Marriage: Conclusion And Compromise

Ryan T. Anderson – What is Marriage?


Marriage is, among other things, our solution to the social problem that every society must solve. If marriage is not structured around procreation, socially constructing fatherhood, and ensuring both parents share equal rights and responsibilities towards any children their union produces, then we have no solution. 

With millennia of experience behind us, and no effective alternative before us, the conservative conclusion is that marriage should be a strong social institution between a man and woman.


Civil unions offer a compromise, but there is no reason to limit civil unions to just same-sex couples, and there is no reason to assume civil unions must be sexual. An “honorable compromise among reasonable people of good-will” proposed by Ryan T. Anderson and Sherif Girgis is outlined as follows:

The revisionists would agree to oppose the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), thus ensuring that federal law retains the traditional definition of marriage as the union of husband and wife, and states retain the right to preserve that definition in their law. In return, traditionalists would agree to support federal civil unions offering most or all marital benefits. But, as Princeton’s Robert P. George once proposed for New Jersey civil unions, unions recognized by the federal government would be available to any two adults who commit to sharing domestic responsibilities, whether or not their relationship is sexual. Available only to people otherwise ineligible to marry each other (say, because of consanguinity), these unions would neither introduce a rival “marriage-lite” option nor treat same-sex unions as marriages. Their purpose would be to protect adult domestic partners who have pledged themselves to a mutually binding relationship of care. What (if anything) goes on in the bedroom would have nothing to do with these unions’ goals or, thus, eligibility requirements.

…Our proposal would still meet the needs of same-sex partners—based not on sex (which is irrelevant to their relationship’s social value), but on shared domestic responsibilities, which really can ground mutual obligations. It would provide a practical compromise that need not offend either side’s nonnegotiable principles. And it would lower the emotional temperature without chilling debate, which would continue at the state level, perhaps now more fruitfully.