The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

“Ryan Anderson’s Powerful Case for Marriage”—Prof. Arkes in The Catholic Thing

Writing in The Catholic Thing, Prof. Hadley Arkes reviews Dr. Ryan Anderson’s book, Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom. Arkes finds Anderson’s argument which defends marriage between one man and one woman as rooted in something more fundamental than the positive law.

“Ryan Anderson has taken it as his mission to make the case for marriage as the ‘one flesh’ union of a man and woman, exclusive and enduring, a framework of lawfulness to envelop the begetting and nurturing of children. In making that his mission, he has exposed himself to derision and hatefulness, unending. The only way to explain what makes him persist is his serene confidence in the truth of the moral case for marriage – and as he puts it, ‘our right to live in accordance with the truth.’

“In his new book he makes that case in all of its dimensions: Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom. He makes the moral case for the one-flesh union, but he also explores the wreckage that comes with the eroding respect for marriage – the wreckage we have already seen and the deeper wreckage now portended as the Supreme Court has installed same-sex marriage.”

“Could we invoke a plea for religious tolerance? Chai Feldblum, a gay activist, descended from a line of rabbis, brushes away with a breezy contempt the claim for religious tolerance here, for it would stand in opposition to things she regards as commandingly rightful. This argument can be met then only by an argument showing why it cannot be wrongful to confine marriage to a man and a woman. It can be met, that is, only by an argument that takes up precisely the question of “What is Marriage?,” the question that Anderson has pursued in this book, and in his book of that title with Robert George and Sherif Girgis.

“And yet none of our favorite conservative justices on the Supreme Court has drawn on those arguments in any of the key cases. They prefer to argue that there is no mention of “marriage” in the Constitution and therefore no ground on which to declare a “constitutional” right of same-sex marriage. But there was no mention of marriage in the Constitution when the Court struck down the laws barring interracial marriage. If the conservative judges can be jolted out of their doctrinal slumber, they will have to engage the other side by facing the substantive question of what is marriage.

Read the full piece here.

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Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790