Ethics & Public Policy Center

Can Marriage Be Saved?

Published in National Review Online



Mr. Whelan’s brief essay was part of an NRO symposium.

Marriage is a public institution, and the marriage practices that a society endorses inevitably have real-world consequences that extend far beyond the individuals who marry, and shape or deform the broader culture. Does anyone really believe otherwise? It’s clear that many people support so-called same-sex marriage at least in part because of the public validation of same-sex relationships that the redefinition of marriage entails.

The idea that a man could “marry” another man (or that a woman could “marry” another woman) could be taken seriously only in a culture that has become deeply confused about what marriage is. That confusion is largely the result of what heterosexuals have done to marriage in recent decades. It will not be easy to rebuild a sound marriage culture. But the spread of same-sex marriage would make that rebuilding project impossible, as it would sever permanently the societal understanding of the inherent link between marriage and responsible procreation and child-rearing. The more confusion there is about the mission of marriage, the less well marriage will perform its critical mission. And the millions and millions of victims—children born into unstable or nonexistent families—will continue to pile up, with all the attendant disastrous consequences.

If there is a dim silver lining, it is perhaps that New York’s legislative adoption of same-sex marriage will expose the canard that homosexuals are politically powerless—one of the criteria for recognition as a “suspect” class for purposes of heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause—and will induce the Supreme Court to leave the definition of marriage to the democratic processes in the various states and in Congress.

Edward Whelan is president of the Ethics and Public Policy Centerand is a regular contributor to NRO’s Bench Memos blog.

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