How Same-Sex Marriage Suffocates Freedom (Part I)

Those advocating the radical social innovation, which they label “same-sex” or “gay” marriage, typically claim that they are fighting for freedom, championing a basic liberty. “Freedom to Marry” is indeed the name of a national organization devoted to the advocacy of same-sex marriage. Established in 2003 by civil-rights advocate Evan Wolfson and headquartered in New York City, this group takes “We All Deserve the Freedom to Marry” as its slogan. So effective has it promulgated this perspective that even former First Lady Laura Bush endorsed homosexuals’ right to marry as a matter of basic freedom when she appeared on the Larry King Show in May 2010.

But those who advocate homosexual marriage as a way of enlarging the American sphere of liberty are profoundly—and deceptively—misrepresenting their aims. Their real aim came to light in the public controversy over remarks attributed to Queen Sophia of Spain in criticizing her country’s invention in 2005 of a homosexual right to “marry.” “If those people [homosexuals] want to live together,” commented the Spanish monarch, “dress up as bride and groom and get married they can do so, but that should not be called marriage because it is not.” Widely reported by the media, the furor over these remarks forced representatives of the Queen to issue a statement claiming that the published remarks “do not exactly match the opinions expressed by Her Majesty the Queen” and apologizing for the “ill-feeling and upset” her comments had caused. The pressures compelling this semi-retraction and apology prompted one media commentator to ponder the “interesting question” of whether on the issue of homosexual marriage, the Queen still had “the right … to express her opinion like any other citizen.”

This commentator had glimpsed the fundamental aim of those advocating homosexual marriage: it is not at all about giving homosexuals a new freedom to participate in ceremonies that they regard as weddings. It is entirely about denying freedom of public speech to anyone who would criticize such ceremonies or the sexual behaviors such ceremonies legitimize. The muzzle that homosexual activists tried (largely successfully) to put on an outspoken monarch represents only the beginning. Homosexual activists in this country deeply desire to place first thousands, and then millions, of even tighter muzzles on all who disagree with them about the nature of homosexual behavior. They well understand that enactment of laws authorizing homosexual marriage will give them sweeping powers to bind those muzzles very tightly on their fellow citizens.

In this environment, attempts to legalize same-sex marriage are not chiefly about enlarging homosexual couples’ freedom: they are free now in every state of the union to say that they are married. They can claim anything they want about their “unions”: they can affirm that those relationships are life affirming and emancipatory; they can even assert that their partnerships are actually superior to natural sexual unions traditionally called marriages. In almost all states, Americans are also still perfectly free to reject such claims and to voice their rejection as forcefully as Queen Sofia did—before being cowed by activists and media commentators wielding Spain’s homosexual-marriage law as a cudgel.

Homosexual activists may plausibly assert that they were advancing the cause of freedom when opposing anti-sodomy laws, even if many Americans view the freedom advanced as morally and even medically problematic. However, when these same activists claim that they are still advancing the cause of freedom in advocating laws that grant same-sex unions the status of marriage, their arguments quickly lose all plausibility. For those trying to enshrine the notion of same-sex “marriage” in law are not primarily trying to enlarge the freedom of homosexuals; they are primarily striving to diminish the freedom of skeptics who would deny that the union of homosexuals is—or can ever be—a legitimate marriage. The aim of those trying to inscribe the novelty of homosexual marriage in law is actually that of making an outlaw out of anyone who would question the moral substance of this new social construct and the sexual behaviors it legitimates.

Americans with little invested in the issue may suppose that their freedom to oppose homosexuality is secure in the wake of the 2011 Supreme Court ruling in Snyder v. Phelps that opponents of homosexuality can legally express their views through funeral protests. But the freedom the Court upheld in the Snyder case is actually very marginal. It is the freedom of a self-discrediting sideshow, a freedom that matters only to a radical fringe.

More important, but now deeply imperiled, is precisely the kind of freedom that Queen Sophia briefly tried to exercise in publicly resisting the notion of homosexual marriage and the behaviors it represents. This is the freedom of individuals in positions of public trust to voice their opposition to homosexual behavior. It is this freedom that homosexual advocates hope to make disappear through enactment of homosexual marriage. Enshrining this radically innovative construct in law will not so much enlarge the sphere of freedom for homosexuals as it will shrink the sphere of freedom—in the workplace, legislative chamber, classroom, mainstream media, civic and student club, and marketplace—for those who in any way find homosexual behavior wanting.

Anti-Anti-Homosexual Bullying
The ex-nihilo creation of homosexual marriage as a legal notion serves, above all, to give coercive power to those Justice Antonin Scalia has identified as “homosexual activists … [intent on] eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.” The success of these activists, as Scalia notes, has helped foster an “anti-anti-homosexual culture.”(1) Some Americans may wonder how a private sexual behavior became the basis for an unassailable public identity guaranteeing coercive state protection from critics. However, those who have created the “anti-anti-homosexual culture” understand well how they can use the notion of homosexual marriage to silence their opponents and to drive them from the public square. With good reason, syndicated columnist John Leo has complained that in recent homosexual activism, “a line is being crossed”: “The traditional civic virtue of tolerance (if gays want to live together, it’s their own business) has been replaced with a new ethic requiring approval and endorsement” (emphasis added).

Homosexual activists know that if they enshrine same-sex relationships in the legal category of marriage, they will find it far easier to impose this new requirement for approval and endorsement on other Americans. As homosexual activists and their allies press this new requirement, Americans who resist the normalizing of homosexuality are seeing their freedom shrink. Indeed, when homosexual activists claim the “freedom” of same-sex couples to marry, we see yet another instance of what cultural historian Robert Nisbet has labeled “the ingenious camouflaging of power with the rhetoric of freedom.”(2)

Americans have seen more than a few instances in which anti-anti-homosexual power has flexed its muscles in suppressing the freedom of those who dare resist their agenda for normalizing homosexual behavior. That power was manifest in March 2011 when homosexual activists successfully pressured Apple to withdraw from its iTunes store an app developed by an evangelical Christian group that works with individuals trying to overcome homosexual impulses. That power was manifest again a month later when the prominent law firm King & Spalding announced that, despite its previous commitment to doing so, it would not defend the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which acknowledges marriage as the union of a man and a woman. But Americans have perhaps seen homosexuals’ power most often and most nakedly in the one institution that is supposed to provide a free and open forum for all points of view: the university.

A prime case of how the university suppresses any resistance to homosexual behavior is that of University of Illinois professor Ken Howell. Howell was dismissed for informing students enrolled in a class on Modern Catholic Thought that “the Catholic Church holds that homosexual acts are immoral” and further suggesting that homosexual acts violate the natural moral law, though he freely allowed that there are other viewpoints. Though the outcry at the dismissal of this very popular professor ultimately proved sufficient to force the university to reverse itself, the university administration capitulated only reluctantly and without any public acknowledgment that it had violated Howells’ academic freedom.(3)

In other episodes of anti-anti-homosexual zealotry, university officials show no signs of backing off. In 2008, a biology professor at San Jose City College was dismissed for indicating—in answer to a student’s question about how heredity affects sexual orientation—that environment might be a cause of homosexuality. In 2010, Hasting College of Law denied official recognition and funding to the Christian Legal Society as a student organization (the first time it had ever denied a student organization recognition) because the group required officers (not its members) to affirm Christian sexual ethics, including the scriptural proscription against homosexuality. In 2009, a student was expelled from a counseling program at Eastern Michigan State University for refusing to affirm that homosexual behavior is normal and acceptable. In 2005, a student in a counseling program at Missouri State University found that the university had filed a grievance against her for refusing to fulfill a class assignment requiring her to write a letter to the state legislature advocating the legalization of homosexual adoption. And in 2011, a counseling student who dared to voice her opinion in class that homosexual acts are immoral learned that Augusta State University would not let her continue her academic program unless she successfully completed diversity-sensitivity training. The list goes on, with reports of similar anti-anti-homosexual bullying at Washington State University, Georgia Tech University, and the Ohio State University.

The Academy as Surrogate State Church
Perhaps no one should be surprised that university administrators and professors have increasingly become thought police on the issue of homosexuality. In a 2007 survey of professors at 927 American institutions of higher education, sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons from Harvard and George Mason Universities, respectively, found that liberals dominate the campus world: 44.1 percent of survey respondents characterized themselves as either “liberal” or “very liberal,” compared to only 9.2 percent who described themselves as “conservative” or “very conservative.” Even these numbers fail to fully reflect the “very liberal attitudes toward sex” which pervade the university: the Harvard and George Mason scholars report that about 70 percent [68.7 percent of the professors surveyed] think that homosexuality “is not wrong at all.”(4)

The freedom of students and professors who oppose homosexuality can survive in such an environment only if professors are deeply committed to maintaining a campus neutrality that fosters free exchange of all viewpoints. Unfortunately, when Harvard scholar Louis Menand analyzes the Gross and Solon data, he sees evidence that “neutrality, or disinterestedness,” is declining as a university standard because there is now apparently “less aversion to weighing political views in evaluating merit than would have been the case thirty or forty years ago.” In fact, though not a conservative, Menand concedes that the Gross and Solon study provides “data … useful to anyone claiming that colleges and universities discriminate against people with conservative views.” Menand goes so far as to raise the question of whether “holding liberal views has become a tacit requirement for entry and promotion in the academic profession.”(5) In an academic world such as this, it is entirely predictable that top university professors of law openly argue—in direct riposte to Scalia’s complaint against judicial endorsement of the homosexual agenda—in favor of measures aimed at “eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.”(6)

Only the complete hegemony of anti-anti-homosexual dogma within the university renders comprehensible the blog comment recently posted by Stanford student Gregory Hirshman. Hirshman asserts that in an academic world governed by a “strict, if informal, rule against speaking negatively of homosexuality,” it now requires “more strength and conviction on the Stanford campus to come out as an outspoken conservative than as a homosexual.” The strict enforcement of the academic orthodoxy on homosexuality also harmonizes with critic and former University of Maryland professor George A. Panichas, who reports that in the university world “opponents of liberal ideas are increasingly treated as outlaws.”(7)

Just how much the outlaw status of those who oppose homosexuality on the university campus should matter to the broader American community is clarified by the prominent philosopher Richard Rorty’s assertion, “The university has replaced the church as the center of morality.” This assertion, of course, would strike millions of church-going Americans as patently untrue, even bizarre. However, for the cultural, political, and judicial elite who shape much of national life, it is all too true: the university has become the new surrogate church, laying down the moral imperatives guiding judges, policymakers, executives, and media moguls. The outlaws who oppose homosexuality will find no right of sanctuary in this church. Far otherwise. They will find that that new church regards them not only as outlaws but also as dangerous heretics.

Outlaw-heretics have reason to fear inquisitorial persecution from the priests in the surrogate church, one of whom has candidly admitted that he and his anti-anti-homosexual colleagues are “sometimes self-righteous … and sometimes too dismissive or snotty toward those who disagree with us.”(8) At a minimum, outlaw-heretics have reason to fear that the new priests—for all their professed commitment to freedom for all—will actually lock them out of the democratic process. It is this real abridgment of political liberties that legal scholar Ronald J. Krotoszynski Jr. has in view in his analysis of how “religious minorities” face discrimination:

To the extent that religious minorities position themselves in opposition to progressive understandings on issues of race, gender and sexual orientation, they increasingly face the prospect of being silenced by government officials who have come to embrace the progressives’ value structure. (9)

Many of America’s religiously devout citizens would strenuously object to Krotoszynski’s characterization of them as “minorities,” pointing to survey data showing that most Americans profess a belief in Christianity (and the Bible, which condemns homosexual acts as incompatible with a knowledge of God [cf. Rom. 1:18-28]). According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 78.4 percent of all adult Americans are Christian, with more than half of adult Americans affiliated with a Protestant denomination and almost one quarter of adult Americans belonging to the Roman Catholic Church.(10) Those Americans can also point to election results on ballot initiatives in thirty-one states across the country defining marriage in ways consonant with religious belief, but not in alignment with the progressive homosexual-affirming agenda.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of The Family in America and is reprinted with permission of the author. The second half of this essay will appear Wednesday, January 2.

1. Antonin Scalia, with William Rehnquist and Clarence Thomas, dissenting, John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner v. Texas, June 26, 2003.

2. Robert Nisbet, The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order & Freedom (1953; rpt. San Francisco: ICS Press, 1990), p. 141.

3. Cf. Meghan Duke, “Fired, In a Crowded Theater,” First Things, October 2010, pp. 24–29.

4. Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, “The Social and Political Views of American Professors,” Working Paper, September 24, 2007,

5. Louis Menand, The Marketplace of Ideas: Reform and Resistance in the American University (New York: W. W. Norton, 2009), pp. 139–40.

6. Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 164.

7. George A. Panichas, Growing Wings to Overcome Gravity: Criticism as the Pursuit of Virtue (Macon: Mercer University Press, 1999), p. 37.

8. Michael Bérubé, What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts? Classroom Politics and ‘Bias’ in Higher Education (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006), p. 287.

9. Ronald J. Krotoszynski Jr., “Dissent, Free Speech, and the Continuing Search for the ‘Central Meaning’ of the First Amendment,” review of The Dissent of the Governed: A Meditation on Law, Religion, and Loyalty, by Stephen L. Carter, and Dissent, Injustice, and the Meanings of America by Steven H. Shiffrin, Michigan Law Review 98.6 (2000): 1673.

10. “Religious Affiliation: Summary of Key Findings,” U.S. Religious Landscape Survey (Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, 2010),

Bryce J. Christensen


Bryce J. Christensen teaches composition and literature at Southern Utah University. He is the author of Divided We Fall: Family Discord and the Fracturing of America (2005) and Utopia Against the Family (1990). He earned his doctorate in English literature at Marquette University in 1984.

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  • Phil

    The example of Queen Sopha is disingenuous since the issue wasn’t her opposition to ssm, it was her expression of a political opinion. Modern monarchs aren’t even supposed to say they prefer chocolate to vanilla.
    As for the idea that the advance of homosexual rights marginalizes the ”freedom” of anti-homosexuals to express themselves, well, that’s nothing new. All people have always had to cope with dealing with people who do not agree with them. Nobody has the “freedom” to control a societal discourse.

    • LV

      “All people have always had to cope with dealing with people who do not
      agree with them. Nobody has the “freedom” to control a societal

      This is a joke, right?

      You’re just pretending you didn’t read the article, right?

      The whole point of the article was how the *gay rights movement* is working to suppress opposing speech and forcibly control the societal discourse in question. It’s impossible to have read the article and not understood this, right?


      • Phil

        But the gay rights movement can’t actually suppress anything, because whenever it tries it faces resistance. Some University makes a pro-queer policy, those who disagree with it make a fuss, and through discussion or legal action the affair is worked out. If the gay rights movement truly were controlling the societal discourse, then this website simply would not exist and those Christians complaining about discrimination would be hiding out in a bunker.
        The only real problem for Christians is that currently their ideas regarding homosexuality are far out of the mainstream, and as such they have more difficulty finding support for their views. They’ve merely begun facing the same kinds of problems that all minorities face. “Freedom” is irrelevant.

  • Maximus

    Editorial note: suffocate is misspelled in the title.

  • Tito

    I posit that one of our problems is that of definition. In the case of male to male ‘same-sex-marriage’ it is nothing less than our TACIT approval for to men to commit SODOMY. and sodomy is no more nor less the act of ‘anal copulation’, and this is quite widely forbidden in most religions. Let us call a spade a spade and quit being so diplomatic.

    • Bob

      Agreed. At its core, male homosexual acts are acts of sodomy, against the natural law. Therefore, one reason I cannot approve of gay marriage is the disordered and perverted act that is being performed. Homosexual activists go to great lengths in avoiding this conversation when a heterosexual brings it up. Ask 100 liberally minded heterosexuals if gay marriage should be accepted, 95% will probably say yes. Ask the same 100 people if anal sex is moral and the ordered nature of the sexual act, you’ll find the that overwhelmingly the majority of the liberally minded100 heterosexuals asked will say no. It’s a huge “group think” disconnect. It’s “cool” in a way today to say gay marriage is OK, but the visceral reaction of man on man anal sex is one of putrid disgust.

      • ThePianoAnimal

        I think it’s quite troubling how straight people like to assume that they know what everyone else is doing in their bedroom… I have no curiosity about what you do, no judgements, and to think that I would dwell on it enough to make the kind of ignorant statements that you just made are perverted and mind blowing. And to think that you should be able to legislate based on such a stupid premise. How in the world did I find this page? Did I google “Chicken Little theories on gay marriage”?

  • Prof_Override

    Mr. Christensen makes a quite intentional fallacy and turns it into a screed.

    The government should get out of the marriage business completely. Marriage is the sole and exclusive prerogative of religious organizations – a “marriage covenant”. Each church to handle the matter as it sees fit. The government legal context should be and in reality is – “civil union contract”. Freed of the burden of marriage, government policy should then focus on whether there is any reason to provide legal and policy distinctions to people who wish to sign up to a civil union contracts.

    Once you remove the ridiculous notion of government marriage, Mr. Christensen’s argument falls apart like the house of cards it is. The fact that the anti-democractic windbag Scalia is quoted is prima facie proof

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      But this overlooks the fact that the state has a clear interest in the filiation of children being clear, certain and incontestable. It is central to its concern for the upbringing and welfare of the child, for protecting rights and enforcing obligations between family members and to the orderly succession to property. To date, no better, simpler, less intrusive means than marriage have been found for ensuring, as far as possible, that the legal, biological and social realities of paternity coincide.

      That is why a number of European countries make civil marriage mandatory and it is a criminal offence to conduct a religious ceremony for a couple not legally married, as an attack on civil status

      • Prof_Override

        I’m not arguing paternity rights / obligations, a civil union contract fulfills those. Why should we become like Europe!? You’re still mixing the concept of religious marriage covenant and a civil union contract. They are 2 distinct, separable concepts, that should be separated. The Europeans make it a criminal offense to ensure that they get their tax. I don’t think that’s the road we want to go down.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          I know of no jurisdiction in which an equivalent to the rule that the child conceived or born in marriage has the husband for father applies to civil unions.

          Mandatory civil marriage makes the institution a pillar of the secular republic, standing clear of the religious sacrament. The institution of republican marriage is inconceivable, absent the idea of filiation, enshrined, not in Church dogma, but in the Civil Code. The sex difference is central to filiation

          • Prof_Override

            Just because it hasn’t, doesn’t mean it can’t. You either look for solutions or you put up roadblocks. I’ve proposed a viable solution (both sides of the argument have something to dislike, you are proof of that). You are putting up a traditionalist roadblock – “Mandatory civil marriage makes the institution a pillar of the secular republic”, that actually smacks of theocratic intentions by intertwining a religious term into civil law. From a secular standpoint, “marriage” is still just contract law (albeit with stronger terms and conditions than your credit card contract – Oops bad example).

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              As well as being a contract, marriage creates a civil status, which affects third-party rights, in a way that no mere contract can do.

              “Marriage in its origin is a contract of natural law; it may exist between two individuals of different sexes although no third person existed in the world, as happened in the case of the common ancestors of mankind. It is the parent not the child of civil society.

              In civil society, it becomes a civil contract, regulated and prescribed by law and endowed with civil consequences. In most civilized countries, acting under a sense of the force of sacred obligations, it has had the sanctions of religion superadded; it then becomes a religious, as well a natural and civil, contract; for it is a great mistake to suppose that because it is the one, therefore it may not likewise be the other.” (Lord Stowell)

              • Prof_Override

                At this point you are just reiterating your same points in a slightly different fashion. Using a 200 yr. old Lord Stowall quote just makes my point. I respectfully agree to disagree kind sir.

  • poetcomic1

    ‘Freedom’ trumps anything and everything. Even the innocence of children.

  • Welcome to the world of fascist liberalism! Incidentally, what sinister character gains power by misrepresenting evil (i.e., homosexuality) as good (i.e., freedom)? Hint: watch “The Omen”…

  • Deacon Ed Peitler

    Can anyone provide me with arguments why three people cannot be married? (Need not re-state what I already know and accept about Catholic Church teaching). But I am serious about this request…why could not the State pronounce threesomes as married? Are there any objective reasons to rule this out as an option?

    • Paul Tran

      Spot on in asking this pertinent question !!! I came to the same conclusion as you have , i.e. since homosexual/gay marriage is allowed there’s no rhyme or reason why bisexual marriage should be banned, therefore one can legally have a marriage between 3 people (or more) as Brasil has already led the way. This makes a mockery of marriage between 2 people , let alone between a man & a woman.
      Moreover, gay marriage makes nonsense of terms such as husband & wife for who is to know who is what ???

      • Deacon Ed Peitler

        I think we ought to take the current arguments to their illogical extreme and petition the States to sanction marriage among three persons. I would love to hear the government’s reasoning why this should be prohibited. (Who knows, perhsps they will agree with this proposition!)
        But we all know what’s going on here…this has NOTHING to do with two men or two woemn “marrying.” It is about destroying the institution of marriage.
        I hope to see the day when the Catholic Church will declare that it will NOT recognize marriages performed by the State since obviously the States’ understanding of what marriage is has nothing to do with what the Catholic Church’s notion of what marriage is. The same goes with the various Protestant sects: since they sanction divorce, their concept of marriage also departs from the Catholic Church’s understanding of what marriage is.

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  • musicacre

    I am so glad to finally read an article that hits the nail on the head; this is not about gay marriage per se, but just an “issue ” to further shut down freedom of speech. Slowly but surely this offset method is working, because everyone is so focused on the issue that they fail to see the big scary picture of all these issues combined, cooperating with the bigger intention to shut down democracy. It’s no longer a democracy when the thought police can shut you down for merely expressing an opinion. This is astonishingly widespread and evenly administered, in the US and in Canada….so what is going on? When did N. Americans stop having freedom? The insidious methods are definitely found in the earliest grades of public school, and since the sixties the political correctness has continued to openly gain all ground gone after. What can ordinary citizens do?

  • JPS in NJ

    What a stellar piece! Richly written and masterfully argued. Dignified yet vigorously forceful. One of the best.

  • Aliquantillus

    While it is true what the author says that 78% of Americans identify as Christians and that the Christian religion condemns homosexual acts, this identification isn’t worth much as long as these people don’t identify with traditional Christian teachings or belong to groups or denominations that condone homosexuality. In particular in Roman Catholicism ecclesiastical discipline has weakened to a laughable level and in practice anything goes. A person’s idenfication as a Catholic doesn’t really say anything anymore, and the average American Catholic seems to join the prevalent pro-gay political correctness. The big problem is that modern Christianity is hollow and that whole denominations, such as the Episcopalians, are actually apostate. Such moral catastrophes as gay marriage would never happen if American Catholics acted as a disciplined and unified group and obeyed their Church’s leaders and teachings.

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  • Ned

    Your argument is weak from the start. The Queen and staff willingly made a decision to retract or take the edge off her statements, they were not actively or legally muzzled. If simple public opinion is your definition of a muzzle, then I have to say that the problem is your poor oppressed opinators simply don’t have the balls to stick to their opinions or find or create outlets for them.

  • Paul Krantz

    The author misses the point here in several respects. First, there is no right to “freedom of speech” in the U.S. apart from the Constitutional prohibition of government chilling/prohibiting free expression. It has nothing to do with private parties exercising their right to criticize; indeed, just as pro-gay-marriage have the right (like everyone else) to express their opinions, so too do the antis. Second, secular “marriage” is not some abstract construct designed to make couples feel better or be happier. Rather, it is a government-controlled status that confers specific benefits (including some substantial economic benefits) and responsibilities. To bring Biblical teachings into the discussion is not only a violation of our Constitution, but a recipe for confusion. After all, the Bible includes getting tattoos and wearing multiple-fiber clothing in the very same tract so often cited to pronounce gay marriage and “sin.”