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‘Marriage’ and My Secret Marriage Sign

Shortly after my wife and I married (36 years ago), we developed a way in which we could secretly express our marital love for each other. I would often use it when waiting to take the podium for a political event or when sitting apart from her in the choir loft at church. It was fun and cute, but I recently realized the deeper truth of what we were communicating. It brought home to me why people think two people of the same sex can marry, and why polygamous and polyandrous “marriages” must be around the corner.

The Evolution of the Secret

Without revealing the secret, I will tell you that it was grounded in a couple of ideas. First was our desire to distinguish our love for each other as husband and wife from the love we had for others who were part of our lives individually and as a couple. Second, it had to express our desire that God be a party to our marriage.

With that as the goal, the numbers one and three came to mind. One and three spoke to us of the Triune nature of God as understood by Christians, one in essence yet three in persons. But this understanding of God also defined our understanding of marriage.

My wife and I were two individuals, but by recognizing God as the Creator of marriage, we were, in a sense, introducing a third “person” into our marriage. In doing so, we were recognizing that marriage is a reality, a real-though-non-material thing. Marriage, for us, was something more than just the “aggregation” of two people for domestic purposes. It is what Moses communicated with the simple statement that the “two shall become one flesh.” There was a real unity of essence, despite the remaining physical individuality or distinctiveness of the two persons.

The Supreme Court’s Different Conception of Marriage

My appreciation for the substance of our secret means of communication registered with me a few years later as I tracked how the United States Supreme Court was reconstructing America’s views about sexual intimacy on its way to same-sex “marriage.” In this context, I put the word marriage in quotes for reasons I will explain, not because of ill-will toward its proponents.

The reconstruction of sex appears to begin with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to invalidate criminal sodomy statutes as unconstitutional in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which, in turn, led to redefining “marriage” in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) so as to include same-sex couples. However, both were grounded in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965).

The law involved in Griswold isn’t important, but the Supreme Court’s understanding of marriage in that case, explained seven years later in Eisenstadt v. Baird is important. This is how the Court described marriage: “[T]he marital couple is not an independent entity, with a mind and heart of its own, but an association of two individuals, each with a separate intellectual and emotional makeup.”

In other words, the Court does not accept the view of marriage reflected in the basis for the secret communication my wife and I developed, namely, that marriage is itself a real thing—an “independent entity,” as the Court would say—distinct from the two individuals who marry. Or to put it in theological terms, the Court does not believe marriage is something transcending the two separate individuals who, in coming together, bring a real organic type of unity into existence.

Put another way, the Supreme Court simply sees marriage as an empty word—not reflecting a prescriptive reality, but merely describing an association or aggregation of two individuals, “each with a separate intellectual and emotional makeup.”

Why Marriage Is in Quotes

That is why I put marriage in quotes when I write about the form of marriage that the Supreme Court described. If, as the Supreme Court says, marriage has no real existence or prescriptive meaning, then offsetting the word with quotation marks is philosophically and grammatically correct when used by those, like me, who think it has a real existence. Grammarians call them “scare quotes,” quotation marks “placed round a word or phrase to draw attention to an unusual or arguably inaccurate use.”

Those who think marriage has no real meaning would say that there is nothing inaccurate or unusual about describing a marriage as an aggregation of separate individuals in a domestic setting who create no organic unity transcending their separate identities. They would say that “scare quotes” are not necessary because that’s what marriage is.

Their conclusion would be correct if we were talking about the same thing. But I use scare quotes to denote that when I speak of marriage, I am speaking of something completely different in essence and nature from what the Supreme Court spoke of in Obergefell v. Hodges.

If we want to understand what’s behind the contentions within our culture over marriage, we need to understand that we are talking about two different understandings of the essence and nature of marriage. Actually, we’re talking about two different understandings of the nature of reality: Is reality only that which is physical/material, or are there non-physical/material realities?

But I will say this: As long as conservatives argue for a definition of marriage limited to a man and woman based on the Supreme Court’s philosophical/theological conception of what that word means, then they had better be prepared for its next evolution, the aggregation or association of three people in a domestic setting. After all, there is no real reason “marriage” can’t be anything we want it to be; it’s not a real thing anyway, at least to the Supreme Court and an increasing number of Americans.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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SCOTUS to Weigh California Abortion Challenge Case

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear NIFLA v. Becerra, a First Amendment challenge to California’s Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act (FACT), that forces pro-life pregnancy resource centers to instruct women on how to access abortion via the state’s Medi-Cal program. Centers are subject to $500 fines for the first offense and $1,000 for subsequent offenses.

According to Thomas Glessnor, founder and president of NIFLA, the issue is “Can the government impose and compel a faith-based ministry to proclaim a message that they are fundamentally opposed to with the risk of being fined or shut down?”

A hearing on the case has not yet be set.

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FACT Files Brief With SCOTUS Supporting Christian Baker

FACT was proud to join with 32 other pro-family policy organizations in an amicus or “friend-of-the-court” brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of the First Amendment rights of baker Jack Phillips. Phillips is challenging the lower court’s decision that would compel him to use his artistic expressions to celebrate an event that violates his religious beliefs.

Both the Department of Justice and at least 86 members of Congress have also filed their own amicus briefs in support of Phillips, along with many other concerned individuals and organizations, for a total of 45 such briefs so far.

Alliance Defending Freedom will be arguing on Phillips’ behalf before the U.S. Supreme Court this fall.

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U.S. Supreme Court and the Seal of the State of Arkansas

U.S. Supreme Court’s Unreported Arrogance

The arrogance of our United States Supreme Court was on full display this week in a surprise decision that went grossly underreported in the mainstream media. If you heard about the decision, I’d be shocked. Moreover, the decision proves that the Court is now in the business of issuing edicts that states must follow without the courtesy of any attempt to explain how they are to do so.

The decision was in a case called Pavan v. Smith. The case involved two lesbian couples that had each had a child by artificial insemination. They sued the state of Arkansas because its birth certificate statute did not allow both of the women in the “marriage” to be “mothers.” They argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex “marriage” decision in 2015, Obergefell v. Hodges, required the state to treat their marriages the same as opposite-sex marriages by letting them both be “parents,” too.

Without going into great detail, the Arkansas Supreme Court disagreed. It held that Obergefell applied only to the issuance of marriage licenses, not to laws designed to determine who the biological mother and father of a child are. And the Court held there was no unequal treatment because the presumption that a man might be the father of his wife’s child was based in biological reality, not arbitrary distinctions between opposite-sex and same-sex marriages that the Constitution might otherwise prohibit.

The women asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Arkansas Court’s decision.

An Arrogant Decision-Making Process

The normal result of such a request, if the U.S. Supreme Court thinks a case worth deciding, is to agree to hear it, to set a schedule for briefs by the parties (and other interested organizations), and to schedule oral argument. That is what the women hoped would happen.

Instead, the U.S. Supreme Court simply issued a decision and said the Arkansas Supreme Court got it wrong, that Obergefell’s constitutional principle did apply beyond marriage licenses to birth certificates, and ordered the state to issue a birth certificate listing two mothers.

That the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision without the benefit of briefs and oral arguments is extraordinary and demonstrative of the Court’s arrogance. As Justice Gorsuch, joined by Justices Alito and Thomas, said, summary decisions like this are reserved for cases in which “the law is settled and stable, the facts are not in dispute, and the decision below is clearly in error.”

Given that two other state courts had come to the same conclusion as Arkansas and a couple of other courts had not, it is clear that not all judges thought the law was “settled and stable.” So, the advocates for the homosexual agenda parading as Supreme Court Justices must have thought all those other state judges were just stupid and that they needed to be smacked down sooner rather than later.

An Arrogant Edict, Not Reasoned Judgment

But here is the proof that the U.S. Supreme Court is now into issuing arrogant edicts, not judgments based on legal reasoning.

To appreciate what follows, you have to understand that a state Office of Vital Records is a creation of statute, which means it only has the authority to receive and file documents that the Legislature has defined by statute. If the Legislature passed a statute requiring birth certificates to be printed on construction paper and filled out by crayon, something typed on heavy cotton fiber paper, though more permanent and aesthetically superior, could not be filed.

Here’s why that is important. Unless a court is going to redefine the word “husband” to mean a mother’s “spouse,” there is no language in the Arkansas statute that speaks to documents containing the names of two wives or two mothers. But did the U.S. Supreme Court bother to engage in any analysis of how the statute could be “interpreted” to produce the language necessary to authorize the receipt and filing of a birth certificate with the names of two women on it? No.

In other words, the Court could have said, “Arkansas, you need to allow the filing of a birth certificate with the names of two married women on it, and because we understand that you must have some kind of statutory language giving you the authority to do so, we are now construing the word ‘husband’ in your birth certificate statute to mean the ‘spouse’ of the mother.”

Had it done so, there would at least be some basis for Arkansas doing what the Court wants it to do. But the Court doesn’t care whether there is any statute that actually authorizes what it wants done, nor does it care whether there is even any half-legitimate way to construe an existing statute to authorize what it wants done.

“Just do it”—just issue and record the birth certificate with two “mothers”—is, in sum, what the Court said to Arkansas.

Now the question is whether Arkansas and other conservative states that believe in federalism and the separation of the powers between the judicial and legislative branches will find a way to tell the Court what it can “do” with its “just do it” edict.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Marine’s Religious Liberty Stripped for Bible Verse Display

The Supreme Court refused to hear the case of Marine Monifa Sterling, who was court-martialed for disobeying her superior when asked to take down the Isaiah 54:17 Bible verse from her workstation, although evidence showed that others were allowed to display personal items. The verse in question? “No weapon formed against me shall prosper.”

By rejecting the case, the decision by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces stands, and Sterling’s religious liberty has been severely hampered. “The military court’s outrageous decision means federal judges and military officials can strip our service members of their constitutional rights just because they don’t think someone’s religious beliefs are important enough to be protected. Our service members deserve better,” says Kelly Shackelford, CEO and chief counsel for First Liberty.

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