A federal judge in Louisiana has upheld the state’s constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman, saying that citizens and their elected officials should define marriage, not the court system.
Writing for the Heritage Foundation, Ryan T. Anderson reports on the decision by U.S. District Judge Martin L.S. Feldman who upheld the rights of 78 percent of Louisiana residents who voted in 2004 in favor of amending their state constitution’s definition of marriage to be the union of a man and woman only.
Judge Feldman ruled that marriage laws further two important interests: “linking children to an intact family formed by their biological parents . . . ” and “safeguarding that fundamental social change … is better cultivated through democratic consensus.”
In response to those who say there is no rational basis for such marriage laws, Feldman writes: “The Court is persuaded that a meaning of what is marriage that has endured in history for thousands of years, and prevails in a majority of states today, is not universally irrational.”
The judge cited a part of the Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Defense of Marriage Act in the U.S. vs. Windsor case that is rarely mentioned but which recognizes the constitutional authority of states to define marriage. “Windsor repeatedly and emphatically reaffirmed the longstanding principle that the authority to regulate the subject of domestic relations belongs to the states, subject to indistinct future constitutional guarantees that in Windsor were, by its expressed limits, left open and rather inexact.”
He also questioned where the redefinition of marriage could lead: “Must the states permit or recognize a marriage between an aunt and niece? Aunt and nephew? Brother/brother? Father and child? May minors marry? Must marriage be limited to only two people? What about a transgender spouse? Is such a union same-gender or male-female? All such unions would undeniably be equally committed to love and caring for one another, just like the plaintiffs.”
Feldman’s ruling also emphasized the vital importance of democratic debate.
“Just as citizens are free to redefine marriage to include same-sex relationships, so too are citizens free to retain the historic definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman—as citizens in a majority of states have done,” Ryan explains.
“Our federal Constitution is silent on what marriage is. Judges should not insert their own policy preferences about marriage and declare them to be required by the Constitution.”
As Feldman notes, “it is not for this Court to resolve the wisdom of same-sex marriage.The nation is witness to a strong conversation about what is marriage.” Therefore, the courts should uphold the freedom of the American people and their elected representatives to make marriage policy.
“Federalism is not extinct,” Feldman writes. “Federalism remains a vibrant and essential component of our nation’s constitutional structure.”
In other words, “the debate about marriage cannot be put to rest by a court-imposed 50-state solution,” Anderson concludes.
“This is the people’s decision.”
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