Gay Marriage Didn't Desecrate Marriage
Everyone has it wrong.
While liberals are rejoicing and conservatives are wailing, they've all misunderstood the issue. The Supreme Court's decision to forbid states from banning gay marriage (effectively legalizing same sex marriage throughout the United States) should not be praised — but not merely for the reasons espoused by the loudest opponents.
Contrary to what the conservative pundits are saying, the true tragedy of the Supreme Court's decision isn't that it will now allow homosexual couples to marry. (That was already possible in many states.) No, the true loss was a missed opportunity and the reinforcement of an errant philosophy. And it's a loss even for the homosexual community.
Our nation missed a tremendous opportunity through the last decade's debate regarding same sex marriage. Instead of focusing our attention on the legitimacy and appropriateness of the government's role in marriage, we instead debated the morality of homosexuality. While there is certainly a time and place to have discussions regarding any human activity, keeping the dialog focused exclusively on the morality (or immorality) of homosexuality caused us to miss the point entirely. Instead of debating whether or not gays should marry, we should have been focused on this much more fundamental question: Should the government be in the marriage business at all?
The short answer: No.
Biblically, marriage is a sacrament. It is an outward act that carries spiritual significance for believers. It is a religious practice. Moreover, it is a function of the Church, or the worldwide body of believers. The recognition of marriage should properly exist within the confines of individual communities, subject to their worldviews and/or religions. By ceding the oversight of marriage to the government, we've abdicated the role of the Church and given something holy over to the jurisdiction of a secular (by definition, godless) government. We've cast our pearls before swine.
For several years now, I've held the position that the solution to the "gay marriage" debate is to simply separate the functions of the Church from those of the State. (Which, of course, is entirely Constitutional.) The correct course of action should have been for the Church to demand that the government cease to have any involvement in the institution of marriage. They should have stopped issuing marriage licenses. They should have stopped providing tax (and other) incentives to people on the basis of their marital status. They should have stopped meddling in the sacraments of the Church. In the same way that our government doesn't have any authority over baptism, communion, confirmation, etc., the government should be equally uninvolved in marriage.
Had our nation considered that solution, it could have actually served the interests of both sides. If our governments had ceased to recognize any marriages (straight or otherwise), it would have allowed individual faith communities to practice under the parameters of their religions without having any consequence on others. But that's obviously not how things transpired. Instead, both sides errantly doubled down on the false assumption that the governments of America are somehow the ultimate governors of the sacrament of marriage. In typical asinine fashion, both Republicans and Democrats fought to use the government as a means to advance their social preferences, regardless of the Constitution. The conservatives wanted to preserve an unconstitutional tradition of benefits for straight married couples. The liberals wanted to extend those unconstitutional benefits to homosexual couples. Both sides' positions were equally unconstitutional on a national level, but no one cared about that. Both were focused only on their own interests — not the appropriateness of the entire practice.
The bottom line is that marriage should be viewed first and foremost as a religious practice. With that in mind, the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution prohibit both federal and state governments from favoring or infringing on the practice of marriage. The government has no rightful place in the marriage business.
The turmoil of the last few years (culminating in the current uproar) is indicative of our collective failure to recognize the holiness of marriage. The conservatives lost the gay marriage debate at the very moment they failed to recognize and advocate for the spiritual underpinning of marriage. By buying into the lie that the government ought to govern marriage, the conservatives laid the groundwork to enable gay marriage. (Ironically, gay marriage in America was almost entirely enabled by short-sighted Republicans who failed to see that their attempts to ban gay marriage might backfire on them in the courts.)
When we turned a sacrament into a civic function, we defiled marriage. The Church sold a holy rite for a tax break and simpler insurance policies. Gay marriage didn't desecrate marriage — we'd already done that. And the tragedy is that we still do not know what we've lost. We're still believing the lie that marriage is not a sacrament.