As I continue to reflect on the oral arguments that were recently made in the Supreme Court regarding marriage, I noticed that one word — an “F” word — was used more times than almost any other word other than the obvious words “people” and “marriage.” And the way it was used makes me think of another “F” word that may turn out to be more fitting.
In case you’re wondering, the “F” word that was used in Court was not the one that gets bleeped by media censors. But in much the same way as that “F” word seems to get thrown around indiscriminately these days without any reflection on its meaning, the same happened with the word I have in mind.
What is the ‘F’ word?
That word is “fundamental.” It was used forty times by either the Justices or the lawyers and in the context that marriage is a fundamental right. The most interesting use of the “fundamental” word was by Justice Sotomayor, whose use was similar to that of Justice Breyer. Here is what she said:
The right to marriage is, I think, embedded in our constitutional law. It is a fundamental right. … The issue is you can’t narrow it down to say, but is gay marriage fundamental? Has black-and-white marriage been treated fundamentally? The issue was starting from the proposition of, is the right to marry fundamental? And then is it compelling for a State to exclude a group of people?
But Justice Sotomayor’s starting point is wrong, and as a result she will wrongly conclude that same-sex “marriage” is the equivalent of marriage as it’s been understood for “millennia.”
The wrong starting point
The “starting proposition” isn’t that marriage is a fundamental right. She assumes that it’s fundamental. However, neither she nor Justice Breyer ever articulated any basis for why marriage has been treated as a fundamental right in the past.
As I tell those who attend our Stand for Truth Seminar, “Make those who throw around key words explain what they mean by them and defend them.” And, sadly, no one ever made Justice Breyer or Sotomayor do so.
The point is this: You can’t decide if something is “fundamental” until you know what it is. And then you have to decide what it is that makes that thing fundamental. Only then can you determine if some other thing—in this case same-sex relationships—shares in or partakes of that which made the original thing fundamental.
In this case, the “thing” is “marriage,” and until recently it was always made up of a man and a woman. So what about that relationship might have made us think it is fundamental?
What makes marriage fundamental?
If we’re going to exclude the possibility of a theological answer —
Please read to the end of David’s essay
David Fowler is president of Family Action Coalition of Tennessee.