Debate:Should the federal government have the power to define marriage?

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The issue of what should constitute marriage has, of course, been debated at length of late in this country. However, I think another key issue is being overlooked in the process: should the federal government have the right to define marriage?


Yes. Due to the many tangible benifits a marriage license brings (tax credits, inheritance, etc), the government should be able to define who gets what right. However, the government has no place telling two loving adults that their relationship is false and they cannot wed. CraigC 19:22, 22 May 2008 (EDT)

That's begging the question; those "tangible benefits" are examples of government definition/regulation of marriage. Claiming that they should have the power to define and regulate marriage because they've already defined and regulated marriage is circular logic. --Benp 17:34, 5 June 2008 (EDT)


I stand in this camp, for a number of reasons. First among these is the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." I don't believe that anyone can make a credible case for the notion that the Founding Fathers did not consider marriage to be an "establishment of religion." Thus, as I see it, Congress has no right to attempt to dictate the definition of marriage to people of faith, no matter how noble their intentions may be.

The normal justification provided is that marriage has financial benefits, and thus Congress has the power to regulate it as a form of "commerce." This, I think, is a particularly disingenuous back-door route into areas where Congress has no business.

Before anyone leaps to defend Congress on the grounds that they're simply trying to defend marriage by imposing a definition, I would urge that you look to the long run: once we allow Congress to claim this power, it will be extremely difficult to revoke it. A more liberal Congress somewhere in the future could, using the same self-granted power, attempt to redefine marriage in a manner not to the liking of Christians, conservatives, and traditionalists. Is that a door we really want to open?

I believe that no church should be required to acknowledge a marriage that violates the tenets of their faith; consequently, I favor removing government-granted benefits from marriage and conferring them on some sort of purely secular union. Thus, we would render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's--tax benefits and fiscal matters--and render unto God that which is God's--the sacrament of marriage.

--Benp 18:55, 7 May 2008 (EDT)

Benp, "marriage" in the context of government is simple - it is about having the right to obtain a civil marriage license from the government, and to receive all of the rights abnd privileges associated with being legally married from the perspective of the law. One can be married in the eyes of the government without ever participating in a religious ceremony. The government is also not permitted to make any religion endorse or perform marriages that are not recognized in that faith. A good example is that the Catholic Church is not obliged to marry anyone in a Catholic ceremony who is not eligible by their criteria, including people who are divorced by civil law but still considered married to their prior spouse(s) by the Catholic Church. Allowing divorced people to remarry without a church annulment is already an affront to orthodox Catholics, so society has precedents for civil law allowing the freedom to live private lives without bowing to the traditions of one faith or another. --DinsdaleP 18:20, 5 June 2008 (EDT)
But, again, those "rights and privileges" are not inherently part of marriage; they're things the government has, over time, linked to marriage. There's nothing about marriage that inherently carries tax benefits with it, for instance. It seems to me that it would be better to draw a clear line of demarcation between marriage (in which I think the government has no business meddling) and civil benefits (which could easily be conferred through a separate "civil union.") --Benp 18:41, 5 June 2008 (EDT)
In theory one could have a legal definition of "civil union", that carried with it all the legal rights and privileges of property-sharing, making decisions on behalf of one another when incapacitated, etc. If a couple in this relationship could do anything a married couple could, like adopt kids, then isn't the only difference the use of one phrase, Civil Union, instead of another, Marriage? If yes, then it's an unnecessary distinction and there's no reason to have two terms that mean the same thing for the sake of "tradition". If not, and there are things a couple in a civil union can't do that married people can, then you have inequality under the law. The reason the a panel of mostly conservative, Republican judges in California ruled the way they did is that as long as you have separate terms for the same thing, then there is the potential for people to be treated differently depending on the label that's applied to them. If there is truly no difference, then the term "marriage" should apply to both. Since conservatives don't want same-sex couples to be treated equally, that will never be an acceptable option, so the judges ruled as they did and upheld equality under the law. --DinsdaleP 20:17, 5 June 2008 (EDT)

The powers of a federal government should be limited to the aspects of society that have a clear and undeniable need to be maintained on a national level versus a state or local level. Defense of the nation, interstate commerce, and basic freedoms (speech, press, etc.) are clearly best defined and managed at the federal level, but something that is subjective and values-based like marriage should not be.

In cases like this, the burden of proof is on those who want to define and legislate marriage at the federal level, and the question they need to answer is this: "What is the compelling justification for this not to be handled at the state & local level, and who is harmed if it's not federal? --DinsdaleP 14:06, 21 May 2008 (EDT) To argue for something

The government should not have the power to define marriage. Marriage should not be taken into consideration when filling taxes, suing for wrongful death, inheritance, hospital visitation, or immigration. The laws against polygamy, polyandry, adultery should removed from the books. The government should instead limit itself to enforcing contracts between (two or more) people. Once the government says "you two people get this benefit because you are married", it is in the business of defining marriage. --Rutm 15:15, 21 May 2008 (EDT)

That's God's job not the government's. I think the government should not be in the business of issuing marriage licenses either. Marriage is a holy sacrament between the husband, the wife, and God. The Bible says, "Do not give what is holy unto the dogs"--TedM 23:25, 9 March 2009 (EDT)

The last timestamp on this topic was 2009. Since then, the Court has green-lit gay marriage and civil unions across the country. Y'all have a lot of articles explaining the obvious wrongness of this decision, and I'm pretty sure we all agree, so I won't go into detail about it here. What I will say is that I could (hypothetically) go to the courthouse tomorrow and get a license with another man that basically says I can double the standard deduction on my income taxes, and my homestead protections should I file for bankruptcy. This is neither moral, nor should be legal. --Pious (talk) 02:35, 6 September 2016 (EDT)


While I disagree with setting immoral standards for marriage, I am not convinced government should be defining marriage at all, although to remove government control of marriage would mean rewriting the tax code. I find those supportive of gay rights are ironically the least tolerant people, ironically, as they seek to force the majority of taxpayers who disagree with gay marriage in states like California to pay for school children to be taught about gay role models.[1]

They seek to sue everyone who disagrees with them just for exercising their religious rights, photographers who don't want to photograph gay weddings, doctors who don't want to perform in vitro fertilization of lesbian couples, churches who don't want to marry gays on church grounds.[2] A majority of California voters twice voted to define marriage between a man and a woman, and the gay rights movement lobbied the courts to overturn Prop 8 and 22, and now uses the public school system to teach about gay role models to public school students.

As the Brothers Winn point out, "'Suing people to get your way!' It seems like the new gay motto. 'It just doesn’t sound very tolerant to me….' 'Oh well, we’ll sue the people that think it isn’t tolerant."[3] --Joshua Zambrano 01:28, 4 September 2013 (EDT)

Ultimately, the Bible not only declares homosexuality a wrong sexual lifestyle, but other things like divorce, adultery, and bestiality. It says we are guilty before God and cannot judge others as worthy of death since we are all equally guilty (Romans 2-3). I think homosexuality is wrong but many sexual lifestyles are wrong and none of us are perfect. I do not hate homosexuals though I disagree with the lifestyle.

Homosexuality is just one of many wrong sexual behaviors which addicts and enslaves people like pornography, prostitution, adultery, etc. I do not believe we should make laws supporting it unless they are democratically passed by the majority of the country. I believe the right way is to put the issue to a vote and let the people decide, which liberals will not do because they want to dictate their beliefs as tyrants. --Joshua Zambrano 01:34, 4 September 2013 (EDT)