Ryan T. Anderson’s new book Truth Overruled : The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom uses only arguments “based in philosophy, jurisprudence, political science and social science” to investigate “what marriage is, why marriage matters for public policy, and what the consequences are of redefining marriage.”
Attempting to keep the debate on marriage equality going with social and religious conservatives, Anderson highlights “truths” he imagines SCOTUS trampled in extending marriage equality to roughly 10 million American.
Anderson, in constructing these “truths,” ignores the social history of marriage, elevates procreative complementarity as a condition of marriage, and discounts all major professional medical and psychological associations’ statements on the natural variations of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Truth” #1: Marriage is intended as a context in which to raise children
Anderson’s “truth” of marriage as a context in which to create children may be sentimental, but taking the long view of history, it is not accurate.
Equal access to same-sex couples did not “redefine” marriage. Its definition has gradually shifted over the last five millennia, primarily in the past fifty years. Breaking with thousands of years of tradition, in the late 19th century, marriages started to be based on love and companionship. Before that, couples married for political and economic reasons.
The women’s rights movement, along with the commercial availability of birth control in the 1960s, caused the next major modification to marriage. Suddenly women had greater access to legal rights, education, better paying jobs, birth control, and divorce.
It was heterosexual couples that significantly altered the marriage landscape with cohabitation, single parent families, and divorce.
“Truth” #2: Procreative complementarity is required in marriage
Though procreative complementarity in the sex act is primarily a Roman Catholic doctrine, can it be adequately used to restrict marriage to one man and one woman?
According to the Center for Disease Control, 6% of women aged 15 to 44 are deemed infertile, additionally, 12% have problems getting or carrying pregnancies to term. Add to that, 7.5% of men suffer infertility problems. These levels of infertile heterosexuals exceed the percentage of LGBT people in the US population. If naturally occurring infertile heterosexual couples get a pass on procreative complementarity, can we then bar access to infertile same-sex couples?
“Truth” #3: Non-heterosexual sex simply a behavior
Anderson asserts that any sexual attraction other than heterosexual attraction, or non-cisgender identity, is both a behavior and changeable. He ignores all major professional medical and psychological associations’ statements on these issues.
Prosecution not persecution
Prosecution for breaking discrimination laws is not religious persecution. Anderson fails to inform his readers that religious freedom is the liberty to worship according to your beliefs, to attend a faith community of your choice, and having the right to share your beliefs.
The freedom to practice one’s faith does not include asserting ideologies that inherently deny the civil rights of other citizens.
Let’s move on to public discourse based in truth, not ideology
Anderson and his fans may enjoy deliberating marriage equality, but while the challenge cases travelled through local courts, district courts, and finally to the Supreme Court, each of Anderson’s ideologies, his “truths,” were carefully examined. They’ve already been found lacking and certainly less compelling than the need to expand marriage rights to roughly 10 million Americans.
As Americans, we will find our way through this important discourse, hopefully with mutual respect. The public conversation requires wrestling with real truths. The easily deconstructed personal ideology presented in Truth Overruled’s is devoid of knowledge of social history and science and serves to slow the progress towards balancing and honoring both civil rights and religious freedom.
This post was written for New Civil Rights Movement.
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