The same-sex marriage debate in America is certainly a “front-burner” issue. Quite a few states have now legalized same-sex marriage, and the debate has moved to the national stage. Opponents of same-sex marriage have proposed a national constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between one man and one woman, but the proposal has gotten little traction. Proponents of the practice are joined in opposing the constitutional amendment by those who may abhor the practice but do not believe that defining marriage is a proper role of the national government. A case that could alter the political landscape in this area is also scheduled to be argued before the United States Supreme Court.
When did the debate begin?
The same-sex marriage debate can trace its roots all the way to the founding of this country. Lines of demarcation were drawn between national and state authority, and Americans have been arguing about and redefining roles of the states and the national government ever since. Defining and licensing marriages has always been a state government function, but if the Supreme Court overturns the Defense of Marriage Act the states could be limited in how they can restrict the institution of marriage due to the Full Faith and Credit Clause. Would a state that does not have same-sex marriage, such as Utah, be required by constitutional law to recognize a same-sex marriage from a state such as Vermont?
It is safe to say that same-sex marriage is an issue that is controversial from a number of standpoints. The issue carries with it undertones of religion, equality, interstate relations, and the proper role of government. The debate at the Leavitt Center should be lively, as it is in the larger political arena.
Here our a few questions to get the discussion started:
1. How do we define “family” and should this be changed?
2. Why does the government need to regulate marriage? Is marriage more a religious act or should it be considered more a religious obligation?
3. What benefits are same-sex couples not receiving currently? Specific to Utah?
Professor Howell is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Southern Utah Utah University.