There’s nothing conservative about redefining marriage


This week is Holy Week. It’s also when the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments regarding California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act.

I haven’t read the full transcript of today’s proceedings on Proposition 8, but I will over the next couple of days, so expect a follow-up post.

In the months leading up to this week, activists on both sides of the gay “marriage” debate put forth their arguments. Progressives and liberals believe that redefining marriage so to include same-sex couples is a matter of equality. Conservatives say that defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman strengthens familial bonds and protects children’s rights.

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Interestingly enough, some on the political right are making the claim that redefining marriage so to include same-sex couples is actually a conservative position. The most recent Republican to marshal that argument is Ohio Senator Rob Portman.

A little more than a week ago, Senator Portman came out in support of redefining marriage after learning his 21-year-old son is gay.

Writing in The Columbus Dispatch, Portman – who was once thought to be a leading candidate for Mitt Romney’s VP slot – surreptitiously equates social conservatism with moral libertinism by arguing “conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people’s lives.” Therefore, “we should encourage people to make long-term commitments to each other and build families, so as to foster strong, stable communities and promote personal responsibility.”

Many Americans will see Portman’s decision to support his son’s well-being through the prism of love and empathy. Parents, after all, are supposed to love their children unconditionally. Portman’s desire to have his son experience the joy of married life is a natural extension of that, or so every progressive commentator will argue in the weeks and months ahead.

In reality, Portman’s desire for his son to experience the joy of marriage is based on a false, uniquely modern understanding of what love really is.

While fielding questions from reporters at his Ohio office, Portman echoed the sentiments of President Obama by saying he changed his views on gay marriage because he was increasingly influenced by “the overriding message of love and compassion that I take from the Bible, and certainly the Golden Rule.”

A heart-stirring sound bite, but not all that theologically accurate.

Other than being completely ignorant of Genesis 2:24, Ephesians 5:31 and Matthew 19: 4-5 (where Jesus tells the Pharisees that a man shall leave his father and mother and become “one flesh” with his wife) Senator Portman appears deeply confused about what the Golden Rule actually means.

The Golden Rule presupposes a known, objective standard of morality. As CatholicVote contributor Carson Holloway has previously argued, its purpose is not to encourage people to give in to whatever their conscience is telling them. Its purpose is to help guide people to what is truly best for them.

Take alcohol for example. When someone you love falls into alcoholism, you don’t invoke the Golden Rule and hand them another martini. Alcohol destroys families, careers and, in many instances, ends lives. The Golden Rule intends for us to do unto others, but only in a way that makes sure what others want is truly good for them.

Senator Portman, therefore, grossly misinterprets what Scripture says. He talks about joy and happiness without having a firm understanding of what those words really mean. When you love someone, you will what is best for them according to what is objectively true. But based on Senator Portman’s logic, we seemingly have no right to tell anyone they are in the wrong. We must ignore the first spiritual work of mercy and acquiesce to people’s desire to experience joy and happiness regardless if what brings them joy and happiness is an immoral activity.

Love, in this sense, is mere toleration of evil.

Senator Portman probably agrees with the notion that gay “marriage” and marriage between one man and one woman is the same thing. Procreation is not possible in all heterosexual marriages and so procreation is not inherently part of marriage. Marriage is whatever we say it is. Or so the argument goes.


To be sure, laws regulating who can participate in marriage have changed over time. Outlawing polygamy and lifting the ban on interracial marriage come to mind. However, marriage has never been so expansive to include members of the same sex. Never.

When you divorce marriage (and sex) from its procreative orientation and delink fatherhood from family life, cultural norms start to crumble, children get hurt and marriage becomes an afterthought.

Before the sexual liberation movement of the 1960s, divorce rates were quite low and black and white children were rarely born out of wedlock. Fast forward fifty years and what do we have? Despite government-provided birth control and contraceptives, 7 in 10 African American children are born to single moms, often spending the first twenty or so years of their life in poverty. Roughly half of marriages end in divorce, resulting in millions of emotionally scarred children. More young adults put off marriage until their early thirties, quite simply because they can now enjoy what was once reserved for marriage (sex, cohabitation, etc.) without the life-long commitment. And more than 55 million Americans are dead because of abortion.

What Senator Portman is really doing is proposing a liberal solution to a problem caused by liberal ideas. The sad part is that this has been tried before, and has resulted in disastrous, and costly, outcomes.

Oh, there’s a rise in single moms? Don’t encourage responsible fatherhood; just create a new federal program. Unplanned pregnancies are costing taxpayers billions? Don’t instruct women not to have premarital sex. Sneakily impose your morality on young women by dolling out universal birth control. That should save the government billions in the long run. Marriage rates are plummeting and children don’t have parents? Don’t support traditional marriage and reform divorce laws. Just redefine marriage all together! Children’s rights, religious freedom and virtue be damned.

I could go on but the fact is that when you separate marriage from its procreative orientation you inevitably have to separate it from the notion that its participants need to come from the opposite sex.

Biology tells us life cannot exist without a man and a woman coming together. Regrettably, we no longer view children as a gift arising from a total self-giving, one flesh-uniting act between spouses enjoined in a life-long relationship. Today, children are seen as nothing more than the result of the commingling of a sperm and an egg.


This degrading view of human life has resulted in a number of innovative, morally bankrupt practices meant to fulfill the desires of same-sex, as well as opposite-sex, couples seeking children of their own: in-vitro fertilization, gay adoption, surrogacy, co-parenting and sperm donation

Inasmuch as Senator Portman ostensibly wants us to view these practices as synonymous with conceiving a child the “old fashion” way, they aren’t. These procedures commoditize human life and treat children as chattel property.

When French President François Hollande threw his support behind gay “marriage” last year, one of the most vocal opponents to his decision was France’s gay community.

Writing about French opposition to gay “marriage” on the pages of Public Discourse, Professor Robert Oscar Lopez notes that gay French men in particular opposed Hollande’s decision because they, along with the 1.4 million protestors currently marching in the streets of France, believe children have a right to two parents from the opposite sex.

“The rights of children trump the right to children,” said one gay man. “Children are not objects,” exclaimed another. “The highest interest of the child should be a primary consideration,” proclaimed one supporter of traditional marriage. And just what is the highest interest of the child? As one activist put it, the “universal” and ”sacred right” to “being raised by a father and a mother.”

Lopez agrees with much of what these men have to say, as he himself was raised by two women: his biological mom and her female romantic lover. “Quite simply,” Lopez writes, “growing up with gay parents was very difficult.”

“When your home life is so drastically different from everyone around you…you grow up weird.”

“I had no male figure at all to follow,” Lopez adds. “As a result, I had very few recognizable social cues to offer potential male or female friends, since I was neither confident nor sensitive to others.”

Although Senator Portman and others claim gay “marriage” is a conservative position, common sense and basic logic tells us it isn’t.

There is nothing conservative about understanding freedom untethered from the natural law. There is nothing conservative about an institution that necessitates the commoditization of human life and the restriction of religious freedom. There is nothing conservative about denying children their rights. And there is nothing conservative about accepting a progressive understanding of the Golden Rule.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of


About Author

Stephen Kokx is a freelance writer and adjunct professor of political science living in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has previously worked for the Archdiocese of Chicago's Office for Peace and Justice. His writing on religion, politics and Catholic social teaching has appeared in a number of outlets, including Crisis Magazine, The American Thinker and his hometown paper The Grand Rapids Press. He is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars and the Society of Catholic Social Scientists, and is a graduate of Aquinas College and Loyola University Chicago. Follow Stephen on twitter @StephenKokx

Leave A Reply