Log Cabin Republicans: Would Abraham Lincoln Have Supported Gay Marriage?

Nobody can know with complete certainty how history will view our debate over the definition of marriage. Advocates of redefining marriage fancy themselves to be the heirs of Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator. But I think there is reason to doubt this comparison. As a matter of fact, I think the defenders of the natural family have a far stronger claim on the legacy and mantle of Lincoln. I believe that, in spite of the intentions of its advocates, the policy of gender-neutral marriage policy (commonly known as gay marriage) will come to treat mothers like slaves and children like chattel. Favoring gender-neutral marriage policy over natural marriage policy will empower and expand the state at the expense of civil society, the family, and ultimately, the individual. Let me explain these seemingly astounding claims.

Slavery was more than forced physical labor. It also meant that the government did not have to defend the biological bonds between slave parents and their children. Do you remember the TV series Roots? Remember this scene when Bell told Kunta Kinte the story of her first husband Ben, their two daughters, and what the slave owner did with the two daughters after he hanged Ben?

Watch it here:

Why was the slave owner allowed to take Bell's daughters away from her? It's because we had a "get the government out of marriage" situation when it came to slave marriages and families. The government was not forced to recognize slave marriages or the natural reality of slave families. This shifted power away from the slaves, toward the government and the slave owners. In this respect, gay marriage policy, no fault divorce, and calls to "get the government out of marriage" yield the same result: the government is no longer forced to recognize or respect the natural family as a unit. Only the very wealthy can shield themselves from the negative consequences of this situation.

The government has a duty to uphold justice, but since her marriage and her biological connection to her daughters were not recognized by the government, the government was allowed to legally ignore them. Let's compare this with a modern day gay custody dispute: Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins. Lisa and Janet were involved in a civil union. Lisa became a mother, using an anonymous sperm donor to conceive a daughter. After the civil union broke up, the daughter Isabella was bounced back and forth between Janet and Lisa (a scenario that any child of divorce can understand). Isabella started to have problems after her visits with Janet, and Lisa tried to block contact. A judge disagreed. Lisa defied the judge, who found her guilty of contempt of court. Janet was awarded not only parental status but also full legal custody of Isabella.

Janet is obviously not the father, Janet never adopted Isabella, and Lisa was never accused or found guilty of being a bad parent. It was only the "gender neutral" reading of the law, triggered by Lisa and Janet's gay civil union that allowed Janet to be "presumed" to be the child's other parent.

After the judge awarded Janet full custody of Isabella, Lisa ran away with Isabella. It was her only recourse against a legal system that refused to respect Isabella's unalienable right and self-evident truth to be with her natural mother. Lisa is on the Interpol wanted list for child kidnapping, and the Mennonite pastor who helped her flee has been sentenced to three years jail time. The government legally ignored Lisa's biological connection to her own daughter.

Genderless marriage replaces the objective concept of biology from the way we describe marriage and parenthood, with "intentional parenthood" an intrinsically subjective and malleable concept. We are embracing a mindset more characteristic of a slave society than a free society. The rich and powerful can purchase the legal right to ignore biological connections between family members.

To anticipate a possible objection: I am not opposed to adoption, which does not actually constitute an exception to this rule. Adoption takes the biological relationship between children and parents as the starting point: the parents must either surrender their rights or be found unfit. Adoption gives children the parents they need, in the exceptional situations in which the parents are unable to care for them.

"But those people cared for the children"

One objection to the slavery parallel is to say that in the modern day examples, the non-parents care for the children and want to be parents. But some masters cared about their slaves, and some slaves felt loyal to their masters. That did not justify allowing the government to disregard their marriages and their biological bonds to one another.

I have no doubt that many, many people in gay parenting situations are loving people. But this does not justify violating a child's "unalienable rights" and self-evident truths to his or her own mother and father. All children are "created equal," with the emphasis on "created"--created by way of a mom and a dad, whom they have self-evident and unalienable rights to be with, barring extraordinary circumstances.

Which side would Abraham Lincoln take?

Given all this, I believe that Lincoln would fight against legal changes that undermine the natural family. I believe he would object to how Lisa Miller and Isabella are being treated. I believe that no real conservative or Republican should support gay marriage policy. These policies shift power from the natural family to the government. They therefore do not reflect Lincoln's legacy or Republican ideals. History will treat the defenders of natural marriage policy far more kindly than the opposition realizes. Natural marriage policy is a defensive structure for families, one that thwarts state tyranny. The natural unit of mother, father and child can create itself and sustain itself independently of the state and its policies. Man woman marriage is the only family form that keeps the government out of the family.

Jennifer Thieme Johnson is the associate director at the Ruth Institute.

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