No, Conservatives Are Not Saying Gays Can’t Marry
There’s an especially stupid “argument” one often hears according to which supporting the legal definition of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife is “telling people who they can and can’t marry.” Of course, a moment’s reflection should reveal even to the dullest of wits that it is nothing of the kind. It is, rather, taking a position on what marriage is. If there is some remote or extraordinarily loose sense in which supporting the conjugal understanding of marriage as the legal norm is “telling people who they can and can’t marry,” it is doing that only in the sense that laws defining marriage as the union of two persons, and not three or more (“throuples,” “quadruples,” “quintuples,” etc.) in polyamorous partnerships are “telling people who they can and can’t marry,” or in the sense that laws forbidding the marriages of adult siblings or a parent and his adult child are “telling people who they can and can’t marry.” Put another way, if Ted Cruz or Ben Sasse can justly be accused of “telling people who they can and can’t marry,” then so can Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who do not favor redefining marriage to include polyamorous partnerships or abolishing laws forbidding incestuous marriages.
It seems ridiculous to have to point this out, but ideology of any kind, especially when it comes to be held with self-righteous passion, tends to make people stupid and cause them to say stupid things. Expressive individualist ideology is no exception, especially when it comes to its dogmas concerning sex.
Robert George is Chairman at United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, McCormick Professor of Juriprudence at Princeton University, Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, and author of Conscience and Its Enemies: Confronting the Dogmas of Liberal Secularism.