As the day of Supreme Court reckoning looms for the same-sex marriage question, an interesting dynamic is forming: 72% of Americans believe that the legalization of same-sex marriage is “inevitable,” according to a recent Pew Research opinion poll. That number includes 85% of gay marriage proponents and 59% of opponents. [1] But is same-sex marriage really a done deal? Should the almost half of Americans who oppose marriage redefinition chock this one up to a lost cause? Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation says no. He writes:

We’ve heard “inevitable” language before, particularly from statists of all stripes. History is filled with supposedly “inevitable” causes that turned out not to be so. Nothing in life is inevitable except death and taxes—and at The Heritage Foundation we’re doing what we can about taxes.

So, too, on marriage. Consider some facts about the polls that matter most: elections. Citizens have gone to the polls to vote about marriage in 33 states. The truth about marriage has prevailed 30 of those 33 times. [2]

The Truth about Marriage

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What is the truth about marriage? And what is so wrong with redefining it? According to the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles—the governing body of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes inadvertently called the Mormon Church—the definition of marriage is defined by God. They write:

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. [3]

Marriage is not a man-made institution. It was given to us by God from the very beginning—from the time of Adam and Eve. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

Anderson wrote:

Marriage is founded on the anthropological truth that men and women are different and complementary, the biological fact that the union of a man and woman also creates new life, and the social reality that children need a mom and a dad. For decades, social science has shown that children tend to do best when reared by their married mother and father. Government recognizes marriage because it is an institution that benefits society in a way that no other relationship does. [2]

complete wedding exaltation lfFamilies provide for, protect and nurture society’s most vulnerable citizens—children. In families, children find stability and love. They learn that they are part of something special. And from there, they learn that they can spread their wings and fly. These children in turn marry and form their own families. Thus, families are the stabilizing foundation upon which societies are built. Marriage is important because it protects the family, providing a stable unit wherein the man and woman are obligated to each other as well as to the children they bring into the world. Same-sex unions need no such protections because they can’t produce children. And any attempts to provide such protections to a union that—by the laws of nature—can’t produce children ultimately weaken the laws protecting those who can.

 

Why the Optimism?

This does not change the fact, however, that 51% of Americans—just over half—are in favor of same-sex marriage. [1] So how can the Heritage Foundation be so optimistic? Anderson writes:

No one can deny that Americans’ support for marriage is not what it once was. This is largely because we have done an insufficient job of explaining what marriage is, why marriage matters, and what the consequences will be if we redefine marriage. All the polls in the world cannot undo the truth about marriage. But they can obscure the truth and make it less likely that men and women commit to each other permanently and exclusively. This in turn reduces the odds that children will know the love and care of their married mothers and fathers. …

If those on the left really believed that the redefinition of marriage was “inevitable,” they wouldn’t be asking the Supreme Court to do their bidding—they would respect the democratic process. Laws that reflect the truth about marriage are constitutional. And the Court should respect the constitutional authority of citizens and their elected officials to make marriage policy—not issue an activist ruling redefining marriage by judicial fiat. [2]

 

State-by-State Decisions

 The democratic process to which Anderson is referring is the battle waged at the state level. Since 1995—and in some cases earlier—states have taken the initiative to either declare their stance or have voters declare their stance on the same-sex marriage issue. The reason, as Anderson points out, that proponents are taking the fight to the Supreme Court is they are losing at the state level. The Pew Forum compiled a graphic that shows each state’s stance on the issue from 1995 to 2013. The data is both enlightening and encouraging to opponents of marriage redefinition.

 

In 1995, Utah became the first state to enact a Defense of Marriage Act. A handful of others had previously enacted statutes defining marriage as between one man and one woman. The majority of states had no constitutional or statutory decisions on the matter. In 1996, President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act—which upheld states’ rights to ban same-sex marriage as well as prohibited the federal government from recognizing the unions as marriages. Also, more states enacted statutory bans on gay marriage—bringing the number to roughly half the states in the Union. [4]

 

The progression of attempts to redefine marriage in U.S. states throughout the years has one overarching consistency: in all but one instance, voters approved legislation banning same-sex marriage. The exception was Arizona in 2006. In most (if not all) of the states where gay marriage is allowed, the state Supreme Courts and other state lawmakers have enacted the laws—in most cases, contrary to the voice of the people. [4]

 

Human Choice Will Decide the Outcome

 For me, the most chilling aspect of this is the fact that lawmakers seem to be ignoring the voice of the people. Government has the obligation to balance the needs of all its citizens. And this it must do without prejudice to the loudest voices in the public square. This issue cannot be decided without a serious study of the consequences for both sides. Elder Quentin L. Cook, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ, said:

Let me be clear that all voices need to be heard in the public square. Neither religious nor secular voices should be silenced. Furthermore, we should not expect that because some of our views emanate from religious principles, they will automatically be accepted or given preferential status. But it is also clear such views and values are entitled to be reviewed on their merits. [5]

Now is the time for those who oppose same-sex marriage to articulate the reasons for their beliefs. Anderson, of the Heritage Foundation, writes:

A careful look at the polls reveals complex and dynamic trends. But how those polls change will depend on human choice, not blind historical forces. The question is not what will happen but what we should do. [2]

 

Protecting the Family

If the crux of the same-sex marriage debate were equal respect among all citizens— regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation or any other discriminating factor—the choice would be clear. The Savior Himself taught love and respect for everyone. But this debate is not about that. It is an attempt to undermine the basic, fundamental unit of society—the family. President Gordon B. Hinckley, the late president of The Church of Jesus Christ, said, “A nation will rise no higher than the strength of its …families.” [6] Same-sex marriage would weaken the very foundation upon which families are created.

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