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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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Georgetown Pro-Marriage Group Called Discriminatory

Georgetown University’s pro-biblical marriage student group, Love Saxa, is in hot water for an article one of its members wrote for the school’s newspaper, The Hoya, stating that same-sex “marriage” went against the Catholic group’s beliefs.

Two students lodged discrimination complaints against the group. Now the student-governed Student Activities Commission is considering whether to just defund Love Saxa or to kick it off the list of officially sanctioned student groups altogether. A hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Incidentally, Georgetown was originally founded on Catholic and Jesuit traditions and the student body at the private school is about fifty-percent Catholic.

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Fifth Circuit Court Dismisses Challenge to Religious Liberty Law

On Thursday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled unanimously that a challenge to a Mississippi law protecting the rights of conscience of people who hold to the historic definition of marriage could not go forward. The appellate court noted that none of the plaintiffs had shown any injury to their rights as a result of the law. The bill prohibits the government from punishing, fining, or coercing specific people and organizations, in specific contexts, because of their beliefs regarding marriage and actions taken on the basis of those beliefs.

The bill prohibits the government from punishing, fining, or coercing specific people and organizations, in specific contexts, because of their beliefs regarding marriage and actions taken on the basis of those beliefs.

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Obergefell-Related Marriage Lawsuit Advances in Court!

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (June 1, 2017) —Tuesday we received notice that Judge Pemberton denied the various motions made to dismiss the Obergefell-related marriage lawsuit filed in Bradley County by FACT’s Constitutional Government Defense Fund (CGDF).

FACT’s president, David Fowler, who as an attorney is handling the lawsuit on behalf of the CGDF, said the following:

It is very gratifying that the judge recognized the fact that no state court in Tennessee and no federal court have determined the effect of the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision on Tennessee marriage license law. Sadly, most people have been willing to overlook the legal and constitutional questions left open by Obergefell, making this the only case of its kind in the nation. So we are grateful that the judge believes our clients have the legal right to raise those questions and that he is willing to decide them.

Background to the Litigation

In January 2016, CGDF filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Bradley County, Tenn., minister and County Commissioner. The suit asked the court to determine whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision, Obergefell v. Hodges, had invalidated Tennessee marriage license law or whether the Court, by that decision, had for the first time in history effectively “amended” a state law.

The lawsuit highlights the fact that the Obergefell Court held that “state laws are invalid to the extent they exclude same-sex couples from marriage,” yet states are acting as if their laws are not only still valid, but have been effectively “amended” by the Court’s decision in a way that eliminates the “male and female” language from state statutes, such as is found in Tennessee law.

The U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals have previously held that any decision by a federal court as to whether unconstitutional language in a state statute can be eliminated so as to “save” the statute from being completely unconstitutional is a state court issue. It is for that reason that the CGDF believes the Obergefell Court did not address and left open the question of whether state marriage license laws had any continuing validity.

The Family Action Council of Tennessee (FACT), which David Fowler heads, was formed in 2006 by a group of citizens concerned about the growing negative impact of public policies on marriage, families, life, and religious liberty. FACT’s mission is to equip Tennesseans and their elected officials to effectively promote and defend a culture that values God’s design for the family, for the sake of the common good. For more information, visit FACTn.org.

Media Contact: Laura Bagby, Director of Communications | Office Phone: 615-261-1338 | email: laura.bagby@factn.org

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Ben and Jerry’s Displays Solidarity for Same-Sex ‘Marriage’

Saying that “love comes in all flavors,” Ben & Jerry’s has banned orders of two scoops of the same flavor ice cream in Australia until it legalizes same-sex “marriage.”

Dr. Michael Brown thinks the company’s logic is lacking. “Will they ban three-scoop cones of any flavor until Australia legalizes throuples? . . . and will the company ban one scoop of one flavor plus two scoops of another flavor until Australia legalizes polygamy?”

Dr. Brown posits that Ben & Jerry’s scoop ban actually points to the uniqueness of biblical marriage: Two scoops of the same flavor, representing same-sex “marriage,” just means more of the same, while two scoops of a different flavor, representing men and women in a God-ordained marriage, brings something new and unique.

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