Truth, Marriage and the American Constitution


Prof. William Wagner

WFFC Distinguished Chair for Faith & Freedom at SAU

Supporters of so-called “gay marriage” often try to equate their cause to that of the civil rights era case that actually established marriage equality. In Loving v. Virginia, the United States Supreme Court held that under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, States cannot ban interracial marriage. Loving affirmed the fundamental constitutional right of a man and woman to marry because “[m]arriage [between a man and a woman] is . . . fundamental to our very existence and survival,” as the Supreme Court previously held in Skinner v. Oklahoma. But marriage redefinition activists irrationally and unconstitutionally attempt to extend Loving to create a new federal right to marry without any qualification whatsoever. Loving emphasized the importance of marriage to all Americans, in the true sense of the word. It did not re-define the word. If one redefines “marriage” to mean whatever anyone wants it to mean, it has no definition and is no longer useful as a bearer of meaning.

Loving did not require this destruction of marriage. It did not hold that if prohibited conduct is defined by reference to a proclivity, then that prohibition violates the Fourteenth Amendment. There is no fundamental right for certain individuals to call their alternative arrangements “marriage”—and to compel others who disagree to not only assent to, but contribute to, the support of that redefined institution. Indeed, such coercion would violate the fundamental right of marriage for those who support marriage’s true meaning. Loving simply does not support the fashionable but mindless “marriage equality” slogan, which is ultimately standard-less and renders marriage equally meaningless for all.

The inventors of this proposed new “right” urge the Supreme Court to discard the long-established and proper limits on marriage under State law and, acting as a super-legislature, replace the traditional and rational definition of marriage with one that has no discernible limits. If “marriage” means fulfilling one’s personal choices regarding intimacy, as they insist, it is difficult to see how States could regulate marriage on any basis. If personal autonomy is the essence of marriage, then not only gender, but also number, familial relationship, and even species are insupportable limits on that principle, and they all will fall. For example, if the Court requires a re-definition of marriage according to sexual preference because not doing so is discriminatory, then it would be furthering discrimination by not also allowing bi-sexual individuals to marry two spouses of opposite sexes in order to fulfill their desired union for companionship. This initial rejection of marriage that they propose is not just a slippery slope — it is a bottomless pit.

Yet these “progressives” essentially claim that their proposed redefinition improves marriage by adding a necessary but currently lacking element of “equality” to it. This is certainly a clever ploy, for who can oppose equality? But that is all that it is, a ploy. It is not a valid point.

Marriage already has all the equality it can contain without destruction of its meaning, purpose, and proper boundaries. Any legally competent man can marry any legally competent woman, regardless of his or the woman’s race, religion, national origin, or even sexual preference, and vice versa. The problem they claim that the Court must resolve is one that does not exist. True marriage equality already exists.

What these marriage redefinition activists actually seek is not equality but instead a self-indulgent form of inclusiveness that demands acceptance, and indeed support, of a wide variety of sexual conduct that society has no interest in supporting and no obligation to support. And once this “inclusiveness” camel gets its nose in the marriage tent, marriage will not be a better tent; it will be trampled and destroyed. The marriage redefinition lobby argues that they can take our social body’s fundamental building block, remake it in their own amorphous image, and society will be healthier. They essentially argue they can remove the walls from our cells, place them back in the body, and the body will be healthier. It will not. Cells without walls will die, and with them so does the body.

Though they do not openly admit it, these “progressives” proffer a subjective view of the reality of marriage. But a subjective view of reality has as many realities as it has subjects. If everyone can define what marriage means to him or her, and the State must accede to that view, where will that lead us? What will the state of our society then be? Will it be the Utopia of freedom and growth that the “progressives” imply, or will it degenerate into chaos? Is that a chance that the Supreme Court is rightfully empowered to take, or is such a choice reserved to the people under Article V’s constitutional amendment provision?

Let us spell out the truth about this subjectivist argument as simply as we can. If someone wants to go bowling, they can go to a bowling alley with whomever they choose—a friend of the same or opposite gender, or five such friends, or a child (or their favorite pet, perhaps, in a more “enlightened” establishment). And they can all bowl together. But if that same entourage goes into a bowling alley and demands that they be permitted to “bowl” using pogo sticks, hula hoops, parasols, and buckets and buckets of whipped cream—but no balls or pins, because those offend their sensibilities—the proprietor will be completely justified in denying that request. He will not be denying them their fundamental right to bowl. He will not be unfairly discriminating against them or treating them like second-class citizens. He will not be manifesting “hate.” He will merely be telling them the truth: What they want to do is their business, but it’s not bowling. And if the truth offends their sensibilities, that is their problem, not his. They simply have no cause of action against him.

The LGBTQ lobby’s plight is no different. They all have the fundamental right to marry. No one is denying them that. But they do not have the right to tell the rest of the country that we must recognize their non-marital relationships to be the same as marriage. They are not. They may be dissatisfied with the fact that their view of marriage does not comport with reality, but if their dissatisfaction is to be remedied, it is their view—or some other aspect of their behavior — that must change, not reality.

Marriage equality already exists – Loving cleared up the last impediment to its enforcement. To protect marriage from those who would destroy its true meaning, the Supreme Court must adhere to its mandate to interpret the Constitution and avoid the temptation to unlawfully rewrite it in the name of “progress”.

On behalf of a coalition of over 25,000 African-American churches and ministries, Kane, Mersino, and Wagner authored an Amicus brief in the marriage cases currently pending before the Supreme Court.

About the Author

Prof. William Wagner
WFFC Distinguished Chair for Faith & Freedom at SAU
Professor Wagner holds the WFFC Distinguished Chair for Faith & Freedom at Spring Arbor University. He has a special interest in building and preserving environments where Christians may share the Good News of Jesus, free from persecution and oppression.

More On

This Issue