The Supreme Court and the Future of Marriage

June 26, 2013. Mark this day down in history.

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 Next?

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.

9 thoughts on “The Supreme Court and the Future of Marriage

  1. This ruling changes everything. What irrigates me so is that churches can be sued for not preforming same sex marriage even if it goes against their religious views. What is so wrong with being able to have somethings separate and sacred? What will happen is gays and lesbians will only want to get married in churches that refuse to marry them just so they can go against them. Why can we not find a medium ground here? Why does gay and lesbians have to be “married” why can they not have a “civil union” that has the same federal benefits as a marriage but leaves our religious definition of marriage in tact?


    1. Thanks for the comment, Kris. The ruling itself does not open the door to lawsuits against churches. Anyone can sue a church, but I suspect the churches would still win based on the 1st Amendment.

      The reason the homosexual community is not satisfied with civil unions is because they want the cultural acceptance of marriage. However, in doing so, they have undermined the entire institution.

      Marriage certainly has a religious aspect, but it is more than just a religious definition. It is a creation ordinance.

    2. What irrigates me so is that churches can be sued for not preforming same sex marriage even if it goes against their religious views.

      Untrue in 1995. Untrue in 2010. Untrue now.

      Whoever told you that, is an unreliable source at best.

  2. However, I still believe it is safe to say that we are heading toward the demise of marriage as the foundational institution of society.

    One of the reasons the California and lower courts would grant standing is that the defendants-in-waiting could not demonstrate any injury, nor any other stake in the law.

    In court, with the stakes on the line, no damage to marriage could be shown.

    How is the institution of marriage affected in any way? Tangibly, not at all. Virtually?

    You plan to get a divorce now? How would that be any different than before?

    1. I actually assumed the case would be determined on standing. No surprise here.

      Yes, marriage is impacted. Its definition is changing. The connection to childbearing is no longer present. Marriage is defined as “love” (see Obama’s tweet).

      No plan to divorce here. The divorce laws in various states will have to change, however. Especially as it relates to child custody, child support, etc.

      1. When was marriage ever defined by childbearing? Marriage was, formerly, and still is in many places, a legal construct used to discriminate against a few who would not inherit a father’s property — but for the past 400 years, any child born in the union or adopted into it could be considered an heir, in most nations. So, in most places, there would be no change in childbearing — you have a kid, or you adopt a kid, it’s yours.

        Parenting relationships will be changed in those jurisdictions that have gay marriage — there will, by law, be more parents. Good effect.

        How will divorce laws need to change? Child custody? I can think of no provision of Texas law that would need to change, since the welfare of the child is the chief issue. California is similar, with a little less emphasis on welfare of the child.

        So, if you don’t plan to divorce, where is there any harm?

        As I noted, the intervenors could not specify any injury, nor any other stake in defending Proposition 8. Gender of potential partners is all that changes, opening up marriage to people of all orientations in all genders.

        If marriage is a good thing, isn’t it a good thing to expand it to more people?

      2. I have read this and a few other posts. You are entitled to your opinions, and I can at least respect that you’re trying to justify them rather than spouting blanket statements. However, I do have to express my concern and confusion as to the above comment. From your above statement, the primary reason for marriage is child-bearing, and not love. Now, being a Christian myself, I have to say that I think you are bastardizing the Scripture in order to fit your narrow personal beliefs. Love is a key component in marriage. In fact, one of the key pillars of marriage in Christianity IS love. I will refrain from leading questions about your marriage, but I assume that one of the reasons you and your wife have a happy, successful marriage is because you love each other. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that you loved her before you thought of her childbearing potential. Also, we need to take into consideration that there are myriad biological indicators that homosexuality is not a choice, but a biological predisposition. I won’t elaborate on them here, but I can definitely provide references for these claims.

        Another point of contention is that you liken homosexuality to pedophilia. Homosexuality is a relationship between two consenting adults. Pedophilia is in no way related to homosexuality because it takes place with one of the parties being unable to consent to the relationship. It is inappropriate because the child is being forced to participate in activities he or she does not want to. I am shocked that you have the nerve to relate those two, and really hope you take time to think about making such generalizations again.

      3. Ed, I never said marriage was defined by childbearing. I said there was a connection to childbearing. You keep misquoting me. When you make claims about what I have said, please use my words. Don’t put words in my mouth.

        Marriage has a comprehensive definition. It is more than love. It is more than a connection to childbearing. It is more than personal preference. It is more than identifying an heir.

        I think your understanding of the marriage laws providing for more parents is actually a misnomer. There may be more people that the government holds financially responsible, but it is unlikely that more parents will actually be involved in the lives of children. In addition, studies of homosexual marriages demonstrate that they last for shorter periods of time than heterosexual marriages. Therefore, they will actually add to the already high rate of divorce and create more heartache for the children involved in those families.

        The child custody laws and child support laws will change. There have already been lawsuits in other states that approve same-sex marriage where a third “parent” is responsible for child support even though he/she is not a biological parent.

        You said, “If marriage is a good thing, isn’t it a good thing to expand it to more people?” By this logic, you would also agree to expanding it to polygamy, polyamory, and incest. I believe there are limits to marriage. It is not an open-ended good. It has natural limits to be recognized and enforced by the government. This includes limits to the number of people in a marriage (2), the gender of those in a marriage (one man and one woman), the relationship of those in a marriage (separated by appropriate degrees of consanguinity), and the age of those in a marriage (adults, or consenting minors with parental approval).

      4. Concerned Patriot, you have taken my comment out of context. I said that same-sex marriage removes any connection to childbearing. The definition of marriage is larger than just love or just childbearing. In fact, I would like to hear your definition of “love” which you claim to be the basis of Christian marriage. Is it an emotion? Does it change? What is it?

        I wouldn’t agree that there are a myriad of biological indicators that homosexuality is not a choice. But even if I grant you that argument, the same can be said of alcoholism. Does that mean alcoholism should be accepted as normal?

        The link to pedophilia directly relates to a new understanding of marriage. However, there have been recent articles published by psychologists in the UK calling pedophilia a sexual orientation. The goal of these articles is to normalize pedophilia. If pedophilia is labeled as a sexual orientation, it will be no different than homosexuality. I stand by my connection and have support to prove it.

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