In the wake of the Supreme Court rulings on DOMA and California’s Proposition 8, I have been asked my thoughts on this matter. To recap, over the years so many social conservatives have looked to the federal government to uphold traditional marriage while social liberals ask the government to grant what they feel are basic civil rights to homosexuals.
Well, when it comes to the issue of marriage and the federal government my thoughts are quite simple. The federal government has no constitutional authority to determine what marriage is or what it is not. It is really that simple. Regardless on which side of the social divide you happen to fall, granting the federal government this extra constitutional authority is not only improper, it is also dangerous.
For those of you who run to the federal government looking for a redress on this issue, my challenge to you is to clearly show where the Constitution authorizes the government this power. Can you do so? Or has the government in Washington become some sort of catch all, a governing body of unlimited power than can decide every facet of our lives?
What if the people of Massachusetts wish to permit gay marriage? Is it their right to do so? And should a heavy-handed federal government be able to squash this proposal? Similarly, what if the people of Tennessee wish to outlaw gay marriage? Are they allowed similarly to make that sort of decision? Or should the federal government intervene to promote “the national will”? Whether the definition of marriage ought to be left to the churches, the states, or the people themselves, one is hard-pressed to make the legal justification of federal involvement other than for the sake of national uniformity.
Now, that’s not to say that I do not have an opinion on the subject of marriage. I do believe that healthy marriages are the fundamental building block of society and I supported the Marshall Newman Amendment to the Virginia Constitution in 2006 that defined marriage in this state as being between one man and one woman. However, that decision came about through an amendment to our state constitution, the most fundamental ruling document in this state. It wasn’t a mere law, but a power that required constitutional changes to allow the government to take a stand. This same rule should apply to the federal government as well. If it wishes to take a position on this issue either in favor or opposition to gay marriage, then pass a constitutional amendment allowing it the authority to do so. Granted, it is not an easy process, but, much like the drug war, without this explicit power, any action that the federal government takes in this matter is a clear violation of the governing rules of our nation.
Regardless of how you fall in this issue, whether you seek to promote traditional values or to enhance the civil rights of our fellow citizens, I caution liberals, conservatives, and even some libertarians not to look to the federal government to solve this issue of marriage. Keep in mind that whenever you surrender authority to this increasingly unrestrained body, you lose any moral grounds to complain in the future should they one day take a position that stands in stark contrast to your own.