One reaction to the story of Mozilla “firing” Brendan Eich for his support for traditional marriage has been to say that it shows the power of the market to shape corporate decisions. Suddenly Leftists are in favor of markets and of freedom of association!
Of course, there is no contradiction in believing both that markets are preferable to government-directed economies and that corporations can make mistakes. Something the Left doesn’t understand is that markets are not just “whatever corporations decide to do.” Markets are a process that lets a corporation find out if what it decided to do was really a good idea.
In deciding that Eich’s views on traditional marriage made him unacceptable as a company leader, Mozilla has implicitly endorsed the smear that the only reason anyone could favor maintaining the traditional definition of marriage is that they hate homosexuals. According to this view, traditional marriage defenders today are much like the racists of the Jim Crow South—bigots on the wrong side of history. They even point to anti-miscegenation laws to suggest a link between ideas about marriage and ideas about race.
This characterization of the pro- traditional marriage position is profoundly wrong, as Ryan Anderson shows in his latest paper, “Marriage, Reason, and Religious Liberty: Much Ado about Sex, Nothing to Do with Race” The public policy case for preserving traditional marriage rests on the institution’s unique role in producing and raising future generations. As Anderson puts it:
Government recognizes marriage because this institution benefits society in a way that no other relationship does. Marriage is the institution that different cultures and societies across time and place developed to maximize the likelihood that a man would commit to a woman and that the two of them would then take responsibility for protecting, nurturing, and educating any children that they may create.
One can hold that view of the issue without hating homosexuals, without believing that they should be fired from their jobs for being gay, and without believing that they should be prevented from having whatever kind of adult relationship they choose. By all accounts that was Brendan Eich’s view in 2008 as it was President Barack Obama’s view until 2012. And it is the view of many today.
Further, the attempt to link anti-miscegenation laws to the defense of traditional marriage is also misguided. Anderson writes:
Searching the writings of Plato and Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas, Maimonides and Al-Farabi, Luther and Calvin, Locke and Kant, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., one finds that the sexual union of male and female goes to the heart of their reflections on marriage but that considerations of race with respect to marriage never appear. Only late in human history does one see political communities prohibiting intermarriage on the basis of race. Bans on interracial marriage had nothing to do with the nature of marriage and everything to do with denying dignity and equality before the law. […]
Everyone is in favor of marriage equality. Everyone wants the law to treat all marriages equally. But the only way that one can know whether a law is treating marriages equally is to know what a marriage is. Every marriage law will draw lines between what is a marriage and what is not a marriage. If those lines are to be drawn on principle and are to reflect the truth, one must know what sort of relationship is marital, as contrasted with other forms of consenting-adult relationships.
Race has nothing to do with marriage, and laws that kept the races apart were wrong. Marriage has everything to do with uniting the two halves of humanity—men and women, as husbands and wives and as mothers and fathers—so that any children that their union produces will be united by the man and woman who gave them life. [Internal citations omitted.] [“Marriage, Reason, and Religious Liberty: Much Ado about Sex, Nothing to Do with Race” by Ryan Anderson, The Heritage Foundation, April 4]
The idea that a marriage is a union of one man and one woman only has been around for thousands of years, and it is a view that should be tolerated in the public square. Trying to enforce a conformity of thought on any issue of public policy—whether by government or by private means—is a bad practice for the very practical reason that sometimes the majority is wrong and society will eventually need the wisdom of the dissenters.