In his first interview since winning the presidential election, President-elect Donald J. Trump assured the American people that he won’t advocate reversing the Supreme Court’s decision last year requiring states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Speaking with CBS News correspondent Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes, Donald Trump indicated that his administration will abandon efforts to overturn the controversial Obergefell decision. The news media has interpreted Trump’s support for same-sex marriage as a sign that the conservative movement has surrendered on the contentious issue.
“I’ve been a supporter [of the LGBT group],” Trump said in the interview this past Sunday. “[Marriage equality] is already settled. It’s law… These cases [regarding same-sex marriage] have gone to the Supreme Court, they’ve been settled, and I’m fine with that.”
In Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the Supreme Court interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment as requiring states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
The Court’s decision to force states to give equal treatment to same-sex marriages “has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in his dissent. “Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be…. Five lawyers have closed the debate [about same-sex marriage] and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law.”
While President-elect Trump may be willing to accept the unconstitutional edict from the Supreme Court, Republicans and conservative Christians shouldn’t abandon efforts to restore traditional marriage.
Conservatives know that laws encouraging traditional nuclear families – consisting of a father, a mother, and their children – strengthen communities.
Furthermore, numerous sociological studies indicate that children raised within intact traditional families are healthier and happier. These children are also more likely to become successful, well-adjusted adults.
Our laws should reflect this social and biological reality. Just as our laws affirm that adultery and polygamy corrode the natural order and weaken families, so too should our laws reflect the truth that normalizing homosexual relationships isn’t conducive to maintaining a healthy society.
When trying to determine which approach should be used to oppose same-sex marriage, conservatives should be careful to avoid the pitfalls that derailed the movement against no-fault divorce. As states began adopting no-fault divorce laws during the 1970s and 1980s, many on the religious right articulately defended the sanctity of covenantal marriage, warning about the harm to children and communities caused by broken families.
Over time, however, the movement abandoned its role as prophet, conceding the issue of no-fault divorce to those who contended for the legal ability to divorce their spouse for any number of personal reasons. As religious conservatives began backing away from the issue, more states passed no-fault divorce laws, contributing to the near 50% divorce rate among married couples today.
Instead, conservatives concerned about the sanctity of marriage should mimic the tactics of the pro-life movement. Despite the monumental legal loss of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade (1973), people of faith have remained steadfastly opposed to the abortion on demand. Pastors, priests, and layman alike have lovingly explained how the inherent dignity of human life, created in the image of the Creator, disallows the notion that a mother has the right to choose to end her pregnancy. Likewise, researchers have published scientific studies detailing the capability of unborn babies to feel pain.
By mobilizing churches and congregations to advocate pro-life policies despite early legal losses, the pro-life movement has made significant gains over the last couple decades. In the wake of Obergefell, Christians should follow the model of political activism and social persuasion that has been so effectively utilized by the pro-life movement.
So here’s the bottom line, conservatives: Don’t give up on the sanctity of marriage just because the Republican in the White House refuses to get involved in the fight. We must continue agitating for a political order that better reflects natural law and the reality of the human experience, even when it’s not politically expedient. Sociologists, psychologists, other researchers should continue publishing empirical studies detailing how same-sex marriage adversely affects couples, children, and communities.
Marriage isn’t a lost cause. Although it may seem like society – including some prominent Republicans – is accepting the falsehood that same-sex marriage is a normal and healthy family arrangement, we must remain faithful to the truth, recognized for thousands of years, that marriage between one man and one woman forms the basis for resilient communities and healthy families.
Just like Roe v. Wade isn’t settled, marriage isn’t settled, either.