This Election Day, voters in eight states will go to the polls and decide whether to give the traditional definition of marriage, the union of one man and one woman, the protection of an amendment to their state constitutions. These amendments that are designed to protect traditional marriage from being redefined by radical state and federal judges, and to make sure that voters have a chance to be heard on this fundamental issue.
How has it come to this? Why do voters have to vote on amendments to state constitutions to maintain the definition of something that has been settled in western civilization for thousands of years – long before our constitutions and laws were written. Simply put, the answer is judges.
Activist judges in several states have taken it upon themselves to redefine – or demand that democratically elected legislators redefine – the historical and commonly understood meaning of marriage. All without any input from voters.
A few years ago, four out of seven judges on Massachusetts’ Supreme Court redefined marriage in that state and then ordered their state’s legislature to comply. Just last week the New Jersey Supreme Court ordered that state’s legislature to pass legislation that would either allow gay marriage outright or give all the rights and benefits of marriage under a name other than “marriage”.
Liberal activists attempt to use the judiciary to redefine basic cultural institutions because they know they are unlikely to achieve their goals if voters have a say in the matter. The marriage issue is a perfect example. By gaining the legalization of gay marriages in one state, they will seek to use the federal judiciary to force other states to officially recognize such unions, whether those states allows gay marriage under their own laws or not.
The risk is very real. Due to a quirk in the Massachusetts state constitution, gays from outside that state are not allowed to marry there if their home states don’t allow such marriages as well. Currently none do. But thanks to New Jersey, this will change in 2007. Will the rest of the country allow itself to be dictated to by judges from other states?
The oldest and most fundamental institution of society is the family, and the basis of the family is marriage. Over the last several decades, failed marriages, no-fault divorce laws and out of wedlock births have wrecked enough damage on the family, and by extension, society in general. It hardly seems logical that we should sit by and watch judges inflict more fundamental damage.
To suggest that we can suddenly change the definition of marriage and ignore thousands of years of human history without the possibility of negative consequences is to deny reality. The ripple effect across our legal system involving such issues as insurance, inheritance, child custody, property, etc. would be incredible. It would hit our court system like a tsunami and please no one but the trial lawyers.
Despite some of the rhetoric you may have heard, these amendments are not a restriction on anyone’s rights. It is simply a way to codify in our state constitutions the marriage laws we already have on our books, thereby giving them more protection from activist judges and making them more difficult to change without voter approval.
While a constitution should only be amended for the most important of reasons, the protection of the definition of marriage is such a reason. If we allow the judiciary to rewrite our laws, redefine our families, and restructure our society without so much as a vote of the people, then we no longer have a democratic form of government. Approving such an amendment takes the issue away from the courts and puts it squarely where it belongs – with the people.
Over the past several years, voters in states all across our country have weighed in on the definition of marriage, and the result has been a unanimous and resounding verdict. In each case, voters approved state amendments defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman and put the issue beyond the reach of activist judges.
This Election Day, voters in eight states will be faced with the same question. They should be mindful that if they don’t settle the issue, they risk having judges do it for them.