Candidate Barack Obama was asked to define marriage on Oct. 8, 2008. He said:
“I believe that marriage is the union between a man and a woman. Now, for me as a Christian, it’s also a sacred union — you know, God’s in the mix.” (See video )
That’s how a majority of California voters feel about marriage, as reflected in their passage of Proposition 8 to ban same-sex marriage. Obama went on to explain that states, not federal law, have traditionally defined marriage.
Obama is correct about state control of marriages, but it is past time to end that tradition. Neither state nor federal law should define marriage, so District Court Judge Vaughn Walker did our country a favor last week by striking down California’s Proposition 8. He stated what The Gazette’s editorial page has explained repeatedly, saying the will of voters regarding marriage is “irrelevant, as fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no election.”
Amen. Voters may not gang up to deprive an adult the right to own a gun, or to preach an outrageous message. The right of adults to freely associate is also fundamental, and it includes the right to make agreements with one another that don’t infringe upon the rights of others.
Marriage is a promise between two adults. In the case of Barack and Michelle Obama, and millions of others, a religious marriage involves the Abrahamic God worshipped by the western religions of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Millions of adherents to major eastern religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Janism and Sikhism — also choose marriages that include religious principles and beliefs.
In a religious marriage in a free society, couples submit themselves to the moral teachings and laws of religion. If two adults choose a traditional Catholic marriage, they choose a life together that will not allow contraception or abortion. If a couple choose an orthodox Jewish marriage, each submits to the laws of family purity, including obedience to Niddah restrictions, and other laws of the faith. A man who agrees to a traditional Islamic marriage agrees to pay a pre-negotiated dower to his bride; a woman agrees she will forgo her right to her husband’s support if she refuses his sexual advances or leaves the home without his permission.
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All kinds of religious and secular marriage agreements are possible in a free society. The informality or slothfulness of one marriage does not threaten the holiness and purity of another. The perceived weirdness of an ultra-traditional religious marriage does not threaten the perceived normalcy of a contemporary secular marriage. A same-sex marriage does not threaten a heterosexual marriage.
Interference of governments threatens marriage. State marriage laws are rooted in prohibition of mixed-race marriages — like the marriage that produced President Obama. It’s easy to anticipate state laws that would someday forbid the traditional tenets of marriage associated with religions. (See historical overview of marriage laws )
A marriage does not come from the state. It’s a creation of agreements among private parties. That’s a fact settled by the Constitution. It protects us from mob rule, and upholds our right to associate and contract at will.