The final thrust of the knife
Why I am not disappointed by the Supreme Court’s legalization of homosexual “marriage”
By Christopher Zehnder
MAY 24, 2008 (http://calcatholic.com) - Reactions to last week’s decision by the California Supreme Court legalizing same-sex “marriage” were predictable. While homosexualists applauded the court for advancing civil rights up one notch toward the realization of their Jacobin Nirvana, defenders of “traditional marriage” (that is, marriage) called the court’s decision a “disappointment,” “outrageous,” and an interference with the “will of the people.”
An outrage the court’s decision certainly was; an outrage against the dignity of marriage, to be sure, not to mention the rights of God. On a less lofty level, it was an outrage against common sense (constitutional broad constructionism run wild) and democratic decency, if there is such a thing. But was the decision a “disappointment,” as one commentator so schoolmarmishly put it? I hardly think so. Disappointment arises from a frustration of expectation, and who really expected the Supreme Court to rule any other way than it did?
I admit I thought there was some possibility the court would uphold Proposition 22, the 2000 ballot initiative the defined marriage as a union (at least at any one time) between one man and one woman. The 4-3 vote was, indeed, close. But the result was hardly unexpected. Surprise would have been in order if the court had ruled the other way; but disappointment in the actual result? Hardly warranted.
I was not disappointed in the court’s ruling; and though I agree that it was an outrage, I have a hard time working up feelings of outrage at it. I suppose I am all outraged out. Defenders of the family point out that state recognition of same-sex unions as marriage strikes at the dignity of true marriage and undermines the family. I agree, and I fairly believe the Supreme Court’s decision may be the deathblow to marriage as an institution in California. But it has been a long time since that institution has been anything like robust. The Supreme Court’s decision was just a sucker punch that toppled a staggering opponent.
Marriage has not been robust in California and in all of Western society because we have lost sight of the purpose of marriage. Marriage, once seen as an institution that primarily exists for the sake of propagating the race and providing a stable means of rearing progeny, has over the last century come to be thought of as primarily a means by which two individuals foster love and achieve emotional satisfaction. Traditionally, the purpose of marriage, rooted in nature, existing regardless of individual proclivities or desires, was seen as the objective criterion governing how society is to regard marriage. Today, the purposes of marriage are as subjective and varied as personal tastes and individual orientation will allow.
A society that sees marriage as merely some sort of satisfying, romantic union between two people is a society that will not long withstand the push to recognize unions between two men and two women as marriage. It’s hard to see how, in the end, the same society will limit marriage to a union between only two people. After all, some folks do seem to find polygamy and polyandry deeply satisfying -- not to mention spicy and, even, romantic, in an Omar Khayyam sort of way. And some men have claimed that they have so much love that one woman could not possibly absorb it all. Who are we to demand of them an unnatural restraint? Who are we to reduce them to second-class citizens, denied the recognition and guarantees marriage affords?
I do not say that state-sanctioned group marriages are inevitable or imminent. I am no prophet. I merely mean to point out that there is nothing in the way our society views marriage that would necessarily preclude polygamy or polyandry. Because our society defines marriage as it does (if such murk can be called a definition), it may very willingly embrace all sorts of peculiar unions as marriage.
If we want real marriage protected in law, I don’t think we can repose much confidence in that solemn abstraction, the “will of the people.” It is “the people” finally – not legislators, not activist elitist judges – who have betrayed marriage. It is “the people” that have become drunk on the cinematic sauce, the lie that marriage is about romantic satisfaction. It is “the people” that contracept and deny the fruit of marriage. It is “the people” who have made divorce as much a societal institution as marriage. It is “the people,” finally – seduced, prodded, and squeezed by politicians, the media, and a materialistic culture – who have all but killed marriage. Our Supreme Court justices last Thursday only gave it the final thrust of the knife.
It may well be that, in November, Californians will vote to protect marriage through a ballot initiative. There is still a good deal of vestigial sense out there that marriage is something having to do with a man and a woman, and this might carry the day. And the “yuck factor” in regard to homosexuality is not utterly gone; it might still be strong enough to motivate citizens to protect marriage with their vote. But the sense of homosexuality’s yuckiness is fading. After all, contraception is like homosexual genital activity, for it removes the purpose of sexual intercourse; and, if reports be true, heterosexual couples are engaging more and more in sodomy and other unnatural modes of intercourse. So, how in the end can they object to homosexuals doing the same thing? And if the homosexuals love one another – well, isn’t that all that’s important?
The members of California Supreme Court who voted to legalize same-sex marriage might be more “progressive” than the average Californian. But, if the likes of these justices, or San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, or Assemblyman Mark Leno, or Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are marching in the vanguard of change, “the people” are not trudging far behind. If anything is an expression of what will, at least, (barring a miracle of grace) become the “will of the people,” it is last Thursday’s Supreme Court decision.