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?
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)