What is the compelling state interest in marriage? Why does the state even recognize a private matter such as marriage? Answer: The state ("we, the people") naturally seeks to perpetuate its existence and its own welfare.
America must encourage the best arrangements for people to reproduce and rear generations that most benefit society.
In pursuing these ends, the state has chosen to recognize male-to-female marriages.
What is the rational basis for this decision? Answer: What humans have known intuitively is backed by mountains of empirical evidence that "traditional" marriage does the best job of child-bearing and child-rearing.
Even so, the "best job" is a relative concept among imperfect humans. Why not encourage other marital relationships, such as gay marriage?
Indeed, in a Hawaii Supreme Court, gays argued that, empirically, they are at least as good as the worst heterosexuals in raising children. So why not let them marry and adopt children?
Answer: "As good as the worst" is a pretty low standard to codify. All children deserve the best standard - the complementarity of a male father and a female mother.
But isn't gay marriage a civil rights issue? Answer: possibly. If you believe that innate "sexual orientation" should be a protected characteristic along with race, color, religion and national origin, then yes.
If you don't believe people are born gay, then you might hesitate to draw the equation - you might be reluctant to equate a sex act with other human choices such as religion.
Certainly gays can love one another just like anybody else. Why not afford gays equal protection to love each other? Answer: If love is the sole basis of legal marriage, the state interest in marriage disappears.
Will gay marriage destroy civilization? Answer: Actually, it seems the converse is more accurate. Apparently, a crumbling familial infrastructure gives momentum to gay marriage. The states with the highest rates of divorce, late marriages, cohabitation, single living, low remarriage, delaying children, childlessness and out-of-wedlock births are exactly those states that have embraced gay marriage to date.
Perhaps the best case for gay marriage comes from conservative gays who argue that there is a state interest in domesticating promiscuous gay males. Doesn't society want to encourage responsible gay relationships? Answers: 1) Marriage doesn't domesticate men, women do, and 2) Laws don't make people good, people do.
Our laws reflect our collective prevailing morality, plain and simple. Our laws reaffirm what we endorse.
Finally, how do gay marriages hurt heterosexual marriages? Answer: They don't, personally. But, in terms of law and policy, they would redefine marriage, evaporating the current state interest.
The best rational basis to oppose gay marriage is our unwillingness to codify familial dysfunction. Gay marriage leaves men, women and especially children handicapped in the sort of personal development a truly progressive civilization requires.
* PAUL MERO is president of the Sutherland Institute, a conservative think tank.