“What Is Marriage?”

A Jewish WeddingPrior to the last few decades, marriage has always been defined and recognized across time and across cultures as a relationship between a man and a woman. What we are looking at today is not an inclusion into this institution of those who have been denied marriage because of their homosexual ac- tivity, but a redefinition of a relationship that is the cornerstone of society, and which societies and countries have protected through legal means because of the under- standing and recognition of the importance to society of the mutual and complementary love, enjoyment and support uniquely pro- vided by each sex to the other, and because of the understanding and recognition of the importance of the future of a society through the protection and rearing of children in a family setting in which they learn love, trust, discipline and identity through the unique and different abilities and perspectives of the two sexes.

In the Winter 2010 issue of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy Sherif Girgis, Robert George, and Ryan T. Anderson answered the question,  “What is Marriage?” in an article bearing that title. You can read it online at the link. Last December they revised and published it as the book What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense. A recent column at NRO, “Marriage and Politics: Why the debate matters; why the conjugal view can prevail,” presents some of the book’s points. I’ve read only a few pages past their introduction, and I’ll be posting more on their thinking. They’ve worked to explain marriage and answer objections. In the introduction they write:

…our argument makes no appeal to divine revelation or religious authority. We think it right and proper to make religious arguments for or against a marriage policy, but we offer no religious arguments here.

There is simple and decisive evidence that the conjugal view is not peculiar to religion, or to any religious tradition.1

Dr. George is a conservative Catholic, and I do not know what the beliefs are of the other two men. They decided to make a philosophical argument from reason and observation, but they did not make this choice because of any religious animus, in fact, I think it prevents objections being raised by those who do hold religious animus.

In Christians And The Political Arena, I mentioned a former pastor who said God has morally underwritten His universe. As I wrote the other day, we flourish as human beings when our institutions reflect God’s moral order. An argument may make no religious appeal, but if it is valid, we will find it reflects God’s moral order and creative design.
Jozef Israëls, A Jewish Wedding, 1903.
1Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert George, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (Encounter Books, New York NY: 2012) 10.