‘Marriage equality’: Good PR but is anyone thinking this through?

Special to WorldTribune.com

By J. Richard Pearcey

Author and MSNBC host S.E. Cupp made news in the run-up to CPAC 2013 by withdrawing as a speaker from the annual conservative confab. Her complaint against CPAC is that it would not allow pro-homosexual “marriage” organizations to sponsor the event.

Cupp identifies herself as a “proponent of gay rights,” and on MSBNC she said “marriage equality” is a “major issue Republicans can no longer seem to avoid.”

S.E. Cupp.
S.E. Cupp.

“CPAC’s decision to sideline GOProud and Log Cabin Republicans makes me increasingly uncomfortable,” she said. “Until the conference stops shaming some of its most valuable advocates, it’s unfortunately not an event I can take part in.”

Let me start by saying that I respect S.E. Cupp and her willingness to speak out on behalf of what she sees as true. Having said that, it is on behalf of intelligence — “not allowing our passions to become blind,” as philosopher Albert Camus put it — that I reject the notion of “marriage equality.”

Admittedly, the phrase “marriage equality” functions as highly effective PR. After all, who wants to stand against marriage? And who could possibly protest against equality? Therefore “marriage equality” seems like a win-win.

Yet, a critical distance allows one to see beyond the PR and to realize that the kind of “equality” promoted in “marriage equality” is alien in theory, and inferior in results, to the genuinely liberating concept of “created equal” we find planted in the Declaration of Independence.

Social construct? Traditional value?

Consider the word “marriage.” It has a normative meaning. It refers to the diversity of male and female, one man plus one woman, united in love, service, and commitment for life. Its merit derives not from tradition or from being a “value preference,” a social construct, a belief system, or a crutch of the bourgeoisie.

Instead marriage should be respected in terms parallel to the concept of freedom and unalienable human rights endowed by the Creator. Marriage is thereby recognized as an unalienable societal structure embedded by the Creator into the architecture of creation and into the essence of human nature. People who smash marriage end up smashing themselves as well, as does anyone who defies gravity by jumping off a cliff without a parachute.

Now because the word “marriage” has a definite meaning, it can be distinguished from non-marital arrangements. The logic of “A cannot equal non-A” applies not just to legal tender and its counterfeits but also to marriage and its counterfeits.

For example, a spouse can be one’s best friend. But that does not mean marriage can be reduced to friendship. A million people might march under the civil rights banner of “Friendship Without Limits” or “Friendship Equality,” but reason and clarity of thought would protest the devaluation of marriage caused by elevating counterfeits to the same status.

Again, there is love within marriage, deep sacrificial love. But marriage is more than love. For there are different kinds of love appropriate in different kinds of contexts — your friend, your child, your dog. These distinctions protect children from abuse and incest. We should be wary of passionate slogans declaring “love without limits.”

Every human being has a God-given unalienable right to pursue marriage as a species of happiness. But no one has the creative power (much less the authority) to refashion this gift from the Creator. Changing the nature of marriage is not just above a president’s pay-grade, it’s beyond the ontic capacity of any human being.

Marriage is a rock for humanity, and a safe haven for children, precisely because it hinges upon the Creator, not upon ideological passions, nor upon decisions of state.

Equal justice under relativism

The word “equality” likewise enjoys many positive connotations. Engraved on the western facade of the Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C., are the majestic words “Equal Justice Under Law.” The concept of equality is indelibly tied to civil rights for black Americans.

Historically the positive reception of equality owes a great deal to the Biblical concept that all are equal before the Creator, that God does not play favorites based on external factors such as race, class, economic power, or political connections. In this sense, God is described in the New Testament book of Acts as “no respecter of persons.”

In such a rich context, it is no surprise that joining “marriage” and “equality” together stimulates powerful positive feelings.

Yet just as marriage has a normative meaning, so does equality. The concept as used by homosexual activists is a way to inject relativism into moral discourse and social change. This is a far cry from the liberating concept of “created equal” as enunciated in the Declaration of Independence.

The Declaration serves notice to all concerned — to presidents and kings, mobs and majorities, interest groups and activists — “not only that people are equal, but that they are equal because they are created equal,” writes Paul Marshall of the Hudson Institute in God and the Constitution. For “if rights come from God, not the state, then the state has no authority to take them away or override them,” Marshall explains. Only in this context are human rights secure and civil rights non-arbitrary.

Harry Jaffa of the Claremont Institute makes a similar point in Equality and Liberty, saying the “men who founded our system of government were not moral or political relativists. . . . In affirming that all men are created equal they expressed their conviction that human freedom depends upon the recognition of an order that man himself does not create.”

As a bedrock of freedom for human beings who are “created equal,” marriage is a communal order of male-female diversity within a liberating unity. It is a blessing of liberty, and protected as such, because it is not subject to relativistic tinkering, media tinglings or “new normals.”

The endgame: A lesbian confession

Because the “equality” of “marriage equality” functions as a code word for relativism, the impact of the movement for homosexual “marriage” as a civil right is the opposite of what it is portrayed to be. The endgame is not to make marriage equally available to all, but to make it equally unavailable to all.

Masha Gessen, a lesbian and a journalist, spoke frankly about this at a conference in Sydney, Australia, last summer. “It’s a no-brainer that we should have the right to marry,” she said. “But I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist.”

This admission “causes my brain some trouble,” Gessen says, “and part of why it causes me trouble is that fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there — because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change, and that is a lie.”

How will it change? Gessen explains: “I have three kids who have five parents, more or less. . . . I would like to live in a legal system that is capable of reflecting that reality. And I don’t think that’s compatible with the institution of marriage.”

“Marriage equality” becomes “marriage elasticity,” with the ultimate goal of “marriage extinction.”

S.E. Cupp says she does not think she’ll be able to speak at CPAC “until this issue is reconciled and figured out.” But the solution to counterfeits is not reconciliation but recognition, and then refusal to acquiesce to ideological passions.

The banner of “marriage equality” is frayed and torn asunder, with bits blowing in the wind, strips jagged and littering streets. Marriage, however, lives and breathes. As do those who salute her.

Copyright, 2013, J. Richard Pearcey

J. Richard Pearcey is associate director of the Francis Schaeffer Center for Worldview and Culture at Houston Baptist University.