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The Future of Marriage

by Ryan T. Anderson

So, with the Supreme Court rulings behind us [see story, p. 17], where does the marriage movement go from here?

It’s important to note that the Supreme Court, in deciding two cases, declined to redefine marriage for the entire nation. The court refused to manufacture a constitutional "right" to same-sex "marriage." Citizens and their elected representatives in all 50 states remain free to define marriage in civil law as the union of one man and one woman.

Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent, however, urges a clear-eyed outlook: "I promise you this: The only thing that will ‘confine’ the court’s holding is its sense of what it can get away with."

If it is clear that Americans are engaged in this democratic debate, then the court will be less likely to rule in an overreaching way again.

Here are three things to do.

First and foremost, defenders of marriage as the union of a man and a woman need to start living out that truth. Long before we had a debate about same-sex anything, far too many heterosexuals bought into a liberal ideology about sexuality that makes a mess of marriage. Cohabitation, no-fault divorce, extra-marital sex, non-marital childbearing, pornography and the hook-up culture all contributed to the breakdown of our marriage culture. Husbands and wives must be faithful through thick and thin, till death parts them. Mothers and fathers must take their obligations to their children seriously. The unmarried must prepare for their future marital lives, so they can live out the vows they will make.

At one point in American life, virtually every child was given the great gift of being raised to adulthood by the man and the woman who gave them life. Today, that number is under 50 percent in some communities. Same-sex "marriage" didn’t cause this sad situation, but it does nothing to help and only will make things worse.

After all, making marriage simply about emotional companionship sends the signal that moms and dads are interchangeable. Redefining marriage undercuts the rational foundations for the norms of marriage: permanence, exclusivity and monogamy.

Second, we must insist that government not discriminate against those who continue to stand for marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Policy should prohibit the government or anyone who receives taxpayers’ money from discriminating in employment, licensing, accreditation or contracting.

When he "evolved" on the marriage issue 15 months ago, President Obama insisted that the debate was legitimate and there were reasonable people of goodwill on both sides. He said those who believe marriage is a man-woman union aren’t "mean-spirited" but instead "care about families." The president added that "a bunch of ‘em are friends of mine ... you know, people who I deeply respect."

"Making marriage simply about emotional companionship sends the signal that moms and dads are interchangeable."

But sadly, we already have seen that many of those who favor redefining marriage are willing to use the coercive force of law to marginalize and penalize those who hold the historic view—even if it means trampling First Amendment protections of religious liberty.

Finally, we need to redouble our efforts to explain what marriage is, why marriage matters, and what consequences come from redefining marriage. The Left insists that the redefinition of marriage is "inevitable." The only way to guarantee a political loss, however, is to sit idly by.

We must develop and multiply our artistic, pastoral and reasoned defenses of the conjugal view as the truth about marriage, and to make ever plainer our policy reasons for enacting it.

Ryan T. Anderson is the William E. Simon Fellow in Religion and a Free Society at The Heritage Foundation and coauthor, with Sherif Girgis and Robert P. George, of the book What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense.

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