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Saturday, Mar 24, 2018
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Extrapolating the Jolly standard

Whether David Jolly’s epiphany is one of conviction or simply a matter of having deciphered the political tea leaves is an open question, but either way, on the matter of same-gender marriage, the freshman Republican congressman from Pinellas County has crossed the bridge of no return. In an email reply to a question from the Washington Post, Jolly had this to say on the matter:

“As a matter of my Christian faith, I believe in traditional marriage,” said Jolly. “But as a matter of constitutional principle I believe in a form of limited government that protects personal liberty. To me, that means that the sanctity of one’s marriage should be defined by their faith and by their church, not by their state. Accordingly, I believe it is fully appropriate for a state to recognize both traditional marriage as well as same-sex marriage, and therefore I support the recent decision by a Monroe County Circuit Judge” in which Florida’s ban was ruled unconstitutional.

Thus did Jolly put his name to an exquisite threading-of-the-needle. His faith preference is for one arrangement, but his political philosophy compels him to acknowledge the reasonableness of the other. What his of-the-moment statement does not do, however, is anticipate what must, inevitably, come next. Indeed, he invites it.

Whatever else is said about one-man, one-woman marriages, they at least are rooted in the notion that such partnerships are, generally speaking, the best arrangement for birthing and rearing children. It must be acknowledged that such situations are not without their exceptions, some of them catastrophic. But as a starting point for an argument about which family structures are best for supporting a productive, self-reliant society — the most compelling reason the state has any interest in defining marriage — one man, one woman is it.

On the other hand, cold institutions and political philosophy cannot account for the human chemistry that leads to true love, which as everyone knows is the greatest thing in the world, and oftentimes people find love in unconventional situations. When that happens, on what grounds shall our traditions and institutions say the love-struck shouldn’t find legal fulfillment in their commitments?

But if we are to apply the Jolly standard, and the state must stand aside where faith and religion finds sanctity, then virtually all bets are off.

I am not saying Jolly is wrong, nor that the trend toward becoming more accepting of what ought to constitute marriage under the Constitution is a bad one. But this remains unresolved: my earnest desire to hear why the argument for same-gender marriage does not extend to all other (human-based) partnerships based on love, including polygamy.

Are we OK with that, too? If not, then by what logic shall we keep its prohibition on the books?

Truly, we live in interesting times.