Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Marriage Policy Should Be Worked out in States

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Marriage Policy Should Be Worked out in States

Article excerpt

News about court cases that involve same-sex marriages usually travels fast. But when a judge in Tennessee recently upheld that state's constitutional authority to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, it went almost unnoticed.

The case involved a same-sex couple married in Iowa that sought a divorce in Tennessee. Because Tennessee does not recognize same-sex relationships as marriages, it was unable to divorce the couple.

Judge Russell E. Simmons, Jr., cited the Supreme Court's decision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act case, U.S. v. Windsor as support that Tennessee has the right to define marriage for itself. "The Windsor case is concerned with the definition of marriage, only as it applies to federal laws, and does not give an opinion concerning whether one State must accept as valid a same-sex marriage allowed in another State," he wrote.

When the Supreme Court struck down the federal law defining marriage last year, Justice Anthony Kennedy explained that states have "the historical and essential authority to define the marital relation." Judge Simmons takes Justice Kennedy at his word, recognizing the basic equality of state citizens. Just as the citizens of Iowa are free to adopt same-sex marriage (though it was a state court that redefined marriage there), so too the citizens of Tennessee are free to retain the traditional definition.

"In the Windsor case the Supreme Court opines that if a state finds same-sex marriage to be valid, the federal government cannot trump that state's law," Judge Simmons writes. "The Supreme Court does not go the final step and find that a state that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman is unconstitutional. Further, the Supreme Court does not find that one state's refusal to accept as valid another State's valid same-sex marriage to be in violation of the U. …

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