On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued two rulings addressing same-sex marriages.
While a lot of talk surrounds the rulings and speculation, there are important facts to note about what was actually included in these rulings and what the language points to for future action.
In the first ruling, the Court struck down a provision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) defining marriage for purposes of federal law as a union between a man and woman.
In the second case, the Court dismissed (on technical grounds) an appeal of a 2010 federal district court ruling invalidating (on constitutional grounds) a referendum by the voters of California (“Proposition 8”) that amended the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and woman.
Here are seven key points for church leaders to note about the Supreme Court’s two rulings:
1. The seven state statutes and 30 state constitutions defining marriage as a union between a male and female are not affected.
Neither of the Supreme Court’s rulings addressed the constitutionality of these laws.
2. It is likely, if not inevitable, that the Supreme Court will one day address the constitutionality of state laws declining to recognize same-sex marriages.
A careful reading of the Court’s ruling in the DOMA case suggests that it is likely to rule that state statutes and constitutions that preclude same-sex couples from marrying violate the “equal protection of the laws” provision of the United States Constitution.