The saying often heard in churches that God intended marriage for “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” may soon be just another cliché as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in support of same-sex marriage, particularly the extension of benefits within same-sex marriages.
In separate 5-4 decisions, the justices struck down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and let stand a lower court decision overturning California’s Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage. Holding that the issue is a question of equal protection under the law, the justices established that federal services and benefits must be applied equally to all married couples recognized by states. It also reaffirmed that the federal government must respect state laws.
“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages,” read the majority opinion. “It contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their state, but not others, of both rights and responsibilities, creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same state.”
In the Prop 8 case, the court declined to hear the appeal to reverse the California state court’s decision to overturn the same-sex ban. The justices said those who brought the suit before the high court were not entitled to do so. The court, in effect, dismissed the 8 million Californians that voted for Prop 8, which passed in 2008 with 52% of the vote after the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriages.
“I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted,” California’s Gov. Jerry Brown said.
The justices did not issue a broad opinion about the morality of same-sex marriage, which remains banned in 38 states.
The court’s decisions have shaken many faith communities in America. For conservatives, particularly those who believe that America is a Christian nation whose laws should comply with the Bible, the court’s ruling is a travesty. They say the justices overstepped their bounds by redefining marriage, which is the domain of God alone.
For many other Christians, besides those brothers and sisters in Christ who are gay, the decision is not as cut and dry. It’s neither tragic nor a reason to hope for a wedding party where water is turned to wine. As a man who has been married to the same woman for more than 20 years, I consider myself among this number.
Though I believe the Bible affirms that marriage is a holy union between a man and woman only, I also believe that consenting adults have a right to live the way they want. Over the course of world history, people have gotten married for various reasons that often had nothing to do with religion or God. Many tax paying citizens see marriage not as a holy covenant, but as a contract. America is a pluralistic society where the government is constitutionally prevented from aligning with any particular faith. American citizens have a right to practice their faith – be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. – as well as to be agnostics or atheists. If two consenting adults love each other and want to spend their lives together, the government has no right to get in their way – period. The government’s role is to protect us from each other to insure that our individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not infringed upon. The government has no right to dictate what we can and cannot do with our bodies, including whom we live with or who we choose to be intimate with. The same goes for the church.
Many Christians may reject same-sex marriage on biblical grounds, but we still have no right to dictate to others through state or federal laws how they should live their personal intimate lives. True, the church is the only institution in society that, as God’s representative on Earth, is ordained with the responsibility to define how we should morally behave toward each other, including even our private intimate relationships. Christians believe our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. However, God still grants individuals the “free will” to govern their own bodies. Whether pastors, ministers or lay members, Christians are called of God to state what we believe the Bible says. But after that, we are ultimately called to live lives as examples of Christ’s love daily. We are to inspire and influence people with our godly light, not condemn and force them into submission. Certainly Jesus is heartbroken over Christians who are aligned with those who verbally or physically assault members of the LGBT community, or who drive many of them to committ suicide. Certainly we have no business cursing them to a hell that we do not own, as if we are sinless. This is what Jesus meant by “Judge not, that ye not be judged.” We will all have to face God’s judgment seat alone regarding our individual sins. But God reserves that final decision exclusively.
So rather than be upset about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, I simply prefer to trust the Lord. The God who tossed the stars into the sky and who keeps the Earth revolving around the sun without crashing into the other planets is certainly big enough to handle “Adam and Steve” or “Alice and Eve.”
Besides, with divorce (which the Bible says is a sin) being high among heterosexuals, including among Christians, I’d rather stay focused on keeping my own marriage together.