Weigel on Why the State Has No Right to Redefine Marriage


Public intellectual George Weigel continues his series for First Things describing what the marriage debate is about:

"...Throughout history, just states (whether democratic or not) have understood that there are limits to their powers: There are certain things that just states simply cannot do.

With rare exceptions, the just state cannot interfere in the doctor-patient relationship or the lawyer-client relationship; it can never interfere in the priest-penitent relationship; it ought to be extremely chary of interfering in the parent-child relationship (save in obvious cases like abuse); and there are limits (always subject to debate and adjustment) about the state’s reach into the employer-employee relationship. The just state acknowledges the integrity of these primary, fundamental, civil society relationships and protects them legally. It has no business reinventing or redefining those relationships, for the just state exists to serve civil society, not vice versa.

Marriage is the primordial civil society relationship, for it is the basis of the family, which is the primordial civil society institution. That is why, for millennia, states have protected marriage, understood as what it is: the stable union of a man and a woman ordered to the begetting and raising of children. When a state claims the right to alter the definition of marriage to include same-sex relationships, it is tacitly claiming the right to redefine the number of persons who may make a marriage (why stop at two?); it is also tacitly claiming the right to redefine, by governmental fiat, every other pre-existing free association of civil society.

That claim is antithetical to the freedom of individuals, families, and society."  (First Things)