By L. A. Williams
Christian Action League
January 15, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A bill introduced Jan. 9 by Texas Republican Rep. Randy Weber would require federal agencies to look to a person’s legal residence to determine their marital status before applying federal law.
Supported by the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and others, the State Marriage Defense Act of 2014 would affirm the authority of states to define and regulate marriage within their borders.
“The 10th Amendment was established to protect state sovereignty and individual rights from being seized by the Federal Government,” Weber said in a press release. “For too long, however, the Federal Government has slowly been eroding state’s rights by promulgating rules and regulations through federal agencies.”
He said by requiring the U.S. Government to defer to the laws of a person’s state of legal residence in determining marital status and benefits, the proposed law would help protect states’ powers from the overreach of federal bureaucracy.
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, said the bill would ensure that the laws of the 33 states that have enacted marriage protection amendments would not be undermined.
“When 61 percent of Tar Heel voters cast ballots to protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman, they amended the state Constitution because they rightly believed it was the state that held sway over marriage laws,” said Dr. Creech.
“It’s the state that issues marriage licenses and records marriages. What the State Marriage Defense Act would do is simply allow states the sovereignty already guaranteed them constitutionally.”
The law is especially needed since the U.S. Supreme Court last summer invalidated the portion of the national Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman for purposes of federal law. In that ruling, justices did not clarify how federal law should treat same-sex couples who marry in a state that allows them to wed but live in one that doesn’t.
Weber said his bill, which has 28 co-sponsors, would give clarity to federal agencies as they try to determine who qualifies as a spouse.
“This would keep same-sex couples married in other states from moving to North Carolina, which doesn’t recognize such a union, and demanding that they receive all the federal benefits of a legal spouse while living here,” Dr. Creech explained.
The bill lines up with the legal principle applied in the Supreme Court case of U.S. v. Windsor — the very case that weakened DOMA in June — in that it allows the state to determine marital status, which the federal law then must follow. In that case, according to the state of New York, Edith Windsor and her lesbian partner were considered married, even though the two were unmarried for federal estate tax purposes. In ruling that Windsor must be deemed a surviving spouse for federal law since she was viewed as such in her home state, the court affirmed that states have the “historic and essential authority to define the marital relation.”
FRC President Tony Perkins told the media the State Marriage Defense Act is consistent with Windsor.
“The State Marriage Defense Act serves to protect state definitions of marriage against what the Court called efforts ‘to put a thumb on the scales and influence a state’s decision as to how to shape its own marriage laws,'” he added.