The Iowa Supreme Court was wrong to legalize same-sex marriage
We post stuff like this every day on Facebook. Like us. You won't regret it.
Don't show this to me again
Close

Iowa’s earthquake

No matter what the judges say, they changed the meaning of marriage in Iowa when they ruled that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right.
Robert R. Reilly | 13 April 2009
comment   | print |

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Why Gay Marriage Matters”, Michael Judge, a Iowa freelance journalist and a contributing editor of The Far Eastern Economic Review, celebrates the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to overturn state law in order to make same-sex marriage legal. He confesses that it does not occur to him as to how anyone could oppose this enlightened decision – even if those opposing it include the majority of the people of Iowa, who supported the law against such “marriages” in the first place. “Why,” he asks, would anyone now wish to sponsor an amendment to the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman?

Well, let’s see. Judge quotes the Court’s complaint against “the disadvantages and fears [homosexuals] face each day due to the inability to obtain a civil marriage in Iowa.” The court then enumerates the legal disadvantages, which are all real – no sharing in health insurance, pension benefits, hospital visitation rights, etc.

Active homosexual relationships are based upon the act of sodomy. The plaintiffs ask for, and the Iowa Supreme Court wishes to bestow public affirmation, meaning moral approval, of this act as a foundation for marriage.

The point, however, is not that there are disadvantages. The question is whether the disadvantages are based on a distinction made only by convention (and therefore changeable as a matter of custom) or by one that exists in nature (and therefore normative and morally imperative). The exact same disadvantages exist for mistresses, unmarried heterosexual lovers, polygamists, and those in man-boy relationships.

If hardship is the criterion, should not all these be enfolded into the new definition of civil marriage? After all, they too, as the Court said of homosexual couples, are “a historically disfavored class of persons [excluded] from a supremely important civil institution.” Are they not also “kind-hearted people,” like Mr. Judge’s homosexual brother on whose behalf he writes?

Absent from the article or the court’s decision is any explanation of why marriage is so important as a civil institution, and why those other than monogamous men and women have normally been excluded from it. Before expanding upon the traditional definition of marriage, or rather destroying it, one should at least understand why it has existed for so long in the first place.

Aristotle begins The Politics, not with a single individual, but with a description of a man and a woman together in the family, without which the rest of society cannot exist. The family is the irreducible core. In turn, a healthy family is posited upon the proper and exclusive sexual relationship between a husband and wife. In other words, sexual relations are morally ordered to the family and reach their pinnacle in it. Heterosexual sex in the family is normative as a matter of nature or what is known as natural law. All other sexual relationships can only ape it, and aspire to it (which explains the homosexual desire to mimic it).

The family alone is capable of providing the necessary stability for the profound relationship which heterosexual union both symbolizes and cements, and for the welfare of the children who may issue from it. Society can be said to exist only to the extent to which those spousal relations remain intact. That is the “constitutionally sufficient justification” for marriage between a man and a woman that the Iowa Supreme Court, in an attack of aphasia, could not recall. The Court also seems to have forgotten that the legal disadvantages against homosexual and other partnerships were put there exactly for the purpose of shaping behavior in a certain way to the general benefit of society and for discouraging behavior that undermines it.

Aside from the pecuniary penalties mentioned earlier, the Court opined that “perhaps the ultimate disadvantage expressed in the testimony of the plaintiffs is the inability to obtain for themselves and for their children the personal and public affirmation that accompanies marriage.”

Here is the real nub of the matter. Active homosexual relationships are based upon the act of sodomy. The plaintiffs ask for, and the Court wishes to bestow, public affirmation, meaning moral approval, of this act as a foundation for marriage. This is what public affirmation means, because law is inescapably based upon morality. Both the Court and the plaintiffs claim that this change in the definition of marriage will make things better, which is a notion that has to be measured against an understanding of what the good is. Those who consider sodomy an intrinsically disordered and morally corrupt act will now be un-affirmed and forced by law to acknowledge the opposite. This is, after all, a change in the public order, and that is what such changes mean.

This makes the Court’s statement that “the sanctity of all religious marriages celebrated in the future will have the same meaning as those celebrated in the past” particularly disingenuous. How could they have the same meaning when the Court has just changed the definition of what is morally acceptable as marriage? Is this deceit or ignorance on the Court’s part?

Lastly, the Court trotted out “equal protection of the law” as its excuse for the ruling. Equality before the law does not mean that everyone gets to be “affirmed” in whatever they may choose to do. That is why laws have penalties. It means that the law applies equally to everyone, despite their personal desires. The Court has actually acted against this principle by saying that there should be a special category of marriage for those disposed to the act of sodomy, who, for whatever reason or indisposition, refuse to comply with the laws for marriage passed by the Iowa legislature. The Court should at least have the presence of mind to acknowledge what it is actually doing, and be ready to explain to any other “historically disfavored class of persons” why the Court should not, by judicial fiat, also create a special kind of marriage for them.

My use of Aristotle may provoke the response that some of the ancient Greeks wrote paeans to homosexual love. This is certainly true. However, it did not occur to any of them to propose homosexual relationships as the basis for marriage in their societies. In fact, no civilization ever has. Perhaps Mr. Judge and the Iowa Supreme Court should ponder on the reasons why.

Robert R. Reilly writes from Washington DC. He is a contributing editor to Crisis magazine.

MORE ON THESE TOPICS |
This article is published by Robert R. Reilly and MercatorNet.com under a Creative Commons licence. You may republish it or translate it free of charge with attribution for non-commercial purposes following these guidelines. If you teach at a university we ask that your department make a donation. Commercial media must contact us for permission and fees. Some articles on this site are published under different terms.

comments powered by Disqus
Follow MercatorNet
Facebook
Twitter
Newsletters
Sections and Blogs
Harambee
PopCorn
Conjugality
Careful!
Family Edge
Sheila Reports
Reading Matters
Demography Is Destiny
Bioedge
Conniptions (the editorial)
Connecting
Information
our ideals
our People
Mercator who?
partner sites
audited accounts
donate
New Media Foundation
Suite 12A, Level 2
5 George Street
North Strathfield NSW 2137
Australia

editor@mercatornet.com
+61 2 8005 8605
skype: mercatornet

© New Media Foundation 2014 | powered by Encyclomedia | designed by Elleston