With the Supreme Court set this week to hear two historic challenges to the traditional definition of marriage, pro-family advocates are charging that legalizing gay marriage would “inevitably” lead to the legalization of polygamy as well.
“No question about it,” Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, told Newsmax.TV in an exclusive interview Monday afternoon. “If you make the ultimate value a person’s right to express their sexuality with another person and to have that identified as marriage, then how do you keep polygamy from happening?
“How do keep consensual adult siblings from getting married?” he added. “How do you keep a consensual father and adult daughter from getting married? Incest and polygamy will come right after it.”
Land’s conclusion: “You shatter the definition of marriage if you try to expand it to include same-sex marriage.”
Land is far from the only social conservative making that argument. The Christian legal organization Liberty Counsel filed a brief with the Supreme Court that states: “Ultimately, there is no principled basis for recognizing a legality of same-sex marriage without simultaneously providing a basis for the legality of consensual polygamy or certain adult incestuous relationships.”
The remarks of Land, a leading social conservative, came in the context of what is expected to be one of the most important weeks in the history of the battle that pro-family forces are waging to preserve the traditional definition of marriage, as the Supreme Court holds two hearings on gay-marriage cases.
On Tuesday, the justices will hear arguments in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the high-profile challenge to California’s Proposition 8 vote that struck down legalization of gay marriage in California. That case is being directed by two high-profile attorneys, Ted Olson and David Boies. They argue that those trying to stop gay marriage have failed to demonstrate legalizing would harm society.
Then on Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear a challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which effectively prohibits any federal recognition of the validity of same-sex marriage.
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Land told Newsmax that it is no coincidence that a court which apparently prides itself of judicial restraint – the notion that courts should wield their power modestly in order to minimize the social and political impact of their rulings – opted to hear two cases on the same issue. Doing so, he said, enables them to render a mixed verdict.
“I actually think that the court is going to rule on narrow grounds. This is why they took these two cases in tandem with each other,” Land told Newsmax. “This court has a predilection for doing this. They did this with the Ten Commandments case; they took two Ten Commandments cases at once. They ruled in favor of one and against the other, sort of split the difference, and took the path of least resistance. So the issue did not become the court and the court’s role, and it has left as much as possible to democratic processes.”
Land predicted the Court will rule that the states, including California, have the right to define what marriage means. But he believes they will also rule that once a state recognizes same-sex marriage, as nine of them do plus the District of Columbia, then those individuals must be eligible for the same federal benefits as other couples.
“They’ve learned from Roe v. Wade,” Land said. “Even Justice Ginsberg who’s the most liberal justice in the history of the Supreme Court, said that Roe v. Wade was a bad decision because it tried to take the abortion issue out of the democratic process, and made the abortion issue much more contentious than it would have been otherwise.”
If the Supreme Court, which is not expected to rule on the cases until June, does make the states the decider when it comes to gay marriage, Land told Newsmax : “We will continue to try to defend traditional marriage in the states where it is the only option and we will try to overturn same-sex marriage in the states that have passed it. We will continue to make the argument that when you try to extend the definition of marriage to include same-sex marriage, you shatter the definition of marriage.”
Social conservatives are sparing no effort to make their views known on the issue. Last week, Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission issued an alert that “The sacred institution of marriage has reached an hour of great need for prayer.” Thousands of pro-family supporters are expected to descend on the Nation’s Capital Tuesday for a “March for Marriage.”
Gay-marriage proponents have countered that there is no social reason for denying same-sex couples the same protection under the law that heterosexual couples enjoy. They also contend that expansion of marriage to polygamy could be avoided by pointing out the social ills of being married to more than one spouse.
Land also addressed the view that public opinion is beginning to shift in favor of gay marriage.
“My reaction is that their celebrations are premature. Certainly, opinion has shifted to some degree but America is still very, very closely divided on this issue and it’s not nationwide.”
He added that as voters see the repercussions of same-sex marriage laws, opinion against it will strengthen.
“The longer that same-sex marriage exists in the states that it exists in,” said Land, “the more problems people are going to see with it .… You’re going to see appeals in the courts for polygamy. You’re going to see significant issues arise from same-sex marriage that the American people are not going to like and there’s going to be a backlash.”
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