The Supreme Court will soon issue its decision on Obergefell v. Hodges—a case that will determine whether the US Constitution requires all 50 states to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. Many legal experts believe Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Catholic, will be the deciding vote.
What is perhaps most upsetting above all else in this debacle is that the most appalling and unjust line of argumentation for imposing such redefinition of marriage may actually win the day. Namely, the argument that we must redefine marriage “for the sake of the children”—that imposing the redefinition of marriage is necessary to protect the dignity and secure the best interests of children being raised by same-sex couples.
For example, in his oral argument, Gen. Donald B. Verrilli, Solicitor General, Department of Justice, argued:
Excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage demeans the dignity of these couples. It demeans their children, and it denies both the couples and their children the stabilizing structure that marriage affords. … And what Respondents’ position and Respondents’ caution argument leads you to is the conclusion that those hundreds of thousands of children don’t get the stabilizing structure and the many benefits of marriage.
In the prior Defense of Marriage Act case (United States v. Windsor), Justice Kennedy argued in like manner as the author of the Court’s majority opinion:
By this dynamic DOMA undermines both the public and private significance of state sanctioned same-sex marriages; for it tells those couples, and all the world, that their otherwise valid marriages are unworthy of federal recognition. … And it humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples. The law in questions makes it even more difficult for the children to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.
Did you catch that? Failing to redefine marriage “demeans” the children of same-sex couples and denies them “the stabilizing structure and the many benefits” that marriage provides? Failing to recognize the redefinition of marriage “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples”?
This is absurd—the exact opposite is true. It is precisely the same-sex couples raising children and those who support their movement to redefine marriage who are, in fact, demeaning and humiliating children and denying them the stable structure and benefits that marriage provides. And this, in two ways.
First, all human persons possess the fundamental right to be brought into being as the fruit of the mutual, bodily self-gift of their married biological mother and father and to be loved and raised by them. Same-sex couples have committed a grave injustice against the children they’re raising by intentionally depriving them of this fundamental human right. Second, not only are these same-sex couples and those who support their push to redefine marriage intentionally denying children a fundamental human right, they want to force everyone—including the children themselves—to be complicit in and give support to this grave injustice.
To understand how appalling and unjust this line of reasoning is, consider the following imaginary scenario:
The Supreme Court takes up the issue of abortion once again; and the majority of justices argue the US Constitution guarantees the right to abortion as necessary to protect the dignity of unborn children and promote their best interest. In such a case, the Court’s argument would be that it is precisely the denial of a fundamental human right (the right to life) that is necessary to secure and promote the dignity and rights of unborn children.
Redefining marriage “for the good of the children” being raised by same-sex couples is almost an exact and parallel injustice. Children are denied a fundamental human right precisely in the name of securing and promoting their dignity and rights. Or, to put the argument in more trenchant terms, here’s what we’re being told: In order to secure and promote the dignity and rights of children being raised by same-sex couples, we must demand everyone be complicit in committing a grave injustice against them. Even more pernicious, however, is the fact that the children themselves are being forced to cooperate in their own oppression, to assent to the denial of their own fundamental human rights.
Children have neither the wisdom nor the authority to protect and guarantee their human rights. This is why adults are charged with the duty and responsibility of doing so. Put yourself, for a moment, in the shoes of children being raised by same-sex couples. Such children face intense psychological and emotional pressure (whether explicit or implicit) to approve the relationship of their parents and their parents’ partners. Expressing feelings or thoughts to the contrary—especially to the adults raising them—would be almost unimaginable. Doing so would seem like an act of betrayal, an attack against the very people upon whom they are dependent for everything. It is only natural, then, for these children to express their approval and their desire for others to approve and call the relationships of same-sex couples “marriage.”
Redefining marriage, however, will increase the psychological and emotional pressure on children being raised by same-sex couples, because it will add social and legal pressure. This added social and legal pressure will make it all but impossible for children to speak openly and honestly about any pain and humiliation they experience as the direct consequence of being denied their fundamental human right to be brought into being as the fruit of the mutual, bodily self-gift of their married biological mother and father and to be loved and raised by them.
No matter what the Supreme Court rules, then, it is vital for us to speak and advocate for the rights of these children. The most effective tyrannies are those able to successfully convince the tyrannized they aren’t being tyrannized—but rather being liberated and set free. We must be the people who recognize the tyranny and oppression that redefining marriage will inflict on children, and we must take a stand for their authentic human dignity as well as their authentic liberation and freedom. To do this, we must continue to promote the truth about marriage and fight against its redefinition.
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