On 26 June, the Supreme Court of the United States passed down a 5-4 decision that states cannot prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. This marks a startling turnaround for a court that refused to hear cases on the issue as recently as last October.
Justice Anthony Kennedy was seen as the swing vote in the case, and he wrote the majority opinion. “The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times,” said Kennedy as he elaborated in his opinion on the evolving role and idea of marriage, as well as gender roles and the legal status of women.
The justices voting against were Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Justice Clarence Thomas.
The Fourteenth Amendment, which provides for equal protections under the law, laid the groundwork for the court’s ruling.
The ruling came after a number of same-sex couples issues challenges to existing law. Only a few states had successfully challenged federal rulings in favor of same sex marriage: Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Those states will now be required to amend their laws.
In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act. This is effectively the final hurdle for same-sex marriage advocates or the final nail in the coffin for traditional marriage activists, depending on one’s point of view
From a Mormon perspective, we’ve seen this coming for ages, and personally, and after tilting at windmills with Prop 8 and other smaller-scale adventures, we’re now cleaning up the PR mess in the aftermath. (For the record, I was never comfortable with Prop 8, but I seldom talk about it.) I wont’ say anything is all for naught, though, as we learned valuable lessons about ourselves, and the Lord surely tested and refined His people, but now we face a new America with both new challenges and new opportunities.
As Latter-day Saints, we are given a choice of how to embrace our LGBT brothers and sisters. It is incumbent upon us to love all of God’s children even when we have disagreements. I support the traditional view of marriage for myself and from a religious perspective, just as Church leaders have admonished us for years. But now we must reconcile our own religious needs with the new law of the land, and that might prove difficult. As I’ve said many times on the podcast, the Church is going through a transitional period. No, I’m not a believer that we’ll ever endorse gay marriage or ordain women, but we’re learning how to adapt where we can and should, and perhaps most importantly of all, how to be Christlike when doing it. I’m learning. You’re learning. We’re all learning.
For its part, the Church issued the following statement on Friday:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints acknowledges that following today’s ruling by the Supreme Court, same-sex marriages are now legal in the United States. The Court’s decision does not alter the Lord’s doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God. While showing respect for those who think differently, the Church will continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman as a central part of our doctrine and practice.”
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