Defending the sexual complementarity between men and women in marriage is an essential first step in building up a healthy “culture of marriage” as a whole, say the authors of a new book.
“I really do believe that this is a reasonable debate among reasonable people of good will,” said Prof. Robert George of Princeton University.
George spoke Dec. 19 at the Catholic Information Center in Washington,
D.C. Joining him at the promotional event for their book, “What is
Marriage,” were co-authors Sherif Girgis and Ryan Anderson.
The speakers explained that while attempts to redefine marriage are
based on an understanding of the union as primarily emotional, this is
neither the historical nor contemporary definition of the marital union.
Girgis, who is both a second-year Ph.D. student at Princeton and a
first-year law student at Yale, observed that marriage, historically and
philosophically understood, is a conjugal, comprehensive union on
In marriage, there is a “union of heart and mind but also of the body,”
he said, explaining that the physical realities of husband and wife are
integral to the conjugal nature of marriage.
It is this bodily union that makes procreation possible and
distinguishes marriage from friendships and other human relationships,
Changing marriage from this definition would be harmful to society, and
should therefore be avoided, warned Anderson, a fellow at the Heritage
He stressed that “being for marriage does not mean anti-gay” and said
that marriage defenders “should be at the forefront” of efforts to
oppose bullying and discrimination against those who are same-sex
However, he continued, supporters of marriage should not allow their
position to be called “bigotry,” and they must explain that their
position is not unjustly discriminatory.
Instead, he maintained, supporters of traditional marriage should
affirm that there is “(n)othing more important for the future of the
nation” than a “healthy marriage culture,” particularly for the benefit
Government has a vested interest in protecting and promoting marriage,
Anderson said, because of the social benefits offered by a healthy
Outlining the political consequences of redefining marriage, he pointed
towards the creation of no-fault divorce and how it has changed
society's view of marriage by removing the concept of permanence.
Accepting “gay marriage” would further weaken marriage by removing the
understanding that it is a fundamentally conjugal union, he said.
Anderson also noted that if it is “judgmental” to state that children
need both a mother and a father, it will become increasingly difficult
to promote active fatherhood and could lead to increased fatherlessness
across the country.
Concluding the discussion, George asserted that ultimately, the marriage question is one of rationality.
In a culture that lacks an understanding of the importance of conjugal
union, marriage seems to be a mere issue of equality, he explained.
However, the implications of redefining marriage are drastic, he
continued, because without the element of sexual complementarity, there
is no rational basis for rejecting polyamory.
As a result, redefining marriage could lead to a collapse of the term
altogether, he said, noting that people “can’t explain why marriage
requires exclusivity and sexual fidelity,” as well as permanence.
Promoting the conjugal aspect of marriage is an important step in
rebuilding the definition of the institution that has existed in every
culture throughout recorded history, George said.
He explained that the strengthening of marriage will require additional
efforts, with aid from law, philosophy, culture and religious
“The struggle to preserve the conjugal understanding of marriage in our
law,” George stated, is “only a first step...of the steps we need to
take...to rebuild a strong and healthy and vibrant marriage culture.”