BreakPoint with Charles Colson
Commentary #031119 - 11/19/2003
Leave It to the Courts
Judicial Power and the Redefinition of Marriage
Note: This commentary was delivered by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley.
"In America today," wrote Chuck Colson, "we have very nearly reached the completion of a long process I can only describe as the systematic usurpation of political power by the American judiciary … "
That statement was no more true than yesterday when the rule of judges manifested itself again: The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, by a 4-3 margin, ruled that the state's refusal to recognize so-called "marriages" between same-sex couples is unconstitutional and a violation of civil rights. The court gave the Massachusetts legislature 180 days to enact laws that will allow gay and lesbian couples to marry and to have the benefit of the same rights and privileges male/female couples now enjoy.
While noting that "the everyday meaning of 'marriage' is [t]he legal union of a man and a woman as husband and wife," the Massachusetts court freely admitted that it was reformulating marriage.
This is a case of sheer judicial usurpation of power. Making laws—especially laws that redefine and fundamentally change the building-block institution of marriage—is the work of the legislature, not of the courts, and the legislatures have rightly been hesitant to make such changes.
In her dissent, Justice Martha Sosman wrote, "Absent consensus on the issue (which obviously does not exist), or unanimity amongst scientists studying the issue (which also does not exist), or a more prolonged period of observation of this new family structure (which has not yet been possible), it is rational for the Legislature to postpone any redefinition of marriage … " But the majority on the court had no similar qualms and gave the legislature 180 days to enact a new law.
Yet all is not lost. The reason homosexual activists have taken to the courts is that they know they will lose in the legislatures. When courts in Hawaii and Alaska—two of the most liberal states in the union—made similar decisions, their legislatures passed constitutional amendments limiting marriage to heterosexual couples.
In Massachusetts, the legislature is already considering a similar amendment that has been endorsed by the Speaker of the House and the Massachusetts governor.
Here in Washington, D.C., the Federal Marriage Amendment has been introduced into Congress, and our Wilberforce Forum is in the front lines of the effort to pass the law. The amendment will force the courts to the sidelines in the marriage debate, making sure the Supreme Court cannot impose "same-sex marriage" on the entire nation.
President Bush, who has endorsed the historic understanding of marriage as the relationship between one man and one woman, has a great opportunity to lead in passing this amendment and has voiced his support of protecting the sanctity of the institution of marriage.
I hope you'll call us here at BreakPoint (1-877-322-5527) to order your copy of our "Speak the Truth in Love" packet. As Christians, we need to make well-informed, reasoned arguments, and this packet will help you do just that.
The Massachusetts decision is built on one court decision after another that have not been wisely addressed by Christians. Now that marriage is under attack, we've got our work cut out for us, and we dare not fall short.
That is all.