Legislation Introduced to Protect State Sovereignty Over Definition of Marriage

Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) introduced a bill Thursday that would keep a state's definition of marriage for the legal residents of that state for the purposes of federal law.

If passed, the bill would require federal agencies to look at how a person's marital status is defined in their home state when determining their marital status for federal law.

If, for instance, a same-sex couple lives in a state that defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman and that couple got married in a state that has redefined marriage to include same-sex couples, federal law would not recognize their marriage because their home state would not recognize their marriage.

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"The 10th Amendment was established to protect state sovereignty and individual rights from being seized by the federal government," Weber said. "For too long, however, the federal government has slowly been eroding state's rights by promulgating rules and regulations through federal agencies.

"I drafted the 'State Marriage Defense Act of 2014' to help restore the 10th Amendment, affirm the authority of states to define and regulate marriage, as well as, provide clarity to federal agencies seeking to determine who qualifies as a spouse for the purpose of federal law. By requiring that the federal government defer to the laws of a person's state of legal residence in determining marital status, we can protect states' constitutionally established powers from the arbitrary overreach of unelected bureaucrats."

The legislation is needed, Weber believes, because of last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. vs. Windsor. The Court struck down the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that says marriage will be defined as one man and one woman for the purposes of federal law. The Court did not say, however, whether federal law would recognize a same-sex marriage if the couple got married in a state that allows them to get married but lives in a state that does not allow them to get married. Federal agencies, therefore, have been left to decide that question until Congress passes legislation to address it.

In August, the IRS issued a rule saying that it would recognize same-sex marriages in states that do not recognize same-sex marriage.

Weber's bill has the support of Family Research Council, National Organization for Marriage, the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops, Concerned Women for America, and Heritage Action.

"The State Marriage Defense Act is consistent with the ruling in Windsor," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said, "which reiterated that states have the 'historic and essential authority to define the marital relation.' The current Obama administration policy is doing the very thing which the Court condemned - 'creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same State.'

"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.'"

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