Marriage and the Court: A View from Congress

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

In response to the Supreme Court rulings, a few members of Congress responded in a lunchtime press appearance. Among them were Missouri’s congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, who made the point that “the Supreme Court has not created a Constitutional right to same-sex marriage” and, additionally, that elected officials “must defend the rights of Americans to defend marriage policy.” Hartzler discusses the rulings, their impact on politics and the culture, and the future of marriage with National Review Online.

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Does anything about today’s decisions on marriage surprise you?

VICKY HARTZLER: I believe the Court got it wrong on both rulings. The Court’s activist ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act ignored the votes of a bipartisan majority of Congress. This is a dangerous precedent, which strips power away from Congress with respect to defining national marriage policy. We must work to defend the democratic rights of Americans to make marriage policy.

Additionally, the Proposition 8 ruling is a loss for the millions of Americans who have gone to the ballot box to voice their support for marriage between one man and one woman. It is a loss for democratic self-government. With the Supreme Court denying the appellants standing, they have left the people voiceless. 

LOPEZ: Isn’t gay marriage inevitable?

REP. HARTZLER: Not at all. Thirty-eight states have affirmed the belief of their citizens that marriage exists between a man and a woman, and is a necessary building block of stable society. Today, the Supreme Court confirmed the right of each state’s citizens to make their own laws regarding marriage. As recently as the last election, North Carolina voters overwhelmingly chose to keep the definition of marriage. The election outcome shows that the definition of marriage is at the center of a national debate, and the voters in the vast majority of states understand the wisdom of upholding marriage. We must continue to defend the rights of Americans to make marriage policy. We should work to promote the truth that marriage brings a man and a woman together as husband and wife to be a mother and father to any children the union produces. It is wise public policy to uphold the reality that every child deserves a mom and a dad.

LOPEZ: Same-sex marriage is argued as a matter of tolerance, equality, civil rights. How is it not the civil-rights issue of our time?

REP. HARTZLER: I certainly believe that we should affirm the civil rights of all individuals, but many individuals who were involved in that struggle will tell you these are two separate issues. Redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships is not a civil right. While the Supreme Court got both cases wrong, they did not create a right to the redefinition of marriage across the nation, and instead affirmed the rights of each state’s citizens to make their own laws regarding marriage, which is wise. Marriage must be color-bind, but it cannot be gender-blind.

LOPEZ: The fact is, there are, in some states in the United States, same-sex marriages. Is it too late to turn back?

REP. HARTZLER: Well, currently 38 states have affirmed that marriage is between a man and a woman. The Supreme Court confirmed the right of each state’s citizens to make their own laws regarding marriage. Even in last November’s vote, marriage out-performed the Republican presidential ticket by sizeable margins in each of the deep blue states where it was on the ballot. Across the country, Americans are engaging in a very important discussion over the definition of marriage. This debate will continue, with the states leading the way. We must work to defend the rights of Americans to make marriage policy and speak out on why it is important to a stable society and to children’s well-being.

LOPEZ: Is it hard to argue against marriage definition when we’ve collectively done such a lousy job with marriage? Divorce, people opting for cohabitation instead?

REP. HARTZLER: There is no doubt that there are concerns with our current marriage culture, and the question before us now is whether or not to begin to restore the marriage culture, rather than moving further away from the most stable home life for children. Redefining marriage would put the wants of adults before the needs of children. We should rebuild and restore marriage, not undermine or redefine it.

LOPEZ: What would you do to help build a marriage culture? Does Congress have a role here?

REP. HARTZLER: Intact, enduring marriages are society’s best tool for ensuring that children are born into stable, caring families that will care for, educate, and train those children to be good people and citizens. Marriage is society’s best guarantee of a limited government that stays out of family life. As a society, we should be promoting this pro-family policy. Congress should definitely have a role here as representatives of the American people. Just as the states have authority to make marriage law for state purposes, Congress has the authority to make marriage law for federal purposes, and as we see in DOMA, the Court got federalism wrong. Congress can encourage marriage and support families through tax laws, welfare reform, and supporting families with bills like the flextime initiative.

LOPEZ: Is there a danger in speaking out on this issue of hurting others?

REP. HARTZLER: We should treat everyone with dignity and respect. That includes respecting the needs of children for a mom and a dad. Redefining marriage would further distance marriage from the needs of children. As a representative of Missouri — a state that has passed a Constitutional amendment affirming traditional marriage — I speak out on behalf of not only the constituents I represent, but the millions of Americans in the 38 states that have also affirmed traditional marriage. Today the Supreme Court affirmed that the debate about marriage will continue, with the states in the driver’s seat — and the vast majority of states still uphold marriage as being between one man and one woman. As their representative, I am proud to give voice to their perspective on this important topic and speak out on the value of marriage between one man and one woman.

The Corner

The one and only.