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Debate examines Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage

| Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Eight months after the landmark Supreme Court ruling Obergefell v. Hodges, which decided same-sex couples had the fundamental right to marry, the debate over the decision is still going. As part of this ongoing discussion, the Tocqueville Program and BridgeND sponsored a debate between Stephen Macedo, a professor at Princeton who defends the ruling, and Ryan Anderson, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, on Tuesday night.

Macedo, author of “Just Married: Same-Sex Couples, Monogamy and the Future of Marriage,” spoke first in the Lincoln-Douglas format debate.

“Public opinion on gay rights and same-sex marriage, specifically, have shifted astonishingly over the last 15 years and even more so over the last 20 or 30 years,” he said. “Americans in their 50s and older didn’t know any openly gay people when they were younger — I certainly didn’t. But as Americans came out of the closet, partly in response to the AIDS epidemic, and Americans began to come to grips with the fact that homosexuality is not a lifestyle choice but rather a settled and deep-seeded feature of one’s personality.”

Stephen Macedo speaks in defense of same-sex marriage Tuesday night. Macedo took part in a debate with Ryan Anderson, who argued same-sex marriage leads to the deterioration of American families.Caitlyn Jordan | The Observer

Stephen Macedo speaks in defense of same-sex marriage Tuesday night. Macedo took part in a debate with Ryan Anderson, who argued same-sex marriage leads to the deterioration of American families.

Only a quarter of Americans supported same-sex marriage 20 years ago, but today, around two-thirds of the population is in favor of it, according to Macedo.

There is a difference, Macedo said, between the sacrament of marriage and civil marriage and how they combine to form the public meaning of marriage.

“People want to get married, not just because it’s a matter of private commitment to another person, but because they want it to be recognized that they’ve entered into this public commitment,” he said. “The law facilitates this recognition. You wear a ring — it’s very public. It’s extremely private and very public to enter this sort of commitment, and it makes the understanding known in society.”

According to Macedo, the opposing view of same-sex marriage is centered on the possibility of children, disqualifying same-sex marriage.

“The general argument, at its core, is that sexual intercourse between a man and a woman is the ‘sine qua non’ of marriage, even if, owing to the sterility to one or both partners, procreation is impossible,” he said. “It’s on this basis that Ryan [Anderson] and his coauthors [of “What is Marriage?,” Robert George and Sherif Girgis] argue that gay couples are not denied a right to marriage — rather, they’re ineligible for marriage by nature.”

While he said he acknowledged some legitimate points in Anderson’s argument against same-sex marriage, Macedo said these concerns are not enough to justify using them as the basis for law.

“I think the question is whether it’s appropriate in a religiously diverse society to make one particular ideal of marriage — and I think it’s a very respectable ideal of marriage — the basis for the law of marriage so that it applies to everyone within this religiously diverse society,” he said.

In Anderson’s response, he said his opposition to same-sex marriage is based on the unknown consequences it could have on the American family and the deterioration of marriage in the United States. According to him, more than half of the children in America’s two largest minority groups — Latino and African American — are born out of wedlock, another sign of a deteriorating state.

“Gays and lesbians are not to blame for the breakdown of the American family,” he said. “They’re not to blame for the increase of nonmarital childbearing — they’re not the ones creating children outside of marriage. I do want to suggest that the vision of marriage and human sexuality that is to blame, a liberal ideology, is the vision of marriage that has largely fueled the public discourse for the past decade, and now that it’s enshrined in law, it will further the deterioration of marriage in the United States.”

This “vision of marriage,” Anderson said, has convinced people that love and consent between adults are enough to justify a marriage.

“Professor Macedo said it was principles of ‘liberty, equality and justice’ that propelled the Supreme Court’s decision, and he thinks it rightly was decided to redefine marriage in all 50 states and to say the Constitution requires it,” he said. “I don’t think there’s anything in the Constitution that tells us what sort of consenting adult relationship is a marital relationship.”

Anderson said, using Macedo’s own logic, the legalization of non-monogamous marriages should also be covered — Macedo is not in favor of legalizing these types of marriages.

“This is where I don’t think we’ve heard enough from same-sex proponents, about why they’d limit it to just two people in a committed relationship. Increasingly, if you look at the academic and popular literature, they’re arguing that there is no reason to limit it as such. … All I’m going to say about this [non-monogamous marriages] is that it directly undercuts the state being in the marriage business in the first place.”

The government is only involved in the marriage business because of the consequences marriages and families have on American society, Anderson said.

“The state’s not in the marriage business because it’s a sucker for your love life,” he said. “The state’s not in the marriage business because it’s concerned about the romance of consenting adults. The state’s in the marriage business because sexual unions between men and women can result in children, and children deserve mothers and fathers. Governments try to get men and women to commit permanently and exclusively to one another and fulfill their obligations to their kids. When this doesn’t happen, social costs run high.”

Anderson also said the legalization of same-sex marriage has had consequences for religious freedom, specifically for those whose faith doesn’t support it.

“There are a number of stories of bakers, florists, photographers — people of faith who have no problem serving gays and lesbians, no problem employing gays and lesbians, but they do have a problem celebrating a same-sex wedding because they believe that would be using their God-given artistic gifts and talents for something against their beliefs — they have been fined in both their professional and personal live,” he said.

In his final rebuttal, Macedo said while there are problems with the American perception of marriage, same-sex marriage should not be one of the major concerns.

“If we want to strengthen marriage the best way to do it is to get past the argument of same-sex marriage,” he said. “The real crisis of marriage in this country is a class-based marriage … that points to a widening economic gap. It seems to me the debate of same-sex marriage is a distraction from this issue. The politicization of marriage is turning some young people off of it altogether.”

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley is one of the Associate News Editors for The Observer. A junior majoring in English and the Program of Liberal Studies, she hails from Flushing, MI and lives in Flaherty Hall.

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  • Marco Luxe

    This “vision of marriage,” Anderson said, has convinced people that love and consent between adults are enough to justify a marriage.

    What is Anderson proposing, a fertility test? Marriage is a contract with minimal requirements: capacity and consent. If Anderson wants more restrictions he has an obligation to state them directly and not by innuendo.

    • NDaniels

      What separates marriage from every other form of Loving relationship is the ability and desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife. By removing the necessary requirement for a marriage contract to be valid, which is the ability and desire to exist in relationship as husband and wife, the court has invalidated the validity of a valid marriage contract, making it possible for any relationship to be defined as marriage if one so desires, and thus promoting marriage fraud and the sin of adultery, simultaneously.

  • what no really

    Uhm. Non-monogamous marriages are legal and were legal before Obergefell? What a bizarre point to try to make. Unless they were talking about polygamous marriages? Which is a totally different thing? This couldn’t have been a very illuminating conversation.

    • MJ

      I imagine that is what Anderson meant. The reality is that non-monogamous marriages have always been LEGAL, although not desirable. It sounds like he was making a point about polygamous marriages.

  • MJ

    “The state’s in the marriage business
    because sexual unions between men and women can result in children, and
    children deserve mothers and fathers. Governments try to get men and
    women to commit permanently and exclusively to one another and fulfill
    their obligations to their kids.”

    This is one opinion, and I respect it. But I disagree. If that were the case, divorce would still be illegal. The State is in the marriage business because it has an interest in the orderly distribution of property and economic assets and to ensure as much economic stability of a family as possible. (I would include in this interest such things as medical decision making and other “responsibilities and rights” we confer upon married couples, since doing so also relieves the State or other family members from the burden.) This is the common thread throughout the civil marriage construct despite all other changes to marriage over the years that are often decried by traditionalists. And under this construct, the presence of children is not a prerequisite.

    This is where it become a question of inclusivity versus exclusivity. The argument Anderson puts forth is exclusive, that is, it assumes that the State’s interest in children deserving married mothers and fathers, requires it to exclude under civil law all other couples (ignoring completely non-procreative couples either by choice or biology). The better argument is that a civil legal construct has no reason not to include other couples in order to provide the same benefits of orderly property and economic asset distribution, which is in the State’s interest.

  • RandallPoopenmeyer

    Ugh, these people’s opposition is STILL because of stupid religion. Take that out of the equation and try to give a real, logical reason as to why you don’t like it.

    I know marriage is a contract, a contract to love and be honest to my partner, I don’t remember us being bound by law to have children?
    Also, what is wrong with having children out of wedlock? There are plenty of married couples who cannot financially or emotionally support their children.
    These idiots are not even worth listening to. They are so deluded to believe that social services and entitlement programs are corrupted or otherwise abused by gay couples.

  • João Pedro Santos

    “In Anderson’s response, he said his opposition to same-sex marriage is based on the unknown consequences it could have on the American family and the deterioration of marriage in the United States.”
    Can someone say such absurdities and being serious at the same time?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KKnjyozguw

  • João Pedro Santos

    “This “vision of marriage,” Anderson said, has convinced people that love and consent between adults are enough to justify a marriage.”
    Typical of right-wing extremists. They don’t care about love or consent, they just care about their religious dogmas.

  • NDaniels

    The marital act is Life-affirming, and Life-sustaining, and can only be consummated between a man and woman united in marriage as husband and wife. No one should be condoning any sexual act, including between a man and woman, united in marriage as husband and wife, that demeans the inherent Dignity of the human person as a beloved son or daughter.

    Our Constitution serves to secure and protect our inherent Right to Religious Liberty; it is a lie from the start to suggest that our Constitution serves to secure and protect the equality of consensual sexual acts and sexual relationships. Our call to Holiness, has always been a call to authentic Love; any act that does not respect the inherent Dignity of the human person as a beloved son or daughter, is not, and can never be, an act of Love.