The headlines this week about the judge declaring Oklahoma’s marriage amendment unconstitutional stated that the “ban” was struck down. Virtually every time amendments such as this one are reported in the media, they’re referred to as bans against same-sex marriage.
These state amendments are not bans—they don’t single out same-sex marriage specifically. These amendments are attempts to clarify and define what marriage has meant in each state for centuries, and in civilization for millennia. Sure, same-sex marriage may be the instigating factor that makes it necessary to clarify what marriage is, but that’s not the same as banning it. Indeed, all kinds of variations on the definition of marriage are also excluded from state amendments, even if they aren’t mentioned specifically. The judge in this case got that wrong:
Kern said that “the Court’s rationality review reveals Part A an arbitrary, irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a government benefit.” Proponents of the state constitutional measure, he points out, “purposefully (drew a line) between two groups of Oklahoma citizens—same-sex couples desiring an Oklahoma marriage license and opposite-sex couples desiring (a) marriage license.”
Same-sex couples aren’t singled out in the Oklahoma amendment or other state amendments. They may not fit the definition, but neither do all kinds of possible variations on marriage.
The “ban” language isn’t accurate and it’s misleading. It’s not as though these amendments are being passed as mere displays of discrimination. It’s not as though citizens who think government has a special interest in traditional marriage are singling out same-sex couples. These amendments are defensive attempts to clarify what marriage has always meant because of aggressive efforts to change marriage. And in clarifying marriage in that regard, it also clarifies it regarding other attempts at redefinition, which are in the works already.
The “ban” language isn’t accurate, and it misrepresents the dynamic of what’s going on in culture right now.