WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court transformed the legal definition of marriage Friday (June 26), legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.
In a 5-4 decision, the high court ruled states must recognize marriages between people of the same sex, providing a new definition throughout the country to an institution created by God as a covenant between a man and a woman.
Religious leaders expressed their dismay at the opinion, as well as their encouragement for the church to respond with courage and compassion.
“The Supreme Court has stripped all Americans of our freedom to debate and decide marriage policy through the democratic process,” said Alliance Defending Freedom counsel Jim Campbell, director of the ADF Center for Marriage and Family.
“The freedom to democratically address the most pressing social issues of the day is the heart of liberty. The court took that freedom from the people and overrode the considered judgment of tens of millions of Americans who recently reaffirmed marriage as the union of a man and a woman.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said in a written statement, “I am a conscientious dissenter from this ruling handed down by the Court today, believing, along with millions of others, that marriage is the sacred union of one man and one woman and that it is improper for the Court to redefine an institution it did not invent in the first place.
“Despite this ruling, the church of Jesus Christ will stand fast. We will not capitulate on this issue because we cannot,” Moore said. “At the same time, now is not the time for outrage or panic. Marriage is resilient. God created it to be so. The church must now articulate and embody a Christian vision of marriage and work to rebuild a culture of marriage.”
Family Research Council (FRC) President Tony Perkins said that in reaching a decision so lacking in foundation in the text of the Constitution, in our history, and in our traditions, the Court has done serious damage to its own legitimacy.
“With this ruling, the Supreme Court has set our government on a collision course with America’s cherished religious freedoms, explicitly guaranteed in the First Amendment of the Constitution’” continued Perkins.
Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion for the court, while Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.
In a strongly worded dissent from the high court’s opinion reversing the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “Until the courts put a stop to it, public debate over same-sex marriage displayed American democracy at its best.”
Taking direct aim at the majority’s analysis, Scalia observed that the majority opinion “is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic.… The world does not expect logic and precision in poetry or inspirational pop-philosophy; it demands them in the law. The stuff contained in today’s opinion has to diminish this Court’s reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis.”
“If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag,” Scalia added. “The Supreme Court of the United States has descended from the disciplined legal reasoning of John Marshall and Joseph Story to the mystical aphorisms of the fortune cookie.”
Same-sex marriage already was legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia. Court rulings had produced legal gay marriage in more than two-thirds of those states before the justices’ opinion expanded it to all 50 states.
The court’s opinion came in a case, Obergefell v. Hodges, from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. In a 2-1 decision in November, it became the first federal appellate court to rule that states have the authority to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
The opinion by the Sixth Circuit Court, based in Cincinnati, took place in challenges to laws in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee — states where voters approved constitutional amendments between 2004 and 2006 that limit marriage to a man and a woman.
“Americans who understand the good of marriage still have great opportunities to communicate and model how the unique union of one man and one woman benefits society,” Campbell explained.
— CNJ staff | Tom Strode BP news