The marriage mess
It’s a mess, ain’t it, Sheriff?
If it ain’t, it’ll do till the mess gets here.

— “No Country for Old Men” 

That summarizes well the late June Supreme Court decisions on gay unions. Effectively gutting the national Defense of Marriage Act and repressing the majority wishes of the electorate of California in support of marriage, the Court by separate 5-4 decisions left things a mess. But it could have been a bigger mess.

The Court did avoid inventing a constitutional right to gay unions, as it did in 1973 when it conjured up out of whole cloth a constitutional right to abortion. That means that in the far majority of states — 37 in all — the obvious remains in force: that marriage is for the creation and nurturing of a family in a union between a man and woman. Obvious in biological law, obvious in natural law and certainly obvious in sacred law.

Yet you can be sure the mess might still get here. The activists in support of gay unions took a day to celebrate their half mess then went back to work on the full mess. Next step? Probably a movement toward national legislation requiring all states to recognize gay unions blessed, so to speak, in the states where they are legal.

What is so ludicrous about this whole thing is that we have turned over the power to define marriage to secular thinking that has never known what to make of marriage. And when it pretends to know, it only makes a mess of it. We need only look to no-fault divorce laws — secular thinking’s great marital reform in the last century — which led to the United States having one of thehighest divorce rates in the world.

Marriage, until very recently, was the demon to gay culture. As late as the turn of the millennium, gay advocates joined with other secular forces in considering marriage the enemy. Marriage to them was the source of a sick patriarchal culture that constrained their sexual expression by which they defined themselves. Leftist feminism wasn’t far behind with its famous proclamation that a “woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Marriage to them was the source of oppression. These are forces and the thinking that changed how the culture saw marriage.

The push for gay unions is not an issue of family and social cohesiveness; it is an issue of sexual identity demanding so-called equal rights to married rights under the tax code. And this push could gain support only in a secular cultural mindset where marriage has been redefined as having nothing to do with — or only incidentally to do with — sexual expression, procreation and the rearing of children.

Gay unions complete the equation that divorces marriage not only from sexual expression but from procreation. Which has had two devastating results that are wiping out the middle class — more than 40 percent and climbing rate of babies born outside of marriage and a whole new class of the poorest of the poor: single women with children. It is impossible to have a coherent philosophy of marriage based on a host of human values that are rooted in family — permanence, complementariness of man and woman, fidelity in the creation and nurturing of family from generation to generation — when we have removed those values from the equation.

Marriage is in a bad way. That is fact, not opinion. This destruction of marriage within our culture is the single greatest cause of so many of the pathologies that are sending us down a dangerous social path. Conversely, a married relationship between a man and a woman means everything to society because it means the future of society. Change that definition and you change that future. And then comes the real mess. 

Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.