The Supreme Court decision yesterday won’t just affect marriage. Giving the government the power to redefine a pre-political institution changes the relationship of the government to all of our rights. As Jay Richards says in “Why a Limited Government Must Recognize Natural Marriage,” “You can’t make war on the natural law and then appeal to it for help.”
The arguments for redefining marriage have been all about individual rights, but the move would actually undermine the foundation of individual rights. Here’s why. A limited government doesn’t try to redefine reality as the Orwellian governments of the 20th century did (including the fictional government of George Orwell’s 1984). A limited government recognizes and defends realities outside its jurisdiction. Our government doesn’t bestow rights on us as individuals. We get our rights from God. A just and limited state simply recognizes and protects this pre-political reality. But a government that gets in the habit of ignoring other pre-political realities is primed to ignore the reality of unalienable human rights.
The individual and his inherent rights are a pre-political reality. Marriage is another. The institution of marriage transcends every political system….
Appealing to nature and nature’s God to defend individual rights and equality, which most cultures have not recognized, while ignoring the universal testimony of nature and culture on marriage, is like sawing off the branch you’re sitting on. Put another way, you can’t make war on the natural law and then appeal to it for help.
So, just as government can’t redefine our rights as individuals made in the image of God, it has no authority to redefine marriage. Communism was totalitarian because it tried to redefine the individual, to create a new “Communist Man.” We’re now struggling with another totalitarian impulse to redefine reality.… If the state can redefine a universal institution rooted in human nature, what can’t it redefine?
Invoking a right doesn’t create a right. Rights come from our nature, from reality, from the way things are. In the case of marriage, we are dealing with a biological reality first and foremost. A government that puts itself in charge of redefining such things is a menace to human rights and human institutions.
Make no mistake, the right on which the Supreme Court is basing its decision is not a natural right to equal protection under the law (no one has ever been denied a marriage license because of his sexual orientation); it’s a right to make marriage whatever we wish it to be—a right they’ve created on their own. As Justice Roberts said, “The fundamental right to marry does not include a right to make a State change its definition of marriage.” The Supreme Court yesterday trampled a pre-political reality in order to create a new “right” that five of the nine justices personally prefer. Today, they happen to prefer having two-person marriage. But once the two complementary sexes of spouses are irrelevant, there’s no principled reason to limit the number of spouses to two.
Indeed, there are no limits at all on a government that isn’t bound to respect and submit to realities outside of itself. We’ll just have to wait and see where five justices’ future personal whims take us.