Two Years Later, Obergefell v. Hodges Is Still the Wrong Decision

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Until very recently, no society in human history has equated same-sex marriage with traditional marriage.

Right in the middle of Pride Month, June 26th marked the two-year anniversary of the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme court case, which officially made gay marriage the law of the land in all 50 states. The case is understandably celebrated by gay marriage advocates as a great civil rights victory. Yet for many Americans, the Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage was the beginning of the end for the traditional family unit.

The entire gay rights movement—and virtually every single argument for the inclusion of same sex couples into the institution of marriage—revolved around the concept that denying marriage to said couples was nothing short of discriminatory; it excluded homosexuals from the institution of marriage simply for “being who they are.”

I beg my friends on the left to please understand that social conservatives simply disagree with your premise: that the sexual orientation of gay people is fundamentally “who they are” and that they are born exclusively attracted to people of the same sex. Until very recently, no society in human history has held this belief, not even societies in which homosexuality was accepted.

Let me be very clear: if homosexuals are born with their preferences locked in, then there can be no more debate. Gay marriage has to be equal in the eyes of the law. But accepting this as fact is an enormous assumption.

Human sexuality can be shaped by environment and experiences. Take prisons, for instance, where homosexual behavior is prevalent. Are homosexuals just extremely disposed to criminal behavior?  Or does that environment contribute to it? That should be an easy question. The settings in which a person lives can influence his sexuality. It is not just a question of genetics. 

The moment human sexual behavior becomes about accountable behavior instead of natural identity, all cries of bigotry and discrimination should cease. And that would take the legs out from under almost every argument for same-sex marriage, including the arguments used in Obergefell v. Hodges.  

The government has risen up to defend traditional marriage before, mind you. The Morill Anti-Bigamy Act was signed in 1962 by none other than Abraham Lincoln. It outlawed the practice of polygamy, which was becoming rampant in the Utah territory. The reasoning behind the law sounds remarkably familiar. Allow me to ask, why is polygamous marriage illegal? If we’re getting into the business of letting people do whatever they want, who are we to say it is evil to marry more than one person?

Imagine we do away with this antiquated law (since it discriminates against polyamorous people), what are we left with? What is marriage then? It would be a union, of any type of person, in any number really, uniting for…what exactly? You’ll see how in the absence of strict rules defining it, marriage quickly becomes meaningless.

This is because marriage is a fundamentally religious, traditional institution (it takes place in a church for goodness’ sake) that was designed to essentially be a divinely sanctioned union in order to produce a family. If you think that is silly and obsolete, fine, marriage just isn’t for you. It isn’t necessary to live together or even to raise a family. Marriage is not necessary in a completely secular world.

Yet gay marriage is now legal, and the sky didn’t fall and the world isn’t on fire, so who cares? While life definitely goes on, that doesn’t mean there is not serious cause for concern. Marriage will simply collapse in the absence of its traditional, religiously focused definition. What would that look like?  

Well we would become like Europe in that regard. Iceland, for example, is essentially a post-marriage society. In 2014, 70.5% of children were born out of wedlock. We have seen what kind of effect such a number has here in the United States. That rate is actually strikingly similar to the number of African American children born out of wedlock, a dilemma many experts label as the greatest contributor to the many issues that trouble black Americans, particularly those in inner cities.

As out of wedlock births rise, the same economic and social ills follow, regardless of race. Will rendering marriage obsolete help this troubling trend? Again, that question should be an easy one. With the actions taken by the Supreme Court two years ago, we are well on our way to this dystopia. 

Lastly, I just want to remind my colleagues on the other side of the aisle that defending a traditional definition of marriage was never, in any way, taking away people’s rights. Gay marriage was not the norm; it never existed. Decisions such as the one the Court made two years ago forcefully changed the definition of marriage to something completely new, and this was done in the name of being more inclusive. 

But maybe, just maybe, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. There has been a wind of change blowing through our government lately. Especially with the recent rumors that Justice Anthony Kennedy may be approaching retirement, perhaps nothing is outside the realm of possibility, even overturning Obergefell v. Hodges.

Matthew Jacobs, a graduate of Texas A&M University, is studying for his Master of Divinity at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He writes about the intersection of religion and secularism in the United States.

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