For over 200 years, the United States Supreme Court has been interpreting the meaning of the U.S. Constitution to answer some very important questions.
This year, they will attempt to answer two of the most controversial questions of our generation after agreeing last week to tackle the issue of same-sex marriage:
- Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?
- 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?
For those of you who don't know, the Fourteenth Amendment states:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
But can anyone realistically argue that the "liberty" protected by the Fourteenth Amendment at the time it was enacted included the right to marry a person of the same sex? The definition of marriage was universally understood as the union between one man and one woman.
Sure, the Supreme Court, on occasion, has recognized rights granted by the Fourteenth Amendment that were not expressly mentioned in the actual text. However, it has only done so when the right in question was "deeply rooted" in American history and tradition.
The right to marry a person of the same sex is hardly rooted in American history. In fact, such a legal interest was unknown until very recently.
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals is one of the federal courts that has rightly affirmed that the Fourteenth Amendment does not require the redefinition of marriage. Ohio, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Michigan are the four states whose marriage laws were upheld by the 6th Circuit’s decision, and it is the cases challenging these laws that the Supreme Court agreed to review.
In its decision, the 6th Circuit acknowledged that the government did not get into the marriage business so that people can feel secure about who they love. They did it to create an incentive for a man and a woman in a sexual relationship to provide a stable home for their offspring to know and be raised by both their mother and father.
For hundreds of years this is why the states have regulated marriage, and for hundreds of years men and women have continued to get married and procreate.
Altering the definition of marriage and requiring states to issue same-sex marriage licenses would erase hundreds of years of American history and tradition (not to mention eradicate the rights of voters to uphold the definition of marriage in their respective states). On the other hand, affirming marriage as it has always been understood allows the state to recognize a unique relationship between a man and a woman that has been fundamental to the stabilization of our society through procreation and raising the next generation.