All Americans stand equally before the law and have their civil rights equally protected—rights to free speech, religious liberty, free association and every other traditional civil liberty. The question is whether a new “civil right”—the right to have the government and private citizens recognize one’s same-sex sexual partnership as a marriage—ought to be created, redefining marriage in the process.
The government isn’t in the business of affirming our loves. Rather it leaves consenting adults free to live and love as they choose.
And contrary to what some say, there is no ban on same-sex marriage. Nothing about it is illegal. In all 50 states, two people of the same sex may choose to live together, choose to join a religious community that blesses their relationship, and choose a workplace offering joint benefits.
What’s at issue is whether the government will recognize such relationships as marriages—and then force every citizen, house of worship and business to do so as well. At issue is whether policy will coerce and compel others to recognize and affirm same-sex relationships as marriages.
Being created equal doesn’t entail or require redefining marriage. Every marriage policy draws lines, leaving out some types of relationships. It’s true that “marriage equality” makes a good slogan for activists and politicians, but true equality forbids arbitrary line-drawing. It requires that the state get marriage right. To do so we need to answer two questions:
What is marriage?
Why does it matter for policy?
Reflecting on these questions reveals why there’s nothing “equal” about redefining marriage to eliminate sexual complementarity, which has been the foundation of marriage throughout history.
Marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their union produces. Marriage is based on the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and on the social reality that children need a mother and a father. And as ample social science has shown, children tend to do best when reared by their mother and father.
Marriage has public purposes that transcend its private purposes. Government recognizes marriage because it is an institution that benefits the public good. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means to ensure the well-being of future citizens. State recognition of marriage protects children by incentivizing adults to commit permanently and exclusively to each other and their children.