Perhaps it had to happen, given the temper of the times. But the California Supreme Court’s 4-3 ruling last month saying the constitution of the nation’s most populous state gives gay couples a previously invisible right to marry nevertheless is a striking instance of how arrogant judges can impose an anti-child view of marriage on society.
Marriage, in this understanding, isn’t about children. Its fundamental purpose is to gratify two adults who enter into a contractual union in order to please themselves.
I say this aware that same-sex couples sometimes have children-either the offspring of other, heterosexual relationships or the products of IVF pregnancy or, where it’s allowed, adopted. But these are exceptions. The same-sex relationship is intrinsically non-procreative in itself. Most gay couples appear willing to keep it that way.
These reflections illustrate something said by the California bishops in their statement deploring the May 15 ruling. The decision of the state supreme court, they said, “opens the door for policymakers to deconstruct traditional marriage and create another institution” in its place. As in fact they’ve done-in Massachusetts five years ago, thanks to that state’s highest court, and now are on the way to doing in California by the same, court-ordered route.
Looked at in its socio-political dimension, the most alarming thing about legalizing gay marriage is precisely this-that the state in this manner bestows its blessing on the proposition that marriage in its essence is a one-to-one arrangement entered into by two adults of the same sex or different sexes for what they perceive as their private benefit.
Here is a logical extension of our narcissistic and self-absorbed culture. Children, if any, are beside the point of marriage. If adult partners do choose to make room for them, it’s only because having kids around makes them feel good.
But the rationale for gay marriage doesn’t stop there. A further assumption, arising from totalitarian liberalism, is that marriage is a creature of the state, subject to being defined however Big Brother chooses. People can believe whatever they like about marriage, but the all-powerful, omniscient state will decide.
On this question, therefore, the consensus of ordinary people expressed by democratic means is irrelevant. It matters little to the California supreme court that 61% of the voters there in 2000 backed a ballot initiative defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. Just four judges were needed to brush aside the judgment of the unwashed masses and send the message, “Marriage is what we say it is.”
The California developments have set the stage for a crucial showdown in November. Then state constitutional amendments defining marriage in heterosexual terms will be on the ballot in California and Florida, and perhaps in Arizona. Twenty-seven states already have such language in their constitutions.
Many pro-family groups take the reasonable view that the best way to address this particular problem is to amend the U.S. Constitution along similar lines. Alas, the federal marriage amendment has failed twice in Congress, and none of the three leading presidential contenders supports it-although Sen. John McCain at least backs the idea of state amendments in states where the people want them.
Part of the case for legalizing gay marriage is that it’s no threat to anybody or anything else. But it is. The legal acceptance of same-sex marriage legitimates the anti-child, anti-procreation notion of marriage that’s already disturbingly widespread today. People who grasp that fact need to do a better job explaining it to others than they’ve done so far.