Marriage in Mississippi: One Man / One Woman?
We have sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.
This decades-old observation from George Orwell can certainly be applied to the current debate over the definition of marriage.
To hear the arguments of those who seek to redefine marriage, you would think that marriage has, for all recorded history, been recognized as any collection of people who love each other, and that the current effort to amend the Constitution is a recent creation of the "religious right" who seek to impose their morality on everyone else.
The opposite, is, in fact, the truth. Until recent years, marriage has been seen throughout recorded history as a relationship between male and female, even in cultures where homosexuality was generally accepted. The issue has become a Constitutional matter because a very small minority of people, who don't like the historical definition of marriage, have gone to court to impose their view of morality on everyone else - and won.
The most recent iteration of this is in Massachusetts, where a bare majority of four justices of their supreme judicial court declared same-sex marriage to be a fundamental right. Even that court acknowledged that marriage has always been defined as one man and one woman, even in Massachusetts law.
But in an action that reflects a growing but disturbing trend in America, they morphed themselves into a four-person constitutional convention. In essence, they said, "If we were writing the constitution, we would have written it differently, and because we are in a position to do so, we hereby - without opportunity for the people to ratify our action - amend the constitution to say what we want it to say."
That's how this became a Constitutional matter.
But how is Mississippi affected by a Massachusetts court decision?
The U.S. Constitution says, in Article 4, "Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state." Therefore, under normal circumstances, a couple who marries in another state could move to Mississippi and know that we, too, would recognize their marriage.
The U.S. Supreme Court has, in the past, said that a state would not have to recognize the actions of another state if doing so would violate the "strong public policy" of that state. The presumption is that one state should not be allowed to dictate the policy of another state.
Defining marriage in Mississippi's Constitution will provide the strongest public policy possible, and it should put this issue to rest as a legal matter in our state.
By doing this, are we "discriminating" against same-sex couples? Only to the extent that we discriminate against a brother and sister who wish to marry, or against a man who wants to be married to two women at the same time. Even heterosexual marriage is not granted to just anybody who wants to marry. If we adopted the logic of same-sex marriage proponents - that marriage should be allowed for people who love each other - there could be no limits on incest or polygamy.
Are we prohibiting same-sex couples, as the argument is often made, from hospital visitation or from inheritance? No. That can already be handled by legal means. One Gulf Coast resident who is in a same-sex relationship was quoted in a news article as saying, "We know what steps to take. We go to lawyers, secure each other by those means - contracts, living wills."
I've intentionally omitted biblical arguments about homosexual activity, not because they are not valid, but because others have made and will continue to make those points.
Besides, this amendment is not, in and of itself, a religious statement. It is simply a restatement of the obvious.
Forest Thigpen is president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, an independent public policy organization based in Jackson. Write him at [email protected].