The Supreme Court Has Ruled on Marriage, Now What?
This week, the Supreme Court ruled on two important marriage cases, one with regard to federal law and the other with regard to a state law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson explains what happened in the two rulings:
In its ruling on Prop 8, the Supreme Court declared that the citizen group that sponsored that ballot question didn’t have standing to defend the resulting amendment to the state constitution — although millions of Californians voted to pass it. This jurisdictional question was only an issue because Gov. Jerry Brown and the state attorney general decided to not defend a law passed by the people.
This sets a disturbing precedent and distorts the balance of powers among the legislative, executive and judicial branches. It effectively would allow the executive branch to veto duly enacted laws, simply by refusing to defend them against a constitutional challenge.
In its ruling on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Court declared that the federal government cannot define marriage as the union of a man and a woman for its own policies and laws, but must accept whatever the states decide about redefining marriage.
But Anderson stresses that the court “refused to redefine marriage for the entire nation. The Court refused to “discover” a constitutional right to same-sex marriage.” That is a very important point. It means, Anderson explains, that the citizens of all 50 states and their elected representatives have the freedom to discuss, debate, and vote about marriage policy.
That said, there is a truth about marriage that is unchanging:
Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths.
To be clear, the government should have a vested interest in preserving and protecting the institution of marriage, the union of a man and a woman:
Marriage matters for children, for civil society and for limited government. Marriage is the institution that unites a man and a woman as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children that their union produces. And that’s why government is in the marriage business. Not because it cares about adult romance, but because it cares about the rights of children.
So where does that leave us? Anderson suggests that, apart from the political process, we must, once again, live out the truth of marriage in our own lives. Want proof? He gives it to us:
Long before there was a debate about same-sex anything, heterosexuals bought into a liberal ideology about sexuality that makes a mess of marriage — with cohabitation, no-fault divorce, extra-marital sex, non-marital childbearing, massive pornography consumption and the hook-up culture all contributing to the breakdown of our marriage culture.
He adds that 50 percent of children in many communities are now living without the “great gift” of having both a mother and father in their lives.
Same-sex marriage didn’t cause this, but it does nothing to help it, and will only make things worse.
We cannot sit idly by; we must act to protect the institution of marriage. Anderson leaves us with the following excellent advice as to how to go about this in our own lives:
The only way to guarantee a political loss, however, is to sit idly by. We should frame our message, strengthen coalitions, devise strategies and bear witness. We must develop and multiply our artistic, pastoral and reasoned defenses of the conjugal view as the truth about marriage, and to make ever plainer our policy reasons for enacting it.