In one of two rulings Wednesday (June 26), the justices said in a 5-4 decision the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violated "equal protection" under the Constitution by refusing to recognize gay marriages. The opinion means same-sex couples will have access to employee, Social Security, tax and other benefits previously limited to heterosexual couples.
In the other case about gay marriage, the justices appeared to provide a limited victory for same-sex marriage advocates. The court's 5-4 ruling on a procedural question apparently will have the effect of allowing to stand a federal judge's invalidation of a California amendment that limited marriage to heterosexual couples.
In its opinions, however, the Supreme Court declined to legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country or to decide states cannot limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Below are statements on the DOMA decision from advocates on both sides of the marriage divide:
-- Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission:
"This decision is far-reaching, with massive implications for family life and religious liberty. The grounding of this decision in equal protection and human dignity means this is not simply a procedural matter of federalism. This is a new legal reality.
"Regardless of what happens with marriage, the Gospel doesn't need 'family values' to flourish. In fact, it often thrives when it is in sharp contrast to the cultures around it.
"In another sense, though, the marginalization of conjugal marriage in American culture has profound implications for our gospel witness. Marriage isn't incidental to gospel preaching.
"God designed the one-flesh union of marriage as an embedded icon of the union between Christ and His church. Marriage and sexuality, among the most powerful pulls in human existence, are designed to train humanity to recognize, in the fullness of time, what it means for Jesus to be one with His church, as a head with a body.
"Same-sex marriage is on the march, even apart from these decisions, and is headed to your community, regardless of whether you are sitting where I am right now, on Capitol Hill, or in a rural hamlet in southwest Georgia or eastern Idaho. This is an opportunity for gospel witness.
"The gay and lesbian people in your community aren't part of some global 'Gay Agenda' conspiracy. They aren't super-villains in some cartoon. They are, like all of us, seeking a way that seems right to them. If we believe marriage is as resilient as Jesus says it is (Mark 10:6-9), it cannot be eradicated by a vote of justices or a vote of a state legislature.
"If we're going to preach that sort of gospel, we must make it clear that this cross-bearing self-denial isn't just for homosexually-tempted Christians. It is for all of us, because that's what the Gospel is.
"Same-sex marriage is headed for your community. This is no time for fear or outrage or politicizing. It's a time for forgiven sinners, like us, to do what the people of Christ have always done. It's time for us to point beyond our family values and our culture wars to the cross of Christ as we say: 'Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.' And that's good news."
-- Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee:
"We have seen a rapidity of cultural change that is mind-boggling. Christians of every denomination need desperately to repent of our sin, call upon the name of the Lord, and be more involved than ever in being salt and light!
"We should be thankful that our God is not involved in changing His mind or listening to every wind of culture. His Word is His Word. His way is His way. There is no variation or shadow of turning in Him.
"We believe this is a wrong decision with far-reaching moral and religious liberty implications. With one stroke of the pen, this court has redefined the universal, historical and biblical ideal of marriage as a monogamous relationship between one man and one woman.
"From a biblical perspective, the normalization of homosexual behavior and the legitimization of same-sex marriage are clear marks that God's hand of favor has been withdrawn from society (The New Testament, Romans 1:24-32). This court has formally disavowed His rule over our personal lives, our families, our communities and our nation.
"The withdrawal of God's restraining hand of influence will directly impact our children and grandchildren. They will be increasingly marginalized by the mainstream entertainment and news media, facing overt persecution for their faith unless we experience a mighty movement of God to awaken us to biblical redemption through Jesus Christ.
"Yet, we should not be surprised. The days in which we live were predicted long ago:
'But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. (The New Testament, 2 Timothy 3:1-5)
"We continue to love and pray for our country. We will work to defend and uphold the ideals of religious and personal liberties enshrined in our God-given and constitutionally-granted Bill of Rights. We also pray for spiritual awakening. This is and always has been our only hope as a nation. Only then will we see an accompanying return to righteousness and holiness."
-- President Obama:
"This was discrimination enshrined in law. It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal -- and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.
"This ruling is a victory for couples who have long fought for equal treatment under the law; for children whose parents' marriages will now be recognized, rightly, as legitimate; for families that, at long last, will get the respect and protection they deserve; and for friends and supporters who have wanted nothing more than to see their loved ones treated fairly and have worked hard to persuade their nation to change for the better.
"So we welcome today's decision, and I've directed the Attorney General to work with other members of my Cabinet to review all relevant federal statutes to ensure this decision, including its implications for Federal benefits and obligations, is implemented swiftly and smoothly.
"The laws of our land are catching up to the fundamental truth that millions of Americans hold in our hearts: when all Americans are treated as equal, no matter who they are or whom they love, we are all more free."
-- Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council:
"While we are disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision to strike down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the court today did not impose the sweeping nationwide redefinition of natural marriage that was sought. Time is not on the side of those seeking to create same-sex 'marriage.' As the American people are given time to experience the actual consequences of redefining marriage, the public debate and opposition to the redefinition of natural marriage will undoubtedly intensify.
"We are encouraged that the court learned from the disaster of Roe v. Wade and refrained from redefining marriage for the entire country. However, by striking down the federal definition of marriage in DOMA, the Court is asserting that Congress does not have the power to define the meaning of words in statutes Congress itself has enacted. This is absurd. The Defense of Marriage Act imposes no uniform definition of marriage upon the individual states. However, the states should not be able to impose varying definitions of marriage upon the federal government. The ruling that the federal government must recognize same-sex 'marriages' in states that recognize them raises as many questions as it answers. For example, what is the status of such couples under federal law if they move to another state that does not recognize their 'marriage?' This decision throws open the doors for whole new rounds of litigation."
-- Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D.-Wis., the Senate's first only homosexual member:
"The nation's highest court reaffirmed our founding belief that all Americans are created equal under the law. The Court made a strong statement for equality and freedom, overturning discrimination against gay and lesbian American citizens simply because of who they love.
"While this is a huge step forward for our country, the fight to make America more equal does not end with a Supreme Court decision. There is more work to be done to fulfill the promise of freedom and equality for all - in which America becomes a place where every family's love and commitment can be recognized and respected under the law."
Compiled by Baptist Press Washington bureau chief Tom Strode. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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