Friday, May 16, 2008

Why "Marriage" Matters

Today it was released that the California State Supreme Court ruled in favor to strike down Proposition 22 which defines marriage as between one man and one woman.
As discussed below, upon review of the numerous California decisions that have examined the underlying bases and significance of the constitutional right to marry, we conclude that, under this state’s Constitution, the constitutionally based right to marry properly must be understood to encompass the core set of basic substantive legal rights and attributes traditionally associated with marriage that are so integral to an individual’s liberty and personal autonomy that they may not be eliminated or abrogated by the Legislature or by the electorate through the statutory initiative process. These core substantive rights include, most fundamentally, the opportunity of an individual to establish — with the person with whom the individual has chosen to share his or her life — an officially recognized and protected family possessing mutual rights and responsibilities and entitled to the same respect and dignity accorded a union traditionally designated as marriage.
- California Supreme Court Chief Justice J. Kennard
At the risk of sounding like a religiously political zealot I think the issue is important enough to elicit a response from my family. This response was greatly formed by texts, sermons, and interviews of J.D. Greear, Robert P. George, Al Mohler, and Norman Geisler.

It is import to clearly understand both the legal extent of the ruling as well as its broader implications.

First, this ruling states that it is an individuals fundamental human right to establish an officially recognized and protected family with the same rights as traditionally married couples and families. The ruling does NOT attempt to define or restrict that family in any way but rather states that an individuals sexual preference should be considered, along with race, nationality, and gender, a suspect classification eliciting explicit protection.

Second, this ruling does NOT state how this "officially recognized and protected family" should be classified (i.e. Homosexual "marriage" as Marriage or Civil Union).

Therefore, if there is not an appeal within 30 days, San Fransisco County California will have to start issuing marriage license to non-traditional couples. The overall spirit of the ruling is to protect and ensure equal benefits (e.g. tax status, medical/insurance claims, etc.) typically limited to traditional marriages to individuals who desire non-traditional marriages.

There are numerous concerns with not only this ruling but rulings of this nature. I CANNOT stress enough my desire to represent the gospel by showing respect and love to individuals who would benefit from this ruling BUT I have so many concerns, both religious and pragmatic, with this decision.

Let me say this: from a Christian perspective the benefits of marriage are inherent in the covenant its self not in financial or legal standing granted by the State therefore I am in total support of granting those same State issued benefits to every individual. To clarify, I mean that the virtue of marriage is that it honors God, represents our relationship with Christ, and facilitates ministry by defining roles and responsibilities based on the natural ordering of society. A Christian marries for these purposes not legal or financial standing so it would be inconsistent with our faith to try to limit the classification of marriage for these purposes.

My concerns:

First, marriage in every state is regulated. Many states restrict the marrying of close relatives or even the marriage of those people with certain STD's. My point is that I think it is extremely irresponsible of the California court to not be more specific with its definition of "officially recognized and protected family." The implication of making undefined sexual orientation a suspect classification and fundamental right means that the government has to present an extremely convincing argument or compelling evidence in order to make any regulatory changes or restrictions to any associated fundamental right. Whose to say my sexual orientation can't include partnering with multiple partners?

Second, the implications of this decision are far reaching. Beyond the court room and even beyond California we will see effects this decision if it is not countered. As stated by Maggie Gallagher, culture consists of words and ideas and images and categories. By broadening the definition of "marriage" to an undefined point so as to avoid the appearance of condoning a relatively new social impropriety is actually infringing on the ability of traditional parents to educate their children as to what Biblical marriage looks like. Our ability is not gone but our word will soon be taken because we won't be able to compete with the definition society is giving them. The definition of husband will no longer mean what it has traditional meant, a wife will no longer be a wife, a mother a mother, a father a father, or parents parents. These words will mean new things. Words are important, the world can change or not because of words.

Third, by elevating sexual orientation to the status of suspect classification, those who hold a traditional view of marriage are placed on the same level as hate mongers, racists, and xenophobes. Homosexuality, until the 20th century with the exception of specific Roman and Greek instances, has been considered a social perversion. With the advent of organizations like the ACLU and individuals like Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennet, and Richard Dawkins who fight for "individuals rights" have eroded away social structure to the point that those holding traditional, conservative, Biblical views are not expressing individual opinions but promulgating inferior, archaic, and morally inferior beliefs. The have not added to the progression of society but rather its digression.

Fourth, I agree completely with the courts dissenting opinion that the majorities opinion is founded upon rationale that has questionable constitutionality. A major piece of the reasoning for the courts decision is based on the current status of gays and lesbians as well as the Legislature's trend in passing more progressive civil rights protections and thereby in effect, "
the majority gives the Legislature indirectly power that body does not directly possess to amend the Constitution and repeal an initiative statute" (J. Baxter, Associate Justice California Supreme Court Justice). Further, "the People, directly or through their elected representatives, have every right to adopt laws abrogating the historic understanding that civil marriage is between a man and a woman." The ruling equates to a judicial fiat justified by a quickly changing society.

Finally, the government needs traditional families because these families produce what is needed for gov't to properly function - "upright, decent people who make honest, law-abiding, public-spirited citizens" (Robert P. George, "First Things", Jan. 08). No marriage is perfect, not even Christian marriage. In fact Christians who marry are exactly as likely to get divorced as non-Christians in America but children are well nourished spiritually, emotionally, and physically under the care of a mother and father. When these traditional families fail to form both parent and child often become unstable. Absentee father become a serious problem, out-of-wedlock births become more frequent, and many other well documented social pathologies follow including an inability to form emotional connections, inability to maintain monogamous relationships, disrespect of authority, and apathy towards expected responsibilities.

I value the collision of varying ideas and perspectives because it facilitates vigorous debate about important issues, however, as Isaiah Berlin thought, the person is dynamic blend of body, mind, and spirit. The ability to only spiritually and emotionally come together does not represent a complete unity of persons. Marriage represents this unity and can only be accomplished by one man and one woman because it is founded upon physical oneness that is procreative in nature, regardless of effect, and facilitates the unification of rest of the persons into "one flesh."

Legislating against "gay marriage" will neither alleviate homosexuality nor the joining of homosexuals couples in a marriage-like relationship and we shouldn't expect it to. Legislating against "gay marriage" will however sustain the value of that traditional view which has been the central unit of family for thousands of years for future generations.


Zach and Laura Hanlon said...

The California Supreme Court decision can be read here...

Ry & Britt Devine said...

Hi Laura,

I'm not sure if you remember me, but I am friends with Janie and Becky Kendrick. I met you once when you came to visit Janie in Houston. I found your blog through Becky's. I just have to say that I truly appreciate your words here. I am currently living in CA b/c this is where my husband is from. This recent Supreme Court decision is just one more reason why I would love to move back to Texas. Since that may or may not happen in the near future, I have to embrace the opportunity I have to share with everyone why I do not support the Supreme Court decision and stand up for my morals and standards. I think the way you scribed this post is just so well put together and if you don't mind, I'd love to share some of your thoughts on my blog. I will of course give you all the credit. I just don't want you to think that I am stealing your words. Let me know. I hope you are doing well and it looks like you have a beautiful baby!!!