On Catching Flies in the Marriage Debate

4. Man-woman marriage protects the intimacy of friendship.

Unlike same-sex advocates (and advocates of other forms of marriage) who define marriage as an emotional union between people, men-woman proponents uphold the intimacy of friendship. Traditional marriage declares, unlike the federal judge who ruled in California’s Perry v. Brown (2011), that marriage is not “the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults.” In other words, marriage is one type of intimacy, but marriage isn’t the only form of deep, lasting intimacy. If it were, then the parent/child relationship, the teacher/student relationship, and the companion/companion relationship would mean nothing.

Deep friendships—separated from notions of romantic love, sex, or marriage—borne out of common interests, experiences, and passions are valuable in their own right.

Proponents for redefining marriage see marriage as malleable, without a distinctive shape. Such a view not only confuses the nature of marriage, it also confuses the nature of friendship. For either the single person must settle for something less because she isn’t married—whatever that means—or must remain in a state of bewilderment as to whether her friendships should include benefits, a ring, or a license. Not so with traditional marriage. The man-woman view keeps marriage distinct from friendship. What I, as a married man, owe my wife in marital love and support must not be shared nor confused with what I, as a friend, owe my companion in friendship and loyalty.

5. Man-woman marriage promotes liberty and limited government.

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I argued in “Religious Liberty: One Casualty in the War Over Marriage” that our First Amendment right would slowly erode if marriage were redefined form its traditional understanding. The converse is also true: if we uphold the man-woman view of marriage, liberty and limited government will result. Opening Pandora’s Box by making marriage more malleable will bring about a smorgasbord of martial options—multiple wives/husbands, same-sex marriage, group marriage—producing a smorgasbord of laws and enforcements to bring about social order in a chaotic culture hellbent on replicating itself downward.

Such a smorgasbord will weaken marital norms of permanence and exclusivity, as well as the emotional and economic stability that comes with traditional marriage.

In general, children fare better on most indicators of health and well-being, when reared by their wedded mothers and fathers. Deviation from this norm will hit the poorest the hardest, causing the state to balloon. The state will be forced to adjudicate breakup and custody issues, to meet the basic economic needs of children and spouses of divorce, and to contain and correct (however feebly) the challenges and burdens these children will foist on society—increased poverty, mental illness, crime, illegal drug abuse, and depression.

Man-woman marriage, though no panacea for all social ills, provides the best means to promote emotional and economic well-being for spouses and children, resulting in less government intrusion and maximum liberty.

The purpose of the Constitution is to “promote the general Welfare,” the common good.

We could say the Constitution was written to promote human flourishing. But human flourishing is only achieved when we understand and embrace what is good for human beings. And when it comes to determining what marriage is good for, human flourishing is only accomplished when society preserves and perpetuates the exclusivity of the permanent and procreative man-woman union.

This article is adapted from a longer essay, “Marriage: What’s It Good For?” Copyright © 2013 by Derrick G. Jeter. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.

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