I met with a good friend in the U.S. Secret Service recently. We had breakfast and talked over money, specifically, United States currency. There are innumerable ways to counterfeit American bills, he said, so they have agents to study the many kinds of counterfeits.

What they study most carefully, however, is what constitutes true money. That way, the Secret Service agents can put the counterfeit next to the true and the difference jumps out. Hundreds and 50s, not surprisingly, are among the most counterfeited of U.S. bills. It’s easiest to pass these counterfeit bills in fast food restaurants and big box stores. There, cashiers may be young, inexperienced and working for minimum wage.

American money is important not just to Americans, but also to people around the world. According to my friend, as much as two-thirds of all our currency is circulating outside the continental U.S. This is another source of American exceptionalism. Lots of people around the world may not like America, they may be mad at the current administration or at the previous administration, but they sure do like our money. North Korea, not surprisingly, likes our money so much, they try to print it themselves.

In many foreign money exchanges, say, the Philippines, for example, the cashiers have to be very careful. If they take one bad $100 bill, they might be forgiven by their managers. But if they take two, they could find the totals deducted from their meager take-home pay. So, when they detect counterfeit bills, such cashiers are likely to put up a sign: NO U.S. HUNDREDS (OR 50S) ACCEPTED. That’s a practical application of Gresham’s Law: Bad money drives out good.

Marriage works like that, too. In northern Europe, researcher Stanley Kurtz found, when governments began to counterfeit marriage by forcing people to accept same-sex couplings as marriages, we saw the total number of true marriages dropping. Counterfeit marriages drove out true.

Here in the U.S., law professor Jonathan Turley responds to critics of same-sex couplings being recognized as marriages: “I know they say it will lead to polygamy, well, I’m for that.” GWU professor Turley was wildly cheered by the audience at Washington, D.C.’s Newseum. His listeners were congressional staffers, federal clerks and, of course, journalists.

That’s tragic, but not surprising. My Secret Service friend told me that those who handle lots of counterfeit bills have trouble recognizing the difference between true and counterfeit.

The debate over marriage is really a debate over counterfeit and true. The original blond bombshell, Mae West understood what was at stake better than many journalists and lawmakers do today: “Marriage is a great institution. I’m just not ready for an institution.” She got a laugh. People then understood that marriage was indeed an institution.

And it’s in grave jeopardy today. The only places in the U.S. that have legalized same-sex couplings are those where the liberal judges and politicians do not dare let the people vote on marriage. Wherever the people have voted — even in liberal Hawaii, Oregon, California and Wisconsin — they have powerfully affirmed true marriage.

In the South, black and white voters came together to powerfully defend true marriage. North Carolina was the last of the states of the old confederacy to vote for marriage. Tarheel State voters last May recorded a 61 percent landslide for true marriage. They voted with Billy Graham and against Bill Clinton. Imagine that.

Four years ago, Barack Obama said marriage was between one man and one woman. And he added, for the benefit of the Rev. Rick Warren’s Christian audience, “God is in the mix.” Now, we know, President Obama has “evolved” on marriage. And God, apparently, now is out of the mix? By presidential decree? If you’re so confident in evolution, Mr. President, let the American people vote on true marriage.

Robert Morrison is senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council.

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