Debate Club

The Supreme Court Can't Unilaterally Change the Definition of Marriage

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During this week's oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, attorneys and justices will consider not just specific laws, but the ultimate question of whether the Supreme Court should redefine marriage in America. That is, they are really struggling over whether the male-female definition of marriage is consistent with a Constitution whose states never saw a same-sex marriage until the last ten years. The Supreme Court should reject the temptation to legislate here, because there is no constitutional basis for requiring that marriage include a same-sex dimension.

The fact of the matter is that after the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) became law under President Clinton's signature in 1996, a large majority of states affirmed the male-female definition. Many have done so by amending their state constitutions, and this all took place within the past 20 years.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gay marriage.]

Let us be clear—DOMA does not affect state laws that govern marriage in any way. DOMA only applies to federal issues, and it is perfectly legitimate, as a matter of federalism, for the United States government to define terms like "marriage" and "spouse" that are used in federal statutes and regulations.

Clearly, one can disagree with DOMA's definition of marriage, and the American people are free to repeal DOMA and endorse same-sex unions. But it would be a different thing altogether for the Supreme Court to redefine marriage.

Recent elections in more liberal states have made it clear that same-sex marriage supporters are fully capable of advancing their social agenda without the courts intervening to shut down debate. These states have the right to redefine marriage, and same-sex marriage proponents have the right to change the federal marriage definition. However, they should not be permitted to force their definitional change onto the entire nation using the courts. As such, DOMA's constitutionality should be upheld.

Chris Gacek

About Chris Gacek Senior Fellow at the Family Research Council

Tags
marriage
Supreme Court
civil rights
LGBT rights

Other Arguments

#1
36 Pts
DOMA Helps No One, While Harming Many

Yes – DOMA Helps No One, While Harming Many

Evan Wolfson Founder and President of Freedom to Marry

#2
29 Pts
DOMA Will Be Overturned: The Question Is How

Yes – DOMA Will Be Overturned: The Question Is How

Casey Pick Policy Fellow with the National LGBT Bar Association

#3
28 Pts
Unelected Supreme Court Shouldn't Impose Gay Marriage by Fiat

No – Unelected Supreme Court Shouldn't Impose Gay Marriage by Fiat

Penny Nance President and CEO of Concerned Women for America

#4
21 Pts
Same-Sex Couples Deserve Equal Protection Under the Law

Yes – Same-Sex Couples Deserve Equal Protection Under the Law

Chad Griffin President of the Human Rights Campaign

#5
15 Pts
The Undue Hardship Caused by DOMA Is Unconstitutional

Yes – The Undue Hardship Caused by DOMA Is Unconstitutional

Stacey Long Director of Public Policy and Government Affairs at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

#7
-27 Pts
No, Redefining Marriage Isn't Mandated by the Due Process Clause

No – No, Redefining Marriage Isn't Mandated by the Due Process Clause

John C. Eastman Chairman of the Board of the National Organization for Marriage

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