I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman.
-Barack Obama, Saddleback Presidential Candidates Forum, August 17, 2008
I do not support gay marriage. Marriage has religious and social connotations, and I consider marriage to be between a man and a woman.
-Barack Obama, Response to 2008 Human Rights Campaign Presidential Questionnaire
We agree with you that marriage should be defined as a relationship between a man and a woman.
Societies through the ages have considered marriage to be a relationship between a man and a woman that forms the cornerstone of families and the ideal place for having and raising children. Societies have a strong interest in marriage because "procreation [is] fundamental to the very existence and survival of the [human] race." Societies also have a strong interest in marriage because, as you have suggested, having both a mother and a father is important when it comes to raising children. For these reasons, it is fitting and proper to define marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman and to resist any attempt by courts to remove this issue from democratic deliberation.
In addition, redefining marriage to include homosexual unions poses serious threats to the religious liberties of people who continue to believe, as you do, that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. This understanding of marriage is an important religious belief for many Americans, but the freedom to express this belief will come under growing pressure as courts, public officials, and private institutions come to regard the traditional understanding of marriage as a form of irrational prejudice that should be purged from public life. Defending the legal definition of marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, in addition to serving the fundamental public interests set forth above, would also check these threats to religious liberty and help to ensure that believers are not forced "to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square."
In light of your view that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman, and for the reasons stated above, we respectfully urge you to adopt the following policies.
- Resist any attempt to repeal the Defense of Marriage
Act of 1996 (DOMA). DOMA defines marriage as a
relationship between a man and a woman for purposes of federal
law. In addition, although it leaves each
state free to define marriage however it likes, DOMA also affirms
that no state is required to recognize a same-sex marriage from
another state under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article IV
of the U.S. Constitution.
In the past, you have described DOMA as an "abhorrent law." We strongly urge you to amend this view consistent with your stated position that marriage is a union between a man and a woman.
- Voice support for democratic measures, like Proposition
8 in California, that define marriage as a relationship between a
man and a woman. Voters in a majority of the states share
your view that marriage is a union between a man and a woman and
have democratically amended their state constitutions to protect
that choice. Constitutional amendments like these are
important democratic checks on activist courts that sometimes seek
to impose their own vision for marriage on a particular
Voters in California, for example, recently passed Proposition 8, a ballot measure that amended the California Constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Proposition 8 effectively overturned a recent decision of the California Supreme Court that, in striking down a previous democratic ballot measure that had statutorily defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, imposed same-sex marriage on an unwilling state.
Although you believe marriage is a union between a man and a woman and have said you do not favor same-sex marriage, you also have openly opposed Proposition 8 and similar efforts to amend constitutions in other states. You have even gone so far as to denounce Proposition 8 as "discriminatory."
Your opposition to democratic measures like Proposition 8 is incompatible with your stated support for traditional marriage. Even advocates of same-sex marriage admit that your contradictory positions "can't be squared as a matter of logic."
Furthermore, denouncing Proposition 8 as "discriminatory" reinforces a growing contempt in certain parts of our society for people who bring their faith to bear on their politics, especially in matters relating to marriage. Such contempt threatens to fuel the hatred and bigotry that has been directed against individuals and institutions that supported Proposition 8 and should be renounced in the clearest possible terms. To the extent that, as President of the United States, you decide to involve yourself politically in marriage debates at the state level, you should support efforts to defend marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.
You have said repeatedly that you believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman. You have also said that you are not in favor of same-sex marriage. Consistent with your stated positions on these issues, you should resist any attempt to repeal DOMA and support democratic measures, like Proposition 8, that seek to preserve marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.
Thomas M. Messner is a Visiting Fellow in, and Jennifer A. Marshall is Director of, the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.