It will be very hard for the marriage revisionists to say why they oppose such innovations, which is why they’re not discussing it. So if you want to know how these conversations are taking place, it’s largely by obfuscating what’s really at issue.
What will become of society, ultimately, if marriage is redefined across the board to include unions between two members of the same sex?
It’s hard to tell how far down a slippery slope any given society would tread, but I think it’s easy to say that it would weaken the eligible basis for marriage law. To say the male-female aspect of marriage is irrational and arbitrary, just the result of an animus, the way that Justice [Anthony] Kennedy described it in his opinion in the Windsor case, then it’s much harder to see why the number two is so important. It’s hard to see how you retain monogamy in marriage. It’s harder to see why it’s permanent… it’s harder to see why it’s sexually exclusive.
The reason the government is in the marriage business in the first place is not because it cares about the romantic life of its citizens; the government cares about children. The sexual union of a man and a woman can result in a new life. That new life has one mother and one father, and marriage tries to unite that man and woman in a permanent and exclusive union so that the children who result from that union are given the gift of having a mother and father. There are various ways you can try to do this: you could try to coerce adults into doing this; you could try to force them into doing this, or you could incentivize them into doing it voluntarily by promoting a certain type of relationship, holding it up as an ideal. That’s how the state has done it traditionally, upholding marriage as an ideal so that adults could see a relationship they can aspire to so that children would have a mom and dad.
Anything you do that would weaken that relationship and weaken the intelligibility of what makes that relationship unique decreases the odds that people will actually live it out and increases the odds that we further weaken marriage in law and in culture.
Why is it that young people are decidedly pro-life but much more open to a redefinition of marriage?
I think it’s largely that they haven’t had the argument made to them. Forty years ago, you wouldn’t have had as high numbers among the younger generation identifying as pro-life. Forty years ago, they were telling us that pro-lifers were on the wrong side of history, that all young people were in favor of abortion and that forty years from now, it would just be geriatrics and the Pope who would be the last pro-lifers on earth.
But the pro-life movement launched, and they started making arguments, they started hosting rallies, they started the organizations, they wrote the books and articles, they came up with the campaigns, they came up with the political institutions, the cultural institutions, the crisis pregnancy centers, the educational initiatives — a whole array of things in the areas of policy, law, culture, and education. And now, the younger generation is more pro-life than their parents.
All that took work, and it’s work that’s just beginning to take place in the marriage issue. We don’t have nearly as many pro-marriage think tanks, pro-marriage political organizations, pro-marriage educational institutes as we do for pro-life. It’s great that we have it on the pro-life side; we just need to replicate it on the marriage side. But it’s very hard if you’re a young person. Everything you see on TV, such as Fox’s Glee, or what’s happening at your public school or what your friends are saying — everything you’re hearing in the popular culture is that you’re a bigot if you believe marriage is between a man and a woman, and there’s very little that tells you the opposite. We have not done a good enough job in communicating, even to our own people inside of the Church, inside the cultural institutions that should be sympathetic to the argument for marriage.