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Sunday, December 7, 2003

Yes: Pass the ban


Ban means stability in our society

By Rep. Bill Seitz
Guest columnist

States legitimately limit marriage to relationships between a man and a woman to encourage the creation of stable environments that are open to perpetuating society through childbearing. No other stable relationship is biologically capable of procreation.

States' legitimate interest in this definition is supported by our history, by federal and state laws of ancient and recent vintage, and by government's legitimate financial interest in limiting statutory marriage benefits to those "married" in the conventional sense.

Those contending that marriage should be available to any committed relationship prove too much: People may have a loving, committed relationship to one's parents (ask Oedipus) or one's pet. Even gay rights activists draw the "marriage" line there.

Those arguing that states should leave "marriage" to religious or private contractual definition also prove too much: From that premise it follows that states should also decline to resolve disputes over termination of marriages, marital property or child custody.

Neither state nor federal lawmakers ever defined marriage to include any but heterosexual relationships. Congress refused to admit Utah as a state until it banned polygamous marriage. Vermont legitimized homosexual "civil unions," but still limits marriage to one man/one woman. Massachusetts law still limits marriage to one man/one woman. The bare majority of its state Supreme Court that just divined a state constitutional right to gay marriage stayed its decision for six months.

In recent years, 37 other states and the federal government have passed Defense of Marriage Acts declaring one woman/one man marriages to be strong public policies and denying recognition of same-sex marriage. I hope Ohio will soon become the 38th.

History and tradition are not invulnerable, but they do reflect societal consensus. For courts now to define Constitutional rights never before envisioned is a dangerous adventure - witness our 30 years' war over abortion. Gays were never enslaved or subject to the same invidious discrimination as were African-Americans. Reversing the ban on same-sex marriage is thus different than reversing the ban on racially mixed ones.

Government has established a welter of statutory benefits for married people: tax filing status, surviving spouse pensions, dower rights, inheritance rights. These benefits exist to encourage marriage and to recognize its obligations, particularly the family's role in an ordered society. All of these have a financial cost. Extending marriage beyond man-woman relationships thus threatens the financial stability of these programs.

When Congress extended Social Security benefits to surviving spouses in the 1930s, actuaries calculated what the system could afford. These calculations never considered the possibility that Fred would claim benefits as John's surviving spouse. After-the-fact marriage redefinitions upset the fiscal balance in these programs and may lead to their abolition or restructuring.

Lawmakers recognize that not every heterosexual marriage produces natural children, and that many such marriages fail. These facts do not warrant redefining the institution, nor alter the biological fact that heterosexual relationships are, alone, capable of the miracle of natural birth. Laws that value heterosexual marriage do not express hatred toward unmarried persons, gay or straight. A dairy subsidy does not discriminate against species providing no milk.

Our laws may properly recognize the differences between married and unmarried persons without devaluing their worth as individuals or their separate societal contributions.

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State Rep. Bill Seitz, a Republican from Green Township, represents the 30th District in the Ohio House. A lawyer, he chairs the House Civil and Commercial Law Committee, and is primary sponsor of a "defense of marriage" bill (H.B. 272) being considered by the Legislature.




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