It’s official! Fifty times over, IT’S OFFICIAL! ALL 50 states of the United States of America are now required to allow same-sex couples the right to marry and the right to be recognized as married. This was the ruling handed down by the United States Supreme Court in June 2015.
And the world heaved a collective sigh! Well…maybe not the whole world but perhaps the United States? No, not everyone in the United States but just same-sex couples and those who support same-sex couples’ right to marry. The rest of the country, however, rather than joining in with the collective sigh, cried out “Woe is me!” “Armageddon!” and “The end is near!” The reason for the cries of woe? I’m pretty sure there are some people who are distraught by the Court’s decision because of their good old-fashion traditional values and these values say that marriage is for opposite-sex couples. But I’m also pretty confident that the basis for these good old-fashion traditional values is that “God” intended for marriage to be between a man and a woman. In other words, religion is the primary reason for the outcry against same-sex couples being allowed to marry.
I am well versed in one faith tradition, namely Christianity, and not so much in others, like Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism, to name a few. One thing I know about Christianity and Judaism, that may also be true in other faith traditions, is that it is against their religious beliefs for a man to have sex with another man. And although their original religious texts may not specifically address it, we can assume (or we do assume) it is equally impermissible for a woman to have sex with another woman.
As a woman of faith, I completely understand and empathize with other people of faith who believe it is wrong for people of the same sex to engage in sexual activity. This is what we have been taught in the Church for centuries, since the beginning of time. And if same-sex sexual activity is banned, then same-sex marriage is absolutely out of the question. This is a long-standing, well-established, traditional religious belief. And in America, people have a right to their religious beliefs, in theory and in practice.
People who believe that homosexuality is wrong because of religious reasons should not be attacked, verbally or physically, because of their beliefs. And neither the federal nor state governments should force people with long-standing beliefs against homosexuality to accept, embrace, support or promote it. I believe the source of the outcry from people who believe that same sex relationships are wrong is that, like it or not, individuals of faith and congregations of faith will be required by law to accept, embrace, support and promote same-sex marriage or risk being found in violation of the law.
I’ve been out of law school for decades and I don’t make a habit of reading court opinions anymore. But I’ve always believed “knowledge is power” and “reading is fundamental”. So I decided to return to my law school roots and read the Court’s majority opinion…
(In all fairness, 3 Supreme Court justices dissented or disagreed with the majority of 5 justices. But let’s be clear. A dissenting opinion carries as much legal authority as a confederate battle flag. It may carry a lot of emotion and may even sound reasonable to some people, but it represents a lost cause.)
So, I’ve read the Court’s majority opinion. And to my brothers and sisters in the Church (and other faith traditions), who are crying “foul”, this is what I discovered. The Supreme Court agrees with you! Nowhere in the Court’s opinion did the justices say that churches and other faith-based/religious groups would be required to co-sign same-sex marriage. In fact, the Court said exactly the opposite. Specifically, the Court said “it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.” And the Court reaffirmed that religious organizations and religious persons are protected by the 1st Amendment of the Constitution of the United States with the right “to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered.”
In my opinion, this is some pretty strong language in favor of religious organizations and religious persons. This is what religious organizations and religious persons want, the right to hold fast to the tenets of their faiths which condemn same-sex marriage, right? Yet, despite what appears to me to be strong, protective language, the outcry of the religious is still being heard…
My first guess is that most of those who are crying doom and gloom haven’t read the Court’s opinion. Court opinions are not rocket science but on the flip side they are not an ‘easy read’ either. Many people will not take the time to read the Court’s opinion but will chose instead to accept reports from network news reporters and newspapers. But most news reporters have failed to give adequate, if any, attention to the rights that religious organizations and religious persons continue to have with regard to their faith and same-sex marriage. Most people don’t know that the Court addressed the rights of religious organizations in its decision. And a knee-jerk reaction has church officials calling special church meetings so that they can add language to their church constitutions saying that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. Organizations are re-writing their constitutions when they haven’t read the Court’s decision.
But even after these organizations add their desired language and definitions of marriage, the outcry will continue. (Once again, why?) I would dare to say it is because the Court did not completely side with religion and condemn same-sex marriage. Instead, the Court affirmed that religious organizations and persons have a right, under the 1st Amendment to reject same-sex marriage AND then they had the audacity to declare that same-sex couples also have the right to marry under this same Constitution, namely the 14th Amendment.
I understand that dogma will prevent some people from wanting to be informed about how the Court could both affirm the rights of the religious community and, at the same time, grant a right that is so obviously against what many religious communities believe. But if the Bible and other sacred texts are correct, we are mandated to understand. “Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore, get wisdom; with all thy getting get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7, ASV).
So to my friends of faith, I have a question: Are you willing to come off of the defensive position for a few minutes, take your spiritual boxing gloves off, have a seat and get some understanding? If so, read Part 2 of FAITH & SAME-SEX MARRIAGE.
American Standard Bible
(Obergefell v. Hodges, __ U. S. __, 2015).
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Copyright © 2015 by Kanisha L. Adkins.Share This: