Attempting To Re-Define..............

John A. Quayle blueoval at SGI.NET
Wed Apr 16 05:53:36 MDT 2003

[Another attempt to secure complete societal breakdown:]

By Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe

March 9, 2003


     During the oral argument in Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health, the
Massachusetts lawsuit aimed at legalizing same-sex marriage, it was Justice
Martha Sosman of the state's Supreme Judicial Court who put her finger on
the crux of the case.

     "Could it not also be framed," she asked Mary Bonauto, the lawyer for
the gay and lesbian plaintiffs, that "you're seeking to change the
definition of what the institution of marriage is?"  After all there have
been right-to-marry cases before, involving (for example) interracial
couples, prison inmates, or the mentally retarded.  But, Sosman noted, they
"have not changed . . . the historical fundamental definition of what the
institution is."

     That's it in a nutshell.  The plaintiffs are not asking for the right
to marry, for each of them has exactly the same marriage rights as every
other Massachusetts adult.  What they really seek is to alter the legal
definition of "marriage" so it encompasses something it has never
encompassed before: same-sex unions.

     Has the time for that alteration arrived?  A case for it can certainly
be made.  After all, family law has changed profoundly in recent decades --
think of no-fault divorce, adoption by same-sex couples, or the expanded
rights of single parents -- and it has become almost a mainstream opinion
that the meaning of marriage should change with it.  A forthright call for
amending the marriage statutes so that men can marry men and women can
marry women would be received sympathetically by a great many people.

     But advocates of same-sex marriage who have embarked on a litigation
strategy would rather not be forthright.  To Sosman's observation that the
plaintiffs' real goal is to change the definition of marriage, Bonauto
replied, "I would respectfully disagree, your honor."  She had no
choice.  To agree would have been to concede that her clients were before
the wrong branch of government: It is the job of the Legislature, not the
courts, to configure the structures of state law.

     To agree would have been to concede something else, too -- something
even more damaging to the plaintiffs' case: The changes wouldn't stop with
same-sex couples.

     There are three core elements to a legal marriage: It must be a union
of (1) two people (2) of the opposite sex (3) who are not related.  The
Goodridge plaintiffs are asking the SJC to strike No.  2 -- to rule that
denying a couple a marriage license because they are both men or both women
is to violate their civil rights.  "Because marriage is so centrally about
an individual's love and commitment," their brief argues, "it is embraced
within the sphere of privacy and self-determination protected by the
liberty and due process clauses of the Massachusetets Constitution."

     But if Core Element No. 2 can be struck down for that reason, so can
No. 1 and No. 3.  If the state has no right to deny a marriage license to
would-be spouses of the same sex, on what reasonable grounds could it deny
a marriage to would-be spouses from the same family?  Or to would-be
spouses who happen to number three or four instead of two?

     Again it was Sosman who pointed out the obvious.  If the ban on
same-sex marriage is an unconstitutional restriction, she asked, why not
the ban on polygamy?  "What would the difference be?  These are . . .
consenting adults, saying this is the relationship we want."

     Bonauto's answer was telling: She said that neither the Legislature
nor the SJC had ever suggested that a marriage could comprise more than two
people.  The justices were kind enough not to point out that until fairly
recently, no one had ever suggested that a marriage could comprise people
of the same sex, either.  But the implication of her words was
unmistakable: Should the day come when demands for legalized polygamy (or
polyandry) are heard, they would have to be taken seriously.

     Other supporters of same-sex marriage imply the same thing.  "To the
best of my knowledge," writes Andrew Sullivan, one of the movement's most
articulate proponents, "there is no polygamists' rights organization poised
to exploit same-sex marriage to return the republic to polygamous
abandon."  Behind the tone of ridicule is an evasion: We don't have to talk
about legalizing multispouse marriages, Sullivan is saying, because no one
is making an issue of it.  But you don't have to look very far to find
advocates who are poised to do just that.  Type the word "polyamory" into a
search engine and see where it leads you.  Or look up the ACLU's position
on "plural marriage."

     Is same-sex marriage a good idea?  I think it is quite a bad idea, but
I understand the arguments in its favor.  And I can sympathize with
committed gay and lesbian couples who want to change the definition of
marriage in order to partake of its benefits.

     But sometimes change destroys.  No structure can stand for long when
its bearing wall is removed.  The bearing wall of marriage -- its central
and universal defining characteristic -- is its heterosexuality.  Knock
that down, and what is left will become a ruin.

(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe.)

## --

To subscribe to (or unsubscribe from) Jeff Jacoby's mailing list, please
visit <> .  To see a
month's worth of his recent columns, go to

Jeff Jacoby welcomes comments and reads all his mail.  Unfortunately, he
receives so many letters that he cannot answer each one personally.

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
-------------- next part --------------

Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
Checked by AVG anti-virus system (
Version: 6.0.467 / Virus Database: 266 - Release Date: 4/1/2003

More information about the Rushtalk mailing list