Gay Marriage and the Political War Against Natural Law

Arielle Cronig (L) and Elaine Cleary embrace outside of the U.S. Supreme Court after the ruling in favor of same-sex marriage June 26, 2015 in Washington, DC. The high court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The most fiery reaction from 2016 presidential contenders against Friday’s Supreme Court decision imposing same-sex marriage nationwide came from Mike Huckabee, who vowed resistance akin to the American Revolution against the “judicial tyranny” of this “imperial Court”:

The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do-redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.

This ruling is not about marriage equality, it’s about marriage redefinition. This irrational, unconstitutional rejection of the expressed will of the people in over 30 states will prove to be one of the court’s most disastrous decisions, and they have had many. The only outcome worse than this flawed, failed decision would be for the President and Congress, two co-equal branches of government, to surrender in the face of this out-of-control act of unconstitutional, judicial tyranny.

The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the laws of gravity. Under our Constitution, the court cannot write a law, even though some cowardly politicians will wave the white flag and accept it without realizing that they are failing their sworn duty to reject abuses from the court. If accepted by Congress and this President, this decision will be a serious blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment.

Whatever your thoughts on Huckabee’s prognosis for resistance, his diagnosis of the process is indisputably correct. He’s exactly right about how gay marriage has been imposed by judicial fiat against the will of the people. Public opinion polls showing how many people in various demographics approve of the concept are interesting, but such things are a prelude to proper action in a constitutional republic – it is still necessary to marshal public opinion into votes, which can go very differently than pollsters predict.

Don’t worry, you’ll hear that argument made very emphatically every time the will of the majority, as expressed through polls, is cited as the reason to rewrite or erase an unpopular law like ObamaCare. Sometimes executive and judical fiat to impose poll-tested “popular” ideas is super-awesome; other times it is absolutely forbidden, and the will of the majority doesn’t count for squat. Sometimes a margin-of-error poll preference is portrayed as a landslide victory; other times, 70% majorities are considered meaningless.

It’s also hard to argue with Huckabee’s description of the Supreme Court decision as deeply flawed; Chief Justice John Roberts, yesterday’s liberal super-hero for saving ObamaCare, feels the same way. Of course, the Roberts of Friday also said the Supreme Court isn’t supposed to be a legislature, while the Roberts of Thursday was a black-robed, unelected health care Super-Legislator-for-Life. Friday Roberts mused that it doesn’t matter whether gay marriage is a good idea; Thursday Roberts said the only thing that mattered about ObamaCare, more than its text or even the U.S. Constitution itself, is whether its authors thought it was a good idea.

He’s like summer weather: if you don’t like the current John Roberts, don’t worry, a completely different one will be along shortly. If you ever wondered what the phrase “tyranny is whimsical” meant, you now have a splendid example. Tyranny means the absence of legal principle or consistency – the absolute truth you are required to accept without dissent can change from day to day, depending on the needs of the ruling Party and its instruments.

In the boldfaced line, Huckabee touches upon an important concept that lies at the heart of why the political Left pushed so hard for gay marriage, and why so many people who are not in the slightest bigoted or hateful have argued against it.  It’s actually something both sides of the political spectrum believe is important, for completely opposite reasons: natural law.  

Broadly speaking, the Left sees natural law as an enemy to be defeated, a primitive force to be overcome through political will, while the Right believes it should be respected and guide the shape of government, especially at the inescapable federal level.

It’s not necessary to be religious to understand natural law, although Huckabee quoted a famous expression framing it in such terms: “the laws of Nature and Nature’s God.”  It’s the “nature” part you need to accept, specifically human nature, along with a higher authority than temporal government. You would think reverence for Nature would come easily to the modern liberal, given the fetish for environmentalism, but in fact liberal “environmentalism” is premised on the absolute supremacy of human will and politics over nature – the Earth is so fragile that if you don’t obey the correct political leaders, you’ll kill it.

To put it simply, there are things the vast majority human beings are naturally inclined to do, and to avoid. There are natural behaviors which are conducive to healthy individual life, and to a healthy society. An advanced and tolerant society makes plenty of room for those who reject these norms, provided they aren’t hurting anyone else. However, the burden of governance should follow the contours of natural law as much as possible. Compelling the majority of people to act against natural law requires an enormous amount of compulsive force, while it doesn’t take much force to encourage them to do what people are naturally inclined to do.

Now, that might sound simple enough in theory, but centuries of heavy philosophical artillery have been exchanged between parties warring over what constitutes natural law, and whether human nature can (and should) be changed by coercive force. Don’t force normal people to do weird stuff is the fortune-cookie version of the idea, but its ramifications fill endless volumes of scholarly debate.

Don’t force harmlessly weird people to act normal is also an important ideal. Plenty of oppression has been unleashed by those who forget that part.

Marriage between men and women comports with natural law, and it has little to do with anyone’s religious or ideological opinion about certain sexual practices. The reason is that male-female sexual relationships are essential to the very survival of the human race, at least for the time being. There’s no getting around it. There’s no way to elevate any other form of sexual partnership to the same level of sheer biological importance. That doesn’t mean the other kinds are no good, any more than the essential importance of water renders other beverages without value.

There’s more to this than child birth, of course. There’s child rearing, and here again, there is simply no logical substitute for the male-female partnership. Again, that doesn’t mean other kinds are bad or should be stamped out or denigrated. But it is the natural and healthy tendency of most men and women to seek each other out and engage in reproductive behavior (often disabling the reproductive conclusion with modern technology, of course.) It is naturally healthy for society that large numbers of men and women have children and remain in stable, monogamous relationships to raise them. The whole enterprise of society disintegrates if a huge number of men and women do not behave in this way. The exact percentage of the population that needs to marry and raise children for societal health is a matter of debate, but it’s pretty high, and in some communities, the threshold is obviously not being met, with disastrous results.

That’s where so much of the Supreme Court’s gay-marriage decision unravels: it is obviously untrue, to the point of absolute lunacy, to say the government has no interest in promoting traditional marriage. Whether this can be done while also legalizing gay marriage is highly debatable, because it’s hard to see what instruments society has left to encourage traditional marriage if it can no longer even be spoken of as a unique institution.

Maybe natural law will save us there. A common argument of same-sex marriage advocates is that it won’t harm traditional marriage, because after all, there aren’t that many same-sex couples. We’re talking about a very small percentage of the population. There’s a lot of controversy now, in the early days of same-sex marriage, but give it a little time, and it will subside to the vanishing point, leaving us with – what? Five marriages out of a hundred conducted with two brides or two grooms? Just relax and forget about it.

The problem with that prediction should already have been made clear by the bitter skirmishes in the final years of the marriage war: bakers destroyed for refusing to bake cakes, pizzeria owners ruined for hypothetically refusing to cater weddings, religious institutions coming under assault for refusing to participate. It might be possible for the contours of healthy society to return, if gay marriage advocates collect their victory, show respect for the sincere believes of those who disagree, and let everyone get on with their lives. That’s not going to happen.

And one of the reasons brings us back to the fundamental disagreement about natural law between Left and Right. It takes enormous compulsive force to make people accept a legal regime contrary to human nature, and that’s a feature to the Left, not a bug. There is vast power to be harvested from interfering in private lives, assaulting private institutions, attacking and marginalizing ordinary people, and passing laws that compel them to live in a way contrary to their instinctive understanding of what society requires. Gay marriage is hardly the first time this has been done, but considering the importance of both religion and the family unit to independence, it might prove to be one of the most consequential.

Yes, religion is important to independence.

The State is a jealous God that tolerates no other; belief in an authority higher than the State sparks resistance. Religious communities are communities, and their members tend to have direct contact with social and moral issues, such as charity, that the State wants to take from them. Religion inspires respect for things which are very important to the health of a proud and independent people, including marriage. All of those benefits can be obtained without attending a church or temple, and of course religious communities can go wrong, but looking at a population of millions, it’s clear that religious teachings support individual dignity and independence. That is why all of the great Western revolutionary movements, most definitely including the civil rights movement in America, have invoked religion.

So, are we going to destroy religious liberty in the United States to support same-sex marriage? At this point, with the Supreme Court’s decision in hand, that’s entirely up to same-sex marriage supporters. They will decide whether this leads to social harmony or continued strife, whether the immense surge of compulsive force deployed in this decision – nine robed justices, and really one swing justice when you get down to it, redefining the institution of marriage for millions – will abate now that the deed is done, or snowball into even greater exertions of force. I know which way the opportunistic social engineers of the Left want it to go. Time for sincere, well-meaning gay marriage supporters to prove their mettle by throwing the engineers off this train, because it has reached the destination they wanted, and they swore they never intended to take it any further.