Maggie Gallagher wrote the following ominous lines in her 1995 book The Abolition of Marriage:

“The evidence is now overwhelming that the collapse of marriage is creating a whole generation of children less happy, less physically and mentally healthy, less equipped to deal with life or produce at work, and more dangerous to themselves and others.”

Divorce, out-of-wedlock pregnancies, single-parent families and broken homes are not in the best interest of children.

Twenty years later, as if designing a plan to make things even worse, Obergefell v. Hodges denied the importance of a child having a mother and a father. In retrospect, it shouldn’t surprise us that the Supreme Court — which, as a consequence of Roe v. Wade, has consigned tens of millions of unborn children to premature death — would have no regard for the basic human right of born children to be loved and raised by their married mother and father. The 1973 and 2015 courts were in love with liberty, but not with justice.

Our first obligation in doing justice to anything is to honor what it is. Any particular thing has a nature that defines what it is — and what it is not. In his work Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton comments that “the essence of every picture is the frame.” By this he means that a thing’s limitations are not handicaps, but are inseparable from its essence or nature. He advises us “not to go about as a demagogue, encouraging triangles to break out of the prison of their three sides. If a triangle breaks out of its three sides, its life comes to a lamentable end.”

The rubber band breaks when it is stretched too far; the balloon bursts when it is over-inflated. Man cannot be God; a horse cannot sing like a nightingale. The intrinsic limitations in everything shouldn’t be seen as restrictions, but as defining properties. Chesterton cites a book entitled The Loves of the Triangles, which he confesses never to have read. But, as he remarks: “If triangles were ever loved, they were loved for being triangular.”

The fatal flaw in the recent Supreme Court decision lies in its failure to recognize the nature of marriage and its consequent judgment that the very limits which give marriage its meaning are discriminatory restrictions that should be abolished. Thus, five justices believed that, by removing one of the essential factors of marriage to accommodate the wishes of same-sex couples, they would enlarge it. The truth is that by flagrantly disregarding the nature of marriage — particularly the male-female requirement — these justices have embarked on a course to disparage, if not to destroy, marriage.

Marriage is defined in terms of several factors that distinguish it from all other forms of human alliance. It requires the mutual consent of two unmarried people who have no blood ties, are of appropriate ages and are members of the other sex. Traditional marriage is not marriage in its abbreviated or abridged form. It is real marriage.

The same cannot be said for same-sex unions. Indeed, by way of contrast, consider the 1972 American “National Gay Rights Platform” (endorsed by Canadian homosexuals), which called for:

  1. the abolition of all laws governing “age of sexual consent,” thus enabling adults to have sex with consenting children of any age or either sex;
  2. the repeal of all laws against sodomy and adult or child prostitution; and
  3. the repeal of all laws that restrict the sex or number of persons entering into a marriage unit.

William Gardner sees fit to include these points in his book The War Against the Family, because he wants to expose “the terribly destructive effect of the homosexual lobby on our most treasured moral and social institutions.” What the platform proposes as “marriage” is decidedly not marriage. What it proposes doesn’t expand marriage, but seeks to replace it.

According to Justice Anthony Kennedy, “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person. ... [C]ouples of the same sex may not be deprived of this right and that liberty.” What Kennedy ignores in the majority decision he wrote for Obergefell v. Hodges is the very nature of marriage — which is a social institution, not something that arises within an individual person. In other words, a person’s right to marry is conditioned by all the factors that constitute marriage. It is not a private option. Nor is it absolute.

A right must, at the very least, be related to a possibility. Marriage is a conditional right, not a sovereign right. We do a grave injustice to marriage by denying what it is, then creating a fraudulent image of it, and finally presenting it to the world as an improvement. Liberty is not liberty when it negates both reason and reality. It is a mere inclination that has neither substance nor life.

Donald DeMarco, Ph.D., is a senior fellow of Human Life International

and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.