Jefferson Davis was frustrated with those Southern Governors who refused to send their troops to defend Virginia soil. Those recalcitrant governors cited states’ rights as the grounds for their refusal. If the Confederacy were defeated, Davis answered, its epitaph would read: “Died of a Theory.”
Is this not the case with marriage? Ted Cruz and many conservative legal theorists agree that it is the states and not the federal judiciary that should decide the meaning of marriage. This is Confederate, but I don’t think it is conservative.
When I pleaded with president of the American Conservative Union in 1996 to go on record in favor of a Defense of Marriage Act that would actually defend marriage throughout the Union, he opposed it. “I don’t want the federal government to have that much power,” he said.
So, he doesn’t think Loving v. Virginia should stand? That unanimous 1967 Supreme Court ruling struck down laws in every state that forbade interracial marriage. Speaking for the Court, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote:
“Marriage is one of the ‘basic civil rights of man,’ fundamental to our very existence and survival…”
The Chief Justice did not say marriage is the union of one man and one woman. He didn’t have to. Everyone then understood what marriage was. It was what it had always been.
Did not Loving deal with marriage in the states? Is not the federal judiciary part of the federal government? Or is it the position of conservatives that only the federal courts can deal with marriage in the states?
From early in this controversy it was clear that marriage could never remain a state issue. We have a U.S. Department of Defense. That department must decide who is married and who is not. As soon as two Army privates learned that they could contract a marriage in Massachusetts, even if those privates were of the same sex, they would do that and demand married housing on a federal base. It was inevitable.
Dick Cheney – who was once Secretary of Defense – knew full well that “let the states decide” was an untenable position on marriage. It seems he wanted marriage to be untenable.
My argument against terming our cause “traditional” or even “natural” marriage is that it surrenders the point: Marriage is what marriage has always been. Anything else is faux marriage, an abolition of marriage.
Let us consider a related concept. Zero defects was a principle invoked if not invented by Admiral Rickover to deal with nuclear power plants aboard submarines and other naval vessels. How could any human system have zero defects?
How unreasonable to have zero defects as your standard. And how cruel to ruin good men’s careers for their failure to provide sufficient fail-safe and backup redundant systems to achieve zero defects. But Rickover was cruel to be kind. Not one American sailor has ever died of radiation poisoning.
The alternative to Rickover and zero defects is not kindly. It is Chernobyl. It is the Russian submarine Kursk. It is catastrophe.
So it is with marriage. Conservatives originally published cover stories labeling the 1999 Vermont Supreme Court’s civil union ukase “The End of Marriage.” [Weekly Standard, 1999] Maggie Gallagher wrote a book prophetically titled “The Abolition of Marriage.”
Why did we abandon such language? Why did we cease calling it counterfeit marriage? Is there a woman in America who would not know what faux marriage is?
I carried that message all over in 2012. I served aboard Heritage Foundation’s Values Bus. Representing Family Research Council, I always listened respectfully to the good pastors at each stop along our 13,341-mile route. They laid out the scriptural case for marriage far better than I ever could.
But I produced my blow-up 100-dollar bill. Using genial old Ben Franklin, I’d describe how my Secret Service friend taught me about counterfeiting. You cannot teach agents the innumerable ways our currency can be counterfeited. Instead, you must teach them what real money looks like. Once they know that, they can spot the counterfeits readily.
Fully 96% of U.S. currency circulates outside the United States. When counterfeit $50s and $100s (especially those really deceptive North Korean phony bills) enter the market, the value of real money is destroyed. People soon refuse to accept real bills in those denominations.
To help me drive home my point, I remember fondly the McDonald’s in Cleveland. We left the speakers’ platform and headed for our Quarter Pounders.
A big sign over the counter read: “Because of counterfeiting, we can no longer accept 50- and 100-dollar bills.” Thank you, Ronald McDonald! You made my point.
We have abundant evidence – from the experience of Scandinavia, from our own radicals’ publicly stated goals (www.beyondmarriage.org) that our opponents do not seek merely to permit two men or two women legally marry. They openly and militantly seek to end marriage.
It is no wonder that Marriagender Jonathan Turley raced to Utah with the Windsor ruling and had a federal court there overturn the state’s criminal sanction on polygamy.
The best opponent of abolishing marriage I’ve heard was the Deputy in the French National Assembly, Bruno Nestor Azerot. This representative of one of France’s overseas départments is a Marxist, a black man.
Yet, he boldly asserted that the fundamental principle of the marriagenders will allow rich white men to contract with poor women of color to carry a child. If those women develop natural maternal feeling for the children of their wombs, these privileged and powerful men will demand the women surrender the children they have carried under contract. And the courts will enforce those contracts.
Thus, we have the fundamental principle of esclavage – slavery – reintroduced into our legal code. Thus, we see human beings once again made property. Thus we reduce children to chattels.
If conservatives read their Burke, they ought to understand that all of society is a union of the living, the dead, and the yet unborn. They ought to know that the Rights of Man much touted in revolutionary France surely include the right of children to “the consolations of religion and the inheritance of their parents.”
Inheritance in Burkean usage is property, of course. But it is not limited to real estate. It is a claim for all that “decent drapery of life,” to all the rights and perquisites that go with membership in those “little platoons” in which we move in society, our families.
Burke taught us an organic view of society that made for “the cheap defense of nations.” He understood that “we begin our affections in our families. No cold relation was ever a warm patriot.”
America is dying because we have government programs intent on carpet-bombing those little platoons. We have harbored and even sluiced billions of tax dollars to a criminal combination that functions in the state the way a lamprey functions – by attaching itself to a Great Lakes sturgeon and sucking out its vitals.
I lament that our own side failed to develop a vital theory of federal protection of fundamental human rights. The child has a right to be safe in the womb. En ventre sa mere was taught to me in French class, the safest place for anyone to be. And that child has a right to a mother and father. Also she has a right not to be frozen, cut up for her stem cells, cloned, or harmed in any other way.
Since more than 80 percent of all unborn children slain are the daughters and sons of unwed mothers, an attack on marriage is an attack on that institution which has provided the greatest safeguard to human life. You cannot be pro-life and be indifferent to the survival of marriage.
Even the best of our jurists and legal thinkers reject, if only inferentially, the idea that was a self-evident truth to the Founders: The right to life is inalienable and it is to secure this right that governments are instituted. And the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God that undergird our nation’s very existence tell us what marriage is.
What is the Church’s role in view of the government’s abdication? As Richard Neuhaus said, the Church’s first duty is to be the Church. She must remain a beacon of hope and change. She must hold out the promise of forgiveness and redemption. Specifically, the Church should never yield to the untruth that men can marry men or become women. And the Church can hold up heroes and saints who embody the truth. Against this truth, the gates of hell will not prevail.