Very recently, I was at a conference where Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Gergis, two of the nation’s foremost intellectual champions of marriage, spoke about marriage post-Obergefell (confession: Ryan and Sherif are close friends).
Something about their address moved me. I realized that we’re back at the beginning of a new movement. Though I have heard Anderson and Gergis deliver their argument countless upon countless times, and have even delivered the same arguments myself, I realized for the first time that where we’re at, culturally, requires us to make the same arguments over and over. That’s the future of the marriage movement: making the argument time and time again to any and every audience that will hear us. Sure, the marriage movement will be political-cultural. The tip of the spear, however, must be educational. If we forsake the educational aspect of this moment, we’re destined for future failure. What we must begin to do is to educate everyday Americans about the truth of marriage. If we do, the cultural-political implications will follow.
Those of us who care about marriage and are engaged in rebuilding a marriage culture know that we cannot take anything for granted anymore about marriage. The idea that marriage is the union of complementary sexes oriented toward procreation seems an idea that is self-evident, but the nomenclature and philosophy can easily appear complex to those unfamiliar. What does this mean? It means you can never assume anything of your audience’s knowledge on marriage. As time winds on, and the fruits of redefinition occur further, it is likely that further confusion is possible.
Most people are not scholars, or activists, or lawyers. The individuals most affected by Justice Kennedy’s frankly embarrassing decision to redefine marriage are everyday people. They’re teachers, plumbers, and business people. They’re moms and dads who would rather spend time with their children than familiarize themselves with the fallout of a bad Supreme Court decision. Most people avoid contentious debate, much of the time for good reason—they simply want to live their lives in peace. They don’t spend their days digging into philosophical arguments about marriage.
So, we start with the most elemental truths. Marriage is one institution that sees a man and woman come together as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their union produces. Marriage is complementary, permanent, and exclusive. It is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are different. It is based on the biological reality that only a man and woman can create new life. It is based on the social reality that children need a mom and dad.
The battle for marriage is just beginning. This isn’t simply a talking point to pave over just how difficult the times really are. Times are difficult. But we’ve reached this difficult period because we’ve allowed marriage to be subject to numerous redefinitions for multiple decades.
So here we are—on the Wrong Side of History, our opponents insist. Those of us engaged in this debate are taking the long view. We don’t expect quick fixes. Those of us committed to marriage will be making these same arguments for the next forty years. We’ll look to the pro-life movement whose education campaign has steadily worked over time to shift public opinion toward the side of truth. This, readers, was inevitable. Error and deceit can only subsist for so long until the natural truths of human nature emerge triumphant. The Supreme Court’s decision will take years, decades, and generations to unwind. Eventually, America is going to self-correct on its errors in tampering with the family.
Pessimists who peddle despair may find reason to be depressed. Optimists, the ones who believe truth is timeless, believe the moment is ripe for opportunity to start afresh with re-educating the simple truths; simple truths and beautiful truths that men and women are endowed and blessed with inherent, inescapable differences.
Andrew T. Walker serves as the Director of Policy Studies for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.