Remembering What Marriage Is and Why It Matters
Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hand down decisions on two pivotal marriage cases — challenges to state and federal laws that define marriage as the union of a man and a woman. These are decisions of no trivial importance for American society. True conservatives have consistently made three very important points about the marriage debate.
First, decisions about marriage policy should be left to the democratic process, not to the courts.
Heritage’s Ryan T. Anderson explains:
A hallmark of democratic self-government is that the people should discuss, debate, and vote on important policy matters. And in America their votes should count, except when they clearly violate the people’s more settled will as expressed in the U.S. Constitution. Where the Constitution is silent, the task of a conscientious judge is to respect the constitutional authority of citizens and their elected officials.
That’s the reality of the discussion right now in America: We’re in the middle of a debate, with neither side’s position “inevitable.” This discussion is healthy for our democratic republic. And it would be wrong for the Supreme Court to shut down this conversation prematurely.
Of course, liberals want the Court to do just that. After President Obama “evolved” on the marriage issue, he called on the Court to declare unconstitutional the view he held for most of his first term. By contrast, when Senator Rob Portman (R., Ohio) shifted his view on marriage, he explicitly made clear that if marriage policy is to change, it must be through democratic processes.
That’s the difference: Liberals want judicial activism to advance their social engineering.
Similarly, Heritage’s Sarah Torre reiterates:
At stake in the cases is whether the American people have the freedom to determine marriage policy through the democratic process.
In the two cases currently before the Supreme Court, the Court has the opportunity to return to citizens the authority to make marriage policy for themselves through ballot initiatives or their elected representatives.
Secondly, marriage is based on truth, not changes in public opinion.
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.
The logical conclusion of this truth, then, brings us to the third major point.
Thirdly, marriage matters for policy.
Redefining marriage will have negative repercussions for society as a whole. Heritage explains:
Government recognizes marriage because it is an institution that benefits society in a way that no other relationship does… Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. Marital breakdown weakens civil society and limited government… Marital breakdown costs taxpayers.