Equal Treatment and the State’s Interest in Marriage | Dr. Patrick Lee | CWR
The state is not in the business of promoting and regulating every sexual-romantic relationship; nor should it categorize all child-raising arrangements as marriages
The US Supreme Court has now heard oral arguments on a case to determine whether it will strike down state laws that grant marriage licenses to opposite-sex couples but not same-sex couples. The main issue is whether denying marriage licenses to same-sex partnerships violates the obligation to provide all groups equal protection of the law. According to the Constitution, no person “shall be denied equal protection of the law.” Is it unjust discrimination, are the laws being applied unequally, when a state grants a marriage license to John and Sally but not to Jim and Steve?
We won’t know what the court will assert until June. But the answer should be: No, because John and Sally, but not Jim and Steve, are able to form the kind of relationship marriage is, and the kind that the state has an interest in promoting and regulating. The state is not in the business of promoting and regulating every sexual-romantic relationship. Nor should it categorize all child-raising arrangements as marriages—think of orphanages or elderly sisters raising abandoned nieces. However, the union of a man and a woman—bodily, emotional, and spiritual—of the kind that would be naturally fulfilled by conceiving and rearing children together (even though in some instances that fulfillment is not reached) is marriage. And this union uniquely provides a crucial benefit the state has an interest in promoting.
The need for such a union is discovered and appreciated somewhat differently by individuals and by societies or states acting on behalf of societies. Individuals typically discover the need for such a union in the following way. Young men and women fall in love and long for union with each other, eventually a union that is bodily (sexual) as well as emotional (the sexual union being not just for gratification but to embody their love). Hence they come to see the need for a more encompassing and enduring personal union as the appropriate context for their love and the sexual acts that express it, and for children that may come from those sexual acts.
Societies see the need for such a union by recognizing the particular benefit it provides to children.