Social Conservatives and Marriage


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.


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  1. This is the same terrible defense that we hear time and time again. Marriage is a legal institution that has more to do with taxes and marriage rights than children. By this logic, we shouldn’t allow infertile straight couples to marry, or force all married people to sign contracts saying they will have kids. This whole culture thing is hilarious. “Feminism” is destroying the marriage culture? Heaven forbid a woman wants to work and earn a living rather than staying at home getting pregnant and taking care of the child for the big strong man. If you want to talk about culture, how about the Greek society where sexuality wasn’t even considered relevant? Did families cease to exist and the population falter out? No, they came forth and started one of the great civilizations as well as contributed greatly to universal art, philosophy and, yes, culture.

    For this argument to make any sense, you would have to argue that every straight couple stays together forever AND has children. And I doubt you can make that argument. Same-sex marriage has absolutely no effect on the current state of marriage and marriage rights.

    1. Marriage as a legal institution would never have arisen were it not for the biological realities of human procreation. The tax benefits and legal rights that come with marriage are not its raison d’être. They are incentives that society–through government–provides to encourage couples to unite, so that children are born to stable families where they will be raised by their biological parents.

      Laws are based on generalities, not on particular circumstances. Generally speaking, a man and a woman are able to produce children together, even if in particular circumstances this is not the case. It would be difficult (if not nearly impossible) to ensure that every man or woman who attempts to marry is fertile. Often a man or woman won’t even know this until he or she tries to have kids. And predictions of infertility often turn out to be false.

      Forcing couples to sign a contract to have children would be impractical due to the fertility problems many couples have, including frequent miscarriages. You can’t prove a couple is not trying to have kids, so such a contract would be unenforceable. And unenforceable contracts are worthless.

  2. Well, in this pack of twisted logical fallacies, you happen to be right about one thing: there are some fights worth fighting.

    And certainly the fight against such strident narrow-mindedness is one of them.

  3. Your entire point is poorly made here: ‘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.’

    This suggests that the ‘end’ of a straight marriage is having kids. It isn’t. Many married straight couples don’t get children. Many that do end up having kids did not marry for the sole purpose of having kids. I’m straight – I want to get married AND have kids, but I don’t want to get married TO have kids. I want to get married to legitimize my relationship in the eyes of society and the government and reap the benefits that come with that. One of the benefits is having kids in wedlock rather than out of it (but that is not the ‘end’).

    Social conservatism in this respect is some perverted, convoluted way of barring gay people from having what we straight people already have. Marriage is not “about the children” – it is about love and commitment and vows. I will get married eventually, and I hope by then the U.S. will make gay marriage fully legal so that marriage can be something two loving, consenting people can experience, and not some elite club you think you’re entitled to. I’m for the sanctity of marriage – the sanctity that it stands for love and not hate.

  4. This post rightly addresses a question most often ignored in the gay marriage debate: What is the end of sex and marriage? The link among marriage, sex, and children is frankly obvious and has been recognized by most societies in most times. If we as a society really going to make the radical revisionist claim that sex and marriage are primarily for the emotional fulfillment of those involved in it and have nothing necessarily to do with the conception and rearing of children, we better have better reasons for doing so than simply smearing defenders of traditional marriage as “retarded.”

  5. This article correctly points out the harm that unbridled individualism is doing to the institutions that allow society to flourish.

  6. I have a suggestion for all those “social activists” out there. MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS!!!

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