Categories:Marriage Politics

  • Rick Azevedo

    Evolution is DEEPLY UNSCIENTIFIC despite what the nihilists in academia think.

    • Eric Johnson

      And the story of how Adam and Eve were created is VERY SCIENTIFIC: right?

    • Sean Argir

      Where did you go to school Rick Azevedo?

      Evolution is scientific because there has been a lot of “SCIENTIFIC” studies and researches done on the theory of evolution.

      First off, you should study about vestigial structures are!

      • Sean Argir

        Many organisms on this planet have parts of their body that resemble parts in other organisms.

        Not only that, many of those same body parts don’t even function or have a purpose anymore.

        Why do you think this is so?

  • Rich

    Masses of morally conservative pro-marriage equality republicans have discovered their gay brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents, children and others. They have discovered that they still love them, respect them and want for them a life fulfilled perhaps through marriage. You don’t need to surrender and still lose the battle. Indeed, you already have.

  • Eric Johnson

    You’re attempting to slow down evolution. Good luck.



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