Do We Need a National Law on Marriage?

I get confused watching this same-sex marriage debate. Both sides are so certain their side is absolutely correct, and what they believe should be the law — everywhere.

Watch John Stossel's full report tonight on 20/20 at 10 p.m.

Gay activists in cities across the country say they have a right to marry, and some government officials have gone ahead and performed same-sex marriages, but it's not clear that's legal.

In New Paltz, N.Y., Mayor Jason West was recently "solemnizing" marriages. But what does that mean? West may believe same-sex couples are entitled to be married in his town, but New York's attorney general, Elliot Spitzer, says he's breaking the law.

In Portland, Ore., gay people lined up for marriage licenses, which local officials said were legal, because unlike other states, Oregon's law says marriage is a contract entered into by males and females at least 17 years of age. It doesn't say between a man and a woman.

But opponents of same-sex marriage say the courts are taking it upon themselves to re-write the law. They're adamant that the definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.

President Bush agrees. He says, "Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage," and he wants to put the man / woman definition in the Constitution.

Undermining the 'Sanctity' of Marriage?

Many same-sex marriage opponents say their position is backed up by the Bible. They say same-sex marriage violates God's plan, and allowing gays to marry would undermine the institution of marriage.

Gays and lesbians who want to marry say the issue is about justice and equal rights, not religion.

With all this acrimony, it's hard to see how this will be resolved.

Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, says, "You don't take a jackhammer to the bedrock of society and do this kind of social experimentation."

She says government allowing gay marriage would mean the government is giving formal blessing to "harmful relationships" and the "homosexual lifestyle." But does a government's decision to grant a marriage license to two men or two women mean it approves of the homosexual lifestyle — whatever that means?

Government licenses a lot of businesses and products. It licenses strip clubs and bars, but it doesn't mean that government approves.

LaRue says granting marriage licenses to gays and lesbians would send the wrong message. "It's about getting society's ultimate approval for a relationship that society has always found to be immoral and unhealthy," she said. "Always, in scripture it talks about husband and wife, bride and groom, and any other relationships, including heterosexual sex outside of marriage, are considered sinful and immoral."

LaRue thinks the approval same-sex marriage will lead to more children being born out of wedlock, and more men walking away from relationships. She thinks it will cheapen the concept of marriage.

Hollywood and Heterosexuals Don't Set Good Examples

But wait a second, if people are worried about cheapening the concept of marriage, shouldn't they be protesting TV shows like Married by America, Who Wants to Marry a Multi-millionaire or The Bachelor? These shows make marriage a game.

And plenty of heterosexual celebrities behave as if marriage doesn't matter much. Jennifer Lopez and Cris Judd's union didn't last a year, neither did Liza Minnelli and David Gest's. Drew Barrymore and Tom Green split up after five months, and Britney Spears' quickie Vegas marriage lasted less than three days. They're setting bad examples for the kids who admire them.

I don't hear LaRue's group expressing many concerns about these heterosexual threats to marriage, and we couldn't find anything about Spears' marriage on the group's Web site.

Let States Decide Individually

Polls show that most of Americans agree that same-sex marriage should be illegal. But must a majority decide for everyone?

We have 50 states. Why can't we have 50 laboratories of democracy?

Or why can't government make rules for civil unions and leave marriage up to religion. After all, it is called "holy matrimony." Then each religion can do what it believes is right.

In any case, if we're really worried about protecting children and the sanctity of marriage, we should worry less about people like Rosie O'Donnell and Kelli Carpenter and more about the irresponsible things some straight people do.

Give Me a Break.