In the battle over the definition of marriage, there are many confusing currents, but, as usual, we can depend on Thomas Sowell to sort through them and cut to the heart of the matter, as follows:
“Love affairs are personal relations. Marriage is a legal relation. Sexual relations are between consenting adults, but now the gay activists are taking the view that they are government’s business. Then there are those strained analogies with the civil rights movement. Martin Luther King was a private citizen who did not put himself above the law; neither did he wield the power of the law. The Massachusetts judges and the mayor of San Francisco are using their authority under the law to subvert the law. The last refuge of the gay rights activists is that this is a matter of equal rights. But marriage is not an individual right. Otherwise, why limit marriage to unions of two people, or people at all? Marriage is a social contract because the issues involved go beyond the particular individuals. Unions of a man and a woman produce the future generations on whom the fate of the whole society depends. Society has something to say about that.” Note that Sowell did not use religious terminology in the above passage. And I would suggest that the moral considerations surrounding this issue that are informed by our Judeo-Christian heritage cannot, and should not, be excluded from the discussion. I would also add to Sowell’s argument against the use of the civil rights analogy that there is a big difference between civil rights denied based on race and those that are created based on behavior.
The real question from a public policy standpoint is, “who decides?” Here we are in a box from which there may be no escape short of a constitutional amendment defining marriage. It is sad that it has come to this, but our Founders could naturally conceive of no situation that might arise that would represent such a frontal assault on natural law and the moral order. The only alternative to such a divisive battle is for Congress to take its rightful place in the democratic process and deny jurisdiction to the judiciary in deciding this question. If not, we are one step closer to the end of democracy.