One Man, One Woman, and the Common Good: Marriage’s Public Purpose


By Austin R Nimocks, Witherspoon Institute

The state should uphold the Defense of Marriage Act, because the state’s interest in marriage is fundamentally about public, not private, purposes for marriage. Adapted from testimony delivered before the United States Senate.
As debates currently rage about budget deficits, debt ceilings, and jobs, I am pleased that the Senate is discussing what are arguably the two most important jobs in our society—the jobs of mothers and fathers. The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) gives us a chance to think about the roles of mothers and fathers in our society, and also to consider a question often overlooked in these debates: why is government in the marriage business?
Congress enacted DOMA in 1996 by an 84% margin, demonstrating broad bi-partisan support. When it did so, Congress stated that “at bottom, civil society has an interest in maintaining and protecting the institution of heterosexual marriage because it has a deep and abiding interest in encouraging responsible procreation and child-rearing. Simply put, government has an interest in marriage because it has an interest in children.” This statement still holds true. As evidenced by the most extensive national research survey on Americans’ attitudes about marriage, 62% of Americans agree that “marriage should be defined only as a union between one man and one woman.”

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