Marriage as whatever is called marriage

In London, Ontario, a judge declined to recognize three people as the legal parents of a single child (the mother, the father, and the mother’s lesbian partner). And in an older London, the Lords rejected a request to interpret English law as permitting transsexual marriage.

The victory for the traditional definition of the family was more apparent than real. The Ontario judge declared that he would have granted the application, but held back for lack of jurisdiction. And while the Law Lords held that the requested change in legal concepts was a matter for Parliament, they also declared the existing law incompatible with the right to respect for family life and the right to marry, and ordered the Lord Chancellor to pay half the costs of the appeal.

This is where the millenial traditions of the Common Law and Anglo-Saxon self-government have ended: respect for family life and marriage means equal treatment for whatever sexual arrangements people work out for themselves and say they intend to live by. There’s nothing more or less to it than that. There’s also no apparent reason why sexual arrangements should get more respect than other arrangements. What we come down to, therefore, is that “respect for family and marriage” means “equal validity of all contracts, subject to the right of the government to intervene when it seems beneficial.” “Family and marriage” thus turns out to be identical with the abolition of family and and marriage: the extension of the regime of bureaucratically-regulated markets to the ground those institutions once occupied.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey the Supreme Court said “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” As to the concept of liberty in present-day Anglo-American law, the Supreme Court was right. “Liberty” is now simply the triumph of the will, and the “respect” of which the Lords speak is simply recognition that the triumph must be equal for all wills. Such a view means the abolition of all institutions other than market and regulatory bureaucracy. Why be surprised when that result applies to marriage and family life?

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