October 2, 2012
Opponents of the marriage amendment are encouraging people to engage in “conversations” about why the amendment should be defeated. Those conversations, like their commercials, do not resemble anything approximating a real public policy debate.
Here is one that does:
What is the Marriage Protection Amendment?
The marriage amendment simply affirms current state law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman and secures that definition into our state Constitution, where it can be altered only by a vote of the people. It does not change any existing law, nor will it alter the status of anyone’s personal or legal relationships.
Why is a constitutional amendment needed if marriage is already defined by statute?
Statutes, including Minnesota’s definition of marriage, can be struck down by judges or changed by politicians at any time. Judges and politicians in states such as Iowa, Massachusetts, Washington and Maryland have done just that.
The cultural and political forces seeking to redefine marriage in courts and legislatures all around the country are working with allies in Minnesota to redefine marriage, too. The Minnesota Court of Appeals recently instructed a Hennepin County judge to allow alawsuit (Benson v. Chapin) to move forward that seeks to have the state’s long-standing definition of marriage declared unconstitutional. Marriage is going on trial in Hennepin County.
Similarly, a number of local legislators have been working for years to redefine marriage or eliminate it altogether.
Legislation introduced this past session would create “genderless marriage,” defined as a union of any two consenting adults. The legislation instructs the state’s reviser of statutes to also eliminate all references to “male and female” and “husband and wife” found in Minnesota law that touches on marriage.
And here we get to an important point. Opponents of the marriage amendment don’t want to create a legal institution called “same-sex marriage.” They want to redefine the one definition of marriage that applies to all of us.
The marriage amendment ensures that the people of Minnesota have their say before the politicians and judges have theirs.
What if Minnesotans change their mind after the amendment is passed?
The marriage amendment is not irrevocable.
A majority of Minnesotans support traditional marriage and oppose redefining it, but if the social consensus changes the people can revoke the amendment. In Minnesota, it is relatively easy to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, as this past legislative session proved.
Proponents of the amendment believe, however, that given time to reflect on the social importance of marriage, the people of Minnesota will continue to affirm its unique role in uniting men and women with any children they may bring into the world.
Either way, the marriage amendment does not “end the conversation,” but instead puts it in the hands of the people, where it belongs.
What is the harm in redefining marriage? How does that affect me?
Redefining marriage will have profound consequences for everyone. Most importantly, it will eliminate the only institution that unites the biological, legal, and social aspects of parenthood into one lasting bond.
There is a strong consensus that the cultural and legal erosion of marriage that has occurred over the past few decades has resulted in very serious and very negative consequences for children and society.
Redefining marriage would exacerbate those developments by severing the inherent connection between marriage and children, as well as by redefining parenthood. It would undermine the rational basis for the norms of marital permanence and fidelity that are meant primarily for the well-being of children. When the state’s interest in marriage focuses on the happiness of adults, the whole family code will be turned upside down and kids will be the victims. That affects all of us.
Further, anyone who objects to the revisionist definition of marriage will be labeled a bigot and even penalized for discrimination.
But won’t the marriage amendment take away people’s rights?
The marriage amendment does not take away anyone’s rights. Gays and lesbians have the same individual rights as everyone else and the marriage amendment will not change that.
No federal court has ever said that same-sex couples have a right to have their relationship recognized as marriage. Many state courts have likewise held that the state has a strong interest in privileging the union of one man and one woman as marriage. The European Court of Human Rights has twice affirmed that there is no right to same-sex marriage, because the state has a compelling interest in promoting the well-being of children and affirming man-woman marriage as the ideal context for both creating and nurturing children.
If the marriage debate raises the question of rights, it is those of children who, like all of us, have a right to live in a society that recognizes the importance of mothers and fathers to their well-being. That is something even the United Nations has affirmed.
Still, it seems like the state is interfering with people’s private lives and choices when marriage is defined as the union of a man and a woman.
The marriage amendment will not prevent anyone from forming relationships or from making public commitments or promises in front of friends and family.
Nor will it prevent any two people from visiting each other in the hospital, making medical decisions for each other, jointly owning property or passing on their estate to one another. That ability already exists and will not change when the amendment is passed.
The marriage amendment will not prevent any church, business or private association from recognizing and supporting committed relationships, as some already do.
It clarifies and affirms only what the state of Minnesota will recognize as a marriage, and that is defined as a man and a woman for very compelling reasons.
People can live as they choose, but no one has the right to redefine marriage for everyone else.
But isn’t marriage about love and commitment?
Marriage is more than love and commitment.
The civil institution of marriage is a child-centered institution. It is about what kids need, not what adults want.
And although not every marriage produces children, every child has a mother and a father. Every child has a right to know and, to the extent possible, be cared for by the two people who brought him or her into the world.
Society has a compelling interest in affirming and supporting a relationship that is unique and unlike any other in its capacity to bring forth new life and serve the well-being of children and society.
Jason Adkins is vice chairman of Minnesota for Marriage, which is working to pass the marriage amendment.