What is marriage? Why is government in the marriage business? And what’s the harm in redefining marriage?
Those are the questions with which Jennifer A. Marshall, Heritage’s director of domestic policy studies, opened a panel discussion featuring the three authors of a provocative new book, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (Encounter Books).
Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George each discussed aspects of the importance of preserving marriage as the union of a man and a woman—and the consequences of redefining marriage for both government and civil society.
Girgis, a law student at Yale and political philosophy student at Princeton, reminded the audience that the central issue in the marriage debate really isn’t the idea of “equality” so often thrown about by those would redefine marriage. That, he insisted, ignores the more fundamental question of “What is marriage?”
Marriage, as Girgis summarized the authors’ reasoning in their book, is a natural institution that makes a man and a woman responsible to each other and—as father and mother—to any children that their union produces. Marriage is about much more than emotional intensity.
Anderson, who is Heritage’s William E. Simon Fellow in religion and a free society, noted that the struggle over redefining marriage is a recent chapter in the larger movement to protect and strengthen marriage in America.
Government’s interest in marriage, Anderson noted, is to ensure that society’s most vulnerable—children—are protected and cared for. A host of government programs now thrive on the breakdown of marriage and family. He also warned of perilous implications for religious liberty if marriage is redefined to include same-sex relationships.
George, McCormick professor of jurisprudence at Princeton, emphasized that the goal of
limited government is hampered when family structure collapses or recedes. Business, law, and politics can’t produce the kind of citizens of good character that each field requires.
“Even President Obama, by executive order, cannot dictate that we be decent, law-abiding people,” he said.