George Weigel on Marriage, Equality and Discrimination


Public intellectual George Weigel welcomes the marriage debate which will be enhanced by the Supreme Court's choice to take up the Prop 8 and DOMA cases.

In his new article on the subject, he explains why arguments for equality and against discrimination don't apply to same-sex partners:

"...For almost two centuries, equality before the law had been denied to Americans of African descent; that blatant injustice was challenged by a movement of moral persuasion and legal maneuver; the movement was ultimately vindicated by a change of hearts, minds, and statutes. If then, on matters of race, why not now, on the question of who can marry? That’s the argument; it has considerable emotive power. 

But it’s wrong.

In their recent book, What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense (Encounter Books), three Catholic thinkers with Princeton connections—Robert P. George (who holds Woodrow Wilson’s old chair at that eminent university) and two of his former students, Sherif Girgis and Ryan Anderson—argue persuasively, and on grounds of reason, that America can’t arrive at a serious answer to this question—Should government redefine marriage to include same-sex partnerships?—by appealing to equality.

Why not? Because every marriage policy in every polity known to history draws boundaries, excluding some types of relationships from marriage. Parents can’t marry their children. Brothers and sisters can’t marry. People beneath a certain age can’t marry. People who are already married can’t marry.

In other words, governments, whether autocratic, aristocratic, monarchical, or democratic, have always “discriminated”—i.e., made distinctions—in their marriage laws. And in that sense, there is no “equality” issue in marriage law similar to the equality that racial minorities rightly sought, and won, in the civil rights movement."

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