Marriage Equality and the Supreme Court

This article in Baptist News Global details the arguments heard by the Supreme Court on Tuesday on whether the bans on same-sex marriage in several states violates the 14th Amendment.  Ravensworth was there in support of marriage equality on Monday.  

The article presents a good summary of the arguments, but I wanted to highlight one point that relates to a personal experience of mine.  John Bursch, the special assistant attorney for the state of Michigan (arguing in favor of keeping the ban) is making an attempt to show that the interests of the State have nothing to do with the emotional connection or commitment between individuals.  Marriage, he essentially says, as an institution is only about tying children to their biological parents.

“‘If you’re changing the meaning of marriage from one where it’s based on that biological bond to one where it’s based on emotional commitment, then adults could think, rightly, that this relationship is more about adults and not about the kids,’ he said,” as reported by Baptist News Global.

Because she is Catholic, before my wife and I were married, we spent a pre-marriage counseling weekend on any number of marriage-related topics, all with a Catholic focus.  I of course have no trouble with my wife being Catholic, but son of a Baptist minister that I am, I went in expecting it to be a pretty boring and uninformative weekend.  But I was wrong. (This has less to do with me being a Baptist and more to do with me thinking I know better than everyone else despite all evidence to the contrary.) 

One of the key lessons that the presenters taught, and one that still sticks with me today, is the exact opposite of Bursch’s point.  Marriage is not about the kids.  And this coming from the Catholic church who would not sanction our marriage until we affirmed that we did indeed wish to have children one day so long as we were capable of it.  Of course children are an important aspect of marriage, they taught us, but if you put the children above the emotional health and stability of the adults, not only will the adults suffer, but so will the children.  

This was a point that I immediately agreed with but had not considered before.  Love in a family flows out from the Love of the married partners.  Love is not a finite quality, but grows greater the more there is of it.  Of course Mr. Bursch is not talking about religious marriage but marriage as an institution.  But in parsing things with such cold calculation he is actually undermining the arguments of many of his conservative religious supporters. If well-adjusted children come from loving and mutually supportive marriages, then it is in fact about the adults.  An argument that strips marriage of this essential quality may hold water with the court.  But it would make the institution unrecognizable to most of us.  One might as well return to a time when marriage (as far as the state was concerned) was really about property.  Or abolish it altogether at the State level.  

But of course this is really a distraction, because it isn’t about what marriage is or isn’t at all.  If they cared about “the kids” or about the effects of marriage on society at all, they would have to prove that Gay and Lesbian couples are not capable of raising productive members of society, which they can’t because it isn’t true.  

It is about the rights of American citizens who are being discriminated against.  It is about fairness. Here’s hoping that fairness and basic decency can finally score a win against cold legalism.  We could use one.

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