Natural law argument for traditional marriage

Defenders of traditional marriage should use a combination of biblical arguments and natural law arguments. Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and Robert George are authors of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense, which David Novak described as “the most philosophically astute and historically accurate defense of traditional marriage to date.” Mr. Anderson has distilled the book’s content in a succinct paper for the Heritage Foundation, “Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It.” Here is the abstract:

Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. By encouraging the norms of marriage—monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanence—the state strengthens civil society and reduces its own role. The future of this country depends on the future of marriage. The future of marriage depends on citizens understanding what it is and why it matters and demanding that government policies support, not undermine, true marriage.

Here is an outline of the paper with the key points:

I. What Is Marriage?

  1. Marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children their union produces.
  2. Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children need a mother and a father.
  3. Marriage as the union of man and woman is true across cultures, religions, and time. The government recognizes but does not create marriage.
  4. Marriage has been weakened by a revisionist view of marriage that is more about adults’ desires than children’s needs.

II. Why Marriage Matters for Policy

  1. Government recognizes marriage because it is an institution that benefits society in a way that no other relationship does.
  2. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. Marital breakdown weakens civil society and limited government.
  3. Marital breakdown costs taxpayers.
  4. Government can treat people equally—and leave them free to live and love as they choose—without redefining marriage.
  5. We reap the civil society benefits of marriage only if policy gets marriage right.

III. The Consequences for Redefining Marriage

  1. Redefining marriage would further distance marriage from the needs of children and deny the importance of mothers and fathers.
  2. Redefining marriage would put into the law the new principle that marriage is whatever emotional bond the government says it is.
  3. Redefining marriage would weaken monogamy, exclusivity, and permanency—the norms through which marriage benefits society.
  4. Redefining marriage threatens religious liberty.
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