Two Republican senators, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, have introduced a bill today which is designed to ensure that individual states do not have to follow the federally-defined meanings of “marriage” and “spouse.” While U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) already give states this right, Cruz and Lee seek to further affirm it through a new piece of legislation. If passed, it would effectively block same-sex marriage in many states.
The State Marriage Defense Act, S. 2024, would force the federal government to allow each state to determine how it defines marriage within its own borders. Currently, 17 states recognize the validity of same-sex marriages.
In a statement made on Friday, Cruz said that, under Obama, the federal government had tried to undermine each state’s constitutional authority to define marriage in a way “consistent with the values of its citizens.” Cruz further said that the Obama administration should not be “trying to force gay marriage” on all states. Both Cruz and Lee believe that defining marriage should occur at the state level rather than being “dictated from Washington.” Cruz further said that he supports “traditional marriage,” saying that his and Lee’s bill was an attempt to preserve it.
Previously, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, deeming it a violation of the Constitution’s “equal protection” promise. However, it did not challenge Section 2 of the Act, which gives all states and territories the right to not recognize same-sex marriages originating in states where they are legal. The net effect of these rulings was that the federal government must recognize same-sex marriages, but individual states do not. Despite this fact, Cruz and Lee have put forth the argument that the court’s ruling is being used as a way to force an agenda of same-sex marriage. They believe that their bill would provide additional protection for states which seek to define marriage in a more traditional way.