In
a recent Wall
Street Journal

article, “Why
Gay Marriage Matters”
, Michael Judge, a
Iowa freelance journalist and a contributing editor of The
Far Eastern Economic Review
,
celebrates
the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision to overturn state law in order to
make same-sex marriage legal. He confesses that it does not occur to
him as to how anyone could oppose this enlightened decision – even
if those opposing it include the majority of the people of Iowa, who
supported the law against such “marriages” in the first place.
“Why,” he asks, would anyone now wish to sponsor an amendment to
the state constitution to define marriage as between a man and a
woman?

Well,
let’s see. Judge quotes the Court’s complaint against “the
disadvantages and fears [homosexuals] face each day due to the
inability to obtain a civil marriage in Iowa.” The court then
enumerates the legal disadvantages, which are all real – no sharing
in health insurance, pension benefits, hospital visitation rights,
etc.

Active homosexual relationships are based upon the act of sodomy. The plaintiffs ask for, and the Iowa Supreme Court wishes to bestow public affirmation, meaning moral approval, of this act as a foundation for marriage.

The
point, however, is not that there are disadvantages. The question is
whether the disadvantages are based on a distinction made only by
convention (and therefore changeable as a matter of custom) or by one
that exists in nature (and therefore normative and morally
imperative). The exact same disadvantages exist for mistresses,
unmarried heterosexual lovers, polygamists, and those in man-boy
relationships.

If
hardship is the criterion, should not all these be enfolded into the
new definition of civil marriage? After all, they too, as the Court
said of homosexual couples, are “a historically disfavored class of
persons [excluded] from a supremely important civil institution.”
Are they not also “kind-hearted people,” like Mr. Judge’s
homosexual brother on whose behalf he writes?

Absent
from the article or the court’s decision is any explanation of why
marriage is so important as a civil institution, and why those
other than monogamous men and women have normally been excluded from
it. Before expanding upon the traditional definition of marriage, or
rather destroying it, one should at least understand why it has
existed for so long in the first place.

Aristotle
begins The
Politics
,
not with a single individual, but with a description of a man and a
woman together in the family, without which the rest of society
cannot exist. The family is the irreducible core. In turn, a healthy
family is posited upon the proper and exclusive sexual relationship
between a husband and wife. In other words, sexual relations are
morally ordered to the family and reach their pinnacle in it.
Heterosexual sex in the family is normative
as a matter of nature or what is known as natural law. All other
sexual relationships can only ape it, and aspire to it (which
explains the homosexual desire to mimic it).

The
family alone is capable of providing the necessary stability for the
profound relationship which heterosexual union both symbolizes and
cements, and for the welfare of the children who may issue from it.
Society can be said to exist only to the extent to which those
spousal relations remain intact. That is the “constitutionally
sufficient justification” for marriage between a man and a woman
that the Iowa Supreme Court, in an attack of aphasia, could not
recall. The Court also seems to have forgotten that the legal
disadvantages against homosexual and other partnerships were put
there exactly for the purpose of shaping behavior in a certain way to
the general benefit of society and for discouraging behavior that
undermines it.

Aside
from the pecuniary penalties mentioned earlier, the Court opined that
“perhaps the ultimate disadvantage expressed in the testimony of
the plaintiffs is the inability to obtain for themselves and for
their children the personal and public affirmation that accompanies
marriage.”

Here
is the real nub of the matter. Active homosexual relationships are
based upon the act of sodomy. The plaintiffs ask for, and the Court
wishes to bestow, public affirmation, meaning moral approval, of this
act as a foundation for marriage. This is what public affirmation
means, because law is inescapably based upon morality. Both the Court
and the plaintiffs claim that this change in the definition of
marriage will make things better, which is a notion that has
to be measured against an understanding of what the good is.
Those who consider sodomy an intrinsically disordered and morally
corrupt act will now be un-affirmed and forced by law to acknowledge
the opposite. This is, after all, a change in the public order, and
that is what such changes mean.

This
makes the Court’s statement that “the sanctity of all religious
marriages celebrated in the future will have the same meaning as
those celebrated in the past” particularly disingenuous. How could
they have the same meaning when the Court has just changed the
definition of what is morally acceptable as marriage? Is this
deceit or ignorance on the Court’s part?

Lastly,
the Court trotted out “equal protection of the law” as its excuse
for the ruling. Equality before the law does not mean that everyone
gets to be “affirmed” in whatever they may choose to do. That is
why laws have penalties. It means that the law applies equally to
everyone, despite their personal desires. The Court has
actually acted against this principle by saying that there should be
a special category of marriage for those disposed to the act of
sodomy, who, for whatever reason or indisposition, refuse to comply
with the laws for marriage passed by the Iowa legislature. The Court
should at least have the presence of mind to acknowledge what it is
actually doing, and be ready to explain to any other “historically
disfavored class of persons” why the Court should not, by judicial
fiat, also create a special kind of marriage for them.

My use of Aristotle
may provoke the response that some of the ancient Greeks wrote paeans
to homosexual love. This is certainly true. However, it did not occur
to any of them to propose homosexual relationships as the basis for
marriage in their societies. In fact, no civilization ever has.
Perhaps Mr. Judge and the Iowa Supreme Court should ponder on the
reasons why.

Robert
R. Reilly writes from Washington DC. He is a contributing editor to
Crisis
magazine.

Robert R. Reilly is Director of the Westminster Institute. In his 25 years of government service, he has taught at National Defense University (2007), and served in the Office of The Secretary of Defense,...