Morning Bell: The Supreme Court’s Marriage Decisions by the Numbers

Jennifer Marshall /

The morning after two important—and troubling—Supreme Court decisions in the Proposition 8 and Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) cases, here’s the lay of the land. The important takeaway: The marriage debate is every bit as live today as it was yesterday morning…and that means it’s time to redouble our efforts to stand for marriage across America. Some key numbers following the decisions:

50        The number of states whose marriage laws remain the same after the Court’s marriage decisions.

38        The number of states with laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. That includes California, where the scope of today’s Prop 8 decision beyond the specific plaintiffs will be the subject of ongoing debate and, most likely, further litigation.

12        The number of states that can now force the federal government to recognize their redefinition of marriage. The Court struck Section 3 of DOMA, which means that it must recognize same-sex marriages in states that redefine marriage.

1          The number of sections of the Defense of Marriage Act struck down yesterday (Section 3). Section 2, which ensures that no state will be forced to recognize another state’s redefinition of marriage, is still law.

0          The number of states forced to recognize other states’ redefinition of marriage.

The important news you may not be hearing is that the U.S. Supreme Court did not redefine marriage across the nation. That means the debate about marriage will continue. States are free to uphold policies recognizing that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, so that children have a mother and a father.

States will lead the way even as we work to restore clear marriage policy at the federal level. And in the states, support for marriage as the union of a man and a woman remains strong.

Still, the Court should have respected the authority of California citizens and Congress.

On DOMA, the Court did not respect Congress’s authority to define marriage for the purposes of federal programs and benefits. The Court got federalism wrong.

On Proposition 8, the citizens of California who voted twice to pass Prop 8 should have been able to count on their Governor and Attorney General to defend the state’s constitution. That’s what democratic self-government is all about.

Now more than ever, we need to make it clear why marriage as the union of a man and a woman matters—for children, for civil society, and for limited government. As citizens, we all need to be prepared to make the case for marriage. That’s why we at Heritage have worked with allies to produce a booklet called “What You Need to Know about Marriage.” Download your free copy at

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