Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The non-religious case against gay marriage

Over at Mere Comments, Anthony Esolen has initiated a series of posts making the non-religious case against gay marriage. His first two points are:

The legalization of homosexual “marriages” would enshrine the sexual revolution in law.


It would, in particular, enshrine in law the principle that sexual intercourse is a matter of personal fulfillment, with which the society has nothing to do.

The whole series ought to be worth reading.

One of the commenters links to this article, describing this initiative, fully articulated here. Basically, it’s a vision of an extensive welfare state supporting the fullest possible array of possible relationships, animated by the following understanding:

So many people in our society and throughout the world long for a sense of caring community and connectedness, and for the ability to have a decent standard of living and pursue meaningful lives free from the threat of violence and intimidation. We seek to create a movement that addresses this longing.

So many of us long for communities in which there is systemic affirmation, valuing, and nurturing of difference, and in which conformity to a narrow and restricting vision is never demanded as the price of admission to caring civil society. Our vision is the creation of communities in which we are encouraged to explore the widest range of non-exploitive, non-abusive possibilities in love, gender, desire and sex – and in the creation of new forms of constructed families without fear that this searching will potentially forfeit for us our right to be honored and valued within our communities and in the wider world. Many of us, too, across all identities, yearn for an end to repressive attempts to control our personal lives. For LGBT and queer communities, this longing has special significance.

E pluribus unum has been hard enough to achieve, to the extent that it even has, but e pluribissimus unum? Pardon me if I don’t sign on to an experiment that self-consciously in so many ways tests the limits of human nature in the "construction" of community.

Discussions - 5 Comments

The legalization of homosexual “marriages” would enshrine the sexual revolution in law.

Anyone else think this point is a little self-contradictory? If we’re talking about the "sexual revolution" that I think we are, we mean the revolution that encouraged "free love" with whoever you wanted (I’m sure there were some limitations . . . maybe? . . .). How would allowing homosexual marriage "enshrine" this sort of idea in "law"? If anything, it’s discouraging that sort of thing by encouraging monogamous relationships on the same level of committment as current heterosexual marriage (which, unfortunately, has been declining due to how easy it is to get a divorce . . .).

I’m not really trying to argue with Esolen here, but I am trying to understand what he meant by that point. Am I missing it?


There’s at least one premise unstated in his argument--that the law ought to recognize and give force to (thereby encouraging) a certain amount of self-restraint in sexual matters. The argument for gay marriage can be taken to imply that the law ought to encourage sovereign human choice, which doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with self-restraint.

Joe beat me to it. I, too, had noticed the Esolen post.
A premise of the sexual revolution was/is that human sexuality and sexual activity is fundamentally a matter of individual appetite, desire, and choice, and that neither social mores or attitudes nor law should inhibit the fullest range of such appetites, choices, and activities. The traditional (I do not particularly like that term) understanding of sexuality saw a need - both social and individual - to channel and shape appetite, choice, and activity toward monogamous relations, capable of rearing progeny. Social approval and legal incentives (and, to a lesser extent, disincentives) should be given to such unions. The others were flawed in various ways - from the point of view of having and raising children, as well as human happiness, too.

Ah, I see. Yes, that makes more sense now.

Pardon my opinion...but I hardly see how any of these arguments are secular/non-religious.

If his first two points are to count as points they require a certain disposition (not necessarily religious but more likely to exist in religious folk.)

The best argument put foward involves the extent to which the left seeks to "denature" strip it of all consequence. But I suppose that the extent to which someone will be upset about this "denaturing" is also determined by a more fundamental attachment to a certain world view. The denaturing of Mount Everest doesn’t bother me... since I presume that an elevator for the less brave does not prevent others from climbing it the hard way... But perhaps it takes away from the singularity of the challenge. Someone who attempted to reconstruct the Lewis and Clark expedition would perhaps be laughed at...(this may be more to the point if I discussed the free-love of the "Buffaloe Dance")...but it is altogether impossible to bring back the indian situation of 1804...and the sense of discovery and time spent is no doubt lessened by the advent of the highway...GPS replaces the sextant...and an internet connection gives better account of wildlife...than Lewis could ever hope to classify himself. Modern day mountain men have nothing on the first fur traders...

But if liberals seek to "denature" everything doesn’t this in turn increase the singularity of an accomplished conservative life (to include a fulfilling marriage).

To what extent is the conservative "hangup" concerning the "cultural wars" not also an attempt to "denature" and take away from the singular challenge of marriage in the midst of modern life. For if "when anyone can be "married" - doubt is cast on whether anyone at all is "really" married." Doesn’t this "doubt" then add to the singularity of those who define and set the standard marriage/familly?

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