Tag Archives: Ryan T. Anderson

Book review: What is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense

This book review of a great recent book on marriage is worth reading in full.


Why should the state have an interest in intimate personal relationships? Nowhere do the authors suggest that consenting adults should be prevented from forming whatever intense emotional bonds they please. But it is a fallacy to conflate the issue of freedom of sexual expression with the institution of marriage. The state has an interest in children, first of all because it has a responsibility to promote their welfare, and secondly because the common institutions of society have an interest in our common future. Marriage, the authors write,

is a bond of a special kind. It unites spouses in body as well as mind and heart, and it is especially apt for, and enriched by, procreation and family life. In light of both these facts, it alone objectively calls for commitments of permanence and exclusivity. Spouses vow their whole selves for their whole lives. This comprehensiveness puts the value of marriage in a class apart from the value of other relationships.

That is the conjugal view of marriage, in the authors’ definition. It is permanent and comprehensive, as opposed to an intense emotional bond, which may dissolve as quickly as it was formed. That may be convenient for lovers but catastrophic for their children.

Only the union of a man and woman can be comprehensive, the authors argue. The issue isn’t dignity, which all human beings deserve. Instead, the issue is what a married man and woman can do that no other human arrangement can do: “Marriage is ordered to family life because the act by which spouses make love also makes new life; one and the same act both seals a marriage and brings forth children. That is why marriage alone is the loving union of mind and body fulfilled by the procreation – and rearing – of whole new human beings.”

Across the ideological spectrum, researchers agree that “the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage. Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poorer outcomes,” as the research institution Child Trends concluded. And as Professor Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project concluded, “The core message…is that the wealth of nations depends in no small part on the health of the family.”

Adoption by gay parents does not do as well: The authors present a wide range of research showing that “compared to children of parents at least one of whom had a gay or lesbian relationship, those reared by their married biological parents were found to have fared better on dozens of indicators”. Part of the reason that married biological parents do better may have to do with sexual exclusivity, which is virtually nonexistent in male homosexual relationships according to the standard research on the subject.

The state cannot help but take an interest, for it gets the bill for the damages when marriage breaks down. As George et al write, “Since a strong marriage culture is good for children, spouses, indeed our whole economy, and especially the poor, it also serves the cause of limited government. Most obviously, where marriages never form or easily break down, the state expands to fill the domestic vacuum by lawsuits to determine paternity, visitation rights, child support, and alimony.”

That is the fallacy of the libertarian argument in favor of absenting the state from all questions involving personal intimacy. Society can get along with a small government if it has strong private institutions: families, churches, charities, schools and volunteer associations. Among these the family has more weight than all the rest put together. The state, and above all a state that seeks self-limitation, needs the family to flourish.

This book review is a great summary of the history of marriage, the essential issue in the redefinition of marriage (the selfishness of adults), and why marriage matters to society. Really recommend this one! Everyone who defends marriage these days seems to get called every kind of name possible. We face all kinds of persecution from being put on trial to being harmed in the academy and the workplace. Largely because we cannot put our intuitions about the goodness of marriage into arguments, and then support them with evidence.

Related posts

Frank Turek: is “equality” the issue in the same-sex marriage debate?

Here’s part one in a two-part series.


Here is my thesisMarriage between a man and a woman is the foundation of civilized society and should be the only sexual relationship promoted by the government. That is the essence of the Marriage Protection Amendment, and its passage in no way violates anyone’s civil rights.

In order to see this, we need to ask, “For what primary purpose is the government involved in marriage at all?” It’s not because two people love one another or to make individuals “happy.” The main reason most governments promote the union of a man and woman exclusively is because only the committed union of a man and a woman perpetuates and stabilizes society. I’ll call this union “natural marriage” because of the natural biological compatibility of male and female bodies and to differentiate it from same-sex marriage.

Here are four ways natural marriage perpetuates and stabilizes society:

1. Natural Marriage procreates and provides the most stable, balanced and nurturing environment for children. While not every marriage results in children, the only marriages than can procreate are those between a man and a woman. And statistically, children and the country do best when kids are brought up in a biological two-parent home. Children from intact natural marriage homes are:

a. Seven times less likely to live in poverty

b. Six times less likely to commit suicide

c. Less than half as likely to commit crime

d. Less than half as likely to become pregnant out of wedlock

e. Develop better academically and socially

f. Are healthier physically and emotionally when they reach adulthood

This makes sense in light of the fact that men and women are different and parent differently—each sex brings unique abilities and role modeling that aids in child development. While single parents do amazing work, every child starts with and deserves a mother and a father. If you deny this, then which parent is dispensable?

2. Natural Marriage civilizes men and focuses them on productive pursuits such as procreating and caring for their family. Studies invariably show that marriage reduces crime. (How many married men do you know who roam neighborhoods in street gangs?) Civilization requires civilized men, and natural marriage does that well.

3. Natural Marriage protects women from being used and abandoned by uncommitted men. Women often postpone or give up their careers to have children, and Natural Marriage protects them and their children from deadbeat dads.

4. Natural Marriage lowers social costs to government and thus taxpayers. One major reason for our soaring deficit is the breakdown of the two-parent family. When the family breaks down, government expenditures swell to deal with increased crime and poverty. Increased taxation also slows the economy. That’s one reason why you cannot bifurcate the social and financial issues. They are inescapably connected.

In short, when our natural marriages are strong, our society is strong. When they are weak, our society is weak. That means all in our society—even those who never get married—benefit immensely from government promotion of natural marriage.

He is promoting fusionism there, which is my view of economics. Social and fiscal issues are tightly coupled and mutually reinforcing.

Here’s part two of two.


But why not promote both natural marriage and same sex marriage?

Several reasons, but I can only briefly mention three.

First, same-sex marriage would make the institution of marriage genderless. There would not be two forms of marriage—natural and same-sex—but marriage legally and culturally would become a genderless institution about merely coupling. In Massachusetts it’s Partner A and Partner B. In other words, same-sex marriage divorces children from marriage. The law is a great teacher, and same-sex marriage teaches that marriage is about adult desires, not the needs of children. Marriage should be more about what children need than what adults want. If marriage isn’t about the needs of children, then what institution is about children and the next generation? So homosexuality really isn’t the issue here—making marriage genderless and childless is.

Second, since natural marriage and same-sex marriage are different behaviors with different outcomes they should not be equated legally. To see this, consider two questions.

Question 1: What would be the benefits to society if everyone lived faithfully in natural marriage? It would benefit everyone in society because it would result in a massive reduction in poverty, crime, child abuse, welfare, and government spending.

Question 2: What would be the benefits to society if everyone lived faithfully in same-sex marriage? It would be the end of society itself.

Now, I am not suggesting that a law would fully achieve either, but only to point out that natural and same-sex marriage should not be legally or culturally equated. The truth is homosexual and heterosexual relationships are not the same, can never be the same, and will never yield the same benefits to individuals or society. We hurt everyone, especially children, by pretending otherwise.

Finally, as jurisdictions with same-sex marriage show us, people lose their freedoms of speech, association, religion and even parenting due to the imposition of same-sex marriage. InMassachusetts, for example, parents now have no right to even know when their kids as young as kindergarten are being taught about homosexuality, much less opt out of it; business owners must now provide benefits to same-sex couples, and they can be fined for declining to provide services at homosexual weddings; Catholic charities were forced to close and leave Massachusetts and Washington D.C. because both governments mandated that all adoption agencies had to provide children to homosexuals. So much for freedom of religion! And in Canada, same-sex marriage has led to such a chilling restriction on speech, that my speech here today could get me fined or jailed if given there.

If you like what Frank Turek had to say there, just keep in mind that he’s written a book about the issue.

And I just have to throw in a quick quote from another case in favor of natural marriage by Ryan T. Anderson (one of the famous Gang of Three who wrote that fabulous new book on marriage).


Government recognizes marriage because it is an institution that benefits society in a way that no other relationship does. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means to ensure the well-being of children. State recognition of marriage protects children by encouraging men and women to commit to each other and take responsibility for their children. While respecting everyone’s liberty, government rightly recognizes, protects, and promotes marriage as the ideal institution for childbearing and childrearing.

Redefining marriage would further distance marriage from the needs of children. It would deny as a matter of policy the ideal that a child needs a mom and a dad. We know that children tend to do best when raised by a mother and a father. The confusion resulting from further delinking childbearing from marriage would force the state to intervene more often in family life and cause welfare programs to grow even more.

In recent years marriage has been weakened by a revisionist view that is more about adults’ desires than children’s needs. Redefining marriage represents the culmination of this revisionism: Emotional intensity would be the only thing left to set marriage apart from other kinds of relationships. Redefining marriage would put a new principle into the law—that marriage is whatever emotional bond the government says it is.

Redefining marriage to abandon the norm of male-female sexual complementarity would also make other essential characteristics—such as monogamy, exclusivity, and permanency—optional. But marriage can’t do the work that society needs it to do if these norms are further weakened. All Americans, especially conservatives who care about thriving civil society capable of limiting the state, should be alarmed.

Redefining marriage is a direct and demonstrated threat to religious freedom that marginalizes those who affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman. We have already seen this in neighboring Canada and right here in places such as Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.

I keep hearing people talk about tolerance, tolerance, tolerance. But I don’t think they understand the purpose of marriage. If they did, they would see that we need what marriage provides, and that we need to promote it. The marriage issue is not a buffet where you pick what you like.

What is marriage? A lecture with Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George

When it comes to defending marriage, there are two ways to argue. My way is to argue using evidence that same-sex marriage harms society by harming children, by harming public health and safety and harming liberties, especially religious liberty. But there is another way to argue, a more philosophical way. And that’s the way that three scholars have argued in a new book called “What Is Marriage?: Man and Woman: A Defense“.

Here are the authors:

Sherif Girgis is a Ph.D. student in philosophy at Princeton University and a J.D. candidate at Yale Law School. After graduating Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude from Princeton, where he won prizes for best senior thesis in ethics and best thesis in philosophy, as well as the Dante Society of America’s national Dante Prize, he obtained a B.Phil. in moral, political, and legal philosophy from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar.

Ryan T. Anderson is William E. Simon Fellow at the Heritage Foundation and the editor of Public Discourse: Ethics, Law, and the Common Good, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute. A Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude graduate of Princeton University, he is a Ph.D. candidate in political philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He has worked as assistant editor of First Things and was a Journalism Fellow of the Phil­lips Foundation. His writings have appeared in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public PolicyFirst Things, the Weekly StandardNational Review, the New Atlantis, and the Claremont Review of Books.

Robert PGeorge is a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School and McCormick Profes­sor of Jurisprudence and Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institu­tions at Princeton University. He is a member of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, and previously served on the President’s Council on Bioethics and as a presi­dential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. He is a former Judicial Fellow at the Supreme Court of the United States, where he received the Justice Tom C. Clark Award. He is a recipient of the United States Presidential Citizens Medal and the Honorific Medal for the Defense of Human Rights of the Republic of Poland.

And here is an academic publication that they wrote previously, which was the basis for the new book.

And here is a lecture they did explaining the book, in 3 parts.

Part 1 of 3:

Part 2 of 3:

Part 3 of 3:

This book is probably the most important book to come out in opposition to same-sex marriage so far, so it makes sense to watch the lecture and get an idea of how scholars at the very top of the academic tower make the case for natural marriage. If you leave marriage to the Comedy Channel leftists, you will never hear a real discussion of the issues.