Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Same-sex marriage again

Robert P. George has a most excellent op-ed in today’s WSJ.

A snippet:

Opponents of racist laws in Loving did not question the idea, deeply embodied in our law and its shaping philosophical tradition, of marriage as a union that takes its distinctive character from being founded, unlike other friendships, on bodily unity of the kind that sometimes generates new life. This unity is why marriage, in our legal tradition, is consummated only by acts that are generative in kind. Such acts unite husband and wife at the most fundamental level and thus legally consummate marriage whether or not they are generative in effect, and even when conception is not sought.

Of course, marital intercourse often does produce babies, and marriage is the form of relationship that is uniquely apt for childrearing (which is why, unlike baptisms and bar mitzvahs, it is a matter of vital public concern). But as a comprehensive sharing of life—an emotional and biological union—marriage has value in itself and not merely as a means to procreation. This explains why our law has historically permitted annulment of marriage for non-consummation, but not for infertility; and why acts of sodomy, even between legally wed spouses, have never been recognized as consummating marriages.

Only this understanding makes sense of all the norms—annulability for non-consummation, the pledge of permanence, monogamy, sexual exclusivity—that shape marriage as we know it and that our law reflects. And only this view can explain why the state should regulate marriage (as opposed to ordinary friendships) at all—to make it more likely that, wherever possible, children are reared in the context of the bond between the parents whose sexual union gave them life.

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Read the whole thing.

Discussions - 3 Comments

Yes, it is a good article, and I agree, except that if law and government are going to drop the ball on the issue of marriage, then marriage as George so beautifully defines it becomes meaningless. Unprincipled marriage somehow seems worse than even shabby or hypocritical marriages. If government makes marriage meaningless, will it be possible to take the matter out of the hands of government? Maybe not today's government that sucks up various aspects of our lives like a giant roomba gone wild and running rampant from its proper sphere. It is an awkward liberation that sets us free to the deterioration of society.

Anyway, yes, it is a good article, but depressing in that it seems unlikely to do much good.

William McGurn discusses a rationale behind the anything-but-procreative-sex movement.

I like the article, but it seems a teaching moment on nature would have been better here, and it should have been made in the paras regarding Loving.


The loose appeal to the voters, and the more direct appeal to the law, seem too conventional and weakens the argument it seems to me.

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