Bishop John B. McCormack:
The People's Vote On The Definition Of MarriageOn Tuesday, March 9th, the citizens of many towns in New Hampshire will offer a simple warrant article at their town meetings: that the citizens of New Hampshire should be allowed to vote on an amendment to the New Hampshire Constitution that defines marriage. I urge the citizens of this state to vote on Tuesday in favor of this article.
Since time immemorial, marriage has been understood as committed union between a man and a woman. Up until just a few years ago, few if any people anywhere in the world would have considered that marriage would ever be redefined at all, let alone to involve two people of the same sex. And yet, last year, the New Hampshire Legislature voted to do just that. By the barest of margins – 7 votes in the House and 2 votes in the Senate – the most fundamental institution of our society was changed. Most surprisingly, this change, which affects the fundamental societal relationship of what it means to be married, occurred without consulting the people.
Although the Catholic Church, of course, has its own teachings concerning the nature and the sacredness of marriage, the universal role that marriage plays in our world is something which does not revolve around religious beliefs. It is worth remembering that the nature of marriage as a union between a man and a woman is something which predates Christianity or Judaism, existing in the earliest recorded history.
It is difficult to imagine a more ancient and fundamental institution in our society than marriage. For that reason, as a citizen of New Hampshire , I would have hoped that the legislature would have acted with greater thoughtful consideration and restraint before throwing out thousands of years of tradition. A decision about how our society defines marriage is not something which should depend on the results of a partisan election. The consequence of the marriage vote last year is that, instead of being viewed as the cornerstone of our society, marriage is now going to be viewed as something which is susceptible to being defined and redefined according to the changing will of the legislature. It seems that we are now looking at a future where the definition of marriage will hinge on the attitudes of elected officials in any particular two year legislative session. A constitutional amendment is the only way to resolve this problem.
New Hampshire's founding fathers wisely established the constitutional amendment process to ensure that the people of the state have the final say regarding what our laws are. On a number of occasions throughout our history, we have determined as a citizenry that there are issues which are too important to be left to the decision-making of the legislature. There have been amendments with far less impact on all the people of our state that have been passed. For example, if we think it is essential to have the populace vote on whether highway funds should solely be directed to highway purposes, then surely we can ask the men and women of New Hampshire if they want to redefine marriage.
That is why I urge the citizens of New Hampshire to cast their votes on Tuesday in favor of the warrant articles which would call for the people of New Hampshire to be given the opportunity to vote on how marriage is to be defined under the laws of New Hampshire . I trust the people will support the longstanding meaning of marriage and the value this traditional understanding has in our society. Marriage is too critical to our social fabric to let it unravel on a rushed reaction to a particular view of the moment. Let the people be allowed to decide on this most basic of issues—our legal definition of marriage.