What is Marriage?

My apologies to Robert P. George, Ryan Anderson and Sherif Girgis for the caption. They’re almost completely innocent of what follows.

During a period of wakefulness in the night, in the dark and quiet, I was trying to figure out what marriage is if it isn’t what mankind had always thought it was. I came up with this this working definition: “Marriage is that institution of which it is irrational to think that it requires opposite sexes.”

Call me a curmudgeon, but that seems to be a bit thin. But this item was a couple of days in the making, and it unfolds.

Wikipedia says marriage “is a socially or ritually recognized union or legal contract between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between them, between them and their children, and between them and their in-laws.” I can already see some reason in that definition for thinking that marriage does require opposite sexes. I trust you can, too.

It took me a few days (from first draft of this) to get around to reading the decision that struck down my state’s marriage law, but here seems to be the judge’s tacit conception of marriage:

[A] public commitment to form an exclusive relationship and create a family with a partner with whom the person shares an intimate and sustaining emotional bond.

I think the judge just described a wedding, not a marriage,but never mind.

But I can’t “never mind” that this tacit judicial definition follows hard on the heels of the Judge’s insistence (based on SCOTUS precedent) that the law cannot be based on morality. So we can strike the “exclusive” from “exclusive relationship” without even dredging up the usual talking points about gay male promiscuity.

And the judge knows that same-sex couples can’t procreate together, so I’m a little fuzzy on what “create a family” means. Sorry if that sounds disrespectful, but I’m at least equal opportunity tactless: I don’t consider childless opposite-sex couples a “family,” either, but just a “couple.”

And there’s nothing on the marriage license interrogating couples about the intimacy or sustaining value of their emotional bond. I think the judge just made that up.

So we’re left, I think, with “a public commitment to form a relationship with a partner.” Kinda like a partnership agreement. A domestic partnership agreement. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

I could go on about the expansiveness of the decision, but, heck: the judge says “the history of our Constitution . . . is the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignored or excluded,” and that’s pretty clearly meant to be open-ended. I assume he’s smart enough to know that his expansiveness is vague enough to be cited, in due course, to justify extending “the right to make a public commitment to form an exclusive relationship and create a family with some folks with whom the person shares an intimate and sustaining emotional bond.”

I’m really not being facetious. I don’t think the new judicial concept of marriage satisfies the standards upon which he judge in the same opinion struck down my state’s concept.

Quite apart from speculation about slippery slopes, it’s just plain disorienting to have a federal judge say that one characteristic of marriage is irrational, then proffer a disingenuous new definition which includes the same fatal defects of occult morality, sloppy tailoring, and both over- and under-inclusiveness when questioned by loving threesomes, foursomes and so forth.

I hope you can understand my resultant inclination to remain irrational and risk the scorn of my black-robed masters.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.