The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Marriage Rights Should be Determined by the States

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/1/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,927 times Debate No: 21644
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (12)
Votes (2)




Topic: Marriage rights should be determined by each state and the Federal Government should not interfere. To reiterate; there should be no constitutional amendment for or against gay marriage, and the states should be allowed to choose if they want to redefine marriage, institute civil unions with equivalent rights, or choose neither option.

Structure of the debate.

Round 1: Acceptance.
Round 2: Opening arguments.
Round 3: Response to opening arguments.
Round 4: Closing arguments.


I'll give this a go. I look forward to seeing your arguments. I have a feeling this will be an interesting debate.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank my opponent for accepting this debate and look forward to a spirited discussion.

I would like to open by stating that, in my opinion, laws are a reflection of the moral values of society. The United States is a large nation with many different shades of morality. Collectively the people of New York have different values than the people of Missouri. In Missouri same-sex marriage is banned, but in New York it's legal. This is because the people of Missouri do not want to redefine marriage, and in a popular government they have every right to make that choice.

If the Federal Government were to pass a law that banned or legalized same-sex marriage across the nation they'd be forcing the values of one portion of our society on the whole nation. Don't misunderstand me, there are certain universal rights and values that should be maintained by the Federal Government. For example, state mandated discrimination should not be tolerated. However, on this issue it is not a matter of discrimination-although that may play a part in the decision making process of some people.

To better explain this I will return to the examples of Missouri and New York. Religion plays a much bigger part in southern society, thus marriage is seen more as a religious institution in the south than it is in the north, where marriage is viewed more often as a secular union between two people. We have no right to force Missouri to redefine marriage, because to the majority of their populace it is considered a religious union. Other states have circumvented the religious argument by instituting civil unions-unions between same-sex couples that give similar or identical rights to same-sex couples that marriage gives to heterosexual couples.

Another thing to consider is States' rights. In the United States we have two sets of laws, state laws and federal laws. The founding fathers recognized that what is best for New York is not necessarily best for South Carolina, and vis versa. Under the 10th Amendment States were delegated any powers not granted to the Federal Government or prohibited from the States in the constitution. This included the right to issue marriage licenses as they saw fit.

The passage of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 wrote into law the rights of the States to determine whether or not they wanted same-sex marriage.

"No State, territory, or possession of the United States, or Indian tribe, shall be required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State, territory, possession, or tribe respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of such other State, territory, possession, or tribe, or a right or claim arising from such relationship."

Unfortunately DOMA also defined marriage as being between a man and a woman on a federal level, which technically defined what marriage is for the entire country.

"In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word 'marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word 'spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

In my opinion DOMA should be upheld, but Section 3 (the section that defines marriage) should be repealed. By allowing the Federal Government to define marriage we as a country are less likely to reflect the will of the people in our laws. New England has no right to force same-sex marriage upon Texas, and Texas has no right to force same-sex marriage upon New England.


The pleasure is mine, MrBrooks.

Let’s get to it. I do believe that the Federal Government should legalize gay marriage in all 50 states. I don’t think this is an issue that the public should vote on. In the case of gay marriage, “majority rule” becomes the “tyranny of the majority.” I don’t believe opponents of gay marriage have valid or rational reasons for wanting to stop gay people from being married. Gay marriage has been legalized in a few states already, and it has not had a negative effect on society. I honestly don’t think if we legalize gay marriage everywhere, it would have any more of an impact on society where it would effect the personal lives of people who are not gay or in families with gay parents. People worried about the children of gay parents should not fret either. Indeed, children raised in gay families usually develop the same as children raised in straight families. [1] [2]

While it doesn’t really effect people outside of gay families or who are not gay themselves, allowing gay marriage does offer gay couples and their children security. The benefits and protections that marriage provides would create a secure situation for couples and their families to live in. [3] It offers them a better quality of life. And that’s what we want for all of our American citizens, the best quality of life possible or "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness". And as long as it doesn’t negatively effect anyone else’s life, they should be offered it.

If gay marriage were to be legalized, what would those opposed to gay marriage lose? Nothing. If gay marriage is not legalized, what would gay people lose? Not only would they lose the ability to be married but they would also lose the many rights, benefits, and protections that come with marriage. It’s simply not a fair game.

Let’s look at the Supreme Court’s holding in Loving v. Virginia:

The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. Skinner v. Oklahoma, 316 U.S. 535, 541 (1942). See also Maynard v. Hill, 125 U.S. 190 (1888)

Now, if the Supreme Court came to this conclusion on interracial marriage, why would it not also apply to gay marriage?

Let’s take a look at the 14th Amendment:

“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

So, while the states obviously have the power to make their own laws, there are still restrictions. Not everything should be left up to the states to decide. We do need to protect our citizens from mob rule. The majority should not always have the say.


Debate Round No. 2


The constitution does not give people the right to redefine what marriage is for everyone. You cannot compare interracial marriage to same-sex marriage, they are two entirely different issues. Interracial marriage does not redefine what marriage is, because it is still a civil and religious union between one man and one woman. Same-sex marriage does redefine what marriage is, because it fundamentally changes what marriage means. You can argue until you're blue in the face that morality does not matter, but if morality does not matter to you, would you be open to legally sanctioned marriage between a brother and sister or even polygamy?

Then again who is to say that polygamy is necessarily wrong? Some religious communities believe in polygamy, and if these religious communities have enough clout in their state, why can't they practice marriage between one man and several women? The people of Utah might choose to redefine marriage to include polygamy. Under your logic the entire nation should follow Utah's example and redefine marriage to include the right to have multiple wives.

"But wait," you might say. Polygamists are a small minority in our country, why should we change the definition of marriage for the sake of a small minority? If you make this argument, you are making the argument that because same-sex couples are more numerous they somehow have more right to redefine marriage than a smaller minority. The reality is that both groups occupy an ambiguous place in our nation. They are both groups of people that practice forms of marital union that are at odds with the morality of society.

Now like I stated in the previous round, the United States has many different shades of morality and thus they have many different definitions of what marriage is. What is necessarily wrong with allowing each state to come up with their own moral solution to the question of same-sex unions? In California domestic partnerships are legal, same-sex couples can enter into partnerships nearly identical to marriage for economic and social benefits. The only difference is that religion is removed from the equation, because to the people of California marriage is not a secular institution.

In regards to your "tyranny of the majority" statement, let's not forget that the majority of the people in America do not live in states that recognize same-sex marriages. If it weren't for the States being able to decide how they want to define marriage, same-sex marriage would be illegal across the nation. On the flip side, if we were to force same-sex marriage upon the entire country we'd have a "tyranny of the minority." In a popular government the people should have every right to determine what is right or wrong, this is a cornerstone of representative government.

The arguments against same-sex marriage are obvious, the proponents of same-sex marriage just refuse to acknowledge their validity. You cannot just discard the moral argument, because they in turn argue that it isn't moral to disallow same-sex marriage. You cannot say that you have every right to redefine marriage as between one man and one woman, because if you do that you can redefine marriage to include almost anything society considers to be depraved.

Furthermore disallowing same-sex marriage is not a violation of the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment pertains to discrimination and giving people the same or equal opportunities under the law. That means that the States are only really obliged to provide similar rights and opportunities to same-sex couples that they do to their heterosexual counterparts. Many States choose to accomplish this through civil unions or domestic partnerships, reconciling their moral believes about marriage with their moral believes about liberty.

In conclusion, we must not forgot that it is the people who govern. Representatives may make the laws, but they do so only with the approval of the people. If you wish to avoid a so called "tyranny of the majority" you'll support the rights of each state to decide what marriage means to them, because if we were to have a vote today, the vast majority of people who do not approve of same-sex marriage would ban it across the country.



One’s private morals should not govern other people’s private morals. The deciding factor as to what morals should be enforced is whether or not society would be too disrupted by not following these morals. For example, not murdering innocent people is a pretty good moral to uphold in law. It keeps everyone relatively safe. If gay marriage were to be legalized, it would not force those opposed to go and get married to others of the same-sex. It would not force them to attend same-sex weddings. It would not hurt anyone or diminish their quality of life. They can pretty much keep it out of their personal life if they wish.

The Federal Government would not be enforcing a particular set of values by legalizing same-sex marriage any more than they do by allowing interracial couples, Muslims, Atheists, Christians, etc. to marry. It’s about keeping things fair and equal. No group should get special treatment over another group in this regard. Now, this is usually when opponents to gay marriage bring up the slippery slope debate. If we allow gay marriage then what would stop us from allowing an incestuous marriage or a polyamorous marriage or a marriage between a dog and a man. Well, as far as incestuous marriages go, the answer should be obvious. Incest can be a very harmful, and due to the power dynamics that exist in families, consent can be hard to discern. Family members can very easily take advantage of these power dynamics and manipulate other family members. This is very often how abuse occurs within family. Polyamorous marriages are a bit more complicated. If it’s a matter of a number of young girls being forced into marriage with an old guy, obviously that shouldn’t be encouraged. If it’s a matter of it being a completely consensual relationship between adults, those relationships don’t bother me. Though I don’t know how they would translate to a marriage. It seems like it would be pretty complicated not so much on a moral level, but more a legal and financial one. That’s for another discussion. As far as bestiality goes, animals can’t consent among other things. That should be pretty obvious. At the end of the day, if no one is being hurt, then I support people in doing what they want regardless of whether or not I personally agree with it.

As far as gay marriage offending religious people go, the government does not recognize marriage as a religious institution. They can’t. They see it as a legal contract. Period. Americans may choose to have a religious ceremony and view their own marriage in a religious light, but they don’t have to. Atheists and other non-Christians can get married in all 50 states, I don’t see Christians trying to stop them from being married because it contradicts their personal views on marriage and religion.

The 10th Amendment does not exist in a vacuum, you should also consider the 14th Amendment when reading it. States have power but they also have restrictions. You state in you resolution that “the states should be allowed to choose if they want to redefine marriage, institute civil unions with equivalent rights, or choose neither option.” This contradicts the 14th Amendment greatly. There are many rights, benefits, and protections that come with marriage that the states should not be able to deny gay people of having.

The question is, how would legalzing gay marriage personally affect opponents of gay marriage?

Debate Round No. 3


We cannot simply pick and choose what social issues should be decided by the people, that is not how democracy works. You state that, "the Federal Government would not be enforcing a particular set of values by legalizing same-sex marriage," but they in fact are enforcing a set of values by deciding either way on the issue. I will make the slippery slope argument here. If we start picking and choosing what issues people are incapable of deciding for themselves we will become more and more of a big brother state. Today it's the definition of marriage, under the pretext of, "it isn't hurting anyone," and tomorrow it'll be the banning of smoking or alcohol consumption under the pretext of, "you don't know what is best for you."

As for what the Federal Government views marriage as, the only definition they've given it is in the Defense of Marriage Act. In the DOMA they defined marriage as being between one man and one woman, and so far they have not recognized same-sex marriages on the federal level. While not explicitly stating whether or not marriage is a religious institution, all states allow religious figures to grant civil marriages and the Federal Government recognizes these marriages. There is no mention of marriage in the constitution, either as a legal or religious right.

Are you unhappy with the Federal Government's definition of marriage? Well that's unfortunate, because that clause in the DOMA essentially defines marriage for all fifty states and denies federal recognition of any same-sex marriage granted by any states that deems it legal. That is a small taste of the Federal Government over-exercising it's power and forcing it's will upon the states. States are always more likely to get it right, due to the more personal connection with the people.

In closing I would like to remind everyone that societal values change over time, and the laws change with them. Laws will always be a reflection of the moral values of society, and what they believe is right and wrong. There is a reason why prohibition was such a colossal failure, and that's because a minority in society managed to convince the Federal Government that drinking was morally wrong and that the people did not know what was best for them or their community. It would do the nation good to remember that lesson the next time they decide that the people are not capable of self-governance.


As I stated in my arguments, in the case of same-sex marriage, I do not believe the majority has the right to vote on the freedoms of the minority. I believe it would be a perfect example of the tyranny of the majority. To be tyrannical is to be oppressive. I am not for the Federal Government pushing forth oppressive legislature that places limitations on what an individual is able to do. I am also not for the public voting in oppressive laws that places limitations on a minority for no other reason than it’s their supposed “right”. If the Federal Government were to legalize same-sex marriage they would not be oppressing anyone. They would simply be giving more couples a choice and access to the same rights, benefits and protections that straight couples have access to.

Indeed, same-sex marriage affects only those who desire to have one, are in one, or have parents that are in one. And it does not negatively affect any of them. It also does not put limitations on the freedoms of straight couples. It does not force straight couples into gay marriages. It does not strip straight couples of their ability to be married. It just simply does not affect them.

Freedoms are important. But people should not have the freedom to limit another person’s freedom unless there is good reason for doing so. If no one’s quality of life is being threatened, then there is no good reason. I feel this much should be obvious.

Debate Round No. 4
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by MrBrooks 6 years ago
Congratulations to my opponent for her well deserved victory.
Posted by LiberalHoyaLawya 6 years ago
In case my comments don't show up in the "reason for vote" section:

Pro made some interesting arguments & analogies (e.g., observing that if gay marriage were decided democratically at the federal level, it might not exist anywhere), but he dodged the main issue: why states should be allowed to deprive minorities of a basic civil right. Con correctly cited to the Loving decision & analogized to interracial marriage, while distinguishing from red herrings like polygamy & incest. Pro said the arguments against gay marriage are "obvious," but he didn't elaborate.
Posted by breaxxbaxx 6 years ago
@conservativepolitico You should read my arguments a bit more carefully. What was my reason for not liking it? That's kind of the key thing you should be latching on to. My argument wasn't "I like da gays, they should totes get married.Lol" It was based on the question of if we allow them to get married, would anyone be harmed or have their freedoms limited as a result? The answer would be "no." And if the answer is "no" then gay couples shouldn't have their freedoms limited.
Posted by ConservativePolitico 6 years ago
Tyranny of the majority? lol so basically the people rule unless you don't like it then it's tyranny? lol wow.
Posted by breaxxbaxx 6 years ago
Good debate there, MrBrooks. It was a pleasure.
Posted by breaxxbaxx 6 years ago
It definitely is.
Posted by MrBrooks 6 years ago
This is a good debate.
Posted by breaxxbaxx 6 years ago
Okie doke. No rush.
Posted by MrBrooks 6 years ago
Internet outage in the area. I have my argument typed up, once my interweb turns back on I'll pot it.
Posted by 16kadams 6 years ago
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by 1dustpelt 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:32 
Reasons for voting decision: Countering vote below-bad RFD. Sources to Con- way more sources, and Pro's source was Wikipedia.
Vote Placed by LiberalHoyaLawya 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro made some interesting arguments