Does the Constitution require the government to recognize same-sex marriages?

With the Supreme Court set to hear arguments this term on cases about same-sex marriage, it’s a pressing question. In February, Ryan T. Anderson, the William E. Simon fellow at The Heritage Foundation, spoke to students and faculty at The Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio about the upcoming Supreme Court decision on whether state marriage laws defining marriage as the union of husband and wife are constitutional.

In examining the marriage cases before the Supreme Court this year, Anderson explained that the question was simple, “It’s not whether government recognized same-sex marriage is a good or a bad idea, it’s whether it’s required by the Constitution.”

The only way someone could argue [that the U.S. Constitution requires the redefinition of marriage] is to adopt a view of marriage that sees marriage as an essentially genderless institution, and then somehow claim that the Constitution requires all of the states to embrace that definition.

The Constitution is in fact silent on what the definition of marriage is, Anderson noted. It is therefore the right of citizens and their elected representatives to make marriage policies democratically, not federal judges:

Beyond the legal question in the upcoming case, it’s also vital to understand the nature of marriage and why government takes an interest in it in the first place.  Anderson explained that marriage plays a unique role in society as an institution which enables children to receive the advantages of being raised by both their mother and their father:

Forty years of social science has instructed us about the function of marriage in our society—as well as the social costs of redefining it. It’s now fundamental to rebuild a culture of marriage, Anderson stressed:

Everything that you could care about, if you care about social justice and you care about limited government, if you care about the poor and you care about freedom, is better served by a healthy, intact marriage culture than by big-government programs that try to pick up the pieces.

You can watch the full lecture here, and read Anderson’s research about marriage and the effects of redefining it here.