Sexuality and Gender

Why the Supreme Court Should Let States Choose Their Marriage Policy

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Author Amy K. Hall Published on 04/28/2015

The Supreme Court will hear arguments today on whether or not it’s constitutional to define marriage as a man and a woman. Please keep in mind that, contrary to what you might be hearing, the Supreme Court isn’t deciding whether or not to ban same-sex marriage. The option to ban it isn’t something they’re considering (nor should they). Rather, they’re deciding whether or not same-sex marriage will be required in all 50 states. If they decide the Constitution does not require it, the states will be left to choose their own marriage policy.

The questions the justices will answer are these:

1) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

2) Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?

It’s important to reiterate that this is a question about the Constitution: Does the Constitution require same-sex marriage? The judges’ preference as to which marriage policy they think is better should not determine the outcome, and we can only hope it won’t.

Ryan Anderson summarizes the situation:

1. There simply is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that requires all 50 states to redefine marriage...

2. The overarching question before the Supreme Court is not whether a male-female marriage policy is the best, but only whether it is allowed by the Constitution...

3. As Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito pointed out two years ago, there are two different visions of what marriage is on offer... Our Constitution is silent on which of these visions is correct...

4. The only way the Court could strike down state laws that define marriage as the union of husband and wife is to adopt a view of marriage that sees it as an essentially genderless institution based primarily on the emotional needs of adults and then declare that the Constitution requires that the states (re)define marriage in such a way...

5. Everyone in this debate is in favor of marriage equality. Everyone wants the law to treat all marriages in the same ways. The only disagreement our nation faces is over what sort of consenting adult relationship is a marriage...

6. Marriage exists to bring a man and a woman together as husband and wife, to be father and mother to any children their union produces. Marriage is based on the anthropological truth that men and woman are distinct and complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the social reality that children deserve a mother and a father...

7. Redefining marriage to make it a genderless institution fundamentally changes marriage: It makes the relationship more about the desires of adults than the needs—or rights—of children. It teaches that mothers and fathers are interchangeable...

8. There is no need for the Court to “settle” the marriage issue like it tried to settle the abortion issue. Allowing marriage policy to be worked out democratically will give citizens and their elected representatives the freedom to arrive at the best public policy for everyone... Judges should not cut this process short.

Read the rest of Anderson’s post. You can read summaries of the amicus briefs that have been filed on both sides here. For more on this topic, see “Understand the Same-Sex Marriage Issue.”