Policy Makers Should Act Now To Protect Marriage
WASHINGTON, MAY 17, 2004 - Rather than leave an
issue as important as same-sex marriage in the hands of a few
activist judges, federal and state policy-makers can take several
steps to ensure that marriage remains an institution for one man
and one woman only, says a new paper by The
"We often hear this framed as a 'civil rights' issue by those who
claim that we're simply extending the legal benefits of marriage to
a larger group of people," says Matthew Spalding, director of
Heritage's Simon Center for American Studies. "Nothing could be
further from the truth. It's not an expansion, it's a
redefinition-one that would overturn marriage completely and
subvert its very nature."
The fact that Massachusetts, for now, is allowing same-sex
marriage, doesn't mean that those who would defend marriage should
give up, Spalding says. Many significant legal battles are yet to
be fought at the state and federal levels. Judicial decisions in
Massachusetts and other localities are but the opening moves in
what Spalding calls "a long-term legal strategy to impose
homosexual 'marriage' through the courts, circumventing lawmakers
and the people before they have an opportunity to react through
legislation or the electoral process."
And, Spalding notes, marriage is a national issue, but it is not
primarily a federal policy matter. By tradition, and in accord with
our constitutional division of power between the federal government
and the states, marriage is recognized and regulated by state law.
Most of the key battles, therefore, will occur at the state
Spalding recommends that state policy-makers:
Review their laws concerning marriage and clarify and strengthen
public policy preferences that favor traditional marriage.
Clearly and unambiguously declare their state policy and their
refusal to recognize same-sex "marriages" from other states.
Amend their constitutions to establish a clear constitutional
policy that favors marriage.
Petition Congress to voice their concerns and express their views
about federal legislation and a constitutional amendment to protect
There are several things, meanwhile, that Congress could do to
support and defend marriage. Consistent with the Defense of
Marriage Act (DOMA), it could call on the states to clarify their
marriage statutes and define in state law, and in state
constitutions if necessary, that marriage is the union of one man
and one woman. It also could take steps to enforce the definition
of marriage established in DOMA when it reauthorizes federal
programs and otherwise enforces federal policy, ensuring that all
federal policies are consistent with that definition.
But the most important step Congress can take, Spalding says, is to
send a constitutional amendment that protects the institution of
marriage to the states for ratification.
For centuries, Spalding notes, every society and every major
religion has recognized marriage as something intrinsically related
to the relationship between fathers, mothers and their children.
"Now, thanks to the actions of a few judges who don't have to
answer to an electorate that has consistently voiced support for
traditional marriage, we're suddenly turning our most important
institution into a mere legal arrangement."
Who, Spalding asks, beyond a small minority of vocal supporters, is
clamoring for homosexual marriage? "Yet we have judges ready to
overturn centuries of experience and settled wisdom," he says.
"Decisions of such magnitude shouldn't be forced before we've
carefully considered the full scope of their ramifications. That's
what the amendment process would do: cause us to take full stock of
our actions before we blithely dilute marriage to the point where
it's just another social arrangement."
Spalding's paper is available at heritage.org
. More Heritage research on
marriage and family issues can be found online at heritage.org/research/family/issues2004.cfm