Those pressing the Supreme Court to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 essentially argue that marriage as we’ve always known it is not constitutional. But redefining marriage would make marriage about the desires of adults rather than the well-being of children.

That was the takeaway from a media briefing Tuesday at the National Press Club featuring Heritage’s Ryan T. Anderson, Claremont Institute legal scholar John C. Eastman, and Alliance Defending Freedom attorney Austin R. Nimocks (who is also co-counsel in the Prop 8 case).

“Government is not in the marriage business to regulate citizens’ romantic lives,” Anderson said. “Encouraging marriage is the only way to ensure adults take responsibility for their children.”

Redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships would further separate marriage from the reality that every child needs both a mother and a father, Anderson said, and transform the institution into whatever emotional bond the government says it is. Among the consequences: erosion of religious freedom and growth of the welfare state. (Contrary to claims made this week by a pediatrics group, the social science clearly shows that children do better when raised by a married mother and father, Anderson writes today for CNN.)

There is nothing “equal” about redefining marriage, Anderson said, a point he also made in a piece this week in The Washington Post. And the Court has held that same-sex marriage is not a fundamental right, said Eastman, author of Heritage’s legal memo on the marriage cases.

Anderson and Nimocks stressed that a judicial decree redefining marriage would cut off meaningful democratic debate about society’s foundational institution.

“What is at stake is the constitutional authority of the American people,” Anderson said.

“The debate over marriage will not be settled for a long time,” Nimocks said. “We are really at the beginning of it.”

That very position was represented ably in The New York Times by Anderson and Heritage colleague Andrew T. Walker, who were among those profiled in a story about undaunted young proponents of marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

“If you take the longer view of history—I’m not talking just 15 years, I’m talking 40 years or even 100 years—I can’t help but think that the uniqueness of man-woman marriage will be adjudicated over time,” Walker said.

For now, Americans who hope to preserve marriage can take a stand by turning out Tuesday, March 26, for the March for Marriage in Washington, D.C.