Myths that Led to the Recognition of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States, Part 8

A Call to Return to Bedrock Principles

The act of uniting a man and a woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and woman for life. Marriage is a contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. Marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.
Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled. Heb 13
Founding Father Noah Webster, defining the word marriage in his classic and comprehensive dictionary, An American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828 edition—

Key point: Marriage as it has been redefined by the Supreme Court positions the state against the God-ordained institutions of marriage and the family, and consequently, against God Himself. In such a conflict, Christians must choose whether they will follow the state’s definition of marriage or God’s.

  • A condensed version of this article is available here.
  • Go here for summaries of all the articles in this series.

Myth #14: Same-sex marriage has implications for the same-sex couple only, and not for others. “If don’t agree with same-sex marriage,” we were told, “don’t worry. “Changing the definition of marriage won’t affect you!”

Fact: Changing the definition of marriage to include same-sex as well as opposite-sex couples totally alters the nature of marriage in the eyes of government and in the eyes of society. The implications for families are ominous—even those who, for all the right reasons, firmly hold that marriage is what God and nature have declared it to be.

Many scholars contend that Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language is “the finest English dictionary ever published.” It’s definition of marriage, which is printed above, is enlightening not only with regard to the definition itself—what marriage really is—but also with regard to the perspective on marriage held in the days and years when the United States of America still was putting down its roots as a nation.

Also very telling are the dictionary’s definitions of the words masculine and feminine.

1. Having the qualities of a man; strong; robust; as a masculine body.
2. Resembling man; coarse; opposed to delicate or soft; as masculine features.
3. Bold; brave; as a masculine spirit or courage.

The first syllable may be and probably is from wemb or womb, by use of the for w; the not being radical [not belonging to the root of the word]. The last part of the word is probably from man, quasi, femman, [hence] womb-man.
1. Pertaining to a woman, or to women, or to females; as the female sex.
2. Soft; tender; delicate. Her heavenly form angelic, but more soft and feminine
3. Effeminate; destitute of manly qualities.

Portrait of Noah Webster (1758-1843) by Samuel F. B. Morse

These definitions undoubtedly will sound outdated to many today, but hopefully they will sound refreshing to many others. Founding Father Noah Webster was in touch with reality!

Do not misunderstand. I’m not saying that a man can’t ever be tender or that a woman can’t ever be strong. Yet, even with all the cultural confusion surrounding gender issues today, when we contrast the two sexes in a general way, noting their characteristics and their differences, we see that Noah Webster was right on target. He knew what masculinity, femininity, and marriage were, and are.

Again, the definition of marriage in Webster’s 1828 dictionary is as follows.

The act of uniting a man and a woman for life; wedlock; the legal union of a man and woman for life. Marriage is a contract both civil and religious, by which the parties engage to live together in mutual affection and fidelity, till death shall separate them. Marriage was instituted by God himself for the purpose of preventing the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes, for promoting domestic felicity, and for securing the maintenance and education of children.
Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled. Heb 13

Definitions Matter

On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States changed the definition of marriage nationwide to include same-sex couples. From a legal perspective, a scant majority of Supreme Court justices didn’t change marriage a little bit or even a lot. Instead, they reshaped it completely, altering the very nature of the institution from the inside out. In other words, the Supreme Court recreated marriage to make it mean something diametrically opposed to what it always has meant, and what it means inherently when one man and one woman—one, and only one, of each sex—come together to be united for life and to form a new family. Thus, the change wasn’t one of degree, but of kind.

The Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage didn’t change marriage in terms of degree; rather it established a new kind of institution we still call marriage. But it isn’t marriage at all.

In a previous post, I wrote that the Supreme Court’s redefinition of marriage actually denies what it means

to be a human being. Natural man-woman marriage, you see, affirms what being a human being is all about. This is not to say that single people or homosexual individuals aren’t human; of course they are! It is to say that natural marriage affirms what being human means. Same-sex “marriage” doesn’t just distort that affirmation; it eliminates it—because if two men or two women can marry each other and have exactly what one man and one woman married to each other have (this notion obviously is a lie), marriage has nothing to do with sex, procreation, children, fatherhood, motherhood, male-female dynamics in a relationship, or anything else that truly makes marriage what it is, and that makes being a human being what he or she is.

David Fowler

Well, does the revised definition of marriage really eliminate the dynamic of male-female differences from the institution of marriage? In the eyes of the government, the answer is yes. Christians desperately need to understand the implications of this for the family and for society as a whole.

Former Tennessee state senator and Family Action Council of Tennessee President David Fowler has seriously considered this matter. In a series of five short articles he articulates the problem, the need, and the challenge that lies before supporters of man-woman marriage. Here are links to those articles and a brief summary of the issues he highlights.

  • Are Tennessee’s Evangelical Pastors Licensing Same-Sex ‘Marriages’? (Feb. 16, 2018) Pastors, and many Christians as well, have tended to think that post-Obergefell, opposite-sex marriages and same-sex marriages remain very different. In a practical sense they are correct, because no same-sex couple—married or not—ever can have what an opposite sex couple has. Yet in a legal sense they are wrong: a heterosexual marriage in the eyes of the government is a relationship identical to a same-sex marriage! Are pastors who are performing wedding ceremonies for heterosexual couples tacitly lending their support to marriage redefined? They need to consider this issue very carefully.
  • Should Christian Couples Get Legally Married? (Feb. 22, 2018) Just as pastors who officiate wedding ceremonies need to think long and hard about whether they should perform state-recognized marriages, so should a heterosexual Christian couple considering marriage also ask if they really want their marriage to be defined by the state.
  • How Long Before Parents Have to be Licensed by the State? (March 1, 2018) If marriage no longer is at all about male-female differences in the eyes of the state, then biological parents no longer can make the point that their genetic ties to their children give them any special rights as parents. Just ask a couple in Ohio who, in late February, lost custody of their 17-year-old daughter who desires to become a male through hormone treatment. How can a judge make such a ruling? According to Fowler, what happened “shouldn’t really shock anyone, given that the following was the very first sentence in the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex ‘marriage,’ Obergefell v. Hodges: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.'” Do you now see how marriage redefined can mean parental rights obliterated? In the eyes of the government, heterosexual couples—even those who are biological parents—are identical to same-sex couples who have no innate ability to reproduce.

In the eyes of the government, heterosexual couples—even those who are biological parents—are identical to same-sex couples who have no innate ability to reproduce.

  • A Really Hard Question: What Is Marriage Worth to You? (March 9, 2018) What should Christians and other supporters of natural marriage do when the state says marriage is something that it absolutely is not? Do couples have the right to marry without state approval? Yes. These marriages are called common law marriages, and they have been deemed legitimate by the Supreme Court. Common law entails the principle that there is a form of law that predates civil government and that civil government merely acknowledges. So a common law marriage is one not grounded in a statute by which civil government gives its “permission” for a marriage. According to the Supreme Court, most of the early marriage laws in America were not conferring on a couple the right to marry, but allowing them to register marriage and provide evidence to third parties of the marriage. The common law does not recognize any same-sex relationship as a marriage; it sees marriage as solely a heterosexual, 2-person union. Be forewarned! Were a state to adopt common law with regard to marriage, get ready for intense LGBT pressure, including severe economic blackmail, against that state. Were this to happen in your state, where would you stand?
  • What Are Inalienable Rights and Liberty Worth to You?  (March 16, 2018) Our form of government rests upon a foundation that includes the principle “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Is the right to marry also one of those rights, or is it a right that comes from and can be adjusted and changed by government and government alone? When the Supreme Court insisted that states cannot deny same-sex couples the “right” to marry, it essentially said to them they are beholden to the Court’s interpretation of the Constitution and that no law is higher. Marriage, however, was instituted by God and predates the Supreme Court, Congress, the US Presidency, and, for that matter, the United States of America itself! As a matter of fact, the institution of marriage predates any and all governments. Are we willing to push back against the Supreme Court on this matter? If we’re not willing to push back on the issue of marriage, will we be willing to push back on any issue? Where do you stand?

So, anyone who says, Hey, if you don’t agree with same-sex marriage, make sure you don’t have one! is sorely misled—and misleading others. Same-sex marriage affects us all! Let’s make sure we’re ready to resist in the most Christlike and effective of ways.

The future of liberty depends on it!


Part 9 is available here.

Copyright © 2018 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Listen to the latest (March 21, 2018) FACT Report — “Are Inalienable Rights Dead?” — from the Family Action Council of Tennessee.

top image credit:
image credit: David Fowler

After Obergefell, Can Courts Rewrite Laws?

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judicia[l] in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self–appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
James Madison


An expanded version of this article is available here.

The Founders of the United States of America designed a balanced system of government that sets the stage for limiting the power of each of its three major divisions, or branches. We call this a system of checks and balances. It is a system that rests on the principle of the separation of powers.


Signing of the US Constitution by Junius Brutus Stearns

According to this model, courts cannot enact or rewrite laws; they can only interpret them or rule them unconstitutional. Only legislators—lawmakers—can write laws.

Recently, the highest court in Massachusetts reached beyond its designated authority. During the week of October 6, 2016, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling in a case involving two unmarried women and a child one of them had conceived through artificial insemination. Could the woman who hadn’t given birth be recognized as one of the child’s legal parents? Her lawyer was Mary Bonauto, one of the lawyers who argued on behalf of same-sex couples in the Obergefell case. In presenting her arguments, Bonauto pointed to two Massachusetts statutes. David Fowler of the Family Action Council of Tennessee explains (emphases added),


David Fowler

First, Ms. Bonauto argued that the “paternity” statutes justified the claim that her female client should be “deemed” the child’s other legal parent. Given that the word “paternity” means “the state or fact of being the father of a particular child” and comes from the Latin word paternus, meaning “of a father,” do you now see the problem? How can a woman be a “father” unless words in statutes no longer have their common meaning? And on what basis could a court “interpret” away the clear meaning of that word?

Well, Ms. Bonauto argued that the statutes do not define “mother” and “father,” which she asserted left the Court free to give those words new meaning to conform to the new meaning of marriage. Makes perfect sense to me—if a court can redefine marriage, why can’t it redefine “husband” and “paternity” (and, really, any word in the English language)? You have to wonder what legislators were thinking years ago when they didn’t bother to define the terms “father” and “mother”!

But Ms. Bonauto also argued that the statute on artificial insemination involving a “husband and wife” should be interpreted to apply to her as well. Makes sense, too—if a court can redefine “father” and “mother,” surely it can redefine “husband” and “wife.”

Before you say, “Thank God we live in Tennessee,” consider the fact Ms. Bonauto has commented on the artificial insemination lesbian divorce case in Tennessee in which I am involved on behalf of 53 state legislators. She said, “As a matter of supremacy…the Tennessee statutes must be construed to comply with Obergefell’s constitutional commands.”

As a matter of supremacy…the Tennessee statutes must be construed to comply with Obergefell’s constitutional commands.
Mary Bonauto, lawyer and advocate for same-sex marriage—

Yes, a similar case is being litigated in Knoxville—

a divorce proceeding… involving a marriage between two women. During the marriage, one of the women conceived a child by artificial insemination. The issue involves the custody rights of the woman who has no biological relationship to the child.

The controversy centers on a statute that deems a child born to a “married woman” by means of artificial insemination, with the consent of the “married woman’s husband,” to be the “legitimate child of the husband and wife.”

The two women have asserted that that statute, enacted in 1977, is unconstitutional if it is applied according to the plain meaning of the words used and is not interpreted by the courts to apply to same-sex marriages.

With all of this as a backdrop, I have some good news and some bad news.

  • First, the good news. Fortunately, David Fowler has filed a motion on behalf of 53 state legislators to intervene in this case. Remember, courts have no authority to rewrite laws; they only can interpret them or deem them to be unconstitutional. More than any other party, the legislators—the lawmakers themselves—surely have a great deal to say about what the laws meant when they passed them, and what they mean today. Legislators’ perspectives should be extremely valuable to the court in determining any law’s intent. Furthermore, if a marriage law or laws are ruled unconstitutional, it then would become the prerogative of the legislature—the lawmaking body of Tennessee—to respond.
  • Now, the bad news. The Tennessee’s attorney generalHerbert Slatery, also has addressed the question at issue in this case. The bad news is that unfortunately, he apparently agrees with Mary Bonauto!

According to David Fowler in an email,

The [relevant] statue says, “A child born to a married woman as a result of artificial insemination, with consent of the married woman’s husband, is deemed to be the legitimate child of the husband and wife.”

In response, the AG literally cited the definitional section of the Code about how the Code is, generally speaking, to be interpreted. It says, “words importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter, except when the contrary intention is manifest.” Then the AG immediately wrote: “So both the word ‘husband’ and the word a ‘wife’ in [the statute] would be properly construed to mean ‘spouse.’”

So much for reading the words “except when the contrary intention is manifest!” The AG argues as if that phrase isn’t even in the statute it relies on!

So both the word “husband” and the word a “wife” in [the statute] would be properly construed to mean “spouse.”
—Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, completely ignoring the italicized portion of this guideline for interpreting state law: “[W]ords importing the masculine gender include the feminine and neuter, except when the contrary intention is manifest.”—

If there ever were legal arguments desperately needing friend-of-the-court briefs, those being made by David Fowler are those arguments. Amicus briefs opposing him and the legislators surely will be filed by national organizations that favor LGBT causes, especially since Attorney General Slatery has sided against state sovereignty in this case.

The Massachusetts case already has been lost. According to Fowler, similar cases also have been lost in Indiana and Wisconsin. Another case is being litigated in New York. Additional legal conflicts are sure to surface. Will pro-marriage organizations anywhere else do as David Fowler has done and seek out legislators who might be willing to go to bat for man-woman marriage—or at least for marriage and family laws as they were originally written? Are we really willing to surrender the meanings of the words “man,” “woman,” “husband,” “wife,” “father,” and “mother” without a fight? Furthermore, if these words lose their inherent meaning, is there anything on progressives’ wish lists that won’t become reality as these pioneers of the new social frontier seek to reshape civilization? “Civilization” is yet another word that will be redefined, and everyone will pay a high price!

Are we really willing to surrender the meanings of the words “man,” “woman,” “husband,” “wife,” “father,” and “mother” without a fight?

Keep in mind this isn’t just about marriage, but also about divided government and the separation of powers. Do courts have the right to rewrite laws? In our constitutional republic, they do not.

As George Washington said in his Farewell Address,


It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free Country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its Administration, to confine themselves within their respective Constitutional Spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the Powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism.


We soon will see if the US and Tennessee constitutions will be honored or totally ignored. If they are ignored, then we’ll no longer live in a republic, but an oligarchy; and, as precious as man-woman marriage is, they’ll be a great deal more at risk than just the sanctity of man-woman marriage.


Copyright © 2016 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Limited Options

Apollo 13 was launched on time from the Kennedy Space Center on April 11, 1970 at 2:13 p.m. EST. It was to be the third manned space flight to land on the moon, but an onboard explosion on the second day of the mission turned the mission into a quest to bring the crew home alive. The odds weren’t in the crew’s or in Mission Control’s favor, but strategic thinking, ingenuity, patience under pressure, hard work, and good fortune did indeed bring the crew safely home—six days after they had left the earth and four days after the explosion.


Lessons from Apollo 13 abound. If we heed them, we can greatly increase our effectiveness as we address one of today’s most important and pressing issues—marriage.

“Limited Options” tells the story of Apollo 13
and makes appropriate applications.
Access the article here.
Access an expanded version of the article here.


Copyright © 2016 B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.

Pictured at top is the three-man crew of Apollo 13, which consisted of (left to right) Commander James Lovell, Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert, and Lunar Module Pilot Fred W. Haise. In the next photo, the imperiled spacecraft passes by the moon. The view was spectacular, but the overarching concern was getting the crew home safely.

The article consists of 2700 words; the expanded version of the article, 3700 words.