Voters in eight states will decide on Nov. 7 whether to amend their constitutions to ensure that marriage continues to be an institution limited to one man and one woman.
It's too bad it has come to this, especially since the amendments won't do much to restore marriage to its once lofty place in our society. But it's not the Christian Right or the Republican Party that has brought us to this pass.
We shouldn't have to clutter our state constitutions, much less the U.S. Constitution, with language defining marriage, but a few activist judges have left voters little choice unless they are willing to embrace judicially imposed gay marriage or its equivalent.
For millennia, all civilizations have understood marriage to exist exclusively between men and women (though many civilizations have chosen to allow husbands to marry more than one wife concurrently). Homosexual relationships surely have existed throughout history, but homosexuals have not sought marriage rights nor has any society formally sanctioned such relationships through its laws, that is until the late 20th century, and then in just a very few societies.
Now, some judges in the United States have cast aside tradition and law in favor of an experiment in reordering society, without the democratic consent of the citizens of the affected communities. Should it surprise anyone that a backlash has ensued?
Last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided that the state constitution "guarantees that every statutory right and benefit conferred to heterosexual couples through civil marriage must be made available to committed same-sex couples." While the New Jersey justices didn't go as far as their Massachusetts counterparts in actually ordering the state legislature to pass legislation giving the right to gay couples to marry, the difference may be more semantic than real.
Since New Jersey already allows for domestic partnerships through a 2004 law passed by the state legislature, the court was clearly insisting that the domestic partnerships law doesn't go far enough because it distinguishes such relationships from actual marriages. New Jersey legislators appear likely to enact a civil union statute in response to the court's action, but there is no guarantee that some future court decision won't invalidate civil unions as unconstitutional, too, that is unless New Jersey amends its constitution to limit marriage to the union of one man and one woman.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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