Of all of today’s political battles, there is perhaps no issue more divisive and polarizing than gay marriage.
The debate is framed in such a light as to cast a backwards old guard of religious conservatives against a tolerant left and even an enlightened libertarian right. The issue is so demagogued and politicized that republicans are afraid to talk about it. The “social conservative” today is portrayed as wholly religious and obsolete. All those who oppose gay marriage are assumed to be bigoted, Christian fanatics who cling to scriptural definition of marriage that has no place in modern society.
That perception could not be further from the truth.
Social conservatives do not draw total political guidance from irrational religious teachings. Rather, they appeal to reason, natural law, and history to guide policy. All this is done in defense of culture, the social conservative’s first field of battle. “Culture” is not a code word for religious indoctrination or bigotry as the media often portrays it, but is instead an appreciation for the complex web of social institutions that defines a society and a fierce opposition to the rampant individual libertarian libertinism that atomizes human relationships and threatens the very foundations of civilization.
Nowhere is this more clearly seen than in the debate for marriage, where conservatives fight to protect the last remaining defense against individualism – the family. The family is the basic organizational unit of society and serves to mediate between the individual and the state. Understood in that context, the debate over gay marriage has nothing at all to do with gay rights. Instead, the debate is about children. By officially sanctioning gay marriage, the government does nothing less than officially delink children from the institution of marriage.
The obvious criticism is that gay couples can adopt, but the “end” so to speak of a gay relationship is not adoption. Instead, the same-sex marriage advocates seek to transform the understanding of marriage away from a comprehensive union, consummated by the rearing of children, into a temporary emotional union that may or may not result in children.
Already marriage culture has suffered immensely at the hands of sexual liberation, no fault divorce, and feminism. Today the great debate is whether the states will abolish the traditional definition of marriage and embrace the consequences. Conservatives should not be afraid to talk about culture, and must redouble their efforts to defend marriage and the family.
They must reject the allure of libertarian “big-tent” conservatism, and must understand that some fights are worth having.