Yesterday’s rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court did NOT create a fundamental right for same-sex couples to marry. Mississippi’s laws regarding the definition of marriage are not affected by these rulings. In fact, the Court seemed to reinforce the right of states to define marriage for the purpose of their own laws.
Of course, we at MCPP believe marriage cannot be redefined by any government, because marriage itself preceded government. For thousands of years, it has been understood as the union of one-man and one-woman. But several states don’t see it that way and have granted marriage status to various types of relationships. Fortunately, Mississippi and 36 other states have acknowledged the definition of marriage as one man and one woman.
However, yesterday’s rulings do have major consequences for our country.
In its decision on California’s Proposition 8 (Prop. 8), the Supreme Court ruled that voters who pass a law through a referendum are prohibited from defending it in court when opponents challenge it.
In its ruling on the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Supreme Court said Congress does not have the ultimate authority to define marriage for purposes of carrying out federal laws and programs. That means taxpayers from all states will have to pay for benefits for same-sex couples in states which allow same-sex marriage, even though Congress voted otherwise.
But the most disturbing part of Court’s ruling on DOMA is not the immediate result. It is the language used to justify it. The Court accuses DOMA of "taking" something from same-sex couples, a result the Court attributes to Congress’ "desire to harm a politically unpopular group." The Court does not see DOMA as an acknowledgment that traditional marriage is a foundational relationship that is critical to sustaining our society – so critical that it deserves special protection against redefinition.
In overturning DOMA, the Court overthrew a law passed by 342 (out of 435) members of the U.S. House, 85 (out of 100) U.S. Senators, and signed by President Bill Clinton. It arrogantly abandoned the understanding of marriage which is "deeply rooted in our nation’s history and tradition." In a similar vein, the Court’s Prop. 8 decision casts aside the millions of California voters who approved that law because they believe marriage is and always will be a union of one man and one woman.
While yesterday’s actions will not affect our state’s laws immediately, the animus shown by the Court toward traditional marriage is not a good omen for how they might rule in future challenges to marriage-defining laws.