In praise of discrimination

By P. Andrew Sandlin

As I draft these lines, my own senator, Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., – whom I had no share in hiring – is waxing eloquent on the Senate floor assailing the proposed Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Again and again, she declares that adopting the amendment would create “discrimination” against homosexuals.

On this issue and others, “discrimination” has become the boogey-man word to paralyze legitimate moral action. Oddly, however, “discrimination” in other contexts is wholly desirable. I often read and hear ads cultivating “the discriminating buyer,” or the consumer with “discriminating taste.” Discrimination in the marketplace is fostered and lauded while discrimination in moral issues is assaulted and belittled.

Many liberals don’t mind making judgments, you see, it’s only moral judgments that raise their hackles. But if anything, we should be more discriminating on moral issues than market issues. It is true that immoral discrimination sometimes rears its ugly head – racial discrimination, for example. But discrimination against homosexual marriage is moral – in fact, not to discriminate against it is immoral.

Marriage and civilization

Marriage is a bedrock of Western culture. Without marriage, our culture would simply have been impossible. In fact, no civilization in the history of humanity has attempted to redefine marriage as a formal, state-recognized union between any two adults irrespective of sex. There is a good reason for this. The family is the cornerstone of civilization, and marriage is the foundation of the family – ancient pagan cultures given to polygamy, incest and tribalism were nomadic, fierce and self-destructive. They did not produce – could not produce – anything like a sustained, stable social order.

Civilization is possible only when marriage is cultivated in the culture and defended in the social order. This is why even ancient Greece and Rome, in which homosexuality was sometimes rampant, refused to redefine marriage. The family, and its procreative effects within the bonds of a legal relationship, is the cornerstone of civilization. Today, however, the mayor of San Francisco and the legislature of Massachusetts are apparently wiser than all civilizations in the history of the world in advocating a “non-discriminatory,” egalitarian view of marriage. And they naively suppose that our civilization can survive such unprecedented, morally suicidal measures.

Moral egalitarianism

This should not surprise us. We now live in an era of moral egalitarianism – the absolute equality of all moral positions. This egalitarianism stimulated some liberals after 9-11 to criticize the media’s use of the word “terrorist” to describe the Islamic hijackers who murdered nearly 3,000 Americans. After all, how could we pass moral judgment on the poor, oppressed hijackers? Perhaps they were merely “freedom fighters” rightly resisting our ubiquitous, decadent West.

These liberals oppose all moral discrimination (except, of course, when they hypocritically attack those of us who do support moral discrimination). When moral people use the word “terrorist” to describe the hijackers, we are discriminating. We are implying that there is no moral equivalence between a murderer and an authentic “freedom fighter.” Without such discrimination, a social order is simply not possible.

To argue that marriage must be defined as a legalized union (beyond merely a “civil union”) between any two consenting adults is not to expand the definition of marriage – it is to define it out of existence. When advocates of same-sex “marriage” are asked how on their own rationale one would resist allowing a definition of marriage to include incest and polygamy, they usually respond (and I’ve heard them respond): “That’s not our issue.”

But, of course, if marriage can be defined to include almost any relationship, it loses all meaning. If we refuse to discriminate by saying a marriage may be defined as a union between two people of the same sex, between three men and a woman, or between a woman and a 9-year-old boy, then we have something besides marriage.

If a word can mean anything, it means nothing. And if marriage means nothing, then a stable social order is no longer possible.

A constitutional amendment

For this reason and others, conservative Christians, and all other patriotic Americans, should support a firmly worded constitutional amendment defining marriage traditionally (biblically). While we can appreciate the concerns of the libertarians who support marriage – but as states’ rights defenders are wary of tampering with the Constitution – we must now recognize that short of a constitutional amendment, marriage as a traditionally defined institution will likely evaporate. As Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, has written:

The traditional institution of marriage is under constitutional attack. It is now a national problem that requires a national solution … There is nothing that a state can do to fully protect itself against federal courts hostile to its laws except a federal constitutional amendment.

Because of the constitutional provision that states recognize each other’s laws, a gay couple from Iowa “married” in Massachusetts could return home and demand legal matrimonial rights. A federal amendment, while laborious to pass, would prevent this travesty of marriage. We must be cautious in multiplying civil law to enforce cultural standards. But in this case, we must, because if our society permits homosexuals to marry, we will soon not have a society at all.

Homosexuality is a moral blight that invites God’s judgment and undermines the social order. It is worth discriminating against.