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Ryan T. Anderson Defends Traditional Definition of Marriage at Princeton (Video)

Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation delivered a speech defending the definition of marriage as a union between man and woman at Princeton University on Thursday.

The Daily Princetonian reports details:

Heritage Foundation fellow Ryan T. Anderson ’04 argued for a traditional conception of marriage as a union between one man and one woman in an event sponsored by the Anscombe Society and the American Whig-Cliosophic Society on Thursday evening. About 30 students assembled outside of McCosh 50 before the talk in support of same-sex marriage.

Before the event, members of the Princeton Equality Project gathered at the building entrance handing out pins and posters to arriving audience members. A number of students came draped in rainbow flags.

PEP member Kelsey Dyer ’17 said many members of the LGBT community had come to respectfully hear what Anderson had to say while also making their presence known in hopes that the event could be part of an ongoing dialogue about the meaning of marriage…

Anderson has been making the rounds, speaking to universities audiences on this issue lately. Frankly, I’ve been surprised and encouraged by the civility of the student audiences he has encountered.

Normally, we’re used to hearing of conservative speakers being shouted down by hordes of hecklers whenever they deliver unpopular ideas on college campuses.

It’s a good sign–in terms of the level of civility on campus–that Ryan has been able to present his ideas to students without difficulty–ideas that, mostly likely, the vast majority of students in the elite bubble of liberal higher ed have probably never encountered.

Anderson offers an intelligent and compelling case, which he also lays out in his book, What is Marriage?, written with Sherif Gergis and the redoubtable Robert P. George. Even if you disagree with the premise, it’s the kind of book that’s worth reading simply because it addresses the question in a way that may not have occurred to you before.

With these campus talks, Anderson is prompting students to explore the purpose of marriage. Essentially, he argues that it is an institution designed, above all else, to help ensure that children are raised by their biological parents. Outside of that context, he argues, marriage doesn’t seem to have much purpose at all.

Why not, for instance, simply have couples live together? Homosexual, heterosexual, polygamous, whatever… Why does a coupling need to be recognized by the government at all? His answer, to put it simply, is that the welfare of children is best served when they are raised in a stable home by their biological mother and father–something countless studies have demonstrated. Government, therefore, has a responsibility to see that the preservation of the nuclear family is encouraged as much as possible.

Again, that’s putting it simply.

I think there’s more to it than this. And leaving out the religious question may miss the starting point for all our society’s disagreements on the issue. But part of what is so interesting about Anderson’s message is that he focuses on the non-religious questions. He focuses on the political consequences of redefining marriage, the sociological consequences.

In the end, he succeeds in arguing that–religious issues aside–there’s not much point in having any such thing as marriage, if it doesn’t involve keeping mothers and fathers together for the sake of children.

And no, that doesn’t mean that childless marriage is meaningless. To learn what he says about that, I suggest you read the book. But I will say that it may be at this point that the moral and religious question becomes harder, at least for me, to ignore.

Ultimately, most folks either believe God forbids it or they don’t. Nevertheless, Anderson shows that there are other non-religious reasons to oppose gay marriage, and they are compelling reasons. This is a major political issue in America, after all, and students ought to hear more than just one side of the issue.

No doubt a few students on the audience on Thursday were exposed to an entirely new perspective. They were given a chance to reconsider what marriage is, and what it isn’t.


Nathan Harden is editor of The College Fix and author of the book SEX & GOD AT YALE: Porn, Political Correctness, and a Good Education Gone Bad.

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