The Supreme Court and the Battle Over Marriage

In the bitter aftermath of loosing the 1858 Illinois senate race to Stephen A. Douglas, Abraham Lincoln wrote an encouraging note to a despondent friend. "The fight must go on," Lincoln said. "The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one, or even, on hundred defeats."

Defeat for traditional marriage seemed to be the order of the day on June 26. Yet, we who hoped for different outcomes to Wednesday's Supreme Court rulings on United States v. Windsor (DOMA) and Perry v. Hollingsworth (California's Proposition 8) must not despair. Rather, we should take Lincoln's words to heart. The fight must go on. The cause of one man-one woman, conjugal marriage in America must not be surrendered.

The Court delivered a defeat to the biblical view of marriage, but not a decisive defeat. It fell short of redefining marriage within the United States, refusing-at least at this time-to grant what the Prop 8 plaintiffs wanted: the "discovery" of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. As such-at least at this time-proponents of traditional marriage have the opportunity to exercise their freedom to discuss, debate, and, with their elected representatives, decide the nature of marriage in all fifty states.

However, what the Court did do, in striking down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and in ruling that the Prop 8 defendants had no standing, was leave the door open for another challenge to the conjugal view of marriage-one, which could motivate the Court to strike down Section 2 of DOMA, thereby redefining marriage for all fifty states. Therefore, we must make reasoned, reasonable, and winsome arguments for the permanent, exclusive, and procreative union of one man and one woman view marriage, if, at that time, we hope the Court will defend it and not defeat it.

We ought to make at least five arguments:

1. Man-woman marriage promotes procreation.
The ultimate goal and good of marriage is the creative act of producing children. Couples who choose not to have children or are prevented from doing so through infertility do not invalidate this basic reason for marriage. People of biblical faith believe the first command given by God to the first couple was to have sex-not for the mere pleasure of coitus but to bring forth children (Genesis 1:28). Obedience to this command, not only creates permanence in the bonds of marriage and family, it fulfills a longing in the heart of every man and woman-the desire for legacy.

2. Man-woman marriage provides emotional stability for children.
Same-sex marriage undermines the need for children to grow up in a home with a mother and father, further weakening the societal norm that men should take responsibility for the children they father. This leaves more children emotionally scarred. Men and women are not only different physically we are different emotionally, bringing different and necessary emotional strengths to the rearing of children. Such differences cannot be replicated by single mothers or fathers, duel mothers, or duel fathers.

3. Man-woman marriage provides a fixed meaning to the unique intimacy of marriage.
Traditional marriage, unlike other forms of marriage, provides meaning and order to adult sexual relations. It elevates our sexual nature. Traditional marriage places checks on the sexual appetites of men, whereby they become more moral and disciplined in their sexual practices, and become more involved in the rearing of their children. Traditional marriage places confidence in the lives of women, whereby they receive stability and protection, acknowledgment of paternity of their children, and physical and emotional support in rearing those children.

4. Man-woman marriage protects the intimacy of friendship.
Unlike same-sex advocates (and advocates of other forms of marriage) who define marriage as an emotional union between people, man-woman marriage proponents uphold the intimacy of friendship. Traditional marriage declares, unlike the federal judge who ruled in California's Perry v. Brown (2011), that marriage is not "the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults." In other words, marriage is one type of intimacy, but marriage isn't the only form of deep, lasting intimacy. If it were, then the parent/child relationship, the teacher/student relationship, and the companion/companion relationship would mean nothing.

5. Man-woman marriage promotes liberty and limited government.
I argued in "Religious Liberty: One Casualty in the War Over Marriage" that our First Amendment right would slowly erode if marriage were redefined from its traditional understanding. The converse is also true: if we uphold the man-woman view of marriage liberty and limited government will result. Opening Pandora's Box by making marriage more malleable will bring about a smorgasbord of marital options-multiple wives/husbands, same-sex marriage, group marriage-producing a smorgasbord of laws and enforcements to bring about social order in a chaotic culture hell-bent on replicating itself downward.

As champions of civil society, we must not let one defeat us. For in free societies there are no permanent political victories or defeats, only permanent battles in the struggle for lasting liberty.

Derrick G. Jeter is a speaker and writer engaging ideals at the crossroads of faith and freedom. A noted speaker on faith, liberty, politics, culture, and history, Derrick writes a popular blog at and is the author of O America! A Manifesto on Liberty. Follow him on Twitter @derrickjeter.

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