It would be nice to believe that the men and women who wear black robes and occupy seats on America’s highest court are serious people — or that they are wise.
But going forth, unfortunately, it should be clear that the real thought leaders of America are in Hollywood, and that our Supreme Court, save three conservatives, is just a ship that rides the wave of public opinion.
A good deal of the court’s opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, gets into the history of marriage, what it is and what it’s for. But when I read Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which defines our judicial branch, I see nothing that says it’s the job of judges to explain to the American people why institutions like marriage, that have defined and long preceded our nation, exist and what they mean.
We actually have a source that defines marriage for us. In the Book of Genesis, the first of the five biblical books that form the foundation of the Judeo-Christian tradition that has guided Western civilization, it says that God created woman from man, and that “a man shall leave his father and his mother and cling to his wife and they shall become one flesh.”
So with all the to-do on this issue, the choice before our nation has been simple and clear. Is marriage defined by the Bible or by Justice Kennedy? Now we have the answer: Justice Kennedy.
Does it matter?
Let’s grasp the whole picture. Although many note the quickness of the change in public opinion on marriage, this is really a process that has been going on for many years. Perhaps we might start in 1962, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prayer in school is unconstitutional. Another milestone was in 1973, when the court discovered a right in our Constitution for women to destroy their unborn children.
It has been a long but not so winding road as the moral fiber of our nation has come apart. The degradation of marriage is but the latest chapter.
Kennedy is so absorbed in creating reality that he appears oblivious that any reality might exist outside his own imagination. He notes “deep transformations” in our understanding of marriage, and that “these new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution of marriage.”
Really? In 1960, 9 percent of American adults over 25 had never married. Today it is 20 percent. In a recent Pew Research survey, only 47 percent said it is “very important” that a couple legally marries if they plan to spend the rest of their lives together.
In 1960, about 5 percent of our babies were born to unwed mothers. Now it is 41 percent. Sixty-one percent of Americans now say out-of-wedlock birth is morally acceptable.
Justice Clarence Thomas zeroed in on the truth in his dissent on the court’s opinion. “Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits.”
The marriage redefinition movement has been driven by two motivations: 1) de-legitimization of religion, and 2) expansion of the welfare state.
It is no accident that as marriage has broken down, dependence on government has exploded. The percentage of our national budget consisting of transfer payments to individuals has expanded from less than 30 percent in 1960 to around 70 percent today.
The idea of American freedom was that by living by God-given prior truths and designing a Constitution to secure them and limit government, we could live free.
Now arbitrary political power fills the vacuum of degraded truths and a degraded Constitution. We’ll see how long Americans will continue to think this is a good idea.