The late 20th century disintegration of marriage is epoch-defining and hazardous to moral health. The question of legally recognizing same-sex marriage - thrust upon us by recent court decisions - culminates this disintegration.
There are many reasons why the ills of marriage are so pivotal. Marriage is the principle of sexual morality. Immoral sexual acts are often wrong for other reasons, too, such as the injustice of imposing oneself sexually upon another without consent. But all immoral sexual activity is wrong because it is non-marital.
Our law until recently recognized this pivotal role of marriage. As United States Supreme Court Justice John Harlan wrote in 1961, "[T]he laws regarding marriage . . . provide both when the sexual powers may be used and the legal and societal context in which children are born and brought up . . . laws forbidding adultery, fornication and homosexual practice . . . express the negative of that proposition." (Exploring)
Besides the centrality of marriage to sexual ethics, our law always knew that a social commitment to marriage entailed a wide pattern of restraint upon all, married and unmarried alike. Marriage is not only a lot of work for married couples; it is a high maintenance deal for any society that recognizes it as the unique opportunity for human flourishing that it is.
But what if a great many people come to believe that one is entitled to regular sexual satisfaction regardless of the willingness of one's spouse, if indeed there is a spouse at all? It is not necessary to imagine what this asserted right to sexual satisfaction would do to a society. We mer...
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...that your new next door neighbors are an Episcopal priest and an Air Force pilot - and that both are women! Where such couples set up shop, they will become part of the neighborhood's furniture. You will be lucky to find a haven from them, and luckier still if you can somehow nevertheless convince your children of the truth about marriage.
The cultural effects of legalizing same-sex marriage will be devastating. What of that civil law debate? It seems that the vast majority of the American people oppose same sex marriage. And surely our legal tradition, including constitutional law, does not support extension of marriage to same-sex couples. But, then, there is the filtering device of liberal neutrality.
Exploring Constitutional Conflicts.
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