Post Author: Bill Pratt
If marriage revisionists want to reject the conjugal view of marriage and decouple marriage completely from human biology and sexual reproduction, then they need to answer some questions about the revisionist view.
Robert George, Ryan Anderson, and Sherif Girgis, in their seminal paper on marriage, pose three challenges to marriage revisionists. In part 1 we dealt with the first two challenges. In part 2, we present the third and final challenge.
Third, on what principles can marriage revisionists deny marriage to three people at a time, or four people at a time, or more? The authors present yet another scenario:
Go back now to the example of Joe and Jim, and add a third man: John. To filter the second point out of this example, assume that the three men are in a romantic triad. Does anything change? If one dies, the other two are coheirs. If one is ill, either can visit or give directives. If Joe and Jim could have their romantic relationship recognized, why should not Joe, Jim, and John?
How might marriage revisionists respond?
Again, someone might object, everyone just knows that marriage is between only two people. It requires no explanation. But this again begs the question against Joe, Jim, and John, who want their shared benefits and legal recognition. After all, it is not that each wants benefits as an individual; marriage is a union. They want recognition of their polyamorous relationship and the shared benefits that come with that recognition.
Marriage traditionalists have a ready and principled response:
But if the conjugal conception of marriage is correct, it is clear why marriage is possible only between two people. Marriage is a comprehensive interpersonal union that is consummated and renewed by acts of organic bodily union and oriented to the bearing and rearing of children. Such a union can be achieved by two and only two because no single act can organically unite three or more people at the bodily level or, therefore, seal a comprehensive union of three or more lives at other levels.
Indeed, the very comprehensiveness of the union requires the marital commitment to be undivided—made to exactly one other person; but such comprehensiveness, and the exclusivity that its orientation to children demands, makes sense only on the conjugal view. Children, likewise, can have only two parents—a biological mother and father. There are two sexes, one of each type being necessary for reproduction. So marriage, a reproductive type of community, requires two—one of each sex. . . .
The goal of examining the criteria of monogamy and romance . . . is to make a simple but crucial conceptual point: Any principle that would justify the legal recognition of same‐sex relationships would also justify the legal recognition of polyamorous and non‐sexual ones. So if, as most people—including many revisionists—believe, true marriage is essentially a sexual union of exactly two persons, the revisionist conception of marriage must be unsound. Any revisionist who agrees that the state is justified in recognizing only real marriages must either reject traditional norms of monogamy and sexual consummation or adopt the conjugal view—which excludes same‐sex unions.
George, Anderson, and Girgis summarize their three challenges to marriage revisionists this way:
But we challenge the many revisionists who support norms, like monogamy, as a matter of moral principle to complete the following sentence: Polyamorous unions and nonsexual unions by nature cannot be marriages, and should not be recognized legally, because . . .