NOM BLOG

Brian Brown in USN&WR Debate Club: "Federal Government Has the Right to Define Marriage"

 

Brian Brown participates in the US News and World Report Debate Club about the proper role of the federal government in defining marriage:

"...Properly framed, the question raised by the Supreme Court's upcoming constitutional review of California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act is whether states and the federal government can legally define marriage as only the union of one man and one woman?

The answer is, clearly, yes.

The United States Constitution says nothing about marriage. The issue of what relationships government recognizes as marriage is a political question, not a constitutional one. States have always been able determine who may legally marry in their states. There are many limitations in the right to marry, including those concerning consanguinity. First cousins are prohibited from marrying in most states, but permitted in others. Some states recognize as valid cousin marriages performed elsewhere, but other states deny them legal recognition. If states have the power to limit marriage to relationships that are not too closely related by blood, surely they have the right to codify the intrinsic male/female nature of marriage.

Similarly, the federal government has the right to define marriage as one man and one woman. Since the purpose of publicly recognizing marriage is to encourage men and women to form stable families to bear and raise children, it is perfectly reasonable for the government to provide benefits and incentives to encourage such family formation. Indeed, encouraging marriage was so important that the federal government even conditioned statehood for Utah on them prohibiting polygamy and adopting laws in line with traditional norms of marriage.

29 Comments

  1. Will Fisher
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Many have argued on this site, that marriage, as a prepolitical institution, cannot be defined or redefined by any government. Is it my imagination, or did Brian just concede that point?

  2. Son of Adam
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    The question is whether states and the federal government can legally define marriage as only the union of one man and one woman.

    The answer is, clearly, yes.

    But SS"M" advocates argue that doing so is unconstitutional.

  3. OvercameSSA
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    Marriage is a pre-governmental institution, founded on the complementary nature of man and woman as the means by which human offspring are produced. Laws surrounding marriage have always been premised on this unwritten definition with the notion of people of the same sex demanding to be "married" never crossing the minds of lawmakers and judiciaries.

    With strange social and cultural shifts making strange demands on the government to recognize a word implicitly defined through the ages as something that it has never been, and such word being entrenched in the law and society, it should not only be constitutional for a state to define marriage but, indeed, necessary to define it, and to define it as it has been known for the thousands of years that the institution has existed and the hundreds of years for which laws and mores have been developed around it.

    Changing the definition of marriage changes not only marriage, but everything that marriage has come to stand for, putting in jeopardy all of the good that marriage has done for society.

  4. Will Fisher
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    So if the state has the power to define marriage as one man/one woman (of majority age, not blood related, etc.), then doesn't it have the power to define marriage as any two nonrelated, consenting adults? I read Brian piece in USNWR and he never explains why not. Did I miss something? In any case, I suspect a lot of commenters here would object to such a concession of state power, no?

  5. Randy E King
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    "then doesn't it have the power to define marriage as any two nonrelated, consenting adults?"

    If the State can show a compelling interest in doing so that trumps the 1st Amendments right of conscience and free exercise thereof.

    The State has no compelling reason to do so because same-sex pairings are not a public good; they provide no benefit to society as a whole whatsoever, in that said pairings produce nothing of lasting value.

  6. Son of Adam
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Well, the problem with the state redefining marriage from the way thousands of years of cultural development has already defined it is that doing so compromises a lot of first amendment rights - including religious liberties. That is why the government redefining such an institution at the demands of a wealthy and influential special interest group is a very bad idea.

  7. Will Fisher
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

    So then, Son if Adam, it would seem you disagree at some level with the premise of Brian's argument. To me, the government either has or doesn't have the power to determine what constitutes marriage. Brian's argument sounds like a recipe for painting oneself into a corner, do to speak. You seem to be saying that the government does not have this power. Your position seems more consistent, at least.

  8. Joe
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    Will, The States have the right to regulate and define marriage "within" it's definition. They do not have a right to redefine marriage "outside" it's definition. Close family relation marriage has always been band by the Catholic Church. The Church has also banned many other types of "marriages". I know that what the Church calls marriage is not in question here. As far as the Church goes there is no question. Christ defined marriage as between a man and a woman very clearly in MARK 10; 2-16. The question here is SSM and how it will effect society and culture. We should have a fair, genuine and no name calling discussion on this most important issue.

  9. Randy E King
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    In order to redefine marriage to include a reference to deviants the Government will first have to identify a public good that will arise from doing so.

    These pairing produce nothing of any real lasting value to society.

  10. Wolf Pack
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    "the purpose of publicly recognizing marriage is to encourage men and women to form stable families to bear and raise children"

    Well said!

  11. Wolf Pack
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    Will Fisher,

    First, answer me this:

    Why do same-sex "marriage" activists disingenuously claim that homosexuals are 10% of the population, while SSM advocates state that homosexuals are around 3% of the population?

  12. Tribune
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    Homosexual advocates never want to touch on marriage laws that actually restrict normal marriage pairing between man and woman. By just discussing it, they know that opening a dialogue about that will shoot themselves down. Regretfully, our side did not bring up that topic and I do hope they bring that in the forefron on future campaigns to solidify that states had always had the power to restrict marriage, including the moronic homosexual "marriage".

  13. Stephen
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    I think that's true, Will F. Add to that the fact that we married in Canada. And so what Canadian laws are not honored in the US?

    ????????????????????????????????????

    Only one. The one that pays Brian Brown salary.

  14. Zack
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    @Will

    "So if the state has the power to define marriage as one man/one woman (of majority age, not blood related, etc.), then doesn't it have the power to define marriage as any two nonrelated, consenting adults?"

    No, the state does not have the power to rewrite the male/female natures. To redefine Marriage is to obscure the differences of the two genders which Marriage enshrines for children to understand. Now I know some have argued that redefining Marriage doesn't do this, but all too often do we see the after effects. In schools around the world-notably Sweden-they have established gender-neutral classrooms where everyone is referred to as "friend" instead of him/her. This social experiment occurred AFTER they redefined Marriage.

  15. Good News
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    When it went without saying that a child born with a male anatomy was a boy, man, male. The obviousness of the thing did not have to be spelled out in black and while.
    When it was obvious that a marriage was between a man and a woman, this fact did not have to be spelled out for us and our children.
    Now that the powers that be do not want us to be sure of anything. Including whether our child is a boy or a girl. We, the people, apparently now have to spell out such obvious things in black and white within the constitution. But we are in agreement with the perverters of the language on one thing – that we are not living in healthy times.

  16. Will Fisher
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Joe, I appreciate your desire for a civil dialogue. Sometimes that's difficult. On this very website I was called 'idiot' and 'socialist'. I also appreciate your acknowledgement that what we're dealing with here is the legal question of civil marriage for same-sex couples. A church may decide who may or may not marry within their walls. The issue of SSM is about whether or not a same-sex couple may obtain a marriage license from the state. I see no real problem with legally allowing same sex couples to marry. Many people here on this site do.

  17. Stephen
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Joe, we're talking about CIVIL marriage, not religious manifestations of the same. What the church does or does not do is entirely beside the point. And if you're going to invoke the name of Jesus then remember that he also told his followers to leave their husbands, their wives, their children, their parents, to give away all they possessed and follow him. You might also take the time to remember that the Primitive Church did not conduct weddings which they regarded as a pagan institution. That most of the people who have lived in this world were not Christians and did not enter into Christian marriages. I doubt you'd invoke 2000 year old precedents regarding medicine or any other kind of law. It's only this one law that seems to be eternal. Everyone around here needs to remember that you are interfering in the lives of other people. No one here is an expert. No one here is directly involved. And while I'm willing to believe that some posters around here believe what they write it should be remembered that Brian Brown makes his living from NOM. In other words, he makes his living by interfering in my life. If you think that's an honorable or even decent thing to do then fine. I don't

    Explain to me why, after having lived with my husband for 43 years, we are not able to enjoy the LEGAL protections of CIVIL marriage? Even though our state enjoys marriage equality and we are legally married the federal government stops us from enjoying the same civil rights as others. Yes, same-sex marriage was a new idea (it's not really any more having been proved to be a success) but so were computers. We all got used to them. As soon as NOM stops hyperventilating we can all get on with our lives and I promise - you won't even know when marriage equality comes to the US because nothing for you will change.

  18. Randy E King
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    "Explain to me why, after having lived with my husband for 43 years, we are not able to enjoy the LEGAL protections of CIVIL marriage?"

    Because your partnership has produced nothing of any lasting value for society.

    Husband: the man to whom a woman is married

    You do not have a husband; you have a facade based on bastardized language that is designed to lend an appearance of acceptability to your depravity.

    Reminds me of the movie 'Saturn3' where a robot murders a man, drapes his structure in his victims skin, and declares himself human in order to win over Farah.

  19. Randy E King
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    "you won't even know when marriage equality comes to the US because nothing for you will change"

    If nothing will change then there is no reason whatsoever to do it.

  20. OvercameSSA
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    "Explain to me why, after having lived with my husband for 43 years, we are not able to enjoy the LEGAL protections of CIVIL marriage?"

    Because society does not have any interest in you and your best friend staying together. Society has an interest in true marriage because men and women are the way that children are created, and parents taking responsibility for the children that they create and children having both parents are ideal goals of society.

    You and your best friend, being to dudes, are not now nor were ever capable of creating children; thus, the ideals that marriage seeks to achieve are not served in any respect by your relationship. You are no different from any two guys who decide to rent an apartment together, or a man living with his elderly mom, or two sisters sharing a house. Why should you be treated differently from those couples?

  21. OldKingBlog
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Dear Stevie: The ONLY hyperventilating is coming from YOUR side. It was YOUR side which made marriage redefinition an issue, not us or NOM. Moreover, your statement that "after having lived with my husband for 43 years, we are not able to enjoy the LEGAL protections of CIVIL marriage" is based on pure fantasy.

    No matter how fervently you wish it, no matter how many media talking heads state it, no matter how many leftist (that is, Democratic) political figues bloviate over it, you are no more married than you are to the Man in the Moon! The ONLY thing coming on the cultural front, therefore, is ever more powerful movements of clinically normal people fed up with the cultural rot your side has been spilling since the Sixties.

    All you and your so-called community are are left-overs from thar era, and ever-larger numbers are beginning to see that, and not just here in the US, but around the world.

    My advice? Take your fantasies and peddle them at Moveon.

  22. Good News
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    @ Stephen "Yes, same-sex marriage was a new idea.." A new idea needed, needs, a new name. That is the problem. The word marriage used to name a sex relaxant union – the sex of the other person was very relevant, it had to be opposite. This confiscated word now names a sex irrelevant union – where the sex of the other person is of no importance. This in and of itself is not fair nor kind to those who had and do cherish the uniting of the opposite sexes. It is unfair, cruel, not to allow these people a word in their language to name this thing that they hold so dear.
    It is you who are taking away something that is very valuable to others (the only word in their language that names the opposite-sex union). It is you who are the aggressor and the one who lacks sensitivity towards others. (Not you particularly, but more so the medical world, commercial world, Wall Street and others who are looking to their own advantages through this cultural change.)
    The “new” thing needed a new word to name it, rather than obliterating a word that was already being used for another purpose – that of naming the opposite sex union.
    Women are fighting for equality – they are not asking to be named “man”.
    Blacks are fighting for equality – they are not asking to be named “white”.

  23. Jon
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    @OldKingBlog
    Wow. Reading your post makes me shudder. I don't know why you are so intent on telling others how to live their lives. Get off of your high horse. Stephen is married, and you should live and let live. It is not fantasy, currently it depends on which country/state he lives in.

  24. Son of Adam
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    A same sex couple is no more a marriage than a cat is a dog - or an apple is an orange - or a man is a woman. No matter how much our ever expanding government takes over and redefines terms, things are still exactly the way God had made it.

  25. John B.
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Wait, what happened to "let the people vote"??? Looks like Brian Brown's talking points have changed now that the people voted in several states to allow same-sex marriage.

  26. Stephen
    Posted December 18, 2012 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Sad sad sad. Pathetic old men. You poor souls.

    FYI: Brian Brown made $230,000 from this nonsense last year. Maggie Gallagher made $160,000.

    That's why NOM exists.

  27. Fitz
    Posted December 19, 2012 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    Will Fisher (writes)

    "Many have argued on this site, that marriage, as a pre political institution, cannot be defined or redefined by any government. Is it my imagination, or did Brian just concede that point?"

    Yes Brian conceded the point. The more interesting question is why..?

    Why concede a matter of standing federal law, fundamental constitutional rights, natural law, & international human rights law..??

    Our courts have grown so tyrannical & lawless over the last 40 years that Brian & the folks at NOM have taken rear guard political strategy..

    They know current sitting Supreme Court Justices have no regard for the rule of law or limits on state power (the purpose of constitutions) so they are very weary of trying to box them in even though no state has the right to redefine marriage.

    Telling the current SCOTUS majority that the definition of marriage is outside their purview is like telling a petulant child that he cant have what he wants...he's more likely to take the command (no matter how valid) as an excuse to simply grab all he can.

    So they have rhetorically surrendered well established standing federal supreme court precedent in favor of (at the very least) allowing the people a voice in their own country..

    Perhaps this softer approach (it is imagined) will cause the petulant child to consider not breaking as many laws as he otherwise would if he were told (flat-out) ..." No,...you know your not allowed to do that" ...

    This strategey gives the Justices more wiggle room to either uphold the law, or allow the people to decide or break the law completley for the country as a whole.

  28. leehawks
    Posted December 20, 2012 at 10:59 pm | Permalink

    FYI: Brian Brown made $230,000 from this nonsense last year. Maggie Gallagher made $160,000.

    That's why NOM exists.

    Stephen! Don't progressive liberals working at Soros "non-profits" like Media Matters make a salary over there or are they simply volunteers for the cause of destroying life as we know just for the heck of it?
    All of you trolls - stop carping on the amount of money Brian, Maggie or anyone else here makes until you can prove to us that people working at liberal organizations live on air alone.....

  29. Chairm
    Posted December 22, 2012 at 2:04 am | Permalink

    Nothing was conceded.

    Marriage laws work by embodying and promoting a true vision of what marriage is that makes sense of marital norms such as monogamy, responsible procreation, exclusivity and lifelong commitment.

    To define is to set limits i.e. to delimit. Boundaries are drawn around essential features or a core of the social reality of marital union.

    The marriage idea is rejected by the advocates of the SSM idea. They say the state may not define marriage. They say that the word is an empty thing that is means whatever consenting participants want it to mean. That view means, in principle and in effect, that the state would abolish marriage.

    The state may define marriage in terms of drawing boundaries around the core of this type of relationship. Afterall, marriage is for marriage and not other stuff.

    The state may abolish marital status. It may subvert marriage for nonmarriage purposes. It may obscure the core of marriage and hinder social understanding of what marriage that merits the preferential status in policy and in law.

    But that is the way of doing damage to marriage. Redefining marriage as SSMers demand it be redefined amounts to abolition and not merely a hindrance to social reality of marriage.

    Government can do harm. It can do better. That is the basic point. It concedes nothing.