Some people can’t seem to understand why anyone would support marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Indeed, Justice Anthony Kennedy argued last week that the only reason Congress had for passing the Defense of Marriage Act was to “disparage,” “injure,” “degrade,” “demean,” and “humiliate” others. Justice Kennedy says we’re denying dignity to people in same-sex relationships.

But it is his ruling that denies dignity to those who don’t think a same-sex relationship is a marriage. His ruling denies dignity to the millions of Americans and their elected officials who have voted to pass laws that tell the truth about marriage.

The rhetoric from the Court attacking the goodwill of the majority of Americans—who know marriage is the union of a man and a woman—is not helpful. The marriage debate will continue, and all Americans need to be civil and respectful.

Already, however, we have seen that those in favor of redefining marriage are willing to use the coercive force of law to marginalize and penalize those who hold the historic view of marriage—even if it means trampling First Amendment religious liberty protections along the way. This is already evident in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Washington, D.C., where Christian adoption agencies have been forced to stop providing adoption and foster care services.

Legal challenges have been brought against wedding-related service providers who believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, after they declined to participate in ceremonies that would have violated their consciences. A photographer in New Mexico, a florist in Washington, and a baker in Colorado have already been victims of such intolerant coercion.

Our interest in marriage policy from the beginning has been to ensure that a man and woman commit to each other as husband and wife to be father and mother to any children they create. This gives children the best chance at a flourishing future. When children have that, liberals are less likely to succeed in their efforts to grow the welfare state. It is impossible for the government to redefine marriage to make fathers optional and for society to insist at the same time that fathers are essential.

In its ruling last week, the Supreme Court refused to wrestle with any of the serious scholarly arguments that support marriage policy as the union of a man and a woman, and instead declared that Congress acted solely out of ill will.

It is outrageous to suggest that 342 Members of the House, 85 Senators, and President Bill Clinton were all acting on the basis of anti-gay bias in 1996, when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was enacted. As Chief Justice Roberts says in his dissent, “I would not tar the political branches with bigotry.”

Indeed, as Heritage has argued repeatedly, there are valid reasons to oppose the redefinition of marriage—which those House Members, Senators, and President Clinton took into account. Marriage matters for children, civil society, and limited government, because children deserve a mother and a father, and when this doesn’t happen, social costs run high.

Citizens and their elected representatives have the constitutional authority to make policy that recognizes marriage as the union of a man and a woman. States will lead the way even as we work to restore clear marriage policy at the federal level. And in the states, support for marriage as the union of a man and a woman remains strong.

The Heritage Foundation will be joining with millions of Americans to ensure that support for marriage continues to grow and that marriage proponents can express their views in this debate. Go to today to download your free copy of our e-book on marriage. And continue to speak out boldly about why marriage—that union of one man and one woman—is important for children, civil society, and limited government.

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