State of the States on Marriage
By Tony Perkins
On the heels of a significant federal district court ruling upholding Louisiana’s state marriage law, two other states are taking seriously the “historic and essential authority” they’ve long held to establish marriage policy through the democratic process. In Mississippi, Governor Phil Bryant has moved to intervene on behalf of the state’s marriage law, aiding in its defense before the Mississippi Supreme Court. At issue is whether a same-sex couple can force the state to recognize their “marriage” performed in another state — so that they can then file for divorce in Mississippi! Governor Bryant argues that the state should not be forced to recognize a relationship the people have already voted not to affirm as marriage. His move to defend the people’s interest in marriage comports with the very view set forth by the Supreme Court’s ruling in United States v. Windsor last summer when it emphasized that “the definition and regulation of marriage” has long “been treated as being within the authority and realm of the separate States.”
Since Virginia’s Governor and Attorney General don’t share Governor Bryant’s strong belief in the importance of defending state law, the Virginia House of Delegates has taken it upon itself to ensure that the views of Virginians — including on marriage — are respected. Today, in a special session, the Virginia House of Delegates votes on a bill that would give the Assembly the right to intervene in cases that challenge state laws when the state attorney general refuses to offer a defense. We applaud the Virginia House for taking seriously the views of Virginians. Indeed, in neighboring state North Carolina, a new poll released just yesterday highlights the fact that even when people disagree on the meaning of marriage, they overwhelmingly support (62% to 26%) allowing voters — not courts or renegade public officials — to decide the question.
State defenses of marriage laws — whether in Mississippi, Virginia, or one of the other 30 states with pending challenges — are important as the Supreme Court prepares to reconvene for its fall term. As the Supreme Court considers how to resolve ongoing challenges to state authority on marriage, we hope the Court remembers what it has said about the importance of respecting the democratic process and allowing voters to affirm the truth about natural marriage.
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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