Thursday, August 28, 2014

Court rules that states can define marriage

Excerpted from "Judge Upholds State’s Authority to Define Marriage as Union of Man and Woman," commentary by Ryan T. Anderson in The Daily Signal, August 12, 2014 - Last week a judge in Tennessee upheld that state’s Constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. The case involved a same-sex couple married in Iowa that sought a divorce in Tennessee. Because Tennessee does not recognize same-sex relationships as marriages, it was unable to divorce the couple. Last week, Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr., cited the Supreme Court’s decision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act case, U.S. v. Windsor, as support that Tennessee has the right to define marriage for itself.

When the Supreme Court struck down the federal law defining marriage last year, Justice Anthony Kennedy explained that states have “the historical and essential authority to define the marital relation.” Simmons takes Kennedy at his word, recognizing the basic equality of state citizens. Just as the citizens of Iowa are free to adopt same-sex marriage (though it was a state court that redefined marriage there), so too the citizens of Tennessee are free to retain the traditional definition.

What about arguments that claim there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage? Simmons explains that while “marriage is a fundamental right,” there is no right to redefine marriage. Simmons continued: “neither the Tennessee Supreme Court nor the United States Supreme Court has ever decided that this fundamental right under a state’s laws extends beyond the traditional definition of marriage as a union between (1) one man and (1) one woman.”

What’s really at stake in this debate? Simmons explains: “The battle is not between whether or not marriage is a fundamental right but what unions are included in the definition of marriage.” Yes, the fundamental policy question in this debate is “What Is Marriage?”

Our federal Constitution is silent on what marriage is. Judges should not insert their own policy preferences about marriage and declare them to be required by the Constitution. The courts should uphold the freedom of the American people and their elected representatives to make marriage policy.


Jonathan Imbody“As the links to a research controversy below (see Resources) suggest, anyone wading into the marriage debate these days needs a double coat of armor. But that's hardly unexpected or new for Christians whose convictions counter the culture. If we can demonstrate love for those who practice homosexuality while courageously offering a reasonable rationale in defense of marriage as between a man and woman, as my colleague Ryan Anderson does, then perhaps reasonable people will consider our message.

“For millennia, societies have recognized marriage as a consensual, exclusive and lifelong commitment between one man and one woman, expressed in a physical union uniquely designed to produce and nurture children. The universal recognition of conjugal marriage by virtually every civilization throughout history, arrived at from both secular and theistic perspectives, testifies to the natural evidence for marriage, its objective structure and its significant contribution to human flourishing and societal stability.

“But now some would replace marriage with a subjective notion based on emotional relationship, divorced from the natural and objective marital elements of physical union and procreation. The abject subjectivity of this approach offers no rational parameters that would exclude further redefinitions of 'marriage as between multiple partners, related persons or even persons and pets.

“With people of good will on both sides of the marriage debate, we all do well to focus on respecting and listening to each other, presenting a reasonable rationale and letting the democratic process play out to express the will of the people. Courts have a tendency to short-circuit that process by imposing personal views from the bench, and conflicting rulings in lower courts appear bound to return this issue to the Supreme Court in the near future.

“In the meantime, consider reading some of the resources below on this issue. As we commit to remaining true to convictions founded on Scripture, may God give us the courage to live faithfully in the midst of a contrary culture--just as the biblical Daniel, Esther and a "great cloud of witnesses" have done throughout history.

Use the easy, editable form at the CMA Freedom2Care legislative action website to voice your support for:

House bill: Marriage and Religious Freedom Act - HR 3133

Senate bill: Marriage and Religious Freedom Act - S 1808

What is Marriage? by Ryan T. Anderson, et. al.

Research and controversy:
  • "How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study" research publication by Mark Regnerus
  • "Homosexual Parent Study: Summary of Findings," article by Peter Sprigg
  • "Study of Gay Parenting Draws Criticism" - ABC News
  • "Mark Regnerus: Defending my research on same-sex parenting" - Dallas Morning News
  • Social Scientists Defend Mark Regnerus' Controversial Study on Same-Sex Parenting - Christianity Today

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