response to SCOTUS.

mjkimpan  —  June 26, 2013 — 23 Comments


this morning, SCOTUS announced that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (ironically signed into law by bill clinton during his two-term presidency) is ‘unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the fifth amendment…DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a state entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty.’

the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) defines ‘marriage,’ for purposes of over a thousand federal laws and programs, as a union between a man and a woman only.

today SCOTUS ruled by a vote of 5-4 that the law is unconstitutional . the court explained that the states have long had the responsibility of regulating and defining marriage, and some states have opted to allow same sex couples to marry – to give them the protection and dignity associated with marriage.

by denying recognition to same-sex couples who are legally married, federal law discriminates against them to express disapproval of state-sanctioned-same-sex marriage.

in other words, same-sex couples who are legally married will be entitled to equal treatment as married opposite-sex couples under federal law – with regard to, for example, income taxes and social security benefits.

though there are questions surrounding the implication of the SCOTUS decision on proposition 8 and its effects for states with same-sex marriage bans, the immediate result is that after years of fighting legal battles, marriage equality has returned to california.

in the case of proposition 8,  the US supreme court has opted out of sitting in the hot seat by making a finalized, nation-wide ruling on the culturally divisive issue of same-sex marriage bans. instead, they have determined to kick the issue back to individual states, allowing each to remain free to either allow or ban same-sex marriage.

yet the ramifications of the SCOTUS decisions are monumental, and point to the inevitable reality that same-sex marriage will likely be legalized in every state.

it’s merely a matter of time.

some will consider today’s ruling a victory; others, a defeat. the reality is, it is neither.

the SCOTUS decision is an opportunity.

it is an opportunity to build bridges across a cultural divide that has for far too long split the conversation into ‘us versus them.’ no matter what your position on the SCOTUS ruling, there is an even more supreme law – the law of love.

regardless of one’s political, social or religious convictions on the topic of same-sex marriage, christians have a responsibility and a duty to live into the unconditional love of christ which we claim to represent.

the mistaken assumption in contemporary society is that we all have to agree in order to love well; including the ability to love well within the spaces of equality, rights, legality, relationship, religious freedom and dignity (each of which comes into play in this conversation and the SCOTUS decision).

and we don’t all agree.

but the reality is, disagreement does not dictate disrespect or dissent. everyone does not have to agree in order to love well. differences in cultural, political or theological belief systems do not necessitate aggressive lobbying or campaigning against another person or group of people. it is possible to disagree while dignifying and legitimizing other individual’s experiences.

the question, then, is how should the church respond?

rather than fighting to convince, pressure or persuade people to my preferred theological perspective, i am more interested in learning how to live out the principles and teachings of jesus in the midst of cultural divisions and an inevitable change in cultural perception concerning the definition of marriage. while some argue that it is a duty and responsibility to fight to preserve a traditional definition of marriage at the expense of the rights and equal treatment of others, i prefer a different approach.

in following the example of jesus, i see our responsibility tilted toward reconciliation. treating others the same way we would want to be treated. standing in solidarity with the Other. living at peace with people, regardless of whether we agree with them or not. to love our neighbors. but maybe that’s just me.

what do you think?


  • tommy

    Even if the church responds as you suggest, there are still issues that love will not resolve. What happens when a gay couple wants to be married in a church that loves everyone but is still not in favor of same sex marriage? My Twitter feed betrays such a fear. Quick response Michael but I suppose this one could have been 90% written before the ruling was released.

    • jontrouten

      Tommy: Churches have possessed the ability to officiate the weddings of anyone before today. Why would it change today?

      • tommy

        Tho not one of my concerns (after all, our president promises he won’t force churches to marry LBGT couples and when has he ever misled us?) I suspect the pastors who are worried that the law would now sustain any litigation brought to bear.

        • jontrouten

          If a heterosexual Hindu couple showed up at a Baptist church, would they be required to marry them now?

          If a divorced Catholic couple (not annulled) showed up at their local Catholic church, would they be required to marry them now?

          No. The president can’t change this. It’s fear-mongering to suggest otherwise.

          There was a church in Missouri as recently as July 2012 that canceled a wedding between a interracial heterosexual couple b/c they were an interracial couple. The church received blow-back from the community, but they were legally in their right to do this.
          Churches and church leaders may fear that they will be forced to marry gay couples, but reality and history disagrees. Name me one church or pastor in any of the 12 states or Washington DC where they’ve been forced to officiate at the weddings of gay couples. You’ll find none.

          • excellent points, jon. so appreciative of your balanced and informed approach in these discussions.

    • I’m not sure why that’s an issue. Currently (and historically) both pastors and churches have had the right to decide who they marry. I’m not catholic so I can’t get married in a Cathedral.

      Legalizing gay marriage gives churches more choice- not less. Nobody will be forced to betray their beliefs, but now the church fully decides who it will marry; not the government.

    • appreciate the compliment on the ‘quick response’ – i was prepared for the ruling itself, yet i obviously didn’t know what the decisions would be. found out the same time as everybody else and put down some thoughts. though admittedly, i’ve thought about this a bit. 😉

  • Bob Richley

    I agree with Andrew Marin who said, “Evangelicals, and conservative Christians in general, need to let go of the same-sex marriage fight and invest in figuring out how to love like Jesus regardless of what system is in place. ” I also agree that this decision is an opportunity “to build bridges across a cultural divide that has for far too long split the conversation into ‘us versus them.’ no matter what your position on the SCOTUS ruling, there is an even more supreme law – the law of love.”

    And I agree that

    “regardless of one’s political, social or religious convictions on the topic of same-sex marriage, christians have a responsibility and a duty to live into the unconditional love of christ which we claim to represent.”

    I wrote a similar response yesterday:

    • Michael Bussee

      I wonder if Andrew Marin would take the same stand if the issue before us was inter-racial marriage — as it was some decades ago? Would he still think it was a good idea to remain neutral?

  • Marianne Parkhill

    Marriage is a civil rights issue. I do not believe that people can take a pass on standing up for people’s rights. This is not really a religious issue even though some christians try to make it so.

    • Brian Hui

      Why is it not both a civil rights issue and a religious issue at the same time? While somewhat simplistic, I think Michael’s suggest that we seek a way forward together — regardless of what the present realities are — is a much better way that dismissing those who disagree.

    • jontrouten

      Don’t forget. There are LGBT people of faith (Christian or otherwise) who we value the institutions of marriage and family.

      • jontrouten –
        I’m not sure I understand your comment and would like to. Can you elaborate?

        • jontrouten

          My point was kind of agreeing with Brian Hui. This is a civil rights issues, but it’s also a religious liberty issue — for LGBT people. My husband and I married at our church back in 1997 because we value marriage. We needed to join together publicly as a couple under God. It was important to us and it was honored by our church family.
          But our state didn’t honor our marriage until years later. In 2010, we married here in Iowa in a legal marriage ceremony. It was/is important for us to legally protect our family through civil marriage laws.

          • jontrouten –
            I have a very similar experience. My husband and I were married in a religious ceremony three years before we were able to marry legally in our state (which we have since done). I agree whole-heartedly: both religious and civil marriage were important to our family formation. Thanks for making the point!

    • agree with other readers who acknowledge it’s not an either/or but a both/and. the law itself is – as the court has ruled – a civil rights issue. the practical outworking of the implications of marriage equality in the context of religious institutions and faith communities is indeed a religious issue, as it has always (and presumably will always) be(en), so long as they’re around.

      i think andrew (marin) is spot on in his summarization on the three lenses through which both sides of the conversation must engage with the conversation in order to do so with any amount of intellectual honesty ::

      1) The Human Rights lens:
      Do two U.S. citizens of the same sex in a consenting monogamous relationship deserve the same right to enter into a legal marriage contract, as two U.S. citizens of the opposite sex in a consenting monogamous relationship?;

      2) The Legal lens:
      Do two U.S. citizens of the same sex in a consenting monogamous relationship deserve the up to 1,400 extra benefits within a marriage contract, as two U.S. citizens of the opposite sex in a consenting monogamous relationship?;

      3) The Moral lens:
      How does my interpretation of my Holy Text influence my moral understanding of two individuals of the same sex in a consenting monogamous relationship, who want to/desire/wish to enter into a marriage contract?

      the SCOTUS decision gives us a framework for the first two lenses. the third is up to each individual and their faith community regarding the specific interpretations of their sacred texts – a freedom that is celebrated and supported by our laws, no matter how wacky the interpretation may be.

      • Michael Bussee

        I don’t see anyone “dismissing those who disagree”. I see them as dismissing the argument that some people are entitled to equality under law and some are not.

  • I listened to Rusty Reno yesterday warn about the corrosive effects of same-sex marriage on society. He said, among several really mean-spirited things, “same sex marriage puts an exclamation point on the sexual revolution.” His entire social argument was premised on the idea that same sex couples are not truly interested in the obligations of marriage but rather in validating “anything goes” relationships. What a load of crap! How infuriating that he, as a religious voice, would trade in stereotypes. My husband and I welcome the commitments and restrictions inherent in our covenant with one another; we are not secretly plotting to subvert them in society.

    I use that example to illustrate how, when we pigeon hole each other based on these litmus-test positions, we get trapped inside a mistaken impression of others.

    At this moment, one thing that we can do to show Christ-like love is to *assume the best intentions* in those who believe differently than we do.

    Just as I am not using my marriage in an attempt to destroy the institution, those who disapprove of same-sex marriage are not all hateful bigots.

  • Clayton Moore

    I think the SCOTUS ruling was clearly the right thing.

    Your post here was very eloquent and a refreshing counter to the “in your face you _____” that seems to be cropping up all over today. I was taught that it does not matter if I agree with someone, I was always to treat people with respect period. Name calling and “in your face” was not OK.

    The fact that political discourse has gone from: “Im going to have to disagree” to
    “I disagree and not only that, but I don’t like you and think your a moron”

    …..Helps no one.

    Perhaps a new generation can figure out a way back to civilty and Love.

    • thanks for your feedback, clayton. i am hopeful that we can work together to create a new way of engagement – even in spite of differences – in which everyone is treated with respect and civility.

      grateful for your voice in that conversation!

      • Michael Bussee

        Would you feel that way if the issue was inter-racial marriage?

        • for all people to be treated with respect and civility is something i would desire regardless of what topic of conversation we would be discussing.

  • Michael Bussee

    I think it is un-Christian to oppose equality under law.