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“Who gets to make the decision about restructuring and redefining the basic cell of the civil order?” asked University of St. Thomas law professor Teresa Collett on a panel discussing the institution of marriage at The Heritage Foundation Tuesday. Is it the courts? Or under our concept of ordered liberty, should it be the people?

This year, voters in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, and Washington will see marriage initiatives at the polls in November. Americans in all 50 states will see marriage head to the Supreme Court and be redefined in the Democratic party platform.

“We have heard repeatedly [that] this is the year that marriage is going to lose,” explained Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage Education Fund. But the media has gotten it wrong in the past. Most recently, in North Carolina, pundits expected same-sex marriage to win, but instead voters chose to uphold the union of a man and woman by a margin of 61 percent.

Brown spoke to some negative consequences that have resulted from the judicially imposed redefinition of marriage in Massachusetts, alluding to cases such as Catholic Charities having been forced out of offering adoption services in Boston for refusing to place children with same-sex couples or unmarried opposite-sex couples who cohabit.

Regarding Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that defined marriage as between one man and one woman, Brown revealed that at one point, polls showed support at about 36 percent. The idea that “this would be the state where marriage lost…was echoed far and wide.” But Prop 8 “passed by a slightly larger margin than President Obama was elected President in California.”

Bishop Harry Jackson Jr., president of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church, has “seen people lay down their differences and work together” so that marriage remains the union between a man and a woman. He added, “I see a greater unification of the Church community than in any other endeavor that I have been exposed to over the last 10 or 20 years.… I see black, white…coming together” on this issue.

In light of the Prop 8 case being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday, William Duncan, director of the Marriage Law Foundation, said, “We are hopeful that [the Court] can see that the people of the United States are capable of handling an issue like this.”

The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson explains: “Americans have come to the conclusion that marriage is a union of man and woman with good reason.” At stake over the course of the next year is whether the nation’s laws at both the state and federal levels will continue to reflect that.