Delivering a historic ruling 5–4, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided on June 26, 2015 that same-sex couples must be permitted to marry regardless of where they live. Justices ruled that the Constitution does not allow states to prohibit gay couples to marry.
“The court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry. No longer may this liberty be denied to them,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion as quoted in The Washington Post.
This decision marks an unprecedented battle of public opinion lasting over a decade when the first legally recognized same-sex marriages were permitted in a Massachusetts state supreme court ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court last addressed same-sex marriage in 2013 when it ruled by a narrow margin that the Defense of Marriage Act, designed to withhold federal recognition of same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional. Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia made it legal for gay couples to marry since then.
The Obama administration urged justices to find restrictions on gay marriage unconstitutional in a statement made during the court’s oral arguments in April: “In a world in which gay and lesbian couples live openly as our neighbors, they raise their children side by side with the rest of us, they contribute fully as members of the community … it is simply untenable—untenable—to suggest that they can be denied the right of equal participation in an institution of marriage, or that they can be required to wait until the majority decides that it is ready to treat gay and lesbian people as equals.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, responded to the decision in a statement saying “everything has changed and nothing has changed.”
“The majority’s argument, expressed by Justice Kennedy, is that the right of same-sex couples to marry is based in individual autonomy as related to sexuality, in marriage as a fundamental right, in marriage as a privileged context for raising children, and in upholding marriage as central to civilization,” Mohler continued. “But at every one of these points, the majority had to reinvent marriage in order to make its case. The Court has not merely ordered that same-sex couples be allowed to marry—it has fundamentally redefined marriage itself.”
Some religious leaders have promised not to recognize the ruling, even planning civil disobedience in the face of this decision.
“The threat to religious liberty represented by this decision is clear, present, and inevitable,” said Mohler. “Assurances to the contrary, the majority in this decision has placed every religious institution in legal jeopardy if that institution intends to uphold its theological convictions limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman. This threat is extended to every religious citizen or congregation that would uphold the convictions held by believers for millennia.”
Senior legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom Erik Stanley told The Christian Post churches and parachurch organizations would maintain “great constitutional protections” in the face of this decision. He encourages Christian groups to better protect themselves from legal action by making formal statements of their views on marriage. ADF and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission have partnered together to create a manual for churches, Christian schools and ministries designed to help protect them from sexual orientation and gender identity lawsuits; you may download the booklet for free here.
“We are called to be the people of the truth,” concluded Mohler, “even when the truth is not popular and even when the truth is denied by the culture around us. Christians have found themselves in this position before, and we will again. God’s truth has not changed. The Holy Scriptures have not changed. The gospel of Jesus Christ has not changed. The church’s mission has not changed. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.”