Three points need to be made about Monday’s decision by the Supreme Court not to decide whether the equal protection clause of the Constitution grants people of the same sex the right to marry.
Point 1: While the court’s liberal wing probably wanted to accept cases banning same-sex marriage in five states that have been overturned by three different federal appeals courts in recent months, the conservative majority, along with swing Justice Anthony Kennedy, apparently wished to see states resolve the issue. Perhaps they sought to avoid another Roe vs. Wade in which a previous court overturned all state abortion laws, creating a controversy that continues today. Even so, Kennedy waded into the deep again on Wednesday, blocking the appeals court ruling declaring gay marriage legal in Idaho and Nevada, but it’s likely only a temporary delay.
Point 2: For strict constructionists, the nonruling allows the culture to sort out the arguments consistent with what clearly are changing social mores. Whether this is good or bad is not up to courts to decide, conservatives might argue, but it beats top-down judicial activism of the type conservatives hate when liberal judges do it.
Point 3: The main arguments against permitting same-sex couples to marry are moral and biblical. The problem, especially for conservative Christians who oppose the legalization of gay marriage, is that they are speaking to people who don’t accept their moral code, or biblical instruction. They cite Genesis 2:24: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” That verse is also quoted by Jesus in the New Testament.
Here’s why invoking verses from the Bible isn’t working. In addition to the courts having abandoned such instruction, along with, in too many cases, the Constitution that is supposed to constrain government, a growing number of people no longer accept biblical teaching. Many, the products of liberal universities, also regard the Constitution as a “living document,” by which they mean it, too, can be changed or ignored to suit the times.
There are at least two problems with using a moral and biblical argument. One is: How do same-sex marriage opponents persuade people who don’t believe traditional marriage was God’s idea and should remain as he intended? The answer is they can’t. And so it becomes a political power play with one side quoting Scripture or history and the other side demanding “equality.” Whoever gets the most votes — at the ballot box or by judicial decision — wins.
A second problem for same-sex marriage opponents is: “What’s next?” What standard should be used to decide the legitimacy, even morality, of others who make similar appeals to equality for their behavior? If there is no longer to be a single standard for marriage, what other standards might soon be abandoned?
This is the most important point of all, because if there is to be no standard are we prepared for the social anarchy that will likely follow? Is the acceptance of everything simply a matter of conditioning, or are there some things that are true for all time, regardless of the age?
Are we willing to accept the consequences of being mini-gods, deciding what is right and wrong in our own eyes? Is this the ultimate triumph of the “If it feels good, do it” mantra of the ’60s?
Those who regard same-sex marriage as more evidence of a decline in morality will see America following other great empires and nations that collapsed from within before they were conquered from without. Those working so diligently to attack structures that have preserved cultures for centuries have an obligation to at least tell us how far they intend to go and on what basis they would shout, “stop, no further.”
Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist and author. Readers may email him at: [email protected]