Maintaining a Light Hand Now to Avoid a Heavy Hand Later
Before the paragraph devolves into raving, commenter Greg asks a valid question worthy of an answer:
How can we be for a small, non-intrusive government when we tell people that we won’t acknowledge their relationships because they don’t insert Tab A into Slot B like the rest of us do? And what does it matter to the fabric of society? Except creating a new excluded class. What’s the matter? We didn’t learn from the lessons of the Civil Rights movement? We aren’t tired enough of being tarred as ‘racist’ now we have to be ‘anti-gay’, too? Hell, let’s just take back the right to vote from the women while we’re at it!
A supra-issue strategic principle for conservatives is that it is more effective, more moral, and more in line with individual liberty to offload as many of the cultural controls that are necessary for a healthy society to other mechanisms and institutions than government. Just so, the culture of marriage has been leveraged to ensure that those children born of men and women’s natural interactions are raised in the healthiest possible environment and that families develop into organic chains of support. Undermining the link between parenthood and marriage — whereby couples planning to have children get married and couples having sex understand that pregnancy comes with a unified set of responsibilities within a marital household — will increase the intimacy with which the public is compelled to become involved in individual lives. Think of the development of nannyism in the schools, from detailed sex-ed and lifestyle exploration to in-school counseling and self-esteem peddling. Think of court-determined custody and visitation rights and the financial scrutiny involved in child support. Think of the whole collection of social programs needed, in part, to compensate for the worse than average delinquencies of the bastard class. (It’s relevant to note a reference that I heard on NPR yesterday morning to the “marriage gap” between wealthier families that build stable households and poorer families that are more prone to out-of-wedlock births and divorces.)
Some readers are likely thinking, in accord with arguments made in the past, that, whatever the history of marriage, it is no longer a fundamentally procreative institution, making it unfair to exclude homosexuals. Apart from the simple consideration that, in practice, marriage certainly is still a fundamentally procreative institution, the fact of a cultural drift into detrimental habits does not suggest that we should cut off the possibility of recovery. To write the opposite-sex nature of marriage — and therefore its procreative essence — out of the law would likely push us further from a usable non-governmental shaper of culture and would certainly hinder us in reconstituting a social order in which the government needn’t be an absent, but never silent, member of every family.