Civil marriage was instituted, let us concede, to safeguard the interests of children by endorsing and protecting the kind of stable, committed relationships that produce them and are suited to their upbringing. But there is no way to know in advance which couples can or will have children; we would hardly want county clerks to administer fertility tests or ask intrusive questions about people’s ability or intention to reproduce. So we made civil marriage generally available to sexually complementary couples. We did this without apparently taking notice of same-sex couples, let alone aiming to discriminate against them. Since traditional marriage laws had a legitimate purpose and were tailored to that purpose, there is no obvious reason for courts to invalidate them.
But equal treatment is both a legislative and a judicial concern. We can realize that a law that once seemed well designed could, in fact, be fairer. Reexamining marriage laws with this possibility in mind, we should register the following facts. First, civil marriage already includes a group of people — married, childless men and women — who are irrelevant to its child-centric purpose. Second, there is another group of people — committed same-sex couples who wish to marry — who have just as much reason to want the law’s recognition and protection of their relationships as married, childless men and women do. (Some same-sex couples are also raising children, much to traditionalists’ horror, but we leave this aside.) Third, couples belonging to either of these two groups have the same reasons and motivations, rooted in their love for each other, to abide by the standards of conduct that we traditionally associate with marriage, namely exclusivity and fidelity subsequent to a vow of permanent commitment. In light of all this, it is a matter of simple fairness to treat the two groups the same way, and legislators and voters should favor doing so.
—Jason Lee Steorts. When National Review publishes a piece endorsing marriage equality, you know that one of the most contentious battles in the culture war is as good as over. And a good thing too; monogamous same-sex couples should have the same right to marry that monogamous opposite-sex couples have, and we have better things to do with our time and energy than to litigate the marriage equality wars.