Supreme Court Restricts Marriage, and No One Notices

Update: As Chief Justice John Roberts predicted: Inspired by SCOTUS ruling, polygamous Montana trio applies for wedding license.

While some have hailed the US Supreme Court‘s ruling last week (available in PDF here) that expanded the legal definition of marriage to include homosexuals, few have noted Justice Anthony Kennedy’s careful wording that actually restricted the definition of marriage:

The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex…

The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the [Constitution] couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. Same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.

Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons.

The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms…

There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.

Chief Justice John Roberts did highlight these semantic gymnastics in his dissent — essentially saying the majority’s restriction of its ruling to two people was arbitrary and ultimately indefensible [emphasis added]:

One immediate question invited by the majority’s position is whether States may retain the definition of marriage as a union of two people. Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective “two” in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not. Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world…

It is striking how much of the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage.

If “[t]here is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices,” why would there be any less dignity in the bond between three people who, in exercising their autonomy, seek to make the profound choice to marry?

If a same-sex couple has the constitutional right to marry because their children would otherwise “suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser,” why wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to a family of three or more persons raising children?

If not having the opportunity to marry “serves to disrespect and subordinate” gay and lesbian couples, why wouldn’t the same “imposition of this disability,” serve to disrespect and subordinate people who find fulfillment in polyamorous relationships?

Of course, the logic of the ruling doesn’t stop at just the number of people involved in the “marital relationship.” As even Chief Justice Roberts has to carefully say, this does not morally equate these other relationships — it merely demonstrates the fact the logic has no moral boundary, no logical reason that “marriage” should be restricted to only two people — or to any other specific form of relationship.  (Certain people — some well-intentioned, some not — have claimed great offense that ‘homosexuality should be equated with polygamy or other forms of “illegal” marriage’, despite the fact no such equation occurred.)

Dr. Al Mohler of the Southern Baptist Convention accurately recounts that those who have previously brought up this point have been accused of a “fallacious slippery slope argument” [emphasis added]:

The Kennedy opinion opens wide a door that basically invites looming demands for the legalization of polygamy and polyamory…What is perhaps even more striking is that the majority did not even appear concerned about the extension of its logic to polygamy.

As the decision approached, those of us who have warned that the redefinition of marriage will not stop with same-sex unions were told that we were offering a fallacious slippery-slope argument. Now, the Chief Justice of the United States verifies that these concerns were fully valid. You can count on the fact that advocates for legalized polygamy found great encouragement in this decision.

So, for now, Justice Anthony Kennedy has decreed that marriage in the United States of America can only be between two people, though the gender of each individual is irrelevant. How long that remains the law of the land, given Chief Justice John Roberts’ astute explanation, remains to be seen.

Military service has been used as an effective tool of social change — something even homosexual activists have admitted.  How long will it be before a US service member decries the requirement that he “lie about who he is” merely because of how many people — or any other heretofore unrecognized relationship — he loves?

In the meantime, while society debates the location or absence of this limit, US citizens and troops of faith will continue to hold the same moral line — one that continues to apply in all situations without change because it is rooted in a God who does not change.

There are very strong arguments that Christians may eventually be sanctioned for holding those beliefs, as some already have been.  That would happen in a society in which the “right” to behave sexually overrides the “right” to express a contrary belief to that behavior.

Some would say that time has already come.

Also at NBC and the Stars and Stripes.  Updated with reference to the Religion Clause.