7 Reasons Same-Sex “Marriage” Isn’t Conservative, or Marriage

By Jay Richards Published on March 26, 2015

Given recent trends, someone was bound to say not just that government should get out of the marriage business, but that support for same-sex “marriage” (let’s call it SSM) is actually the conservative position. Take, for instance, Young Conservatives for Freedom to Marry. Their name is their argument: Conservatives believe in individual freedom and limited government, and so should support “freedom” for people of the same sex to “marry.” If two men want to get “married,” they argue, where does Big Brother get off telling them they can’t?

But redefining marriage is anything but conservative, and would lead to far less freedom and far more invasive government. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Same-sex “marriage” contradicts history.

Some cultures have arranged marriage and polygamy. But virtually all known cultures (not counting western countries in the last 10 minutes) have understood that marriage involves a public 1AVan_Eyck_-_Arnolfini_Portraitcovenant between a man and a woman. This includes civilizations that had no problem with homosexual conduct.

It doesn’t follow that the perennial understanding of marriage is correct or just, but this does show that overturning the basic meaning of the institution of marriage is not a conservative act, nor one that any conservative would treat lightly.

2. Same-sex “marriage” contradicts the teachings of every major religious tradition.

Let’s not tarry long on this one, since no serious person denies it: Hinduism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity have always understood that anything called “marriage” will involve a man and a 1Amultireligionswoman rather than two people of the same sex. This view is anchored deeply in these traditions, unlike, say, beliefs about the structure of the Solar System. Even those heterodox groups and denominations who in their dotage have abandoned this view of marriage — Reform Judaism, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church (USA) — know that they are departing from their own traditions.

This is not conservative.

3. Same-sex “marriage” denies the foundation of marriage.

Since cultures as diverse as the Aborigines and Anglo-Saxons have understood that marriage involves a he and a she, its foundation must transcend individual cultures. Indeed, it’s grounded in human nature itself, even in the most basic facts of our biology. Every healthy person has biological systems that are complete in Complementarity_smallthemselves. Our hearts and lungs and stomachs fulfill their proper functions as members of a single body. Only our individual sexual organs are by nature incomplete. They can only achieve their primary purpose when joined with another human being of the opposite sex.

No doubt this is why few cultures until recently ever debated the nature of marriage. This is also why marriage at its core involves one man and one woman: that is the basic requirement for mating. As a result, marriage has a special relationship to bearing and raising children.

It’s not conservative to deny human nature.

 4. Redefining marriage to include same-sex unions leads to violations of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

“Including homosexuals within marriage,” observes Andrew Sullivan, a supporter of same-sex marriage, “would be a means of conferring the highest form of social approval imaginable.” And this is exactly the point. If Adam and Steve can be “married” just as Adam and Eve can, that m1Afreedomofspeecheans that these two relationships are equivalent. These relationships are self-evidently not the same, however, since a man and a woman are sexually complementary. Two people of the same sex are not.

To legally equate marriage with same-sex relationships is to require that we delude ourselves. And once this is the official position of the government, anyone who claims otherwise — who refuses to play along with our collective delusion — will be dismissed as stupid or bigoted, and any law or policy that implies otherwise, deemed unjust.

Each passing month offers fresh evidence of this. Once the word “marriage” fails to legally distinguish natural marriage from the different relationships that can be had by two persons of the same sex, anyone who fails to comply can have his or her business, job, calling and public reputation destroyed.

After a state redefines marriage to include people of the same sex, adoption and relief agencies that persist in recognizing natural marriage get the government boot on their necks and must either surrender or retreat. At this late date, anyone who denies this consequence of SSM is either dissembling or on a very long lunch break from reality.

5. Same-sex “marriage” violates the rights of children.

Advocates of same-sex marriage don’t want to talk about this, but their view entails that children don’t need and have no right to a father and mother, that as far as parenting goes, fathers and mothers are interchangeable Lego blocks. This contradicts common sense, our basic experience and preliminary scientific evidence. No matter, SSM partisans want to subject millions of children to an unprecedented global social experiment. They’ll get back to us with the full results in about twenty years.

Same-sex parentsVictims of the early experiments, however, have already started to speak out, and SSM boosters are doing everything they can to destroy and discredit them.

That doesn’t sound very conservative.

6. Same-sex “marriage” undercuts individual rights.

The “conservative case for same-sex marriage” appeals to individual rights: adults, the thinking goes, should be free to marry other adults of their own sex.

This doesn’t follow. If a woman tells a federal agent that she is Napoleon Bonaparte, the agent doesn’t violate her rights by noting that her passport and chromosomes indicate otherwise. If marriage intrinsically involves a man and a woman, no one, gay or straight, has any more “right” to “marry” someone of the same sex than one has the “right” to be a prime number. It’s either a semantic confusion or an intentional deception.

In fact, redefining marriage strikes at the foundation of individual rights. Think of how rights work. Our government doesn’t bestow rights on us as individuals. As our Declaration of Independence recognizes, we a1Abillofrightsre endowed with rights by our Creator. The individual is a pre-political reality. Marriage is another pre-political reality.

But here the two diverge, and in a way that should lead us to sit up and take notice. Marriage is far more universally recognized than are our ideals of individual rights and equality. Each of us is, by nature, a person in relationship. And marriage, a unique union of a man and a woman, is one of our most basic human relationships. Marriage, in other words, has more claim to being a reality that transcends our political system than even the individual rights we hold dear.

Defending as self-evident individual rights that most cultures have not recognized, while denying the universal testimony of nature and culture on marriage, is like sawing off the branch you’re sitting on. Not really a conservative strategy.

7. Same-sex “marriage” erodes a crucial foundation of limited government.

To claim seriously that government is and ought to be limited, you have to answer this question: What limits the state? The longstanding conservative answer: the rights and responsibilities of individuals and the institutions 1Aconsitutionoutside the state’s jurisdiction. And the institution that limits the state more than any other is the family, precisely because it pre-exists the state. The family is initiated by the marriage of a man and a woman. Ideally, human beings will be born, fed, raised and educated in a family, which will in turn be supported by the other institutions of civil society around it — neighborhoods, churches, voluntary associations and so forth, institutions the state should recognize and respect.

A limited government doesn’t try to redefine reality; it recognizes those pre-political realities outside its jurisdiction. The totalitarian, and Orwellian, governments of the twentieth century understood this perfectly well, and set about doing exactly the opposite. Lenin and other Marxists knew that to realize their vision, they had to destroy not just the idea of private property, but also religion and “this present form of marriage.”

What could possibly be less conservative than to decide, politically and legally, that marriage and family are mere social constructions that we’re free to change the moment the Supreme Court or a state legislature decides to do so? If a state can redefine marriage, then what can’t, what won’t, it redefine?

Conserving Reality

Given these facts, we shouldn’t be surprised that “conservative” groups plumping for same-sex “marriage” skip real arguments and go straight for the same clichés and calumnies of their left wing 1Adefinemarriagecompatriots. Young Conservatives for Freedom to Marry, for instance, say their goal is to “remove anti-gay language from the 2016 GOP platform.” But there is no such language in the GOP platform; there is simply an affirmation of the reality of marriage. The debate about marriage is not about Americans who identify as gay. They already have the same rights and should be treated with the same respect as everyone else.

Recognizing marriage in our laws is not about “banning” same-sex relationships or punishing gays. “Marriage laws don’t ban anything.” They recognize what already exists. Many gays agree, but only those with spines of steel are willing to endure the vicious attacks that result from saying so publicly.

At bottom, the question is this: Are we going to recognize in our laws and customs real marriage, or are we going to define it away? If our culture chooses to allow an out-of-control government to deny marriage reality and replace it with a counterfeit, we will justly suffer the consequences of denying historical precedent, religious wisdom, human nature and common sense.

There’s a word for that, but it’s not “conservative.”


Jay Richards is the Executive Editor of The Stream.

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  • wepjr

    Brilliant, Jay. Thanks for putting this together. Gonna share…

  • Rickster Rickster

    I’m sure my comment won’t be approved by the stream because it is contrary to the vile lies spewed by the closet case author of this piece.

    • Pat M

      Your comment is unintentionally funny. It contains irony.

      • Rickster Rickster

        that isn’t the comment that I knew wouldn’t get approved. that would be the one that isn’t here because it didn’t get approved because I disagreed. .

    • We welcome debate. We celebrate debate. In fact, the person you
      chose to crudely insult flew all the way across the country just yesterday to
      take part in a public debate. However, it is also true and in keeping with the
      comment policy of Disqus, that personal attacks are forbidden. You broke the

      Though it violates the rules and irenic spirit of The Stream, this post remains if only to allow us to better explain our goals and expectations for the commenting community going forward. Whether you choose to be part of that “civil” community is up to you. We hope you do. (And yes, your other comment was blocked for clearly violating our provisions against “hateful” and deliberately hurtful speech.)

      We would also point out that this is a self-policing comment forum. You readers own it and commenters are encouraged to flag rule-breakers. Those taking part now are directly responsible for shaping what this forum is to be.

      Our hope is to see a space where all – especially those who disagree with this article or that — feel welcome. In fact, we prefer respectful, intelligent dissent to disrespectful assent. Let love and reason rule. There we’ll find truth and true community. Even when we don’t agree.

      • Rickster Rickster

        there was no truth in that article. it was nothing but falsehoods.

  • Pat M

    Excellent !! So much wisdom here. Society seems slow on the uptake on this issue. But it is all right there in this article. Conservatives should be smart enough to get it, but unfortunately sometimes they don’t. I think the media controls how people learn about issues, and the average conservative is just as prone to propaganda as anybody else. Hope and pray people get with the program before we get too far down the road on this terrible legal idea.

  • Joel Hardman

    Slavery was once endorsed by all major western religions and was the historically supported. That didn’t make it morally right and it didn’t invalidate the constitutional principles that allowed the human government of the United States to bestow the right on all people to be free of slavery in the US.

    The reasons you give for same sex marriage fall into a couple of categories:

    1. History agrees with you. This is debatable and, even if true, there’s no reason to perpetuate the mistakes of the past.

    2. Religions agree with you. We live under a secular government.

    3. Lies about science. Is this how Jesus would teach you to proceed, by lying to try to win an argument? There’s no evidence that children of same sex parents are worse off than the children of opposite sex parents. If there is evidence, maybe you should cite to it instead of to a conservative Christian think tank.

    These are the fruits of attempting to justify your unloving, unchristian, hypocritical desire to prevent other people from being treated equally by the government.

    • Damien Spillane

      That’s not true at all. Philemon in the New Testament was one of the great anti-slavery tracts of all time. It affirmed that slave and freeman are equally precious in God’s eyes.

      • Andrew R

        Regardless, the bible has many passages condoning slavery, and indeed was used for centuries to justify slavery.

  • Andrew R

    As Joel points out, banning slavery would also fall under this definition of ‘not Conservative’, given that slavery has existed throughout history.

    “Ideally, human beings will be born, fed, raised and educated in a family,

    Allowing gays to marry promotes this ideal. It’s a conservative claim that marriage encourages monogamy, and encourages couple of stay together. As such, gays marrying promotes family.

    “If marriage intrinsically involves a man and a woman…”

    You’re begging the question.

    “These relationships are self-evidently not the same, however, since a man and a woman are sexually complementary. Two people of the same sex are not.”

    The latter cannot conceive children, no, but neither can many straight couples. We don’t forbid them from marrying, and we don’t suggest their relationships don’t deserve to be treated as equal to fecund couples. This argument fails.

    “Same-sex “marriage” contradicts the teachings of every major religious tradition”

    First amendment means this argument has no relevance. At any rate, polygamy is part of many religious traditions (so is slavery, as already mentioned).

  • albert perrotta

    As one of the moderators for The Stream comment section, I
    wanted to jump in for a second to thank Joel, Andrew R and all who are offering
    respectful, thoughtful critiques of Jay’s article.

    Your presence is very much welcomed.

    Let’s be honest. There is a certain romance and excitement
    to believing you are charging into an “enemy camp” with your rhetorical guns a’blazin’.
    Believe me, I get it. But in this case, at The Stream, it’s like knocking down
    a door that’s already open, with Tom Bodett’s welcome light on, and a chair
    with your name on it waiting near the fire.

    Or at least that’s what we’re aiming for with The Stream’s
    comment forums. It is too common and far too easy for nastiness to prevail. But
    you early birds to The Stream have the power to set the tone and create a
    reputation for our comment forums as a place of healthy, considerate,
    invigorating discussion. To quote the great explorer and philosopher, Jean-Luc
    Picard, “Make it so!”

    Meanwhile, for those who actually get paid to come on
    conservative sites to “comment” and clog up the works, I am confident enough in
    The Stream’s wide range of content to know you soon find yourself enjoying
    other articles on your boss’s dime.

    Again, thanks for coming to and spending time at The Stream.

    • Andrew R

      Thanks Albert. If it helps, I didn’t post here for ‘romance and excitement’, and I’m pretty sure you and Jay are the only ones being paid to read/write here!

      I look forward to reading any responses to my points.

      • albert perrotta

        Believe me, Andrew, I’d love to respond to your points and the points of others pro and con on this issue and other issues, but there’s a word for that: “Procrastination.” Seriously, it’s not my place at this point.
        As for me getting paid to read your comments and write for The Stream, is God great or what?!?!

        • Andrew R

          You’re a lucky man – lots of people would PAY to read my words, yet you get paid to do it! And procrastination – putting off the inevitable – is a great word to describe arguing against gay marriage.

          And yes, if that court decision goes the way it looks like it will, perhaps there is a great God after all! Have a good day.

  • Jonathan Fl

    thanks for this message jay.

  • The_Clay_Jar

    1. “Because that’s the way it’s always been done” is by no means a valid defense of an argument.

    2. This is fundamentally false. The Episcopal Church, PCUSA, ELCA, UCC, Quakers, and Disciples of Christ in the US support same-sex marriage. In Europe almost all Protestant denominations support marriage equality. Hinduism and Buddhism offer no clear position, and many are in favor of same-sex marriage. Overwhelming majorities of Roman Catholics and Methodists in the US support marriage equality.

    3.The primary purpose of marriage is not procreation, it’s lifelong companionship. Same-sex couples can do this just as well as opposite-sex couples.

    4.Marriage equality does not trample on free speech or religious freedom. Most countries and states that recognize marriage equality have religious exemptions, and a gay couple can choose (and would most likely prefer anyway) a business that is non-discriminatory towards them.

    5.This makes me angry. Actually take the time to get to know same-sex families and you would find out that their children are just as capable as other children, in fact, I would say they are more empathetic due to the very nature of their situation.

    6.This is absolutely ridiculous. To say that marriage equality “undercuts individual rights” is to purposefully ignore the entire point of marriage equality. Denying someone the right to marry the person they love undercuts individual rights, not the other way around.

    7. One of the main principles of limited government is that government should not legislate morality. When a government chooses to not recognize an individual’s right to marry the person they love, that government is intruding in the lives of individuals. Small-government minded conservatives, of all people, should be the strongest supporters of the government staying out of morality.

  • Marie

    Good article! I especially like number 5.

  • Joanne

    Marriage as a legal contract and marriage as a social and/or religious entity have been evolving continuously throughout history. Even if you want to take a biblical view, this is true. The old testament marriage looks nothing like modern western marriage. We no longer require a brother to marry his dead brother’s widow, or expect a barren woman to give her maid to her husband for procreation. It is no longer an expectation that a man should marry the female servant he has raped to make it right. It is true by definition that conservative means to resist change, but it is not true that change is never a good thing.

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