What is the big deal about the Supreme Court and marriage?

Last Friday night, the White House in Washington, DC, was bathed in the colors of the rainbow as the President of the USA expressed his delight with the decision of the Supreme Court in Obergefell et al. v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et al. The decision ends with these words:

The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.

The words “that right” refer to the alleged right of homosexuals to marriage, a right carved out of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The word them refers to the plaintiffs in the case, all of whom desire to be granted marriage licenses or the recognition of marriage licenses authorizing a union of homosexuals to be called a legal marriage. The judgment that is reversed is an appeals court’s determination that no such right existed.

The lights on the White House and the nationwide frenzy that followed the announcement of the decision celebrate the belief of many that this decision compels every state in the union to recognize and license a union of two gays as if it were a marriage.

Many activists who advocated for this outcome belittled those who pushed back against the whole idea that any union other than that of a man and a woman could be a marriage. Activists scornfully accused Christians of trying to force Christian views on other people when the Christians simply declined to be part of wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples. LGBTQ activists, many of whom are atheists, produced complex theological arguments to prove that Christian refusal to participate in a wedding ceremony for a gay couple was hate-powered unwillingness to be loving and Christlike. Blog posts and op-eds tried to equate sexual attraction with Christlike love which, they argued, was all they wanted. In the final paragraph of the decision, Justice Kennedy joined their mournful complaints, saying, “[The hope of the plaintiffs] is not to be con­demned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civiliza­tion’s oldest institutions.”

I respectfully submit that lonely homosexuals are not the only people who suffer loneliness and the desire to cure it with a bizarre sexual union. While we were all treated after the decision to photographs of ecstatic brides kissing brides or grooms kissing grooms, other people whose sexual orientation or gender struggles have not been included in the nationwide conversation were still all alone. If loneliness is the problem, and marriage is the solution, then it must be noted that there are many lonely people besides homosexuals. The trans community. Pedophiles. Polygamists, or wannabe polygamists. A father dating his eighteen-year-old daughter. All of these people are lonely, and every one of them believes that one or more companions in some relationship they want to call a “marriage” would rescue them from loneliness.

Writing the decision of the majority, Justice Kennedy pretends to throw the Constitution a bone carved out of the Fourteenth Amendment, but dissenting opinions by Justices Roberts and Scalia reveal the deceitfulness of that claim. Justice Roberts says:

Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the oppor­tunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.

Justice Scalia says:

When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so.

Scalia later says:

They have discovered in the Fourteenth Amend­ment a “fundamental right” overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since.

Keep your eyes open. Blog posts and news reports already are airing complaints that this new cure for loneliness and new right to same-sex marriage is being applied too exclusively. The cry is simply, “If marriage is for homosexuals, why not for me?” How can you blame them? Where in the 33 pages of the court’s decision do you find any logical justification for denying marriage to any of these people, or to anyone else, for that matter? If marriage is by court decree the cure for loneliness, how can any lonely person be denied that consolation, in whatever form he finds most consoling at the moment?

What is the big deal about the Supreme Court and marriage? The big deal is that redefining marriage sends shock waves into every part of the culture. This decision will shred the fabric of the culture in a thousand different ways. It is hard to imagine anything that will not be touched by redefining the foundation of families.

For Christians, the problem lies in the way the culture perceives religions. The secular view is that a religion is about dealing with concepts labelled “religious” or “spiritual,” all of which secular thinkers confine to defined worship spaces. Christians do not confine their faith inside a church building. They live their faith all day every day wherever they are. For Christians, words and deeds are testimonies to their obedience to Christ. They rely on the Bible for guidance in word and deed. If the Bible tells them that something is a sin, they make diligent efforts to avoid it. Even though no human being is ever sinless, Christians believe that we all have an obligation to Christ to reject sin in our lives.

The big deal is that Christians believe the Bible is their guide for faith and life—life, daily life, not just church service. They read in the Bible that God ordained marriage as the union of one man and one woman. They read that the Bible calls homosexuality a sin. The Christian’s call to be Christlike mandates that a Christian not instigate or participate in a union of homosexuals. A Christian who believes and lives by the Bible cannot call a union of homosexuals a marriage.

When Christians are asked to participate in any respect in the formation of such a union, they must decline because of their deeply held religious convictions. Among the things that constitute participation are things like providing flowers or music or wedding cakes or art or other elements that celebrate that union. When Christians decline to take part in a wedding ceremony for homosexuals, they are not trying to prevent the couple from marrying; they are simply declining to be part of that ceremony. They are exercising their faith, living by the principles of their faith, when they take this position. Many people act as if by declining, Christians are attempting to force the couple to join the Christian religion. That misconception creates serious problems with the refusal of Christians to participate in something that the court calls a right established by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Fourteenth Amendment was written to give former slaves all the rights of citizenship. Nothing in that amendment suggests that the Supreme Court is authorized to redefine the social structures of human society. Every citizen has the same privileges and immunities, the same right to due process and equal protection of the laws, according to that amendment. That amendment nowhere redefines marriage. When that amendment was passed, people all over the world agreed that marriage was the union of one man and one woman, and neither the authors of the amendment nor those who ratified it had any notion that within its words lay a new definition of marriage.

There is a huge threat inherent in the decision that extracts a right for homosexuals to marry from the rights in the Fourteenth Amendment. The rights in the Fourteenth Amendment are rights generally classified as Civil Rights. The threat is that while the First Amendment to the Constitution is supposed to protect citizens from state oppression when they act on their convictions, actions that limit or deny Civil Rights have been exempted from First Amendment protection in the past. By redefining marriage within the boundaries of the Fourteenth Amendment, the court’s decision threatens, rather than protects, the right of Christians to live by their faith principles—that is, to exercise their faith. John Roberts in his dissent says:

The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage. Ante, at 27. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.

If the omission of the word “exercise” alarms John Roberts, it certainly alarms me.

The redefinition of marriage by the act of five justices on a court is cause for alarm. The potential changes now implied by the new definition will likely shock even the most avid advocate for same-sex marriage and will certainly horrify many citizens. The implied threat to people who have long held the religious conviction that the unions authorized by this court decision are immoral and sinful is seriously alarming.

That is the big deal about the Supreme Court and marriage.

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