The controversy over same-sex marriage is nothing new, but in the courts and Congress, the battle rages on. The institution of marriage isn't something our Founders ever thought they would have to codify in law, but we are charged with defending it now.
In some parts of our country, criticism has erupted over the time and effort we have expended on this issue. But every time Congress has passed a bill to define marriage or to reserve the decision-making to the states - a court has overturned it, a mayor has defied it, and the force of that law has been undermined. Critics say the issue is unimportant, none of our business, and discriminatory. But we cannot so easily abandon our values.
Marriage is at the core of what makes us American.
Preserving the definition of marriage is vital to maintaining our definition of family. The tradition of marriage between a man and a woman is not just the standard in law, in most religious teachings, and in American society - it is also a matter of the rights we have to act in the best interests of the institutions that make our nation strong, durable, and moral. Our morals play a part in every aspect of American law, and the laws that
relate to marriage are no different.
Last week, I voted for another measure in the House of Representatives to strengthen the laws that define marriage. In a bipartisan effort, the Marriage Protection Act provides that no state shall be forced to accept a same-sex marriage license that is granted in another state. In effect, a same-sex couple cannot circumvent the marriage statutes of Missouri, for instance, by getting married in Massachusetts and then returning home. Individuals simply cannot choose which state's laws relating to marriage apply to them.
The Marriage Protection Act also provides that challenges to the state marriage laws will be settled in state courts. All of this seems sensible to me, just as it did when I voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. That bill passed both houses of Congress, was signed into law by President Clinton, and cleared the way for 37 states to pass Defense of Marriage Act laws of their own.
So now, once again, we are forced to defend the Defense of Marriage Acts.
Of course the issue of same-sex marriage has far-reaching ramifications for our whole American society. But in many respects, this is an issue of states' responsibilities to codify the institution that defines the families who live there. Changes to those laws should be made through the democratic process, by officials elected to do the will of the people. Rogue federal judges, appointed for life and accountable to no voter, should not have the power to haphazardly overturn those decisions.
States bear an enormous burden to define and refine their laws on marriage. Federal courts only complicate that obligation by demanding Missouri bow to the marriage laws of Massachusetts. The right to reserve certain classes of legal cases to state courts is one of the checks and balances afforded to Congress in the Constitution, and it is being properly exercised here. The will of the people of Missouri (or any other state) to preserve their values of marriage and family is not the jurisdiction of federal judges.
They should not be able to dilute the democracy.
But greater than states' rights issues are the moral and ethical decisions we must make for our nation. I have received more mail on the subject of same-sex marriage in the last year than on any other topic. An overwhelming majority is on the side of the Defense of Marriage Act, but there is also some dissent. I read those letters, too.
And I agree that government should interfere in the lives of the American public as little as possible. But there are times when the intercession of government is necessary, and this is one of them.
We must prevent the erosion of laws that define our society. Marriage and family are institutions Americans should aspire to, and their standards are important. I will keep defending marriage in Congress, and supporting the rights of our states to do the same.