Melanie Phillips and Justice Elena Kagan on Marriage

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Here is an argument for traditional marriage made by British journalist Melanie Phillips recently on C-SPAN’s In Depth.

Phillips: “There’s no question but that in times gone by homosexuals had a terrible time, living in a furtive manner, disparaged or discriminated against, target of vilification, abuse, and sometimes violence. I would not wish to go back to that for one moment. Furthermore, I have a great deal of sympathy for gay people because I can see that what they want is to be like everybody else, they want to live the same kind of life as everybody else. They don’t want to be made to feel different, they want to enjoy the same sorts of things: stability, family, love, companionship…I have every sympathy for that, but gay marriage I think is different. I think it’s a category error…Marriage…contains elements of  contract, it contains elements of partnership, but marriage is a union, a coming together of two individuals who make a completely different kind of entity. A married couple is a union unlike any other…a union in which the two people fuse and they fuse because they are not the same, they are complementary, and the reason that they fuse and why it is important to society is because that is the way we create the next generation of human beings, and the marriage that endures is the best way of nurturing those human beings. That’s what matters to me, that’s what drives me, the collapse of that understanding, and the replacement of that understanding by this idea that marriage is really just a contract that brings certain privileges, why shouldn’t everybody have that contract? I sympathize, but actually if you give it to people outside that idea, that it’s the two complementary elements of what makes a human being coming together, once you erode that then you basically…undermine the whole notion of what marriage is, and if you undermine the whole notion of what marriage is, it’s no longer a question of wanting to be nice to people who are gay, which I do, but of undermining something that is of such importance not just to heterosexuals but also to homosexuals, because if our society collapses, and I believe the marriage family that nurtures human beings is at the very core of protecting the society that we all take for granted, that we all value so much. If you undermine and erode the core institution…then all of us…are going to be the losers because we’re going to fragment. We are fragmenting, not because of the gay marriage thing but because of what heterosexuals have done to the idea of marriage. They’ve made it contingent, they’ve desacralized it, they’ve made it less than something which it should be. I was going to say something sacred…but that sounds too religious…I mean something that is completely unique…and they’ve made it just like a contract. As a result, heterosexual marriage is going down the tubes, with results we can all see…But no matter how much one wants to show compassion, which I think is very necessary, to people who want to be like everybody else, if the cost of  that is to basically destroy one of the pillars of our society…well then I think one has to have the kind of conversation which will hopefully encourage everybody who understands what the stakes are here to adjust their attitudes accordingly.”

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Now on to an exchange at the Supreme Court:

Justice Kagan: “Mr. Cooper…it seems as though your principal argument is that same-sex and opposite-sex couples are not similarly situated because opposite-sex couples can procreate, same-sex couples cannot, and the State’s principal interest in marriage is in regulating procreation…Because that’s the same state interest, I would think, you know. If you are over the age of 55, you don’t help us serve the government’s interest in regulating procreation through marriage. So why is that different?”

Cooper: “even with respect to couples over the age of 55, it is very rare that both parties to the couple are infertile.”

Kagan: “No, really…I can just assure you, if both the woman and the man are over the age of 55, there are not a lot of children coming out of that marriage.”

But surely the government’s interest in promoting procreation would not require that every heterosexual marriage be fertile? By focusing on the exception (infertile marriages) rather than the rule (fertile ones), Kagan gives the impression that opposite-sex and same-sex couples are similarly situated in respect to procreation.

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