The freedom to marry: a liberal value that conservatives should shun
A few months ago, a new group launched called “Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry.” This is a group sponsored by a larger organization called “Freedom to Marry.” The objective of these groups is to promote gay marriage.
These young conservatives have been beguiled by leftist language, and my conclusion is that they must not be familiar with the philosophical underpinnings of true conservatism. They wrongly believe that “the freedom to marry is not a partisan value and is consistent with basic conservative values of responsibility and community, limited government and individual freedom.” But the so-called “freedom to marry” is not a conservative value. It’s a liberal value, plain and simple.
Here’s how it works. It’s a bit complex (which is one reason people on my side of the debate have trouble defending it), but I’ll break it down into the smallest segments I can.
1. “Gay marriage” really means “genderless marriage.”
2. Genderless marriage means references to gender must be removed from the law. Words like “bride,” “groom,” “husband,” “wife,” “mother,” and “father” must all be replaced with genderless terms such as “partner,” “party,” and “parent.” This happened in Canada when the Canadian government redefined marriage in 2005. For example, the term “natural parent” was replaced with “legal parent.” Recently the French government made it clear that it’ll be removing the terms “father” and “mother” from the French legal code in order to accommodate gay (genderless) marriage.
3. Removing gender references from the law removes the recognition of natural bonds between mothers and fathers with their children. These natural bonds are replaced with legal, artificial, and therefore subjective, bonds.
4. Removing gender references from the law affects every member of society, not just gay couples. It redefines marriage for the entire society.
5. Replacing natural bonds with state-defined bonds absolutely goes against the natural law founding of our country. Our Founding Fathers understood natural law to mean that we had certain rights that come to us from God. They referred to these as “unalienable rights.” If there are any unalienable rights whatsoever, certainly the natural bond of a child to his own mother and father is chief among them.
6. By replacing natural bonds with artificial bonds, we’ll be allowing the government to decide who counts as a parent, instead of biology. This will result in a significant amount of government intrusion into our lives. Legal challenges for the control of children will rise and we will see example after example of natural bonds being disregarded. Genderless marriage has already harmed people in places where it is legal; I’ve discussed a couple of actual cases here and here.
7. Most people do not realize how many legal changes must occur in order for marriage to accommodate gay couples. Some conservatives hope that by supporting gay marriage, they’ll strengthen marriage and families. But only marriage based on and respecting natural bonds can do this. Genderless marriage cannot, since it requires artificial, state-defined bonds. By definition, genderless marriage has already increased the scope of the government just by coming into existence. And it must be clear to anybody that requiring all of society to replace natural bonds with artificial bonds harms the family structure — it does not strengthen it.
Conservatives must never forget that traditional (gendered) marriage existed before the state. This is what gives gendered marriage its power over the state — it existed prior to the state. A society based on the idea of limited government depends more on gendered marriage than gendered marriage does on it. The nuclear family is a bulwark against the state. Other family forms are not — other family forms require more and more state intervention in order to support their existence either by law or financially, which is why liberals need other family forms in order to stay in power and why they want to redefine marriage.
The true conservative definition of marriage is “one man, one woman, for life,” because it’s the only family structure that keeps the government out of the family. It is the only family structure that honors our Founders’ intentions of “unalienable rights,” which must include the natural bonds of children to their mothers and fathers.
And it’s the only family structure under attack by the left. I encourage all young conservatives to shun the left in their quest to redefine marriage, and join with real conservatives in defending the pre-political institution of traditional (gendered) marriage. Gendered marriage serves as a way to limit government power. And limiting government power is the true conservative mission.
Jennifer Thieme is the director of finance and advancement for the Ruth Institute, a project of the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund. Sign up for the Ruth Institute newsletter and instantly receive our free e-booklet, “Improve Your Marriage — Even If Your Spouse Doesn’t Change a Bit!” Sign up here: RuthNewsletter.org.