Heritage Foundation’s Ryan Anderson Insists Marriage Equality Must be Overturned

The Heritage Foundation's Ryan Anderson (Photo: Detail of photo from Heritage Foundation website)

Ryan Anderson, one of the Religious Right’s most visible and relentless opponents of legal equality for LGBTQ people, used this week’s anniversary of the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision to once again make his case for reversing the decision. He dismisses “marriage equality” as a “completely vacuous” slogan.

In a commentary for The Daily Signal, the Heritage Foundation’s “news” operation, Anderson draws from his book “Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom,” to argue that the law should enforce a “conjugal” view of marriage as opposed to a “consent-based” view:

The law cannot be neutral between the consent-based and conjugal views of marriage. It will enshrine one view or the other.

It will either teach marriage as consenting adult love of whatever size or shape the adults choose, or it will teach marriage as a comprehensive union of sexually complementary spouses who live by the norms of monogamy, exclusivity, and permanency, so children can be raised by their mom and dad.

There is no third option. There is no neutral position. The law will embrace one or the other.

Anderson, an intellectual protégé of Princeton’s anti-equality scholar and activist Robert George, portrays himself as a civility-minded promoter of a “live and let live” ethos. As such, he doesn’t generally appear alongside blatantly anti-LGBTQ folks like Peter LaBarbera, who protested against marriage equality at the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

But LaBarbera is following the game plan Anderson has laid out for reversing marriage equality: identify the decision as illegitimate, act to portray rights of “conscience” for opponents of marriage equality, and wage a long-term culture war against it, the way anti-choice activists have fought to undermine and, they hope, overturn Roe v. Wade.

The stridently anti-LGBTQ rhetoric of LaBarbera and his pals is reprehensible. Also harmful is Anderson’s more “polite” campaign to strip same-sex couples and their families of the dignity and legal protections provided by marriage equality.