Ryan Anderson’s Powerful Case for Marriage

Senior Editor’s note: The 2015 Synod on the Family may be winding down, but the tensions in Paul VI Hall are continuing, as Robert Royal (@RobertSRoyal) writes in his most recent dispatch from Rome. Dr. Royal also notes that solid majorities of Synod Fathers seem to favor the Church’s constant teaching on marriage and sexuality – something to remember as we near the publication of the final report of the Synod. Click here to read Bob’s latest report, “Separating the Wheat from the Chaff”. – Brad Miner (@ABradfordMiner)

In Plato’s Laches, dealing with “courage,” it is offered early on that courage will require a knowledge of the grounds of “fear and hope.” But that could involve the art of a soothsayer, and that sense of things is eventually supplanted: the one who risks his life, in a courageous act, must know something of the moral ends that justify the sacrifice.

Ryan Anderson has taken it as his mission to make the case for marriage as the “one flesh” union of a man and woman, exclusive and enduring, a framework of lawfulness to envelop the begetting and nurturing of children. In making that his mission, he has exposed himself to derision and hatefulness, unending. The only way to explain what makes him persist is his serene confidence in the truth of the moral case for marriage – and as he puts it, “our right to live in accordance with the truth.”

In his new book he makes that case in all of its dimensions: Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom. He makes the moral case for the one-flesh union, but he also explores the wreckage that comes with the eroding respect for marriage – the wreckage we have already seen and the deeper wreckage now portended as the Supreme Court has installed same-sex marriage.

As he has illuminated this fuller landscape he has indeed given us both “the grounds of fear and hope.” The fear comes with the intentions now made brutally frank by the activists for same-sex marriage. And so Masha Gessen writes, in 2012:

It’s a no-brainer that [same-sex couples] should have the right to marry, but I also think equally that it’s a no-brainer that the institution of marriage should not exist. . . .Fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there.

And what they wanted to do was dismantle it – as one activist put it, “to expose and denaturalize the historical construction of gender at the heart of marriage.” The object was not to bring the blessings of marriage to more people, but to wean people away from their moral misgivings about the homosexual life.


At the same time, Anderson has brought forth the testimonies that reveal the “grounds of hope.” He draws here on essays he has run under his editorship of the web journal The Public Discourse – cries of the heart from men and women who were raised by gay or lesbian parents. They feel over time the absence of the fathers and mothers who begot them – not absences caused by death, but by marriages constituted in principle to avoid the presence of that parent of the other sex.

One woman notes “only now, as I watch my children loving and being loved by their father each day, that I can see the beauty and wisdom in traditional marriage and parenting.” She could see, that is, what is distinct to a father’s love – e.g., in the man tussling with his son on the floor, but teaching him self-control, not to play rough.

And of course the men raised by other men somehow discover that they are missing something distinctly feminine in a mother’s love. But how do they come to sense that? Could it be something – pardon the expression – “natural”? And if it is, might that give us the sense that the understanding of natural marriage will not be extinguished, precisely because it is grounded in something enduring that will not be effaced, even as the law sets it powers on the side of denying it.

On that point, Anderson suffers no illusions; he looks plainly at what is before us. With the “logic of morals,” the partisans of same-sex marriage think that marriage is rightful and those who oppose it are wrongful. Whether they have small businesses or merely make their sentiments known, they should be fined and punished, or lose their jobs, and made to confess their wrongness.

Could we invoke a plea for religious tolerance? Chai Feldblum, a gay activist, descended from a line of rabbis, brushes away with a breezy contempt the claim for religious tolerance here, for it would stand in opposition to things she regards as commandingly rightful.

This argument can be met then only by an argument showing why it cannot be wrongful to confine marriage to a man and a woman. It can be met, that is, only by an argument that takes up precisely the question of “What is Marriage?,” the question that Anderson has pursued in this book, and in his book of that title with Robert George and Sherif Girgis.

And yet none of our favorite conservative justices on the Supreme Court has drawn on those arguments in any of the key cases. They prefer to argue that there is no mention of “marriage” in the Constitution and therefore no ground on which to declare a “constitutional” right of same-sex marriage. But there was no mention of marriage in the Constitution when the Court struck down the laws barring interracial marriage. If the conservative judges can be jolted out of their doctrinal slumber, they will have to engage the other side by facing the substantive question of what marriage is.

Ryan Anderson has given them the text to their opinion – if they can ever bring the question back to a Court that can get it right.

Hadley Arkes

Hadley Arkes

Hadley Arkes is the Ney Professor of Jurisprudence Emeritus at Amherst College. He is also Founder and Director of the Washington-based James Wilson Institute on Natural Rights and the American Founding. His most recent book is Constitutional Illusions & Anchoring Truths: The Touchstone of the Natural Law. Volume II of his audio lectures from The Modern Scholar, First Principles and Natural Law is now available for download.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Masha Green is not alone. In France, the Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, in an interview with Ouest-France (7/11/2012) said of SSM that “it is a reform of society and one could even say a reform of civilization, We do not intend to act as if we were only retouching three or four commas in the Civil Code.” If that is how the garde des Sceaux, who was responsible for producing the legislation described it, perhaps the rest of us can be forgiven for taking her at her word.

    Bertrand Russell summed up the case for traditional marriage most succinctly, when he wrote, “But for children, there would be no need of any institution concerned with sex. It is through children alone that sexual relations become of importance to society, and worthy to be taken cognizance of by a legal institution.”

    • MarcAlcan

      Thanks for that Betrand Russell quote. How totally true.

    • greenpointguy

      350,000,000 people in US; 80,000,000 in France, and you can come up with TWO? Pathetic.

  • mary jo anderson

    Excellent! Much needed response to the frustration that many of us have when gay rights proponents will not tolerate what they choose to see as an injustice– unequal “rights” accorded to one group. The only avenue that truly works is re-presenting what all mankind once knew as obvious, until it becomes obvious again.

  • Michael Dowd

    “According to the American Psychiatric Association, until 1974 homosexuality was a mental illness. Freud had alluded to homosexuality numerous times in his writings, and had concluded that paranoia and homosexuality were inseparable.”

    Perhaps the American Psychiatric Association should reconsider their current position and again classify homosexuality as a mental disorder in view of the damage SSM will cause. Like the situation in a city which waits until enough traffic deaths occur at a certain corner before a traffic light is installed, I guess we will have to await the negative fallout from raising children in a gay marriage before anything is done to remedy the situation.

    • RosaryVictory

      I believe that the American Psychiatric Association diagnosed homosexuality as ‘arrested development”. All persons go through a same sex attraction during puberty, some grow out of it, some learn to live with it and some succumb to it. Sovereignty over oneself is paramount to living life and “the pursuit of Happiness.”

      • Statusqrow

        “All persons go through same sex attractions during puberty…”

        Correct my memory. I do recall that the Beav, along with Whitey, Toohey and Larry Mondello preferred each other’s company—to the extent of posting a “No Gurls Allowed” sign on the front of their club house—over that of females. I don’t recall any evidence that any of them had same sex attractions for each other.

        Same with Wally whom we watched transition from late pre-teen into teenage puberty. There were times when he preferred the company of Chester or Lumpy or even Eddie Haskell to that of the ladies whose presence he increasingly noticed. I don’t recall that he ever had an attraction for his buddies.

        My own memory of the fifties can be distilled in the single incident of trying to kiss a girl in the cloakroom on the last day of third grade and facing the wrath of her umbrella. God knows what lawsuits would be pending for such antics today. Maybe I bypassed puberty, but I don’t recall any same-sex attractions, “growing up” or since (If there’s any difference).

        • RosaryVictory

          Lust is not love. Sodomy is not the marital act. What is being impugned here, is friendship, friendship between men and women and between boys and girls. This is horrific. My daughters went to a bar for the sights, 20 years ago, and they were asked if they were “lesbians”. Never at a loss for a comeback, they said “Yes, incestuous lesbians” and that remains a joke until this day; but it also points to what we, as a society, have lost and/or destroyed. Friendship.
          As far as same-sex attraction, it remains in all of us and it is called concupiscence, the fallen nature of man, and of whom only Our Blessed Virgin Mary is preserved, because Mary chose to remain a virgin and because Mary chose to remain a virgin, God called her to be the Mother of His Son. Jesus Christ.
          Obergefell neutered all people; legally made eunuchs of all men; verbally castrated men and spayed women. So much for “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” The Declaration of Independence, is one of our Founding Principles upon which our Constitution is based. If an individual cannot accept our Founding Principles, he is free to leave.
          As far as kissing a girl in the cloakroom, you ought to have gotten her parent’s permission first.

    • RainingAgain

      Unfortunately, it seems that it is going to be up to those children, when they reach adulthood, to lance the abscess.

  • givelifeachance2

    Anderson, for all the truths about marriage that he puts forth, fails to make the case for its inalienable nature, which would put it beyond the rights of States to change. He says that SCOTUS should not be thwarting the will of the states, but that is exactly what they should be doing: to abolish no-mommy and no-daddy “marriages”, thus preventing children from being procured for these, at best, pretend play houses. Instead they took the way of Dred Scott, forcing the abolitionist to lick the boot of a peculiar institution. Franken-“parents” have no more right to a child than slave-owners have to a slave.

    • RosaryVictory

      The will of God to create and infuse an immortal soul to the human person is subverted by Franken-“parents.” The rest is atheism imposed by the state and mob rule by the “might makes right” group. However, our Founding Principles do have the ultimate and penultimate power to direct the course of this nation.

  • Manfred

    I know this is a book review, but it should be mentioned that many atheist, homosexuals in the leadership of the Catholic Church are diabolical proponents of homosexual unions as well. The Synod on the Family in Rome today is being called the Homosexual Synod as many of the Fathers (Mothers?) at the Synod are arguing that those in sodomite unions/”marriages” should be allowed to receive Communion.
    If the Church cannot stop this reasoning on the “one-yard line”, how can we expect a secular society and its courts to support true marriage?

    • Richard A

      Manfred, I for one am beginning to think you don’t really believe in the Church’s indefectibility. That doctrine, based on the power of the Holy Spirit and the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ, are always sufficient grounds for hope, even if no other grounds are visible. For orthodox Christians, anyway.

      • StatusQrow

        The indefectibility of the Church seems to mean that, over the long haul, the Church will preserve the deposit of faith intact; but that doesn’t necessarily preclude the possibility of error being taught, and deceiving some, along the way.

        In his book, “Magisterial Authority,” Fr. Chad Ripperger notes that “Pope Honorius I actually taught the Monothelite heresy in his two letters to Sergius. He was even condemned as a heretic by the Sixth Ecumenical Council…approved by Leo II…

        “Also there is the example of the condemnation of Nicholas I who held that aside from the Trinitarian formula one could simply baptize in nomine Christi…” that is, in the name of Christ only.

        The notion that we needn’t worry about great damage being done to the faithful, at least in the short term by dark forces at the Synod on the grounds that the Church is ultimately indefectible, seems more than a little over-optimistic.

        • Richard A

          You don’t need to explain to me the damage that heretic clerics can do in the Church. Did you manage somehow to pick up from my previous post “the notion that we needn’t worry about great damage being done to the faithful”?

          Manfred, please receive this as a fraternal correction. Taken together, your posts over the last few years convey a counsel of despair. Don’t mind you pointing out where the wolves are, but it would be helpful to keep in mind that Christ is still the good shepherd.

          • StatusQrow

            As someone who is still several months new to TCT and unfamiliar with the views of “regulars,” what I took from Manfred’s post is that he is concerned with possible outcomes flowing from the Synod on the Family.
            His language may not be my own, but his fears are legitimate considering the presence of prelates like Belgium’s Cardinal Danneels.

            From this concern you seem to conclude that Manfred doesn’t believe in the indefectibility of the Church. From where I sit—and reading only those two posts—it seems rather a stretch.

  • Chris R

    Ideally we should not have an activist court. I agree more with the restrained conservative justices than with Arkes. Roe and Obergefell should be overturned because they have no basis in the Constitution or the Court’s precedent.

  • Francis Miller

    I feel the tide of oppression coming. Religious sentiments expressed at the passing of friends, co workers, family already are accompanied by more plentiful rebuffs and dismissive comments. Even a few years ago such insults were considered anti-social. The success of the LGBT movement has many followers who care nothing for marriage equality but are drawn to its inevitable and greatest adversary, the Church. The movement cannot allow tolerance because its motivation is intolerance. The LGBT tent is large and all are welcome who oppose. Oppose what? All that is especially the one stabilizing influence large enough to resist. We know Christianity is not easy, that was never the promise. Christ’s loving kindness is invisible.

    • ron_goodman

      People disagreeing with your religious sentiments, even forcefully, isn’t “oppression”. It’s just disagreement. Other people don’t necessarily owe them any degree of respect.

      • StatusQrow

        Forcing the Christian owners of bakeries and pizza shops to cater to events celebrating beliefs alien to their religious sentiments is egregious oppression; and such tactics are snowballing.

      • MAfromMD

        It is trending toward oppression. Every “movement” starts out innocuous, but becomes more rigid and intolerant, one of the sad lessons of history.

  • George Brenner

    This must be forwarded to all the lukewarm and wimpy small ‘c’ catholics whether they be cleric or layman…..

    Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you’ll live… at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin’ to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take… OUR CHURCH (Braveheart) …. Get off my ARK! (Airforce, I mean ARK ONE)
    George Brenner

  • RosaryVictory

    The Declaration of Independence, one of our Founding Principles upon which The
    Constitution for the United States is built, inscribes: “We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal…” Without this, there can be no morality, nor truth, nor Justice. Created equal is not born equal and endowed with unalienable rights. To be “created equal” one must be procreated by their parents. At the time of procreation, “their Creator simultaneously infuses a rational, immortal human soul. The person’s soul, who has existed in the mind of God outside of time from infinity (God can do that) is endowed with sovereign personhood and perfect legal and moral innocence, the compelling interest of the state in protecting and guarding the newly begotten person for the sake of perfect
    Justice. The child is the standard for perfect justice for the state.
    Heterosexuality, homosexuality and color of skin, the degree of intellect and the
    concept of freewill inscribed as freedom in our Founding Principles are accidents of procreation, not of birth, but that means the same thing to a person who is not trying to subvert the real meaning of our Founding Principles.

    Procreation is the issue at hand, the bonding of one man and one woman to procreate our nation, our people, all future generations inscribed in The Preamble as “our(constitutional) posterity.”

    The LBGT turns its back on our constitutional posterity and the fact that, they, as
    sovereign persons have been procreated by one man and one woman. The newly
    begotten child makes of a man, a father, and of a woman, a mother, no other way
    in the flesh, just as marriage makes of man, a husband and of a woman, a wife.
    This cannot and does not happen without procreation as the end. Lust is not love. Sodomy is not the marital act and the rest is perjury in a court of law.
    Obergefell neutered all men and woman in American with its “no gender” marriage.

  • Maria Tierney Koehn

    One could say marriage is mentioned simply in the preamble of The United States Constitution:

    “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” – Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America

    We here in The United States of America inherited a great treasure that we are to pass on to our children. Our Posterity.

    We certainly are not receiving domestic tranquility by hauling the photographer, bakers, florist, owners of places to rent ect. into court or have children raised apart from one or both parents on purpose.

    God bless Mr. Ryan Anderson.

    Your quote of him is spot on.

    “Ryan Anderson has taken it as his mission to make the case for marriage as the “one flesh” union of a man and woman, exclusive and enduring, a framework of lawfulness to envelop the begetting and nurturing of children. In making that his mission, he has exposed himself to derision and hatefulness, unending. The only way to explain what makes him persist is his serene confidence in the truth of the moral case for marriage – and as he puts it, “our right to live in accordance with the truth.””
    -Hadley Arkes

  • RosaryVictory

    The sodomite betrays his mother and his father, his ancestors and his Posterity.

    • millers3888

      So every straight guy who’s received a bj is right up there with the gays!

      • RosaryVictory

        An alternate lifestyle is not a one time experiment in sin. Interloping into our culture of an alternate lifestyle is the imposition of atheism by the government… unconstitutional.

        • millers3888

          Huh? The point is that “sodomites” include anyone partaking in any sexual activity that is not “missionary” AKA all straight men and most straight women.

  • Tarzan

    Have you looked at the work of the Ruth Institute? It reaches the same conclusion as Anderson.

  • Tarzan

    Anyone with a grain of common sense knows homosexuality is disordered. So, given the small percentage of the population that is gay, one has to wonder why the fervor among the progressives for this? It is not like socialism requires sexual libertinism to support its central tenets. Note that the Soviets were radically anti-homosexual.

    I think, and others have pointed this out as well, that the real end game is destroy the rights of biological parents in favor of state control. Gay marriage paves the way to make the state the main player in determining who has parental rights. The same motivation is behind universal pre-school and is against home schooling and Catholic schools. The goal is to get children away from conservative and/or religious parents as early as possible so the leftist state can indoctrinate them. This is a new form of Hitler’s youth camps.

    Talk with many 20 somethings today. The left has had tremendous success with this cohort. They want more with the future generations. This is the fight we need to fight.

  • Richard A

    Who’s expectation is that? Apart from that no one should even be presented with the circumstances that give rise to such expectations, there is nothing we know about relationships in the homosexual subculture that would suggest stable long-term “marriages” will be common.

  • MAfromMD

    Jonney 38 … You’ve taken a very multi-faceted issue, picked one narrow point and used it to criticize Mr. Anderson. Frankly, it sounds like propaganda to me, as you ignore the natural law, ethical/moral, and historical aspects that show gay lifestyle, marriage and parenting to be very harmful to children and society. All propaganda does is promote a narrow unethical viewpoint, giving license to those who choose to act against nature and history. Our children can’t afford such an experiment. We, as a society, can’t afford such propagandist thinking.

  • Gina Murray

    “…they will have to engage the other side by facing the substantive question of what marriage is.”
    Well why don’t we start with the discipline to stop conflating the civil partnership – called marriage with true biblical marriage.

  • RosaryVictory

    Children are dependent upon their family members, especially parents, to define for them what is true and until they learn to think for themselves, they use their parents’ judgment. Parents hold their children’s civil rights in trust for them until emancipation. Because atheism has separated truth from untruth, children are at risk of being indoctrinated into what others think. It is the communists way of increasing their followers and now, it is the alternate lifestyle’s way of increasing their lifestyle. Children belong in the custody of their parents who hold their civil rights in trust for them, after God, until emancipation. The state comes last. The state has taken possession of our children and holds them as hostages for the vote. It is nothing less than kidnapping by the state.