I haven’t lived long enough to remember too many historic moments. I remember where I was when the Challenger space shuttle exploded. I have an image burned in my mind of watching the Berlin Wall collapse. I can even recall the visceral pain of watching the World Trade Center crumble in ruins.
I will also remember June 26, 2013, as the day that marriage changed forever in American society.
What exactly happened today? Let me offer a quick summary.
Hollingsworth v. Perry (California’s Proposition 8)
The Supreme Court essentially held that those defending California’s Proposition 8 do not have standing to file their appeal. The State of California has refused to defend Prop 8 in court; therefore, other citizens of the state took it up. As part of the ruling, the majority opinion reads, “Neither the California Supreme Court nor the Ninth Circuit ever described the proponents as agents of the State, and they plainly do not qualify as such.” In conclusion, the majority declared:
We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here.
Because petitioners have not satisfied their burden to demonstrate standing to appeal the judgment of the District Court, the Ninth Circuit was without jurisdiction to consider the appeal. The judgment of the Ninth Circuit is vacated, and the case is remanded with instructions to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.
Since the State of California refuses to defend Prop 8 in court, the law will be held as unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court. Therefore, same-sex “marriage” will become legal in California once again.
On the positive side, SCOTUS did not rule broadly and make applications to other states. However, there will likely be further legal challenges in California and other states in the near future.
United States v. Windsor (Defense of Marriage Act)
In the decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the law. This means that same-sex couples who are legally married in their respective states qualify for federal marriage benefits. These benefits include filing federal tax returns jointly, transferring property at death as a spouse to avoid inheritance taxes, etc. This would also seem to imply that federal employees with same-sex spouses would be eligible for various employment benefits (e.g., insurance) made available to spouses in heterosexual marriages.
As part of the majority opinion, the justices determined that DOMA treated same-sex couples with marriage licenses from states that approved same-sex marriages as a separate, unequal class. They wrote, “The avowed purpose and practical effect of the law [DOMA] here in question are to impose a disadvantage, a separate status, and so a stigma upon all who enter into same-sex marriages made lawful by the unquestioned authority of the States.”
The decision essentially allows for states to define marriage on their own for the purpose of administering marriage licenses, but it does not allow the federal government to recognize the marriage licenses of some states while not recognizing those of other states (or a particular subset from those states). In their concluding remarks, the majority of justices stated:
The class to which DOMA directs its restrictions and restraints are those persons who are joined in same-sex marriages made lawful by the State. DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty. It imposes a disability on the class by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper. DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others. The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity. By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment. This opinion and its holding are confined to those lawful marriages.
What is next for our society? We can be thankful that the Supreme Court did not offer a new definition of marriage today. However, I still believe it is safe to say that we are heading toward the demise of marriage as the foundational institution of society. The term “marriage” is quickly losing its meaning. President Obama used his Twitter account to claim all love is equal when it comes to marriage. The logical conclusion of such a claim is societal acceptance of not only same-sex “marriage” but also acceptance of polygamy, polyamory, incest, and ultimately pedophilia. We may even live to see the day when the term “marriage” has no significance whatsoever. If marriage collapses as a social institution, we will see more crime and poverty, and we will see less education and children.
Where do we go from here as Christians? The truth of the matter is that God’s design for marriage in Genesis 2 has not changed—one man and one woman for a lifetime. However, we have a long and difficult road ahead of us. We will likely be marginalized in the cultural discussion of marriage. We will be called bigots and homophobes. We may even experience discrimination for our views. In the face of all that, we can find solace in Jesus’ words to his disciples in John 15:18–19 where he says, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.”
And one last reminder to those who call upon the Lord as Savior—it is not our ultimate responsibility to change the hearts of men and women. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. Our task is to proclaim the gospel faithfully knowing that true change in society only comes when hearts are changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the motto of my seminary proclaims: Preach the Word. Reach the world!
Hollingsworth v. Perry, Supreme Court of the United States, June 26, 2013.
United States v. Windsor, Supreme Court of the United States, June 26, 2013.