Same-sex marriage is a hotly debated topic right now. Part of the debate is on how marriage is defined and who ultimately gets to define marriage. Opponents of same-sex marriage define marriage as a religious institution that is recognized by the state. Proponents of same-sex marriage define marriage as a legal agreement only. Laws governing the definition of marriage are currently decided by individual state legislatures. The federal government weighed in on the subject when it passed the federal DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) in 1996. Various courts have also impacted marriage laws by striking down or upholding the defense of marriage laws around the country.
On the opposition side marriage is defined by biblical terms as one man and one woman. This side sees the state’s purpose as conferring legal rights to couples who enter their religious institution of marriage. They think the state has no right to define marriage outside of their religious belief. In their view, allowing same-sex marriage would violate their protection under the Free Exercise Clause. People on this side of the same-sex marriage debate prefer the state legislatures to pass laws with a narrow definition of marriage. They fear the judicial branch overturning these laws and to prevent that from happening, thirty states, have passed constitutional amendments banning same-sex, beginning with Nebraska, Alaska, and Nevada in the late 1990s. After the highest court in Massachusetts ruled that the state constitution guaranteed same-sex couples the right to marry, federal law makers, with the support of President Bush attempted to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage but failed to get the needed two thirds majority.
Proponents believe the state’s purpose is to give equal rights to all regardless of their religious beliefs. This side sees marriage as a legal contract between any two people who wish to enter that type of contract. They believe the Establishment Clause should prevent any state from endorsing a religious definition of marriage. There have been recent victories in thirteen states through court rulings, legislative action, and popular vote. People on this side of the issue would like the Supreme Court to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The high court may hold the key to