How To Defend Marriage Reality, Part 4: The Cost of Redefining Marriage

By Jay Richards Published on June 23, 2015

To read part one of this series, go here. For part two, go here. For part three, go here.


In my previous installment, I showed that marriage has been understood across cultures and centuries to refer to a comprehensive bodily union grounded in the complementary nature of man and woman, a proper end of which is children. And I argued that, because of this, it doesn’t make sense to call a relationship a “marriage” when it’s between people of the same sex, no matter how intimate.

Okay, but what’s the problem with redefining marriage to include other kinds of relationships? The meaning of words shift all the time, right? Why would natural marriages be harmed by extending the word to include same-sex unions? Does it affect your marriage in Texas or North Carolina for two men to “marry” in California or New York?

This line of reasoning might once have been plausible, but not anymore.

Given the weekly assaults on freedom of speech and religion surrounding same-sex “marriage,” the costs of redefining marriage, and enshrining that redefinition by legal fiat, should now be clear. This is like asking, after the currency starts to collapse, if the value of a real dollar in Texas would be affected by flooding the market with counterfeit dollars in New York. Yes, it would be affected, because counterfeits degrade the value of all real dollars in the economy. As economists say, bad money chases out good money.

Enshrining a false definition of marriage in our laws will inevitably harm all marriages and society, quite apart from the obvious assaults on religious liberty we are already witnessing. Same sex “marriage” does not expand the meaning of marriage, but replaces its historical and natural meaning with a counterfeit. To enshrine that counterfeit definition in our laws is to enshrine, and hence enforce, a collective lie and delusion. It is to require that we equate things that most manifestly are not equal.

Just a few examples: If the law says people of the same sex can “marry” each other, we lose any rational basis for barring group marriage and incest, and for encouraging marriage to be exclusive and permanent. The reason for limiting marriage to one man and one woman is that it takes exactly one man and one woman to make a sexually/biologically complete pair. That logic of completion evaporates if people of the same sex can “marry.” The arguments used to defend same-sex “marriage” work just as well for defending any voluntary relationship imaginable.

Logic, Not Slippery Slope

This isn’t a slippery slope fallacy because some slopes really are slippery, and this is one of them. The jump from same-sex marriage to polygamy, group marriage and open marriage is already happening. Most same-sex “marriages” that have been performed in U.S. states are not monogamous for long. And in those places that recognize same-sex “marriage,” few gays even bother to “marry.”

“Monogamous marriage,” say Glenn Stanton and Bill Maier, “is democracy for the domestic and sexual lives for men and women.” Polygamous cultures (which are almost always polygynous — one husband with more than one wife) are much more competitive and unstable. Where monogamy is the norm, a man — no matter how powerful, rich, or attractive — can have, at most, one wife. With polygamy, he’s free to “collect” as many wives as he can, leaving the less powerful men without prospects.

History tells us what happens to cultures with large numbers of men lacking marital prospects. Typically the men turn to prostitution and are more likely to prey on the society that has not made a place for them. Polygamy also lowers the status of women, especially of the wives who must compete for the same man’s affection. So rather than balancing the sexual competitiveness of men and women, polygamy makes the problem much worse. This is a Pandora’s Box that needs to stay shut. Redefining marriage to include same-sex unions opens that box, both by inviting further redefinitions of marriage, and by dispensing with the logic of marriage as a man-woman sexual/biological completion.

A War on Religious Liberty

Redefining marriage is already fomenting culture wars in every town, city and school district in the country, and precipitating draconian attacks on religious freedom. Not even seventy-year-old florists in Washington and family pizza restaurants in tiny Indiana towns are safe from assault. What was once prohibited is first tolerated, then celebrated and then compulsory. If same-sex “marriage” is defined as a basic human right, a matter of justice and equality — as its advocates claim — then no one will be free to publicly defend real marriage for long. Government will have to treat traditional views as irrational bigotry.

Parents who complain about their kids being forced to read Heather Has Two Mommies will be viewed like racist white parents who don’t want their children to attend school with black children. Everyone who holds the view of marriage heretofore held in every culture will be opposed by this new culture. Ministries will be forced to resist and suffer the consequences, revise their principles or close up shop. Catholic Charities has already abandoned its adoption services in California, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia to avoid being forced to place children with same-sex couples.

The media already describes those of us who defend natural marriage as anti-gay. What do you think will happen to those who actually criticize homosexual conduct? How long will it take to become illegal? It’s already happened in Canada. Just months after marriage was redefined there, a bill that criminalized such statements became law. “Anti-gay” speech crimes can now be punished by up to two years in jail! In 2008, the Alberta Human Rights Tribunal ordered Rev. Stephen Boisson to pay a $5,000 fine and apologize for a letter to the editor he wrote in 2002, before marriage was redefined. A higher court eventually overturned the ruling, but the incident is a foretaste of the future if defenders of real marriage don’t stem the tide.


If we allow government, business and elite culture to redefine marriage, we should expect to see marriage further erode as a public institution. Several European countries that have redefined marriage show what may come. Laws have permitted same-sex “marriage” in the Netherlands since 2001, and rather than a marriage paradise, with straight and gay couples typically living in long-term, monogamous bliss, fewer and fewer Dutch bother to get married at all. Children are no longer connected to marriage. People just live together, and many have a hard time figuring out why marriage is even relevant.

Many well-meaning people think the same-sex “marriage” push is just about equality and spreading the benefits of marriage. This is staggeringly naïve. Its more radical supporters know it’s about destroying marriage itself. Here’s what one activist, Michael Signorile, said in Out magazine back in 1996:

The trick is, gay leaders and pundits must stop watering the issue down — “this is simply about equality for gay couples” — and offer same-sex marriage for what it is: an opportunity to reconstruct a traditionally homophobic institution by bringing it to our more equitable queer value system, … a chance to wholly transform the definition of family in American culture. … Our gay leaders must acknowledge that gay marriage is just as radical and transformative as the religious Right contends it is.

And it won’t end there. It took our society about six seconds to move from denying that marriage is grounded in the natural complementarity of male and female, to denying that human beings are born male or female. Indeed, the transgender movement is now moving in parallel with the same-sex “marriage” movement, and will soon overtake it.

Is anyone really so clueless as to believe that when a society denies human nature in its laws, there won’t be painful repercussions?


Jay Richards is Executive Editor of The Stream. Follow him on Twitter.

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