Heritage Foundation Fellow Trots Out Radical Nullification Argument Against Marriage Equality

The anti-marriage-equality movement seems to have anointed Ryan T. Anderson as its next intellectual leader. Anderson, who is now a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, follows in the footsteps of his mentor Robert P. George and National Organization for Marriage founder Maggie Gallagher in being able to talk about the marriage issue without spewing fire and brimstone or talking about how gay people make them want to vomit .

This kinder, gentler approach has endeared Anderson and his predecessors to a movement that’s trying to snatch its image away from the likes of Bryan Fischer and Pat Robertson.

But it also can obscure the fact that Anderson’s supposedly intellectual arguments against marriage equality can still be far out of the mainstream.

On Friday, Heritage promoted on its website a video clip of Anderson speaking at a Stanford University event, where he was asked by an attendee why he, as a gay man, should not be able to file a joint tax return if he gets legally married in California.

Anderson responded that legally married same-sex couples should not have access to all the trappings of legal marriage, because while in some states they can “be issued a marriage license,” they “can’t actually get married” because marriage is inherently a union of a man and a woman.

This is basically a nullificationist argument against benefits for legally married same-sex couples. Like those who argue that gun laws or health care reform aren’t actually law because they violate their impression of what the Constitution says, Anderson is saying that even legal, state-sanctioned marriages don’t count because they violate his view of what marriage is, and therefore should not earn legal, state-sanctioned benefits.

Far from trying to brush over this nullificationist argument against marriage equality, Heritage is actively promoting the video to its followers.

The full clip is four minutes long, but the fun really starts at about the 2:10 mark.

Anderson: The reason that you should not have the option of filing a joint tax return is that you can’t get married, given what marriage is.

Questioner: But I could in California, I can get married.

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

Questioner: How is that not discrimination?

Anderson: And it’s 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 man and a woman, husband and wife, mother and father. If you’re not interested in entering into that sort of a union, you’re not being discriminated against.

What you’re asking us to do is to 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 throuple or the opposite-sex quartet. So what I’m 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? Because it seems to me that your position ultimately leaves to simply the dissolvement of the marital union.

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

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