Alive and Kicking
"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated." This quote is often credited to Mark Twain, but in the wake of the hoopla surrounding the decisions handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court last Wednesday, the same could be said about marriage in the traditional sense: defined as between one man and one woman.
By now you have heard that the Supreme Court ruled last week on two important cases concerning same-sex "marriage." The Court declared Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional and decided that those who defended Proposition 8 did not have standing to do so, allowing the ruling from the San Francisco judge - striking down Prop 8 as unconstitutional - to remain in effect.
News traveled fast. Soon after the opinions were formally uttered inside the courthouse we were exposed to images of raised rainbow flags and staged displays of public affection on the steps outside it. Politicians lauded the opinions, as did media-types who abandoned all pretense of objectivity. But do these decisions really mark the end of marriage as we know it and as it has been known for thousands of years?
No...or at least not yet.
Don't get me wrong. There are troubling aspects to these two opinions. Both betray the fundamental notion that citizens have the right to govern themselves. With the Defense of Marriage Act, the Court overturned legislation passed with broad, bipartisan support that could have been repealed or changed by Congress had the people willed it to be. In the case of Proposition 8, the Court allowed California government leaders to effectively nullify the votes of the people by refusing to defend a measure that passed in the ballot box.
Also, Justice Kennedy, in his majority opinion, was effusive in his disparaging remarks toward supporters of traditional marriage, implying that those behind DOMA have been fueled by bigotry. Like Justice Scalia observed in his dissent, the tenor of the majority opinion was you can either "[h]ate your neighbor or come along with us."
But while many are disappointed in these marriage rulings, they are limited in scope and effect. They are not sweeping decisions like Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton when the Court legalized abortion in 1973. The Supreme Court did not articulate a constitutional right for same-sex couples to marry. To be sure, the legal analysis presupposes that each state retains the right to define marriage for itself and its citizens.
And that's good news for defenders of traditional marriage, since a vast majority of states -- thirty-eight out of fifty -- reserve marriage for one man and one woman.
It raises the question, though, as to whether proponents of marriage should keeping fighting for it, knowing that the traditional view will continually be challenged. We keep hearing the "i" word, inevitable, when it comes to same-sex "marriage." And the echoes of inevitability are ringing louder with these latest court decisions.
To muster resolve, we need only recall: Marriage is worth fighting for. It is a God-ordained (that's right, I said God) institution that is foundational and essential for any thriving society.
Some protest that the same-sex movement does not seek to destroy marriage - but strengthen it - by opening it up to other committed, loving couplings. But altering of the meaning automatically destroys it. If you decide to skip the jelly and add more peanut butter to your sandwich, you no longer have a PB& J. You might still decide to call this jelly-less sandwich a PB&J, but the label does not make it so, given that the sandwich is missing an indispensable component. Likewise, a marriage without a male or a female lacks something vital.
Aside from meaning, we defend traditional marriage so it might support and protect the most vulnerable members of our society: our children. The need for intact families, where children are raised by a mother and a father, is not lessened by these Supreme Court decisions, and our devotion to supporting and upholding the family should not be either.
True, these recent decisions dealt marriage a blow, a painful one, but marriage is still alive and kicking. Now is not the time to give in or give up. Now is the time to protect marriage, to strengthen it, and to ensure that this institution suffers from no further erosion.
Instinctively, we all know the best environment for children is an intact family with both a mother and a father in the context of a marriage. This truth endures, regardless of what the Supreme Court says.
Nate Kellum is the Chief Counsel at the Center for Religious Expression, a non-profit organization based in Memphis.