In 2003, same-sex “marriage” was introduced in Ontario. Soon after, attempts were made in many other Western countries to legalize it. These efforts were effective, not because advocates of same-sex “marriage” had suddenly discovered convincing new arguments for their position, but because they realized that no arguments were needed. Indeed, as Anthony Esolen has pointed out, the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples is the conclusion and codification of social trends and moral upheavals that can be traced back as far as 1960. Same-sex “marriage” is the unavoidable conclusion of the sexual revolution.
The essence of the sexual revolution was to separate love from responsibility and to make pleasure and consent the only possible criteria for permissible sexual behaviour. Needless to say, the connection between erotic longing and familial love was soon forgotten. There was no longer any cultural pressure to tame or chasten the natural instincts of man for the greater good of society or, indeed, for his own sake.
The sexual revolution, which began under the banners of liberation and expression, found its end in libertinism and excess.
The sexual revolution has been so successful that the norms against which it rebelled have disappeared. The revolution is over, because the principle of “free love” – between two people of any sex – has been ratified by Parliament. But, precisely in this success, there is failure. The sexual revolution has slowly turned into the very thing it was meant to overcome: it has become the law.
The contradiction is not far to seek: desire may be liberated, but it cannot be codified. Without fidelity and commitment, desire remains changeable and brief. Indeed, it is impossible to enshrine concupiscence in law, because law, by its nature, is meant to raise man above the search for pleasure, to bring him beyond the horizon of his own gratification. Obedience to a law should always require the denial of a natural instinct, for in obeying a genuine law, man shows that he is not fettered by his inclinations, nor just the aggregation of his various appetites.
Thus, by removing the restrictions from satisfying any desire, man is dominated by every desire. In the words of Aristophanes, “Whirl is King, having driven out Zeus.” And here lies the profound paradox of the sexual revolution: that nothing is less fulfilling than the quest for personal fulfillment. As Chesterton put it, “The man who finds most pleasure for himself is often the man who least hunts for it.” If left unchecked, this search becomes a kind of tyranny. But, in Canada, the laws that once protected citizens from the morbid pursuit of their own gratification have been abolished.
The search for pleasure, triumph and freedom without limit has concealed the only sure path to these good things: faithful, fruitful, monogamous marriage. Without lasting marriages, we condemn ourselves to years without anniversaries worth celebrating, in desperate cycles of loneliness and loss. And without love that is both erotic and procreative, marriage is condemned not only to barren childlessness, but also to the sterility of unbridled desire. We, therefore, must propose marriage anew.