Why Defining Marriage Does Not "Limit the Freedom to Marry"


Katherine Kersten responds to a common argument used by our opponents against protecting marriage -- that doing so "limits the freedom to marry":

On Nov. 6, Minnesota voters will decide whether marriage will be protected in our state Constitution as the union of one man and one woman. Opponents' reason for fundamentally redefining our bedrock social institution appears on yard signs that dot the metro area: "Don't limit the freedom to marry."

Now, Minnesotans are nice folks, and we don't like to think of ourselves as needlessly limiting another's freedom. The truth is, however, we "limit" marriage in a variety of ways. You can't marry your sister or your father. You can't marry a 12-year-old, or two people, or someone who's already married to someone else.

Why do we "limit" the freedom to marry this way? Is it because we harbor a dislike for sisters or 12-year-olds, or for folks who wish to express their love and commitment in groups of three?

Of course not. All social institutions have boundaries, or defining characteristics, that are integrally related to the function they perform. The vital role of marriage -- in all times and places--has been to link men to women and the children produced by their sexual union, in order to create the optimal environment for rearing the next generation.

It's misleading, then, to frame the debate over one-man/one-woman marriage in terms of "limiting" the "freedom" to marry of people in configurations that aren't consistent with the institution's mission. It's like claiming that the color blue is somehow "limited" because it's not the color purple. -- StarTribune