The Wheatley Institution

What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense

Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson, and Robert P. George
April 10, 2013

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Thanks very much for the introduction, and thanks very much to everyone for coming, this is a very wonderful and gratifying turn out. We are looking forward today to discussing the issue of marriage: what it is as a human good and why the state should be involved in it at all, and then what the harms of redefining marriage in our law are. And I just, before I say my own part in that schpeel, I want to say a brief word about the kind of argument we are making. Very often, you hear arguments, or at least you hear the caricature of the argument for the vision of marriage as a man and a women as won simply from history. It has always been that way so it always should be that way. That is not the kind of argument we are making today. We are not making one for moral condemnation of same sex relationships either, we think there is a prior question to that of what marriage is that would be the same kind of argument and would have the same kind of answer whether the challenge to marriage law today were about same sex relationships or bout some other deviation of the understanding of marriage that we are going to defend. It is also not a religious argument. The reason for that is not some secret strategy, it is not simply practical idea that if we sue religious arguments they wouldn’t be effective though certainly in some contexts they are not as effective as other forms of argument. But because we think there is a pre-theological truth here, or to put I in a different way, that the technological truths about marriage that are common not just to the Christian tradition but to the Jewish and Muslim traditions and to various, in some eastern understandings, and even to some non-religious, non-theistic philosophy, reflect something about the human good. In other words that the reason that God teaches what God has taught, if these traditions are right, is that it reflects the truth about human nature and what makes people live and be well. And that there is even a theological reason to get into those non-theological reasons about marriage. It shows you the wisdom of this law and that it is not just a capricious or despotic sort of decree and it gives you deeper appreciation for living by them. So, that is just a general framing of what kind of argument we are going to make. Usually, this debate seems like it is settled by a very different framing which is the framing of it as a matter of equality, simply speaking. Marriage is a good thing, the proposal today is to expand the pool of people eligible to marry, and if you’re just faced with a good thing that more people want, equality says you give it to them. In fact, you give it to them on an equal basis. That framing of the issue seems to settle the debate in the other direction. I think it makes it hard for people with good instincts on the issue to articulate a reasoned defense of understanding marriage and enshrining marriage in the law as the union of a man and a woman. One of the main things we want to get across today is that this is the wrong framing. That is a deep misunderstanding of what the debate is about. It is not about equality. Everybody in the debate believes in human equality and everybody in the debate believes that marriage, whatever it is, should be recognized on an equal basis. What we disagree about is what marriage is. What we disagree about is when it is a marital relationship that might be going unrecognized under some particular scheme, and when it is not being recognized as something else entirely, which is not just fair to include as a marriage, but which it’s harmful to include as a marriage if there is some social and public value to figuring out what marriage is and teaching that by the law at all. So what the debate is really about is a competition between two views of that issue of two visions of what marriage is. And the vision to redefine marriage today. Marriage mainly is a form of emotional union or companionship. What makes a marriage different from other forms of friendship on this view, is its degree of emotional union or intensity or priority. After all, that is what would separate two men who live together and are in love and want to commit to each other and can get a marriage license in New York from two brothers who are committed to sharing the burdens and benefits of common life and to living together indefinitely but don’t have that romantic element, and can’t therefore get a marriage license in New York to take just one example. What makes them different is a certain kind of emotional companionship or romantic or domestic partnership. That’s the vision of marriage on offer. And one thing we argue in the book and that I think we can argue today again on terms accessible to everybody is that that vision of marriage must get marriage wrong. The way you can see that is that it can’t explain other features of marriage that people on both sides of the debate still acknowledge. Take a simple example. The idea that to get off the ground at all, marriage has to be pledged to permanence. That idea makes no sense as anything but an arbitrary restriction and old hang-up, just a tradition, if what makes marriages this emotional union. As long as the emotional union is there you have a marriage but as soon as that’s gone and it’s not something you have direct control over then so is the marriage, it has reverted to a friendship. We shouldn’t pledge permanence as opposed to say that we should be together for as long as that emotional union lasts or as long as love lasts, as some people have changed their vows to be. The idea of permanence makes no sense. Sexual exclusivity. If what really makes a marriage is emotional union or intensity or priority, then maybe for some people based on temperance and taste, exclusivity will serve and foster it and for some it won’t. For some people their own understanding would do the opposite and sexual openness in the relationship and agreement not to be sexually exclusive would actually foster the emotional union that is what really makes the marriage on this view. So that too becomes arbitrary, permanence and exclusivity. But even monogamy, the idea that marriage is inherently a relationship of two people, that group unions can’t make a marriage makes no sense if what makes a marriage is a certain shared emotional union plus domestic life, well three men can have that just as well as two men, or a man and woman. They have can emotional union, they can find most personal fulfillment in the group bond, they can want that to have the same equal social status and dignity, they can want their children reared in this kind of relationship not to be stigmatized, they can want the same tax breaks that are given to monogamy. So permanence, exclusivity, monogamy, even the idea that marriage is a sexual relationship at all, ultimately makes no sense on this view. Cause this view says that what makes marriage different is the degree of intensity of emotional union. It would be pretty arbitrary to say that the only way you can have that is in a sexual relationship, that the platonic bond of two sisters who love each other deeply, who commit to a common life, who have a common stock of memories and sympathies that comes from sharing a home would have something radically different, if all that sex is contributing in the other relationship is just emotional union. That is all that the value of sex has on this vision, this alternative vision of marriage. In other words, everything that makes marriage different from deep friendship, from companionship in general, the idea that it is between two, that it has to be pledged to permanence or exclusivity, even that it is a sexual union makes no sense on this vision of marriage. So the vision of marriage must be incorrect, and incorrect ton both sides. This is not just something that conservatives are saying. This is not just something that proponents of the conjugal, what we have called the conjugal understanding of marriage say. Increasingly it is something that is being admitted by the leading proponents of redefining marriage. To give just one example, there is a statement called “Beyond Marriage,” that is signed by over 300 LGBT and Allied scholars and activists, main stream people like Judith Stacey who Ryan is going to debate at NYU, like Cornell West, a colleague and friend of Professor George’s who say “yeah, absolutely, sexual complementarity is arbitrary, it is a hang up, it is just a tradition, but so is permanence, exclusivity, monogamy and the presumption of sex, so we should recognize as marriage or the legal equivalent, not just same sex relationships but deliberately temporary relationships, multiple partner relationships, multiple household relationships, and ultimately non-sexual ones.” In other words, they and we agree that in this new vision of marriage, sexual complementarity and everything else that makes marriage different will rise and fall together, and we just disagree on whether they should rise or fall.

The next thin you might ask is, “ok, if that’s wrong, if it can’t just be emotional union, if that collapses marriage into companionship, what is the alternative? Maybe these are just arbitrary restrictions, or they’re not arbitrary but the only way we can know them, or give them coherent unity is from revelation. But if it weren’t for that revelation they wouldn’t have a unity.” But we think that isn’t correct. We think revelation is tracking a human good here. And the way we capture that human good is by the unifying ide aof comprehensive union. In other words we ask what it is that makes any form of union or community at all, we think it is always common action. It is activity towards common ends in the context of a commitment. And it each of those three ways, the unifying activity, the unifying common ends, and the unifying commitment, the community that makes a marriage is comprehensive and that this is an idea that is reflected not just in the religious tradition. So let’s take the first thing, the unifying activity. In other forms of friendship, in other forms of companionship, people are united in heart and mind. They come to know and seek the other person’s good. Only in marriage is union comprehensive, does it include the whole of the other person, of the beloved. That is what romantic desire seeks and it finds it fulfillment in the comprehensive union of marriage. But what is comprehensive union in that sense? Your person includes your body. The body is a real part of the person. And for that reason, any union that didn’t include bodily union wouldn’t be comprehensive. And what is bodily union? You can look at the genesis idea of one flesh union as a very deep, profound abbreviation of this concept. What makes the parts of a single person one flesh? My heart, my lungs, and so on? It is that they are actively coordinated together towards a single end that encompasses them all, which is my biological life. The remarkable thing about being a human being, in fact the remarkable thing about being a mammal, is that that deep kind of bodily union, active coordination toward a single end that encompasses them all is possible between two people but just in one respect, with respect to reproduction. It is what the law as well as the church has called the marital act, the act that seals or completes a marriage that a man or a woman become in their bodies actively coordinated toward a single end that reproduction of them as a couple. So they become in that respect truly, and not just metaphorically, one flesh. Comprehensive union in the activity. Comprehensive union in respect to the goods that it’s ordered around. You have different communities ordered around different goods. The community that you constitute here is ordered around the good of knowledge and so it is going to abide by the norms that are required for that, open disclosure, academic integrity, and so on. But the relationship of marriage is not just ordered toward this or that good but toward the whole range of goods that come about in domestic life. Why is that? Well, the very act that makes marital love on this view is also the act that makes new life, new human beings, new participants in every aspect of the good, new people who have to be developed not just in respect to their intellectual abilities but in terms of recreation, and physical health, and so on. And so marriage itself, the relationship that is embodied by that act ordered to new life is as a community, ordered to, or deepened, or enriched by the bearing and rearing of whole new human beings and therefore to the whole wide sharing of domestic life that is required for bringing those new human beings to maturity. S it is comprehensive in the dimensions that the partners united including the body, through that bodily union, it is oriented to or enriched by procreation and therefore all the range of goods, and it is also comprehensive in the commitment that it requires because of those two senses of completeness. If it is really making them one flesh in the marital act and one flesh in the new life that they can bring about together, then it also calls for a comprehensiveness of commitment. And through time that means permanence and at each time that means exclusivity. So here is a view of marriage that makes sense of the idea that it is two, that it’s permanent, that it’s exclusive, that it’s a sexual union, that it has some connection to family life and to the wide sharing of goods, and therefore as Ryan will tell us, to the common good as something that the whole community will take an interest in. It can explain them without appealing to any specific revelation but with magnificent reflection and summary in key concept of revelation like one flesh union, concepts that Aristotle and Socrates and Xenophanes and Masonius, Rufus and Plutarch saw just as well as Moses or Saint Paul. And it is that vision of marriage which we find across time and place for millennia. Basicall in every society that we know of before the year 2000 that’s being challenged today. Not challenged with an expansion, not challenged with the true principle of equality, but challenged with a contender, a different and much watered down vision of marriage that collapses marriage and companionship, that abolishes marriage as its own category at all.


Well thank you and thank you for coming. I’m going to speak about the policy implications of what Sherif just said. So you could be smiling and nodding along with everything Sherif just said and then reach the conclusion of who cares? Why does it matter? Why is this something worth advocating for in the public square, why is the government involved in marriage? What is the pay-off of this? So I want to begin by considering when government redefined marriage for the second time. And if you want to know when they redefined marriage for the first time, you’ll want to ask during the Q&A so this is something of baiting you for that. But the second time government redefined marriage was in the introduction of no-fault divorce. The expectation of marriage prior to the introduction of no-fault divorce was that marriage was a permanent relationship that could be gotten out of only for grave reasons, which by the common law tradition were listed by the three A’s of abuse, abandonment, and adultery. With the introduction of no-fault divorce laws, spouses could leave, abandon their spouses for any reason or no reason at all. This taught something, the law now taught that marriage needed have that expectation of permanency that Sherif talked about. And what we saw was that the law taught, then taught culture, culture shaped beliefs, and beliefs then influenced action. We saw that divorce rates rose from the single digits to now approaching 50%. In the first marriage movement, the activists who organized in the 80’s and 90’s to try to combat the introduction of no-fault divorce laws and the host of social ills that came with this, had same-sex relationships nowhere on their radar screen. It had nothing to do with anti-gay animus or homophobia or anything like that. What they were motivated by was a vision of marriage, the vision of marriage that Sherif just sketched and the social goods that that institution provides, how it impacts the common good. In particular, they were interested in combating the social harms that were the result of the law teaching a false image of what marriage is and then heterosexuals acting on the basis of bad liberal ideology were causing to the American family, in terms of broken hearts, in broken homes, and in terms of all the social ills that came with increased single-parenting and non-marital childbearing and cohabitation and divorce, sometimes with and sometimes without remarriage. This is what Maggie Gallagher and David Blankenhorn, and the first generation of marriage activists were working on throughout the 80’s and the 90’s when they wrote books like “Fatherless America: confronting America’s most Urgent Social Problem.” And so it was in 2003 that the Massachusetts supreme court so now for the third time in the nation’s history by eliminating the norm of sexual complementarity. They said it was arbitrary to have marriage law with the exception that marriage was a union between a man and a woman. And these activists and these scholars had to ask themselves “will redefining marriage to make fathers optional send the message that fathers are essential? That is what we just spent the past 20 years of our lives advocating, writing books in the 80s and 90s about the importance of fathers and now the law is going to be teaching that that view is arbitrary, the result of nothing but irrational animus.” And that is when they said that we now have to be involved in this second generation of the marriage movement, explaining not only why marriage matters and why it is important but explaining what marriage is in the first place. And that’s how this bled into this second generation of marriage with leaders like Maggie Gallagher and Robbie George. And that raises the question, what social function does marriage play? Sherif gave an explanation on ontological, metaphysical, philosophical account of what marriage is. We can also ask, what does marriage do for a political community? What does marriage do for our society? In this sense we can say that marriage exists to bring a man and woman together as husband and wife to then be mother and father to any children their union produces. Marriage is about connecting goods and people that otherwise have a natural tendency to fragment. It connects sex with love, husbands with wives, sex with babies, babies with mothers and fathers. That this bundle of goods, this bundle of people doesn’t come together in a permanent and exclusive relationship just by happenstance. Ti takes strong cultural signals to make it happen and the law with either strengthen those cultural signals or weaken those cultural signals. The introduction of no-fault divorce laws weakened those cultural signals. And we argue in the book and in our other writings that the introduction of genderless marriage the redefinition of marriage exclude sexual complementarity will only go further to weaken those cultural signals. Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are different and complementary based on the biological fact that it takes a man and woman to produce a child and it is based on the social reality that children need a mother and a father. And you can ask yourself this question. when a child is born, a mother will always be close by. That is a matter of biological fact. The question then, will a father be close by? And if so, for how long? And one of the things that a marriage institution does, is it maximizes the chance that the father will be committed to that mother and the committed mother and father will be taking responsibility for the child. Part of this is based on the truth that there is not such thing as parenting in the abstract. There is mothering and there is fathering. That moms and dads bring different complementary gifts to the child-raising enterprise, and one thing that is particularly important is the role that fathers play in the lives of their sons. If you want to ask yourself a question, which parent is more likely to be wrestling on the living room floor with the son, teaching the son how to be masculine without being violent, how be physical without biting, or pulling hair, or gouging out eyes. In very few cases are you thinking of the mother right now. You’re thinking of the father for a reason because the sexual differences between men and women are real, they are not social constructs, and in particular, when this doesn’t happen we’ve seen, again, on average, for the most part, that is how social science works, but this is when boys fail to develop into law-abiding, productive members of society that we call men. This is when we saw the rise of crime for children who grew up without fathers. This is when we saw the rise of poverty and the increase in the prison population for children who grew up without fathers. So what marriage does as a social institution and the social function it performs is maximizing the chance of protecting the child’s right to having the love and the care of the man and the woman, the mother and the father who created the child. We cite various stats in the book that I won’t bore you with, but as far as how a child’s development can actually be quantified when compared to other parenting arrangements, the social science we have has looked as single parenting, cohabitation, divorce and remarriage, and it is starting to look at same-sex parenting, and the conclusions are rather clear that children do best when they are raised by their married mother and father on a host of indexes even to such an extent that President Obama himself back before he evolved on the question of same-sex marriage gave a speech on fatherhood and he said, “we know the statistics, that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to grow up in poverty and commit crime, nine times more likely to drop out of schools, twenty times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems or run away from home or become teenage parents themselves and the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.” That is what President Obama said in 2008 and that seems in direct tension with what he said in 2012 when he evolved on the marriage question. Given the social function that marriage plays, it can explain why government takes cognizance of marriage in the first place. The state doesn’t need to be in the marriage business if marriage is just about my romantic life. If marriage is just about the love-life between consenting adults, we can take the government out of the bedroom. The reason government is in the marriage business is because it is the least coercive, least intrusive way of ensuring that children are reared to maturity to be law-abiding, productive members of society. That when this doesn’t happen, when the man and the woman who created the child don’t commit to each other and then take responsibility for those children, that is when the state grows, that is when we saw the welfare state explode in our nation. The correlation between when the family collapsed and the welfare state exploded is direct. It is also when the saw child poverty rise in our nation, when we saw social mobility decrease, when we saw crime increase, when we saw our prison populations increase. That the marital family, the civil society institution, limits government and it protects a flourishing community by doing the job of raising citizens, raising children, much better than the government program, a midnight basketball program, an afterschool lunch program, anything like this, anything that’s being proposed to pick up the pieces of a shattered marriage culture can do. And it does all this without criminalizing anything. So in all 50 states, two people of the same sex can live with each other, and love each other, they can join a liberal church and have a wedding ceremony performed, they can work for an employer who will give them martial benefits. None of this is illegal, none of this is banned. The question before the supreme court right now is whether or not government will redefine what marriage is and then use the coercive power of the state to force every citizen and every religious community and every business to view a same-sex relationship as the same thing as a marriage. So the rhetoric you hear from the libertarians of live and let live actually works in the exact opposite direction. The state can let citizens live and let live without redefining margay and that is what it is doing. But it has an interest in the marital relationship because this is the relationship that can connect children with their mothers and their fathers.

Last thing I’ll say is what would be some of the harms if we were to redefine marriage right now? I think the first thing to say is that the concern here is not about a small handful of gay or lesbian relationships that will be raising children. That is not the primary concern. The primary concern follows directly from what Sherif talked about—which vision of marriage will be promoted through our nation’s laws? Will it be a vision of marriage in which marriage is more about your number one person, the language of John Corvino, one of the philosophers that we debate in our book, where it is about your intense emotional union. If that is what marriage is, then it seems it will further delink the marital relationship from a childbearing and childrearing institution. It will make marriage more about the desires of adults than about the needs of children. There will be no institution left in the law that would even hold up as an ideal that a child deserves a mother and a father. And in fact to say that would now be equated through the force of the law with legal bigotry. So it is not surprising there are profound religious liberty implications for redefining marriage. We have already seen in the state of Massachusetts, the state of Illinois and the district of Columbia, that Christian adoption agencies have been shut down who wanted to find homes for orphans with married mothers and fathers. The law told them that was an act of discrimination, that they were discriminating against same sex couples. And that even religious liberty protections weren’t sufficient for this. That the non-discrimination and the rights of LGBT couples trumped religious liberty rights. And it had nothing to do with government funding either. What was at stake here was simply the license to run an adoption agency. It is illegal to run an agency without a license, and the state of Massachusetts, Illinois, and the District of Columbia said we will not grant you the adoption license unless you place children with same-sex couples on an equal footing with opposite sex couples. And again, there will be no public institution, no civic institution left to teach that message. But I think the deepest concern is that the logic that Sherif spelled out, once you eliminate the norm of sexual complementarity, the other three traditional marital norms, monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and the pledge of permanency become arbitrary. And so you see the activists activating, agitating in favor of plural marriages—marriages between groups of three or four or more. Sexually open marriages because again, if sex is about an intense emotional union, sometimes that emotional relationship of the spouses can be enhanced, the argument goes, by having extra-marital sexual outlets. The New York Times ran an article about this, interviewing Dan Savage, an advice columnist. And then lastly the pledge of permanence. One of the proposals that is coming from the legal academies is to make marriage a temporary relationship, like a car lease, that can then be renewed if it is going well. So the expectation is that temporary may be a five year relationship that can be indefinitely renewed but can also just be walked away from after five years if it is not going well, rather than having it be an expectation of permanency. And this will logically follow, we think, once you understand marriage as just an intense emotional relationship. But regardless of what your moral evaluation is of plural marriage or sexually open marriage or temporary marriage, it will be a disaster for the public policy purposes that we as a political society need marriage to serve. Sexually open, sexually plural, temporary relationships between people of the same sex don’t have the type of externalities that those relationships have when engaged in by a man and a women. The more sexual partners I have, the more sexually open my relationships are, the more transient and temporary my relationships are, the more likely I create fragmented families and fatherless children. The state’s interest in channeling my behavior in to a committed, exclusive, permanent relationship that can provide children with a mother and a father is directly undercut with the vision of marriage that the law will not be promoting. Teaching that it is arbitrary whether you have a monogamous or polyamorous relationship, whether you have sexually exclusive or sexually open, whether you have a permanent, or temporary relationship, that it is all just a matter of lifestyle choice and that that is the consequence that I think in particular has the most dire warnings because already see a lot of people living out that ideology. That was the ideology that the sexual revolution brought to fore, and we don’t want the law to now teach that that vision of human sexuality, that vision of marriage is the true vision. So with that, I’ll stop, Professor George will make a few remarks, and then we will take questions.


Marriage: what an interesting idea. What a great idea! What a profound human good! A good so profound, one might even think that some divine being must have thought the thing up. That it is more than merely human. Of course, it is a human reality, a human good, a human institution, one that we believe, my brilliant coauthors Sherif and Ryan believe as I do, is pre-political, is prior to the state, and even prior to the church. We find this in Genesis in those passages that Sherif quoted, beautiful passages, not merely metaphorical, mind you. Passages that are meant literally—that the man and woman shall leave their home and cleave to each other and become truly one flesh.

Consider this: if human beings did not reproduce sexually, by man and woman coming together to create a baby, would anybody have thought up the idea of marriage? No. If human babies, we have real cute beautiful baby back there, I love it, this is my kind of place, you know what the odds are of me seeing a baby in a Princeton classroom, Harvard classroom? But consider that if human babies were born like some shark species where offspring are born ready to go, ready to rumble, just take off and not need Mom and Dad anymore, would anybody have thought up the idea of marriage? The question answers itself, but it immediately begins to tell you something very important about what marriage is, about the nature of marriage, about the basis of marriage as a human good and a human institution. Marriage really does have something to do with procreation and with childrearing. As Ryan beautifully put it, bringing a man and a woman together as husband and wife to be mother and father to any children that their union is blessed with. Conferring on those children the profound blessing of being reared in the bond of mother and father, their very own parents, in a family which is itself part of a larger family because they have parents and grandparents and they have siblings and cousins and so forth. Marriage is that institution that unites man and woman as mother and father, as husband and wife, to be mother and father of the children born of their union, giving those children the blessing of being reared with a mom and a dad, each making the characteristic and distinctive contributions that men and women make to the enterprise of childrearing.

Now, I want to reinforce something terribly important that Sherif said. It is a widespread error to suppose that this is a debate based on agreement about what marriage is and only disagreement about who’s allowed to participate in the institution. This is the error that virtually suffuses discussion of marriage in the current context and which our book, What is Marriage?, was written and titled to combat and we hope to refute, because it is a false depiction of the debate. On that false depiction, the way to approach it would simply be to ask, “Does equality require and if you have same-sex couples and opposite sex couples they seem to be different except for sex, we are not allowed to discriminate based on sex, bingo, it’s over. Why didn’t somebody think of that 5,000 years ago? Why did it take us so long?” The truth is that the debate is about what marriage is, not what does the equality require, we all agree on the principle of human equality, the equal worth and dignity of every human being. I only wish my liberal friends really believed it when it came, for example, to the child in the womb or the frail elderly person to be subjected to euthanasia or what have you, but lay that aside. We all agree on the profound and inherent dignity of each and every member of the human family, regardless of what experiences of inclinations a person has when it comes to sexuality. We Christians would say “because made in the image and likeness of God, we are bound to recognize the equal dignity of each human being.” But the question is what is marriage?

We will not get one centimeter closer to resolving this issue, or close to saying what equality or fairness requires, unless we answer that question “what is marriage?” and here is where there are on offer to you and to your friends and to your generation and to this nation two options. In the book we refer to them as the conjugal understanding of marriage, that is the understanding of marriage as a conjugal partnership, the union of husband and wife, and what we call in the book the revisionist understanding of marriage which depicts marriage as essentially a matter of sexual, romantic companionship or domestic partnership.

On the conjugal view, marriage is distinctive and set apart from other points of friendship because it is the form of relationship that is naturally oriented to the having and rearing of children together and would naturally be fulfilled by having and rearing children together. Now notice how I put that because it is terribly important—would naturally be fulfilled by. This is not a view that supposes that marriage is merely instrumental in its value to procreation and the having and rearing of children as if that were an extrinsic end. Our friends on the other side sometimes depict our view that way, that is false to the actual conjugal view of marriage and that’s because its defenders have always argued that marriage is an intrinsic human good, a basic, irreducible aspect of human well-being, of human thriving, of human fulfillment. It is intrinsically valuable to husband and wife to be in the type of union that is naturally ordered to the coming to be of children and would naturally be fulfilled by having and rearing children together if the union is blessed by children. You can have that and be in that even if the woman is beyond childbearing or conceiving. You can have that if the couple is infertile. That is why historically, our law, not only the law of the church, the law of the state as well, has always recognized the marriages of infertile people as valid marriages. Infertility was not a ground, even for the declaration of an annulment of marriage, even if infertility was known and known to be permanent. By contrast, the law, both church and state, considered that the non-consummation of a marriage by the act that, as Sherif put it, at one and the same time makes marital love and makes new love, the failure of a consummation of marriage was regarded as an impediment or as a ground for the nullification of marriage. Not divorce, rather a declaration that the marriage had not been completed, had not been perfected, and therefore could be dissolved by way of annulment. That’s the conjugal understanding of marriage. On the basis of that marriage [is] an intrinsic human good linked to procreation but not in the relationship of means to extrinsic end we can make sense of all the features of marriage, not only sexual complementarity which today is in dispute, but even those that in the case of most people remain not in dispute: the idea that marriage is a sexual partnership, and not some other kind of partnership. Like the kind of partnership that could just as well be integrated around shared interests and activities like playing tennis together or reading novels, sharing an interest in 18th century literature or what have you. Think of how odd it would be if you met a couple and they say that, “Well, we have a sexually open relationship, sex isn’t want our marriage is about, but we are really strict about tennis playing. For us adultery means Sally plays tennis with somebody other than me, Bill. That’s adultery for us.” Does that sound really odd? It’s laughable right? And that’s because we have an understanding behind that laugh, my friend Hadley Arkes says the comedians are the true philosophers, there is an understanding that is behind that laugh that marriage is a sexual partnership that can be explained on the conjugal view that marriage is a union of two persons and not three or four or more on polyamorous sexual ensembles. Ryan used the phrase plural marriage. Now in an LDS community that’s probably bringing to the minds of many of you polygamy, or more properly, polygamy as practiced for example in the Old Testament or in the early days of the LDS church, but what we have in mind when Ryan speaks of plural marriage is something much more radical than that, even in the days of polygamy each marriage was a conjugal relationship—Henry married to Sally in a marital bond of the conjugal sort, Henry married to Louisa, Henry married to Jill and so forth. The alternative today is far more radical, it is polyamory, the idea that three or four or five persons can be married together in a sexual partnership where they are all married to each other. It is the antithesis of a conjugal bond. The conjugal understanding of marriage can explain why we have the norm of two-ness, why three or four or five people in a polyamorous relationship can’t be a true marriage. As both Sherif and Ryan have explained, the conjugal understanding can make sense of the otherwise inexplicable idea of permanency of marital commitment.

Now, how about the revisionist view? How about the view that treats marriage sexual, romantic domestic partnership or companionship in which children are merely incidental, a life-style choice, you have them if you like them, you don’t if you don’t. That view simply cannot make sense of any of those other features of marriage, not only sexual complementarity, but permanence of commitment, two-ness rather than three or four or more, closed sexual partnerships rather than open sexual partnerships, even the idea that marriage is a sexual partnership at all. The revisionist understanding can simply make no sense of any of that except as subjective preferences or sentiments that a particular couple might happen to have but is of no objective significance, it’s just a preference like any other preference but shouldn’t be imposed on anybody that doesn’t want it and shouldn’t be favored by the stated alternative points of view—polyamory, open marriage and so forth and so on.

So you have got to see and you have got to make your interlocutor see when you are witnessing to the good of marriage that what’s at stake here is not simply sexual complementarity, what’s at stake here is an entire understanding of marriage with all of its norms on the table. Let me reinforce again what Sherif and Ryan both said about our clear-headed and candid friends on the other side making exactly the same point. This is not just Robby George, Sherif Girgis and Ryan Anderson, it is not just the pro-traditional marriage people, it’s also the clear-headed and candid people on the other side saying exactly the same thing. So, if we look at respected figures like Judith Stacey of NYU, Elizabeth Brake at Arizona State University, Dan Savage the syndicated columnist, Victoria Brownworth, we could go on and on with left making this same point. They say “Yes, absolutely, of course it’s true that what we’re after is not simply opening marriage up to more people, we want to fundamentally change the institution by eliminating all of its traditional norms which they regard as regressive and repressive and restricting of the human personality. That’s not a slippery slope argument, I’d be perfectly happy to make a slippery slope argument, I think there is a slippery slope, but notice the nature of the argument we are making here when we agree with Dan Savage, Elizabeth Brake, Judith Stacey, Victoria Brownworth, and all the others. The kind of argument we are making is an argument about the principles that define a reality in an institution as what it is. We are making an argument at the level of principle. The conjugal view can support the principles that define marriage historically. The revisionist view ditches all of those principles.

Question and Answer


So thank you once more for coming and I have a question about what seems to be a kind of an unwillingness by many conservatives to broach the issue of marriage now and instead back away from that so there have been public figures such as Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh who have kind of stepped down from that, and there are figures such as David Blankenhorn who used to be in the first marriage movement and now have stepped away and decided he wants to make allies with those pushing for gay marriage as well. What do you say towards this movement by generally socially conservative people to enshrine what they see as values of marriage but open up the definition, is it just a misunderstanding/ What is going on there?


I want to say, get some backbone. You know what’s right, stand up for what you believe in. The other side’s tactics have been tactics of intimidation and bullying, depicting their opponents as bigots, as haters, and people don’t like that. They have also of course put people’s careers at risk because they have enormous cultural power in the media, in the professions, in academic institutions and so forth, people fear that if they speak out or speak out too much they will be targeted and denigrated and degraded and have their careers impeded. People will be made examples of in the old Stalinist methods, but look: we’re talking about here the basic sell of society. The most fundamental institution of human society on which the welfare of children, of communities, of society as a whole, fundamentally rests. The erosion of the marriage culture did not begin with the discussion of same-sex relations. The demand for the redefinition of marriage is a symptom not a cause of a larger problem that goes back to figures like Margret Sanger and her campaign for birth control and free love, Alfred Kinsey and his phony “sexology,” Hugh Hefner’s mainstreaming of so called “soft-core” pornography, the whole 60’s generation of if it feels good, do it, philosophy of no fault divorce, none of which had anything to do with same-sex anything. But the original marriage movement that I joined as a young guy with the then young Maggie Gallagher and the then young David Blankenhorn was meant to fight against that stuff because we had seen the consequences beginning in inner cities among poor, many times minority communities, then spreading through the country, my native Appalachia profoundly afflicted by it where sexual anarchy, out of wedlock childbearing and fatherlessness led to a parade of social pathologies, destroying the lives of people, wounding relationships, breaking people’s hearts, landing people in crime and violence and incarceration and drug abuse and jail. We knew that the origins of that were in the family break-down. Daniel Patrick Moynihan told us that in 1965 when I was a little boy in his famous report when he was ringing his alarm bell because the out of wedlock birth rate in the black community had reached 25%. He told us what would happen. He was a liberal sociologist from Harvard working for a liberal administration, the Johnson administration, which was designing the Great society. He ran the numbers, he saw the 25% out of wedlock birthrate in the black community, he said, “you know what this means for this community? It means delinquency, despair, drugs, crime, violence, incarceration in a vicious cycle.” When Moynihan issued that report the out of wedlock birthrate in the general population was under 5%. Fast forward to today. Everything Moynihan has said, everything Moynihan predicted came true. You see it, not only in Detroit and Baltimore but in Harling County Kentucky and Logan County West Virginia near where I grew up and around the country. The out of wedlock birthrate in the African American community is over 70%. The out of wedlock birth rate in the general population is over 40%. Moynihan was ringing the alarm when it was 25% in one sub-community. It is 40% now in the overall community. It is 50%, I’m told, in the demographic of women in peak childbearing years between 18-35. This is truly catastrophic, you want to fight poverty, you build the marriage culture. And that’s what we wanted to do, is rebuild the marriage culture. And we were actually making some progress toward that, at least on the academic side, people were beginning to see or at least to publish results that revealed and rebuilding the family was essential, that fathers really were necessary, until the same-sex marriage issue arose. The reason we must prevail on preserving conjugal marriage in our law is not because it’s going to solve our problems, or because it is going to put society back together again, but only because it means we will be able to live to fight the battle that I got into in the 80s to rebuild the marriage culture. Once we’ve officially endorsed the idea of marriage as mere sexual romantic companionship, and undermined the basis of all marital norms, there is simply no going back. And the social costs will continue to be paid not by the affluent and well-educated and well-off, but hugely disproportionately by the poor and the vulnerable, in many cases minorities, who, liberals, who are pushing so hard for same-sex marriage tell us they want to help. I’ll say one final thing on this. Why didn’t our country hear Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1965? Why didn’t we do something then? He told us what was coming. It should have been pretty clear. Why didn’t we care enough about poor people and people who would become poor because of family breakdown? Why didn’t we care about the destruction of the black middle class when Moynihan told us? Well, some people would call it racists, Moynihan, even though he was a liberal, was accused of blaming the victim. A lot of people didn’t want to speak the truth about the consequences of sexual immortality and anarchy because it wasn’t consistent with the way they lived and the way they wanted to live and people lost their backbones, they didn’t stand up, they didn’t want to live right, the result was essentially an abandonment of the poor and vulnerable. They should have had a backbone, people now should have a backbone. I don’t blame people who don’t know what’s right, I blame people who know what’s right and are keeping their mouths shut. You guys can speak for yourselves.

Ryan: sounds good to me.

George: Richard, you have a question?

Richard Williams: I have several question in y head by I think we had better be faithful to them. Let me start with one for Ryan and one for Sherif. This is addressed to Ryan: “Maggie Gallagher explains that marriage is a private promise made in public and by so doing defines a couple’s appropriate behavior to each other but also give cues to society around them as to how to treat them. Will same sex marriage bring more confusion to society as to what is appropriate social norms?”

Ryan: yes. That’s the short answer. The last part of the opening remarks that I gave about the consequences of redefining marriage is that it would further enshrine in our law the vision of marriage that Sherif had sketched out as more about an emotional relationship between consenting adults and less about the needs of children. More about an emotional relationship that lasts as long as the love lasts, not one that will be inherently permanent. Further, it echoes what Professor George said, it will call into question the other norms that have traditionally been associated with marriage: monogamy, exclusivity, and permanency, why they should be expectations of adult married life. That redefining marriage to make male and female arbitrary renders everything else about marriage arbitrary. There is nothing magical about the number two. There is nothing magical about sexual exclusivity or permanency, once you say that the sexual complementarity of spouses and their ability to create children is an arbitrary aspect.

George: Can I just add one thing quickly to that Richard, there are good people, well intentioned people who believe that what will happen if we accept the redefinition of marriage is that will have the good effect of reducing promiscuity, especially in male homosexual subcultures, so that marriage will change behavior, rather than marriage being changed in the process. There is a word that will be familiar to you, but you are going to be hearing it a lot more if either through Supreme Court action or the collapse of resistance among republicans and conservatives lets the redefinition of marriage move forward, there is a word you are going to hear more and more, it is called heteronormativity. Everybody heard that word heteronormativity? You’re going to be hearing that word a lot because suddenly instead of saying, “gee, we need same-sex marriage, we need to redefine marriage in order to have more fidelity in sectors of the culture where you don’t have fidelity,” what you’re going to be hearing is those are heteronormative practices and norms that are being imposed on people it is unjust, it is unfair, it is a violation of equality, now, having on same-sex marriage, we have to overcome heteronormativity so we can live marraiges our way.

Williams: This question was related to “what about the argument that same-sex marriage will reinvigorate the marriage culture,” I think you spoke to that.

Girgis: Yeah, and the other general point to make is it is not, there is nothing magical about the label or about imposing the label on the relationship, such that as soon as you no matter where you impose it, no matter under what conditions, not matter with what expectations it is going to create certain kind of behavior, the reason marriage does matter as a social concept, the way it does work as a kind of encouragement and enforcement, is by embodying a vision and a vision that makes sense of these marital norms.

George: let me encourage everybody because I don’t want you to just take it from us fuddy duddy old, and young, conservatives. Go to the web, some of you may be on the web right now, if you are I want to you to check the price of the stock I bought last week. Go to the web and I want you to find the statement “beyond same-sex marriage,” 300 LGBT activists, allies and scholars, including Kenji Yoshino of Yale, Gloria Steinem, the famous feminist, Barbara Ehrenreich and others making exactly this point. Look up the work of Judith Stacey or Elizabeth Brake, look up Dan Savage, look up Michelangelo Signorile, they see it as clearly as we do, this is no longer being hidden.

Williams: Here is a question, “In this day of relativism, how can one who makes a position based on truth, right, or wrong be taken seriously.”

George: I think that was a question for the people who are redefining marriage who are calling other people bigots and demanding equality and justice and using all these moral concepts and speaking in highly moralistic dudgen.

Williams: “What effect would changing the definition of marriage have on church marriages such as weddings in catholic churches and LDS temples and so forth?”

Girgis: As the first amendment, at least as the Obama administration has understood it, it tells of freedom to worship. The church would be free to perform the sacrament of marriages, of religious marriages, how the church defined that. But as the Obama administration seems to understand the first amendment of religious liberty, that’s about as far as it would extend to protect religious Americans. So it wouldn’t extend to your adoption agencies, it wouldn’t extend to any businesses that you run, right now a florist is being sued for not providing flowers for a same-sex wedding, a photographer is being sued for not photographing a same-sex wedding, innkeepers have been sued for now renting out their bed and breakfasts for same sex honeymoons. Knights of Columbus have been sued for now allowing their hall to be use for a reception for a same sex wedding. If you run a business and you only wan tto provide marriage benefits to traditionally understood married employees, male and female, you would also see the law coming against you. So the religious liberty protections should protect mor than just the freedom to worship, but the way we have seen them applied in this administration, and if you want to think to the parallel, just look at what’s happening right now with healthcare. Look at how the Obama administration understands religious liberty protections when it comes to mandatory coverage for pills that can induce abortions, contraceptions, and sterilizations. You have the freedom to worship, but if you’re going to be faithful in the public square, you have to leave your religion at home. That is how the people who are pushing to redefine marriage also understand what religious liberty entails. So a priest or a minister would never have to marry a same-sex couple on this understanding, but that’s about the only religious liberty that would be protected.

George: Yeah, we’ve seen in other jurisdictions for example in Northern Europe, in Canada, prohibitions of speech where ministers have been called before human rights commissions or subjected to prosecution simply for preaching from Leviticus for example. I don’t expect that here we have a more robust tradition of respect for speech, however, once members of churches that hold to the conjugal idea of marriage are by law essentially discriminating, then we have all sorts of ways of dealing with people who discriminate. If we are the equivalent of racists, there are ways of dealing with racists. Not putting them in jail, not shutting down their speech, but imposing on them all sorts of other civic disabilities in the areas of licensing like licensing adoption agencies, education, why should Brigham Young university be accredited if its practices are discriminating? And in government contracting, government contracts with religious agencies for all sorts of social services, important, profoundly important social services that churches deliver much better than government itself can which is why government gives those contracts to churches, will the LDS, will the Catholics, will the Orthodox Jews be permitted to compete on fair terms? Well, why should they if they are the equivalent of racists. And this isn’t just theoretical. Brother Wardle knows the Bob Jones case out of South Carolina in which the Internal Revenue Service revoked the tax status of a private, religious university for being racist, for forbidding interracial dating on campus. That will become the precedent for the treatment of all these other religious traditions once those traditions become counted as the equivalent of racist as discriminating. And then there is culture. Think of the disabilities that can be imposed in culture beyond what the law can do. What if you found out that a person that you were considering employing was a member of a racist church: the Church of the Arian Nation. You like to employ him? If you happen to be a partner in a law firm and you would like to be on the hiring committee but they find out you’re Catholic or LDS or it’s clear that you’re an Orthodox Jew, you can’t hide that, you wear your yarmulke. What if somebody says “we can’t have that guy on the hiring committee because we have strict anti-discrimination rules and he belongs to a sect that engages in discrimination.” The consequences of this are just beginning and they will be profound unless we win marriage. Don’t think, please don’t think that we can lose marriage or give up on marriage and retreat to the defense of religious liberty. It won’t work. The only way to defend religious liberty is to protect marriage.

Williams: I have a question here that I think is fair to ask, it says, “what valid argument does the opposition have?”

George: I think the most valid argument is this. Look, the conjugal view of marriage is not discriminatory and it’s not bigotry in itself. It arose long before same-sex relations were even an issue so it can’t have been gotten up in order to be mean to homosexually oriented people. However, the conjugal definition of marriage was essentially abolished 50 years ago with no-fault divorce and with the abolition of the enforcement of adultery statutes and all sorts of other legal things. Now that you have essentially embodied in law some alternative to the conjugal understanding of marriage, you’ve got to go to be consistent the whole way and license and recognize same-sex partnership. You have to yield to the revisionist view because you’ve already yielded to it at the level of principle going back decades. That’s the best argument I can think of and it’s not a bad argument at all. My answer to that argument is you don’t get it, those of us in the marriage movement to protect marriage did not get in to this movement to stop same-sex marriage, that wasn’t even on the agenda. We got into this movement precisely to roll-back the revisionism that had eroded the institution of marriage, producing those horrible consequences that Daniel Patrick Moynihan had warned about and believe me, if we can prevent marriage from being redefined out of existence, we will be in the forefront of restoring, in its fullness and integrity, the conjugal definition by, among other things, going back to a responsible law of child custody and marital dissolution, one that does not make it less meaningful than an ordinary contract which, at least in the case of the ordinary contract, if one party wants to get out of it it has got to pay some damages.

Williams: We had a question up here that was related to one of the ones that I had asked a minute ago, and then, in the interest of time, I’m going to summarize three or four of these and move on.

Question: Well it wasn’t so much related to what you were saying, it was what some of the younger authors were saying, I just want to relate my own experience. I served an LDS mission between 2003 and 2005 and prior to my mission, I was noticing in the pop culture that there wasn’t a whole lot of reference to homosexual marriage not quite yet. But then, when I got back, it seemed to have exploded by then and so my question is a little bit of a strange one: you had mentioned the ease of, under Obamacare, getting access to, what do you call it, just abortive medication and what not and I’m wondering, you mentioned Margret Sanger being involved with planned parenthood, do you feel that there may be sort of a eugenic ulterior motive behind the sudden influx of homosexual marriage in the culture and if that is maybe trying to limit the population or something? Are you aware of maybe an esoteric plan to that extent?

George: No, I don’t believe there is such a thing. Sanger was a eugenicist, I didn’t mention that here when I mentioned Sanger, but in the previous meeting we had this afternoon with Fidelio Society, which you should all join, what a terrific group of young men and women, I did mention that Sanger was a eugenicist, she was quite famous for her eugenics attitudes. She also had some pretty nasty attitudes toward race, appearing at Klu Klux Klan rallies and things like that, but she was very influential nonetheless in the development of this modern ideology of sexual freedom. But no, I don’t think there is some conspiracy against population or there’s any eugenics, I don’t deny whether they are themselves same-sex attracted or not, any bad will, in the answer to the question just given, I tried to articulate a sense of why they think the way they think. I mean, it’s true that we have largely, at least to a significant extent, maybe not largely, but to a significant extent, already permitted without much objection the conjugal understanding of marriage to erode. So I get why they think what they think but I think it’s profoundly wrong and would be tragic. Do you guys see any eugenics conspiracy? No.

Williams: In the interest of time I think I’m going to move to a couple of these. There are about five of them that essentially say the same thing in terms of what can be done? Is it too little, too late? What’s left to save given the state marriage is in? And what will be the effect if we dealt with it a little bit on subsequent religious liberties or religion in the public discourse? That may take us to the end of our time here.

Girgis: I mentioned earlier in the previous section that there is a post-Christian myth out there. It’s a myth that replaces the role that Christianity gives to a divine judge of the living and the dead, to a kingdom where all things are made right, and to the idea of providence by which the judge gets you to the kingdom. It’s the idea of history as a person, as a judge, and, as a source of more than human forces that are going to force us to some conclusion. And that’s the basis of the idea that you don’t want to be on the wrong side of history. As if the goats are on the left side of history and the sheep are on the right. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of history where it is just the idea that a future consensus makes something true. As soon as you describe the view, you don’t have to criticize it. It’s absurd, it also comes with the idea that we don’t have, really at the end of the day, the freedom as a society much less as individuals, to choose one path over another. Well, history is not a mind of it’s own. The future is not fixed, it’s chosen and you can chose based on information. So I think it is not a tall lost, it’s not at all a done deal any more than abortion was a done deal in the 70s and 80s when people said, if you’re against its because you’re on your death bed or have a collar around your neck, it’s not any more certain than Marxism was certain when in the 70s it looked like that was the future and that it was only going to spread and that at best we might contain it temporarily, then the Equal Rights Amendment which looked like it was as certain as any political result. What will make it certain is believing that it is certain because then the only people that can influence others to choose a different way will be silenced and will be doing nothing. That is a perfect guarantee of a certain result, but it is the only guarantee.

George: yeah, I would reinforce that and just add that if Sherif is right, and plainly he is because the alternative view is absurd, it’s a view that has had an amazing life in western culture but it was invented in the 18th century. This is not some ancient position. Hegel articulates something like it, Marx picks it up from Hegel, and then next thin you know even people who don’t consider themselves Marxists are believing it. So no, history is open, it is up to us. The key thing that want to communicate to all of you is do not allow yourselves to be intimidated or bullied into silence. That’s not to say that you might not suffer consequences, but you’re saints right? Saints are saints, saints are people who are prepared to be martyrs, saints are people who are prepared to pay the cost, however dear it is, of discipleship. I wouldn’t ask you to do anything I have not been willing to do myself, but we all need to be willing to do that. The only way it is inevitable is if we permit ourselves to be bullied or intimidated into silence or acquiescence.

Williams: Just take a minute—so what can be done at the grassroots level among friends, colleagues.

Anderson: The most important thing is to actually make the argument. It is not that our argument has been heard and been rejected, it is that the vast majority of Americans simply have not heard our arguments. Last week I was at Chapman law school then Stanford law school and then Dickenson, then I go to NYU and tomorrow I go to Arizona’s law school and today we are here at BYU and then later I go to Chicago and to Florida. Sherif has been traveling like this, Robby is traveling like this. There are thousands of college campuses across America and chances are most students will not be assigned our book. They have not heard the argument, philosophical or sociological, or in many cases even theological for what marriage is and why it matters. So it is not that we’ve lost the discussion, it is just that we have to get out and make the argument. So that is why the Fidelio group at BYU and the Love and Fidelity network, and if you don’t know what it is, these are groups that are springing up on college campuses across America that are organized to equip student leaders to make the argument for humane and healthy vision of human sexuality, the truth about marriage, the truth about chastity, unpopular truths on many college campuses, but once they are one, explained, and then two, lived out, highly attractive truths. That the truth has a splendor to it, especially when embodied. There is a beauty to it. So I think that the practical thing to say is to start doing something, start doing, making the arguments, and living it out. I think the other side, when they talk in terms of inevitability, they have to speak in those terms and they want the Supreme Court to do their dirty work right now precisely because they know it is not inevitable. Do you really foresee the state of Utah, in any time in your life, voting in favor of same-sex marriage? Do you see the state of Alabama or Georgia or South Carolina or Texas, the vast majority of states aren’t going to be voting in favor of same-sex marriage any time soon which is why they went to the court to try to get the court to institute a fifty state solution. I think one thing we can be fairly confident of based on the oral arguments is that that outcome is not going to happen. There are not 5 votes in the court right now to create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in all 50 states. The court ruling may not go wholly in our favor. They may strike down a part of the defense of marriage act, they might dismiss the prop 8 case on grounds of standing, but we’re not going to get a Row v. Wade type ruling on marriage which means we are going to continue having this discussion for years to come and the question is whether or not we will each, in our own unique way, in the way that our vocation calls for, whether each of us will bear witness to the truth, whether it is living it out or writing books and articles and op-eds, or its giving lectures on college campuses, or it’s talking to our roommates and talking to our friends and family members. In many different ways we can bear witness to the truth. I think that’s the universal Christian vocation, it is what Christ Himself came to do.

Girgis: I was actually just going to pick up the last point that the reason I dodged the question in certain ways is there is not general answer to it. The answer is the flip side of having the truly Christian rather than post-Christian vision of how history works. If you think that it is all up to us as a kind of political or social matter, then we have to have a grand plan, a manifesto, a five or fifty year plan to take over. The fact is that we don’t. What we’re called to is fidelity. Fidelity to our vocations and there are some things that means for everybody and it is called the moral law which is why the first thing we have to do is make sure we’re living by the vision that we hope to hold up as a beacon for society. And from there, it just depends. By prayer, by writing, by blogging, by standing up for this cause among just your circle of friends or more broadly, and the example of this is the pro-life movement. The pro-life movement has no single chief who is calling all the shots for everybody, but when everybody followed their vocations, there were crisis pregnancy centers rising up to meet the concrete needs of women in difficult circumstances. There was a legal movement to make sure that originalist interpretations of the constitution eroded the legal and cultural and political foundation for Roe v. Wade, there were intellectual movements to make sure that the argument got made that every human being has intrinsic and equal dignity. And the only way that kind of rich variety of response happens, which is the only way that a victory really does come about is when people discern their vocation and then do it.

George: I would add to that only this: Be bold. Now, when I say be bold, I don’t mean be reckless. What’s the difference between being bold and being reckless? Pretty straightforward: you’re reckless when you go into the debate, onto the blogs, letters to the editor, or essays in places where you can get them published where you don’t know what you’re talking about, you having done your homework, you haven’t equipped yourself to make the argument. To be bold is to act and not be intimidated into silence when you have done your homework and you understand what’s at stake and you know how to make the argument. What I admire so much about Ryan and Sherif is not only their brilliance, which is obvious, but their boldness. Putting their brilliance to work in the public square, mastering the argument and getting out there to make it. Now you need to have achieved, it is hard to do very quickly, the kind of mastery that Sherif and Ryan have achieved, in order to be a constructive, contributing person in the debate. There is lots of error out there, poorly reasoned arguments all over the place that need to be refuted. Somebody has to stand up and point out the errors, the mistakes of fact, the logical errors. Someone has to make the case. You can do that. It is not as if you have to have a whole course or spend six weeks buried. You can read our book in three hours, it is a short, and inexpensive book. I kind of wish it weren’t so inexpensive, we could at least make some money out of this same-sex marriage deal. It is short, it’s inexpensive, we think it’s quite readable. There are other resources, some of which we cite there, so even as you are speaking out, continue to educate and instruct yourself. Go to the best sources. You will find in engaging with people you would sharpen your wits, you will sharpen your abilities, you will sharpen your arguments. Get in touch with us if you get stuck on something and if you think we can be helpful. I think there is no one here, no one in this room, except maybe that little one, and his time will come, there is one who doesn’t have a contribution to make to this cause and so I can’t help but think that it’s our duty, since we can do it, it is our duty to make that contribution. If it weren’t something as important as the institution of marriage at stake, then maybe we could let it slide. But it is the most fundamental unit of society on which every other institution of society depends that’s hanging in the balance on this issue. Not just same-sex marriage, but rebuilding a healthy and vibrant marriage culture. So we need to be in the fight, you need to be in the fight. Thank you Richard.

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