The Federal Government Has the Right to Define Marriage
The federal government has the right to define marriage as one man and one woman
December 17, 2012
That's really not the proper question as it presumes there is some form of marriage that is actually 'gay marriage.' There isn't. Marriage is intrinsically the union of one man and one woman. It's a pre-political institution that virtually every society throughout history has promoted to bring men and women together for the purpose of propagating the human race, and encouraging parents to raise their children to become responsible adults. When government issues civil marriage licenses, it merely publicly recognizes what society has always understood marriage to be—a unique relationship to encourage responsible child bearing and child rearing. Gay men and lesbians certainly can form loving relationships, but those relationships can never be considered marriage, since they lack the fundamental characteristic of marriage—bringing men and women together to create children. Government cannot redefine what it did not create.
Properly framed, the question raised by the Supreme Court's upcoming constitutional review of California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act is whether states and the federal government can legally define marriage as only the union of one man and one woman?
The answer is, clearly, yes.
The United States Constitution says nothing about marriage. The issue of what relationships government recognizes as marriage is a political question, not a constitutional one. States have always been able determine who may legally marry in their states. There are many limitations in the right to marry, including those concerning consanguinity. First cousins are prohibited from marrying in most states, but permitted in others. Some states recognize as valid cousin marriages performed elsewhere, but other states deny them legal recognition. If states have the power to limit marriage to relationships that are not too closely related by blood, surely they have the right to codify the intrinsic male/female nature of marriage.
Similarly, the federal government has the right to define marriage as one man and one woman. Since the purpose of publicly recognizing marriage is to encourage men and women to form stable families to bear and raise children, it is perfectly reasonable for the government to provide benefits and incentives to encourage such family formation. Indeed, encouraging marriage was so important that the federal government even conditioned statehood for Utah on them prohibiting polygamy and adopting laws in line with traditional norms of marriage.