I would like to congratulate you . . .

dbking / Foter / CC BY

I would like to sincerely congratulate my friends and family who see a moral victory in the recent Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage.

But I am prevented by two considerations. First, this ruling has come at the cost of discarding the possibility that government recognizes marriages for the well-being of children. This essential purpose has been understood for millennia. I understand it is practically ineffective while we have no-fault divorce, and a culture that doesn’t value commited relationships. I would have these changed. Government recognition of marriage really should be about the couple’s responsibility to the broader community, particularly in raising their own biological children. It’s a reasonable norm with reasonable exceptions, that don’t entail the logic of the Court’s ruling. As nice as it is for two (or more?) people to express their desire to commit to each other, that is a matter for private communities, not the government. If we construe government to be in the business of affirming the validity of personal relationships, then that is effectively instituting a deeply held religious belief called progressivism.

Second, I am sad that people seem to think that human dignity and moral worth are secured by political activism and legislation. This is not the case. All human persons have intrinsic moral worth due to their being created in the image of God. This is not a particular evangelical belief, or a conservative belief. It is a reasonable, public, and humane belief. It is a justified, true belief. I know it to be true, and I bet you do, too. It was true before Friday’s ruling, it is true after the ruling, and it will be true no matter what other political developments happen in the future.

For good reason my conscience prevents me for celebrating this decision. It is my firm but not-at-all-certain hope that there remains tolerance and goodwill in this country toward dissenters.


About Lewis W
I earned an M.A. in Christian apologetics at Biola University, and occasionally write on ethics, truth, science and politics.

2 Responses to I would like to congratulate you . . .

  1. Aleck says:

    1. I don’t think the government is in the business at validating personal relationship. It’s protecting them. This is about the rights of people who want to be in a union. It doesn’t really change whether one feels validated or not.

    2. I hate to say this, but other than Christians (or people who have been raised with Christian beliefs). The assertion that people are made in the image of God makes little or no sense at all to anyone outside that circle. While we might think our dignity and worth don’t come from activism and legislation; others might and who are we to pass on that judgement? But then again, this really has not much to do validation or moral worth; it’s about people’s rights in this particular context.

  2. Thanks Aleck. I honestly have a hard time figuring out what people mean by rights, if they aren’t referring to natural rights (a technical usage from Aristotle, Aquinas, and Locke that doesn’t mean deriving our rights from watching lion behavior). Rights are typically things people feel passionate about, but don’t often explain. Almost no one was thinking about this right twenty years ago, but now it’s taken for granted. What this right is and how it came to be deserves an intelligible explanation. If rights claims are more than expressions of feeling or subjective, personal policy preferences, it’s not been made clear by the Supreme Court ruling.

    Rights claims bother me because they bear costs with them. They come with the promise of enforcement. Excessive enumeration of new rights as we have it now ends in self-contradiction, constraint upon others, and absurdity.

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