No Precedent for Same-Sex Marriage

Frequently, when seeking a legal precedent for same-sex marriage, advocates will cite the Supreme Court’s rulings against anti-miscegenation laws. Those laws, which existed in a number of states in the early half of the 20th century, prevented people of different races from marrying. The primary Supreme Court ruling in question was Loving v. Virginia which effectively rendered unconstitutional all laws against interracial marriage. Interestingly the specific law it dealt with, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, wasn’t based on ‘racism’ per se, but on scientific ideas of eugenics, an idea derived from Darwin’s evolutionary theory, a product of the scientific and legal consensus in the 20’s and 30’s.

Francis Beckwith, a a Professor of Philosophy and Church-State Studies at Baylor University, and a favorite philosopher of mine, has written an insightful essay in the journal Public Discourse on the faulty comparison made between interracial marriage laws and laws against same-sex marriage. He writes:

“It is clear then that the miscegenation/same-sex analogy does not work. For if the purpose of anti-miscegenation laws was racial purity, such a purpose only makes sense if people of different races have the ability by nature to marry each other. And given the fact that such marriages were a common law liberty, the anti-miscegenation laws presuppose this truth. But opponents of same-sex marriage ground their viewpoint in precisely the opposite belief: people of the same gender do not have the ability by nature to marry each other since gender complementarity is a necessary condition for marriage. Supporters of anti-miscegenation laws believed in their cause precisely because they understood that when male and female are joined in matrimony they may beget racially-mixed progeny, and these children, along with their parents, will participate in civil society and influence its cultural trajectory.

In other words, the fact that a man and a woman from different races were biologically and metaphysically capable of marrying each other, building families, and living among the general population is precisely why the race purists wanted to forbid such unions by the force of law. And because this view of marriage and its gender-complementary nature was firmly in place and the only understanding found in common law, the Supreme Court in Loving knew that racial identity was not relevant to what marriage requires of its two opposite-gender members. By injecting race into the equation, anti-miscegenation supporters were very much like contemporary same-sex marriage proponents, for in both cases they introduced a criterion other than male-female complementarity in order to promote the goals of a utopian social movement: race purity or sexual egalitarianism.”

In short, the purpose of laws against the interracial marriage were to prevent the racially mixed children, anathema to the eugenics proponents. There is no such basis in laws against gay marriage, as gay marriages produces no children – so the comparison is invalid. In fact, the Supreme Court ruling re-enforces the basis for marriage, that being that it exists as a means of joining together potential mates for the purpose of producing children, which is the basis for the common law liberty of right to marry.

Homosexual marriage of course can provide no such basis – in fact the basis for homosexual marriage, as much as it exists, is almost wholly based on the notion of imparting legal rights of property and legal guardianship, and this bears no real semblance to heterosexual marriage – and equating them diminishes the institution of marriage itself.

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One Response to No Precedent for Same-Sex Marriage

  1. […] rules and inherent rights. I have been following the writings of Dr. Beckwith for sometime having blogged about an analysis of his on gay marriage a few months back and so it was great to see him in person. This particular discussion was as thorough as I had hoped […]

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