Earlier today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit overruled lower court decisions that had struck down state laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
The 6th Circuit Court ruled that constitutional amendments passed by popular vote in Michigan (2.7 million votes), Kentucky (1.2 million), Ohio (3.3 million) and Tennessee (1.4 million) do not violate the U.S. Constitution. Citizens remain free to define marriage as a male-female institution.
Today’s decision helpfully explained why these laws are constitutional, why it is reasonable for citizens to support such laws, and why arguments for court-imposed redefinition of marriage do not succeed. It also sets the stage for marriage to return to the U.S. Supreme Court.
As the 6th Circuit decision helpfully notes, at issue in these cases is “whether to allow the democratic processes begun in the States to continue in the four States of the Sixth Circuit or to end them now by requiring all States in the Circuit” to redefine marriage. The court ruled that the democratic process should continue:
Our judicial commissions did not come with such a sweeping grant of authority, one that would allow just three of us—just two of us in truth—to make such a vital policy call for the 32 million citizens who live within the four states of the Sixth Circuit.
In a similar fashion to a ruling last month from a federal judge in Puerto Rico, the 6th Circuit today noted that no Supreme Court precedent requires the judicial redefinition of marriage—and that the Supreme Court’s ruling on the federal Defense of Marriage Act case supports the authority of states to make marriage policy.
Then the decision notes that all sides agree that the original meaning of the 14th Amendment does not require the redefinition of marriage: “Nobody in this case, however, argues that the people who adopted the 14th Amendment understood it to require the states to change the definition of marriage.”
Indeed, “From the founding of the republic to 2003, every state defined marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman, meaning that the 14th Amendment permits, though it does not require, states to define marriage in that way.”