Why the Iowa Judges Have to Go: Defining Marriage Down
The judges in Varnum v Brien made very clear what some of us have been saying for a long time: same sex marriage doesnt’ just let more people join in to the existing institution of marriage. Same sex marriage redefines marriage, downgrading its essential public purposes and leaving nothing but inessential private purposes. The judges in Varnum demonstrated this point, unwittingly, I am sure. Here is what I wrote about the case when it came out:
if the purpose of marriage is to attach mothers and fathers to their children and to one another, then the dual gender requirement is perfectly permissible. Same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are not the same with respect to this purpose. The Court had to come up with a very limited understanding of the purposes of marriage in order to maintain that opposite-sex and same-sex couples are in fact similarly situated.
The Court enumerated several purposes directly. Marriage provides an institutional basis for defining relational rights and responsibilities; marriage allows people to pool their resources; marriage recognizes people’s commitments; marriage provides comfort and happiness; marriage is a status, not a contract.
But these reasons do not explain why we need marriage in particular. I have a relationship with my next-door neighbor. My family pools resources with other members of a boat club. I have commitments to my employees and business associates. A pet brings me comfort and happiness. We do not need the unique relationship called marriage for any of these purposes. ….
The Court does not seem to realize that if these purposes really exhaust the list of legitimate state purposes of marriage, then there is no reason to have marriage as a distinct legal structure in the first place. Moreover, these are all private purposes, not public purposes, of marriage.
The same-sex couples before the Court claim to be committed and to love each other. Why do we need marriage for that? I’m committed to my sister. I love my best friend. Are we second class citizens because we are not married to each other? There is no state purpose whatsoever to be served by my having some legal statement or affirmation attached to my love for my sister. Besides, who really wants the Court, or the state or anyone else saying that our love is important to the state? People’s feelings are none of the state’s business. …
By the time the opponents of conjugal marriage are finished with their redefinitions, marriage will be little more than a five-year renewable-term contract. The Institution Formerly Known as Marriage will be nothing but a couple of individuals, loosely stapled together by the state.