Ryan T. Anderson who is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Heritage Foundation.  He is the co-author, along with Dr. Robert P. George and Sherif Girgis, of the book What is Marriage? Man & Woman: A Defense.  He gave a talk on the marriage debate from a public policy point of view at the Stanford Anscombe Society at Stanford University.  The video of his message and subsequent Q&A were just released this month.

Anderson in one exchange makes an excellent case for why the equal protection argument doesn’t work in the marriage debate.

During the question and answer period he was asked about the government’s interest in taxes and marriage by a self-proclaimed homosexual man.  This was an interesting exchange.  He asked Anderson, “Why should I not have the right to file a joint tax return?  Why should I pay more taxes than a straight couple simply because I’m a minority?  How is that not discrimination?”

Anderson replied, “That’s a fair question, what if were to say I wasn’t able to file a joint tax return because I am in a thruple or a quartet?  It seems to me what you’re suggesting is that we shouldn’t have the tax code recognize marriage.”

The gentleman in the audience shook his head no so Anderson responded, “No so you think we should have same-sex marriage for same-sex couples, but would you also extend marriage equality rights to the thruple?”

The audience member disagreed, and clarified his question, “My question is that why should I as a gay man be denied the same right to file a joint tax return with my potential husband that a straight couple has.”

Anderson responded, “I just want to play out what principle you are acting upon.  Because I would hope that you are not just doing special pleading – you want protection for your rights, but not for all Americans’ rights.  So I hope that you wouldn’t be saying that you want special tax treatment, but I don’t care about the thruple.  I want to see what principle you are acting on and does the principle that you are hoping to vindicate to protect your rights also are extended to protect the rights of the thruple.”

The gentleman in the audience clarified, “Sure I am acting on civil rights, so the rights that are applicable to male and female couples are applicable to a male and male couple, and that is my question.  How is that not discrimination based on my sexual orientation?”

Anderson replied, “Part of the answer is that a same-sex couple isn’t a marriage in that we want marriage equality to treat all marital relationships in the same way.  Given the presentation that I gave on what marriage is, a same-sex relationship isn’t marital.  But I’m trying to ask you about the equal protection argument you are making.  Would it apply to all consenting adult romantic relationships?  Why would you want the same sex couple to file jointly for taxes, but not the same sex thruple or the opposite sex quartet?”

The audience member responded, “Sure, sure I appreciate that, but that isn’t actually my question.  My question is why should I be denied the right to file…” (cross talk)

Anderson answered, “The reason you should not have the option in filing a joint tax return because you can’t get married.”

The gentleman responded, “But I can get married in California.”

Anderson stated, “You can be issued a marriage license in the state of California, but you can’t actually get married.  I’m sorry to say it that way, but given what marriage is….”

Audience member – “How is that not discrimination.”

Anderson, “It is not discrimination because everyone is equally eligible for entering into the marital relationship.  Where you understand marriage as a union of sexually complementary spouses, a permanent exclusive union of a man and a woman, a husband and wife.  Mother and father.  If you are not interested in entering into that sort of a union you are not being discriminated against.  What you’re asking us to do is redefine marriage to include the adult relationship of your choice, and the adult relationship of your choice happens to be a same sex couple.  There are other adults who want to have marriage redefined to include the relationship of their choice which may be the same sex thruple or the opposite sex quartet.  So what I am asking you in response is what principle are you appealing to when you say this is discrimination to vindicate your rights, but not their rights?  It seems to me that your position leads to simply the dissolvement of the marital union.”

The man replied, “I just heard, you do not have the right to get married.  If you can tell me why I don’t have the right to get married that would be my final question.”

Anderson wraps up, “It isn’t that you don’t have the right to get married, but you are not seeking out marriage.  Marriage is, by nature, a union of sexually-complementary spouses, man and woman, husband and wife, mother and father, and just based upon what you said about yourself it doesn’t sound like you are interested in forming that sort of a union.  It sounds like you are interested in forming a union with another man, and that is not a marriage.  So that is why I don’t think the law should treat the relationship that you want to form as a marriage.

You can watch the entire exchange below:

Anderson handled this exchange masterfully and showed why the equal protection argument logically does not work unless one wants to totally dissolve the marital union.  Everyone has the opportunity to enter into a marital union, but not everyone chooses to.  Same sex couples are not being discriminated against any more than the same sex thruple or opposite sex quartet.

It boils down to the central question what marriage is, and it is more than the romantic relationship of one’s choosing.

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