For an excellent overview of what’s at stake in the two marriage cases before the Supreme Court, read Ryan Anderson’s new essay on NRO. An excerpt:
[G]overnment has an interest in marriage because it is society’s best way to ensure the well-being of children. State recognition of marriage protects children by encouraging men and women to commit to each other and take responsibility for their children.
Redefining marriage would further distance marriage from the needs of children and would deny, as a matter of policy, the ideal that a child should have both a mother and a father. After all, it’s hard to insist that fathers are essential when the law has redefined marriage to make fathers optional. Delinking childbearing from marriage would force the state to intervene more often in family life and expand government welfare programs.
Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage. It would legislate a new principle: that marriage is whatever emotional bond the government says it is. But redefining marriage to abandon the norm of male-female sexual complementarity also would make other essential characteristics — such as monogamy, exclusivity, and permanency — optional, as leading LGBT scholars and activists admit. Marriage cannot do the work that society needs it to do if these norms are further weakened.