December 19, 2012

New Defense of Marriage by Philosopher Robert George


Today IRD emeritus board member and Princeton University Professor Robert George unveiled his new book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense at a briefing in the U.S. Capitol. He was joined at the Heritage Foundation sponsored event by co authors Ryan Anderson of Heritage and philosopher Sherif Gergis.

“Our generation is more pro life than our parents,” Anderson said, arguing against same sex marriage’s inevitability. “History isn’t determined apart from the actions we take.” He called the current political climate an “opportunity for national conversation.”


George described the continuity of marriage’s definition as male-female union across history and culture. Marriage is not historically an “emotional union set apart by intensity” as now commonly asserted but is a “bodily union” premised on “sexual complementarity.” The primary reason for intervention in law by the state has been marriage’s role in fostering children. Marriage has been understood as a lifelong sexual union involving fidelity and a “pledge of permanence.”

The sexual left of today, George said, agrees with defenders of traditional marriage that the “logic” of same sex marriage leads to open marriage, polyamory, and the ultimate “abolition of marriage as a legal category.” It is not, as commonly asserted, an expansion of marriage but the abandonment of the “historic definition,” he said.

No fault divorce launched the redefinition of marriage from a “conjugal to an emotional union,” George said. “It wasn’t same sex people who brought on this catastrophe.” Even the homoerotic states of ancient Greece would have considered same sex marriage “unthinkable,” he noted. A society without traditional marriage eventually becomes Amsterdam, where nobody gets married, George warned. “Sex doesn’t disappear but babies do,” because child rearing depends on the stability of traditional marriage.

What happens in churches is essential, George said, because subcultures have to develop to nurture marriage. At the same time, there must be a “fight in the culture for the legal definition.” George recalled the sexual left’s assertion across the last century that sexual fidelity “inhibits personality development.” He urged “calling out the phoniness and fraud” of sexual revolutionaries like Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Singer, who was a “racist,” sexologist Alfred Kinsey, who was a “liar,” and pornographer Hugh Hefner, who is a “buffoon.”

Jennifer Marshall of the Heritage Foundation closed the conversation by noting that too much of the marriage debate is “focused on the desires of adults rather than the needs of children.” The audience was mostly young Capitol Hill staffers.

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