Friday, July 3, 2015

SCOTUS' Decision on Gay Marriage: A Philosophical Critique


As the entire world is probably aware by now, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in late June 2015 that "marriage" does include same-sex couples. The majority opinion (written and presented by Justice Kennedy) includes the recognition that historically "marriage" has been defined as being a union between two individuals of the opposite sex. The opinion describes three cases that the SCOTUS heard and its reasoning for its conclusion that it was time to redefine "marriage."

As a defender of the Christian worldview, which includes objective value and objective morality, I feel that it is necessary to comment on this highly emotional and political issue. I have read and heard several opinion pieces from various sources (my favorites on linked at the end of this article), and I hope to not be redundant with this article's more philosophical approach to critiquing the ruling. I also hope to provide a reasoned and gracious response that, I pray, will speak to the hearts and minds of those caught in the middle of this battle. I want to start with two important recognitions:

Man Is Created In The Image of God

Humanity was created in the Image of God. This is the foundation for individuals' intrinsic value that transcends what any other individual, government, or culture may say about another person. This value existed from the moment they were conceived and continues into eternity. When God created us in His Image, He gave us a mind that has the ability to soundly reason toward true conclusions. We can examine multiple lines of evidence to discover the true nature of reality and recognize multiple problems to engineer the most reasonable solution. Our minds also give us the capability to test our solutions against the nature of reality to ensure consistency. But when God created us He also gave us emotions. Even though emotions allow us to react vibrantly to our discoveries of truth and "bring them to life" (so to say), they often get in the way of sound reasoning towards true conclusions or towards proper solutions (and much less, towards solutions consistent with our true conclusions). When we see a conclusion coming that causes us emotional pain (great or small), we will resist it emotionally and will attempt to reason our way around it, often sacrificing other important truths to spare us the pain.

Man Is Fallen

Humanity is also fallen. Our minds do not always try to reason towards truth because the truth, in many cases, stands in direct contradiction to our desires. So we will attempt to reason around the undesired conclusions to the desired ones. We try to justify our reasoning to our desired conclusions based on feelings, in an effort to allow us to maintain what is objectively wrong or sinful because its acceptance or practice strikes the pleasure center of our brains. It is important, though, that no one discount the reality of the feelings and the pleasure that falsehoods and sin can give to fallen humans. These feelings need to be acknowledged and addressed, but we cannot allow them to force us into fallacious reasoning. We must ultimately enter any discussion on issues of reality with an acute focus on discovering what is true, not on what is pleasurable. When in the discussion the proper response by the Christian apologist to any issue will address both the heart and the mind and remain consistent in doing both, thus addressing the greatness and the wretchedness of humanity. It is then that person's free choice to either accept or reject truth of the conclusion defended and whether or not they will submit the whole of their being to their Creator and Savior.

My goal for the rest of this post is to evaluate the reasoning used to form the conclusions based on each of the three cases cited by Justice Kennedy. I will also address the possibility of achieving the desired outcomes of the redefinition of "marriage" that the majority opinion describes. But before continuing further, I encourage the reader to read, at least, the majority opinion presented by Justice Kennedy. The quotes that I use will come from that portion of the PDF document, and they need to be understood in their original context. Here is a link: CNN.

The Pain of a Surviving Friend

"By statute, they must remain strangers even in death, a state-imposed separation Obergefell deems 'hurtful for the rest of time.'"

This statement describes the current implications of the case of two same-sex individuals (one now deceased). There is much pain involved in losing any close friend or family member. That pain is often based in the fact that we had a very close relationship with that person. They were the person we leaned upon when in trouble, shared our fears and secrets, and/or just enjoyed life together. We grieve their passing and often lament what will no longer be since they are gone. They remain a part of our hearts, and we remember them, with pain and joy. They do not remain strangers because they were not when they passed. It is the relationship that we develop with others that removes the status of "strangers" between two individuals.

No government has the capability to prevent people from building a relationship with one another. And no one claims that they are strangers now with close, deceased friends because they cannot marry one another. While I understand the pain of losing close family, I cannot reasonably claim that a feeling of being "strangers" after the death of a loved one is due to some limitation by the government on my ability to "marry" them. Rather the "stranger" feeling may be sourced in something that was missing in our relationship when the person was alive. I can grieve that loss, and I can make concerted efforts to avoid it in future relationships, but I cannot expect the government to define a close relationship into existence.

It is the fact that we are created in the Image of God that allows us to build close relationships to remove the status of "strangers." It is also that we have been endowed by our Creator with emotion to grieve missed opportunities to remove such a status. But God has not left us with those mistakes needlessly; He gave us a mind with a will to see that even though we bear the scars of past mistakes that we can avoid them in the future and minister to others in our paths who are dealing with the same pain with which we are all too acquainted.

The Desire to Adopt Children

The second case described a lesbian couple who adopted children, but would not be able to do so if they were not legally considered married. As a soon-to-be adoptive parent, I understand the desire to adopt children who need a stable, loving home. My wife and I also personally know the rollercoaster of emotions and frustrations involved in the process. We have seen what is responsible for the necessity of children to be taken or given up for adoption; the wretchedness of humanity that has made adoption a necessity in this world. Children have intrinsic value, and we feel the need to rescue them (temporarily or permanently) from the pain and evil that they are experiencing. It is the fact that God created us in His Image that allows us to recognize evil in acts we observe. It is also the source of the intrinsic value that we sense. And those together are what triggers our sense of responsibility and sense duty to adopt, to remove the young victims from evil's clutches and protect them.

Using the intrinsic value of humanity, it is often argued (passionately) that it is (objectively) morally better for a child to be adopted by a gay couple than to be left in the (objectively) evil situation, left in "the system," or even aborted if the child have not yet been born. From this, it is further concluded that homosexuals need the legal ability to marry to provide good homes for these children.

I do grant that there exists(ed) a legal boundary that prevents(ed) gay couples from being able to, as a family, provide a home for children. However, the true necessity of such a need has not necessarily been established. It is often claimed that there are not enough good homes for these children. Depending on what I'm looking at, I can agree and disagree with that claim. This dissonance is founded in my knowledge of many heterosexual couples (married) who are trying to adopt, but face many obstacles, and other married couples who see these obstacles and are immediately discouraged from even trying, or lose heart and simply give up.

A paradox in the Church: this argument is given a foundation only in the existence of God (via the intrinsic value of children in virtue of their being created in Image of God), and it is given legitimacy by the very Church who bears Christ's name. Yes, Christians are created in the Image of God too. The same emotions that give us the sense of duty to God's young image-bearers also allows us to feel frustration and defeat when we work through a woefully imperfect system that was created by fallen humans and is run by fallen humans. The fact that every couple, who is going through the process is also fallen and struggles between the sense of duty and our desire to avoid the pain, does not help the situation. However, God did not leave us alone in this matter either. He gave every Christian who has come through this process as support (emotional, financial, reasonable, and spiritual) for those of us who are still in the midst of the process. If the Church would rise (more) to God's calling for the Body of Christ to support one another (in Scripture) and rise to the responsibility, there would not even appear that there is a logical reason to justify sin via our children.

A contradiction for the supporter of gay marriage: this argument finds its foundation only in children having intrinsic value. Outside of that, the argument is purely opinion and emotionally driven. The only way that humans can possess intrinsic value is if they are created in the Image of God (who must exist for anything to be created in His Image). The adoption of animals (who were not created in the Image of God, thus do no posses intrinsic value) is not used as an argument for gay marriage, so intrinsic value is a necessary component, and value can only be intrinsic if it transcends space and time- no single human or community of humans can legislate or dictate that they, themselves (much less others) have intrinsic value if they do not already possess it independent of their own declarations. It is only founded in the transcendent God of the Bible- God's revelation to all generations (that has been verified to be from the Creator of the universe*) which has stated clearly that marriage is necessarily and objectively between two individuals of the opposite sex, and condemns as an objectively moral wrong (sin) any homosexual activity. The supporter of gay marriage must simultaneously affirm and deny either God's existence or the fact that He has revealed truth to us in Scripture. No government can objectively redefine what the Power, who place it in authority, has eternally defined objectively.

If the concern here is truly for God's young image-bearers, then those who attempt to use children to justify a redefinition of an objectively defined institution (marriage) would be more logically consistent and more effective to turn their righteous indignation away from the laws of the land and turn it to those responsible for creating the situations in the first place, those who stand in the way of successful adoptions, those who are called to adoption but are not, and those who are called to support those who have been called to adopt. Those who are concerned for the children in evil situations can have more of an impact by lighting a fire under those who are ultimately responsible for the problem and the solution. Gay marriage is not going to have much, if any, impact in this area because of the fact that humans are still sinful and are naturally focused on themselves and away from the calling of God in His Word; legalizing something against God's Word actually focuses us the other direction. And I actually predict that over time, more and more children will end up in the system because of the loss of the doctrine of the Image of God, which will result in the loss of the understanding of humanity and children possessing intrinsic value, thus the sense of duty and responsibility to remove children from evil situations will fade slowly in our culture. I expect that the SCOTUS' redfinition of marriage will actually backfire and prove (not just theoretically, but in practice) that the appeal to the adoption of children is logically unsound.

The Unknown of Traveling Gay and Married Couples

The third case involved a gay couple where one of the partners was enlisted in the military. As the one was deployed to various domestic locations, their "married" status disappeared and reappeard as they crossed lines between states that either did or did not recognize gay marriage. On the surface this concern seems more of a convenience issue than a pain issue. But the unexpected deployments to different states and the inability to choose which states adds a level of uncertainty and inability to control the situation that the two previous cases did have (they could freely choose to live in states that DID recognize gay marriage). Everyone who lives in the real world understands what the stress of the unexpected can do to you. Let's now compound that with the stress of those with close friends and family (especially immediate family: children and spouses) in the military. The stress of the unknown and all the other sources of stress in the military certainly removes this concern from merely one of "convenience," and for any patriotic supporter of American service men and women, it should cause us to step back before reducing it to such.

So, before I continue, I want to thank all military men and women (and their families) for their service and their strong sense of duty and responsibility to protect freedom and their (and my) friends', family's, and strangers' right to exercise such freedom, to the point of surrendering your own life. This demonstrates your extreme commitment to the intrinsic value of human beings and the objective, moral good of freedom. I pray those in this discussion will not lose site of that honorable dedication, and that you understand any disagreements we have on this topic will never alter my respect and gratitude for your sacrifices.

As I have mentioned above, marriage has been objectively defined independently of any human desire. That means that if two people are truly married, it does not matter where they are, that status travels with them, regardless of whether the law of the land recognizes it. The eternal Creator of the universe recognizes it, and those who recognize Him (and even those who do not, as Justice Kennedy noted by historical references) recognize it also. Thus, if we are concerned about our status of "married" following us across borders, it would behoove a society to not attempt to redefine marriage, but to discover and recognize how the Creator defines it (addressed above).

The argument for gay marriage from this case assumes (and necessitates) the relativity of the concept of marriage. The problem is that nothing stands in the way of the government from removing gays from marriage again. The implications here provide no security. The current SCOTUS' definition could be redefined, and the next one could redefine it yet again. Some predict that redefinition will continue to devolve with polygamy, incest, and bestiality, and while I do grant that those are possible, those are not the continued redefinitions to which I am referring, here. I am referring to redefining back and forth between marriage including or excluding same-sex individuals. Since the concept of marriage (on this view) is dynamic, then homosexual couples' status of "married" could disappear and reappear with each redefinition of "marriage." While the case of military individuals appeals to the removal of the stress of an unknown, they really haven't removed the unknown at all. They have merely given the illusion of removing it, and actually affirmed that the new unknown (redefinability) can NEVER be removed. So, the SCOTUS has again, not solved any problem with their redefinition, but has only made it worse, not just for gay individuals, but for every American who is "married" as the definition stands today.

Other Concerns and Foundations

Justice Kennedy referred, throughout the opinion, to foundational rights of gay individuals and to various things that the majority believed their decision would accomplish. They believed that their redefinition of "marriage" would result in companionship, understanding, assurance, value, dignity, understanding and recognition, among others.

Fundamental Rights

"The identification and protection of fundamental rights is an enduring part of the judicial duty to interpret the Constitution...[that responsibility] requires courts to exercise reasoned judgment in identifying interest of the person so fundamental that the State must accord them its respect."

Objective fundamental rights do not exist without an eternal source in which to ground them; otherwise, rights are merely a matter of opinion. Since the universe (and everything in it) had a beginning, there must be a source outside it that can ground fundamental rights. Objective fundamental rights also must be connected, in some way, from that eternal source to humanity. The only solution to both of these requirements is the Christian God. He is eternal and transcends space and time, so He can be a foundation for objective rights, and God created humans in His Image, which connects those objective rights to us. Many in this discussion (including the supporting SCOTUS Justices) expect that the government can actually take the place of God as the source for foundational rights. But that logically cannot be; it simply is not possible.

The government cannot guarantee:

Value, Dignity, Understanding or Recognition

The government cannot force nature to recognize homosexual relationships as foundational for the family; it cannot force any person to recognize homosexual relationships as legitimate, and it cannot force God to say that homosexual behavior is morally good. The government cannot establish anything objective. The government's jurisdiction ends at its geographical, psychological, and metaphysical boundaries.

The American government does not hold jurisdiction outside the boundaries of the United States. Which means that this redefinition of marriage only holds within its borders. If a "married" couple (same or opposite sex) were to cross the borders into a country that does not recognize their "marriage," then their status of being married disappears. This was the concern and argument for redefining "marriage" in the third case cited by Justice Kennedy in the majority opinion. As already supported, by redefining "marriage" the SCOTUS has NOT solved the problem within its own borders, and it now follows that it certainly cannot solve the problem outside its borders either.

No government can control the minds of free creatures without heinous violations of human rights. The SCOTUS cannot force those who disagree with its redefinition to agree with it. It cannot force those who disagree to grant value, dignity, understanding or recognition to the gay lifestyle. The granting of these to anyone is the result of free choices that first must recognize that the individuals are created in the Image of God, thus they have instrinsic value and dignity. The individual can be valued without valuing their chosen lifestyle. Since the US government cannot force people to freely choose to grant value, dignity, understanding, or recognition to homosexual behaviors, it will also fail in this purpose.

Objective value and objective dignity do transcend geographical boundaries and psychological boundaries, and even space and time themselves. The same is true of objective morality. If homosexual behavior is objectively morally wrong, it cannot be made objectively morally good by a body of limited creatures (government). If gay individuals are looking for objective value and objective dignity, they need to look outside their limited government. It is ONLY in the fact that the Christian God exists that these people ALREADY possess objective value and dignity. These are grounded in the metaphysical truth that they are created in the Image of God. It is not grounded in their choices, in their relationships, or in their genes. If God does not exist, then the desire for objective value and objective dignity is a sick joke played on them by evolution, and the government CANNOT rescue them from it.

Now, if the SCOTUS wishes to even attempt to force any of these, it will violate its own claim, in the majority opinion, to uphold "tolerance." Tolerance is supposed to allow, though not necessarily agree with or celebrate, all points of view. Unfortunately, the term has also been redefined to be intolerant of points of view that disagree. Thus, intolerance is actually being practiced in the guise of "tolerance." "Tolerance" is not actually tolerant; it is truly intolerant. And intolerance is being forced on us by the strongest means earthly possible: a government. Just as we cannot define something into existence, a married gay couple also cannot be defined into existence, much less can the tolerance of such also be defined into existence.

Companionship, Stability, and Predictability

I already described one way how the precedent of SCOTUS' redefinition of words removes both stability and predictability, but there is still another. The same government responsible for the redefinition "marriage" also allows divorce. Stable companionship cannot be legislated, and the legal means to make severing relationships easy actually creates, yet another, unknown. The supporters of traditional marriage have lived with this unknown for quite some time. We recognize that = these can only be afforded to us via the love, respect, and free choice of those in the marriage relationship. The government cannot do anything to help authentic relationships, themselves, except offer perks, but then we must ask ourselves if the person "bound" (divorce is still a legal option) to us legally is truly there for the perks or for the relationship: another unknown. That can only be established by a relationship, which again, the government cannot provide.


The historic decision to redefine "marriage" to include same-sex couples by the Supreme Court of the United States was a ruling that will forever change how legislation and jurisprudence is conducted in the United States of America. I find that all the evidence, reasoning, and purposes cited by the majority opinion to be unsound and rely necessarily upon affirming the very Foundation in their premises that they wish to deny in their conclusions. The view is contradictory to reality, but it is not a lost cause. Homosexual individuals have experienced much emotional pain, which does need to be addressed, but a permanent solution cannot come at the expense of truth, and temporary ones (like what the SCOTUS provided) will only make the wounds worse with time. The Church needs to reaffirm their position, not merely by assertion, but by defense of truth and by providing answers to the deep longings of these human hearts.

If God does not exist, then no creature has foundational rights, real dignity or intrinsic value, and something will come along that temporarily provides the illusion of satisfying our desire for it. These desires have been placed in us so that we would free seek their fulfillment. This decision may merely be one more attempt at another possible candidate to fill that hole. It is only in understanding that we, as humans, are fallen into sin, but are intrinsically valuable to the eternal, perfect, personal, all-loving, all-poweful Creator of the universe and that He loved us so much that He gave his own life that we may have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. It is only in Christ, not in government, that anyone can find what He created us for. Christians must be prepared with open hearts and a strong reasoning mind to receive those in the gay community who discover the emptiness of their "victory;" God may be working on the last stranglehold they have to replace Him before they accept Him on His conditions and not their own.

Other excellent articles on this topic:

*Please see the many other posts and book reviews on this site that show that the authors of Scripture must have been inspired to have the knowledge communicated. See particularly books by Dr. Hugh Ross and content at Reasons to Believe

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