courtroom

 

Last week we noted an appeals court hearing where one of the three judges queried the use of the courts instead of the democratic process by gay activists promoting same-sex marriage.

This week Ryan Anderson draws attention to the decision of a judge in Tennessee which upholds that state’s Constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman

In a post at The Daily Signal Ryan says: 

The case involved a same-sex couple married in Iowa that sought a divorce in Tennessee. Because Tennessee does not recognize same-sex relationships as marriages, it was unable to divorce the couple. Last week, Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr., cited the Supreme Court’s decision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act case, U.S. v. Windsor, as support that Tennessee has the right to define marriage for itself. Simmons writes: “The Windsor case is concerned with the definition of marriage, only as it applies to federal laws, and does not give an opinion concerning whether one State must accept as valid a same-sex marriage allowed in another State.”

When the Supreme Court struck down the federal law defining marriage last year, Justice Anthony Kennedy explained that states have “the historical and essential authority to define the marital relation.” Simmons takes Kennedy at his word, recognizing the basic equality of state citizens. Just as the citizens of Iowa are free to adopt same-sex marriage (though it was a state court that redefined marriage there), so too the citizens of Tennessee are free to retain the traditional definition.

As in the recent appeals court hearing, the question of marriage as a fundamental right was aired:

What about arguments that claim there is a fundamental right to same-sex marriage? Simmons explains that while “marriage is a fundamental right,”there is no right to redefine marriage. Simmons continued: “neither the Tennessee Supreme Court nor the United States Supreme Court has ever decided that this fundamental right under a state’s laws extends beyond the traditional definition of marriage as a union between (1) one man and (1) one woman.”

What’s really at stake in this debate? Simmons explains: “The battle is not between whether or not marriage is a fundamental right but what unions are included in the definition of marriage.” Yes, the fundamental policy question in this debate is “What Is Marriage?”

The fundamental legal question, then, is who gets to define marriage:

Simmons ruled it “should be the prerogative of each State.” The judge continued: “neither the Federal Government nor another state should be allowed to dictate to Tennessee what has traditionally been a state’s responsibility, which is to provide a framework of laws to govern the safety and wellbeing of its citizens.”


Carolyn Moynihan

Carolyn Moynihan is the former deputy editor of MercatorNet