Rightly understood, marriage is one of those social institutions that exist “prior” to the state: prior in terms of time (marriage existed before the state), and prior in terms of the deep truths embedded in the human condition. A just state thus recognizes the givenness of marriage and seeks to protect and nurture this basic social institution.
By contrast, a state that asserts the authority to redefine marriage has stepped beyond the boundaries of its competence. And if that boundary-crossing is set in constitutional or legal concrete, it opens up a Pandora’s box of undesirable results. For if the state can decree that two men or two women can make a marriage, why not one man and two women? Two women and two men? These are not paranoid fantasies; the case for polyandry and polygamy is now being mounted in prestigious law journals.
And if the state can define marriage by diktat, why not other basic human relationships, like the parent-child relationship, the doctor-patient relationship, the lawyer-client relationship, or the priest-penitent relationship? There is no principled reason why not. Thus gay marriage is another expression of that soft totalitarianism that Benedict XVI aptly calls the “dictatorship of relativism.”
Monday, October 8, 2012
George Weigel on Marriage and the State
Roman Catholic social commentator George Weigel had an interesting piece over at First Things which discusses the relationship between allowing same-sex marriage and a potentially totalitarian state. Weigal comments: