Thursday, June 27, 2013

U.S. Supreme Court Decisions on Same-Sex Marriage Signal Renewed Challenges to Religious Liberty


Liberty Institute responded to numerous national media requests for our reaction to this week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in two cases that concern same-sex marriage. Our attorneys told each reporter and interviewer that a slim majority of the Court got it wrong in both cases.

  1. The Court got it wrong in striking down Section 3 of DOMA, the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Section 3 defined marriage as between one man and one woman for the purpose of federal law. The Court ruled that it violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause to deny federal spousal benefits (Social Security, favorable tax status, etc.) to same sex spouses living in the 12 states and the District of Columbia where same sex marriage is legal.
    On the day the decision was handed down, opponents of DOMA celebrated, chanting, “DOMA is dead.” But DOMA is not dead. Section 2 protects states from being forced to recognize the same sex marriages of couples from other states. That part of DOMA still stands. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his dissent that the ruling does not address a broader right to marriage. That issue was not before the Court.
  2. The Court got it wrong in the case challenging California’s Proposition 8, defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman. California’s governor and attorney general refused to stand up for the will of the people and defend that law when it was challenged. So the citizen groups, who worked hard to get the law on the ballot and to ensure its passage, stepped in. The Supreme Court said this coalition did not have standing to do so. Therefore the district court’s decision striking down Prop. 8 stands. This is a defeat for democracy because California citizens were denied recourse to defend the law they passed.

Although the Left is calling these rulings a great victory, they are not. The rulings are not a “nuclear bomb” blowing up traditional marriage in America. Neither do they, in any way, declare a constitutional right to same sex marriage.

The opinions do not speak directly to religious liberty; however there are many deep concerns.
In the opinion in the case challenging DOMA, Justice Kennedy states that the law was passed to establish the Christian view of marriage. He wrote that, in passing it, “The House concluded that DOMA expresses ‘both moral disapproval of homosexuality and a moral conviction that heterosexuality better comports with traditional (especially Judeo-Christian) morality.’”

Inevitably, the Left’s euphoria over these decisions will result in overreach and attempts to use government to punish those who disagree with a revisionist view of marriage. The idea will be to create a climate of fear and oppression as they target churches, religious organizations, schools, businesses owned by people of faith, and ordinary people simply attempting to live their daily lives according to their religious beliefs.

We will not be surprised if atheist or homosexual advocacy groups, and even the government try to abuse this week’s decision to violate Americans’ religious liberties. If and when that happens, Liberty Institute stands ready to step in.

President Obama praised the Court’s decision regarding DOMA. He stated, “How religious institutions define and consecrate marriage has always been up to those institutions. Nothing about this decision — which applies only to civil marriages — changes that.” Indeed, this ruling is not a defeat for churches’ religious freedom. Pastors can still preach. But we should not be na├»ve. Pastors’ rights to communicate the biblical view of marriage will be challenged, and Liberty Institute stands ready to defend them.

Businesses refusing to accommodate same sex couples and weddings are already being taken to court across the nation. We fully expect these challenges to escalate. Free people are not obligated to adhere to government “values.” But in many cases, we must be prepared to fight legal battles to defend these rights.

There is much work to do to hold the line against damage to religious liberty that could result from the abuse of these rulings. These decisions do not take the country off a cliff, but they do take us a long way down a slippery slope.

Liberty Institute President/CEO Kelly Shackelford said that, as a result of these decisions, “the debate about marriage will go on in the 50 states. These battles will have major implications for the religious liberty rights of millions of Americans who hold to the traditional view of marriage. Liberty Institute stands prepared to defend the deep religious beliefs Americans hold about the sanctity of the marriage covenant.”

These rulings will not destroy religious freedom. Liberty Institute will stand up for those who are in the line of fire. If any atheist organization or any government, state or federal, tries to force people to violate their religious beliefs regarding marriage, we will be there to defend them.

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About Liberty Institute
Liberty Institute is a nonprofit legal group dedicated to defending and restoring religious liberty across America — in our schools, for our churches and throughout the public arena. Liberty’s vision is to reestablish religious liberty in accordance with the principles of our nation’s Founders. For information, visit