By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
WASHINGTON – As expected, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the Constitution does guarantee same-sex couples the right to marry.
The 5-4 ruling was handed down Friday morning and means every state, including Louisiana and 12 other states which did not allow same-sex marriage, must stop enforcing the ban.
Louisiana Baptist and Southern Baptist leaders such as Louisiana Baptists President Steve Horn and Louisiana Baptists Moral and Social Concerns Chairman David Goza were quick to voice concerns about the ruling.
“5-4! There are so many things that I am thankful for in this country. However, this morning, I find myself struggling with the fact that 1 person can make the difference in something that will so drastically alter our country,” Horn, the pastor at First Lafayette, wrote on his blog.
“I just heard President Obama declare this is “a victory for America.” I disagree in the strongest way possible. This is not a victory for America. Proverbs 14:34 declares “righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (HCSB) Galatians 6:7 says, “Don’t be deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (HCSB) We always reap what we sow, and America will reap from this decision.
“The biggest thing to watch in this decision is the seeming threat to religious liberty. This decision is probably the biggest threat to our religious liberty in my lifetime. The ambiguity of this decision in regards to questions of religious liberty is simply mind-boggling.
“The question is whether we will be punished in any way for holding to the biblical belief that marriage is between one man and one woman,” Horn wrote. “Today the government said that they provided protection for the marriage of same-sex couples. My question today is “Will the government fully protect my religious liberty and my church’s religious liberty to preach against same-sex marriage?”
Goza echoed Horn’s thoughts.
“I do not see how religious freedom can peacefully coexist in a state which protects gay marriage,” said Goza, also pastor of Jefferson Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. “This is unchartered territory for the church. Look up, for your redemption draws near.”
Goza believes the “great purge” will now begin.
“The first to go will be Christian judges,” he said. “As a result of this decision, for the first time in American history, there will be no true Christian judges. All judges will have no choice on performing gay marriages. All true Christian judges will be purged.”
Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd, who declared during his message at last week’s SBC Annual Meeting that he would never officiate a same-sex wedding, said in a statement on Baptist Press that though the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise, he believes in traditional and biblical marriage.
“Our No. 1 concern at this point is that religious freedom is protected in every way, honoring our God-given conscience, and that we not be discriminated against for our biblical and traditional stand,” Floyd. “This decision shows one thing: Our desperate need for the next Great Awakening and the hope of the Gospel given to all persons. We must rise up like never before with great urgency, to forward the message of Jesus Christ to every person in America and across the world.”
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said that marriage is still a sacred union between a man and woman and that for the Supreme Court to redefine this institution that it never invented in the first place is improper.
“I believe this action of finding some illusory Fourteenth Amendment right to same-sex marriage will have wide-ranging and perilous consequences for the stability of families and for freedom of religion,” Moore said in his statement to Baptist Press. “In the wake of this decision, we must ensure that the American principles of pluralism and religious liberty are maintained, as the religious convictions of millions of Americans necessarily cause us to hold a different, more ancient, view of marriage than the one the Court has imposed. Additionally, today’s decision reminds us of the importance of electing a president who knows how to appoint jurists rather than would-be legislators to the bench.
“Despite this ruling, the church of Jesus Christ will stand fast,” he continued. “We will not capitulate on this issue because we cannot. To minimize or ignore a Christian sexual ethic is to abandon the message Jesus handed down to us, and we have no authority to do this. At the same time, now is not the time for outrage or panic. Marriage is resilient. God created it to be so. Marriage in the minds of the public may change, but marriage as a reality created by God won’t change at all. The church must now articulate and embody a Christian vision of marriage and work to rebuild a culture of marriage.”
Ruling in favor of same-sex marriage were Justices Anthony Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. Opposed to the ruling were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.
Kennedy, who was also the deciding vote in two previous gay rights cases decided by the Court on June 26 in previous years, wrote the majority opinion.
“The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change,” Kennedy wrote. “Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. … [The challengers] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.
“Under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. The fundamental liberties protected by this clause include most of the rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights. In addition these liberties extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs,” Kennedy wrote.
“The identification and protection of fundamental rights is an enduring part of the judicial duty to interpret the Constitution. That responsibility, however, “has not been reduced to any formula.” Rather, it requires courts to exercise reasoned judgment in identifying interests of the person so fundamental that the State must accord them its respect.”
In his opinion, Roberts said the ruling had nothing to do with the U.S. Constitution.
“Petitioners make strong arguments rooted in social policy and considerations of fairness. They contend same-sex couples should be allowed to affirm their love and commitment through marriage, just like opposite-sex couples,” Roberts wrote. “That position has undeniable appeal; over the past six years, voters and legislators in 11 states and the District of Columbia have revised their laws to allow marriage between two people of the same sex.
“But this Court is not a legislature,” Roberts wrote, “whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be. The people who ratified the Constitution authorized courts to exercise “neither force nor will but merely judgment.”
“If you are among the many Americans – of whatever sexual orientation – who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” Roberts wrote. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
Roberts continued, “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this court’s precedent. The majority expressly disclaims judicial “caution” and omits even a pretense of humility, openly relying on its desire to remake society according to its own “new insight” into the “nature of injustice.”
Scalia, meanwhile, contended the ruling is a “threat to democracy.”
“The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me. The law can recognize as marriage whatever sexual attachments and living arrangements it wishes, and can accord them favorable civil consequences, from tax treatment to rights of inheritance.
Those civil consequences—and the public approval that conferring the name of marriage evidences—can perhaps have adverse social effects, but no more adverse than the effects of many other controversial laws. So it is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage.
“It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me,” Scalia wrote. “Today’s decree says my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court. The opinion in these cases is the furthest extension in fact and the furthest extension one can even imagine of the Court’s claimed power to create “liberties” that the Constitution and its Amendments neglect to mention. This practice of constitutional revision by an unelected committee of nine, always accompanied (as it is today) by extravagant praise of liberty, robs the people of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”
Retired Louisiana Supreme Court Associate Justice Jeffrey P. Victory of Shreveport agreed with Justice Scalia on the court’s role.
“Five thousand years of human experience show that within every culture, religion and government marriage has always meant a relationship between a man and a woman. The United States Constitution is silent on the issue of marriage,” said Victory. “A judge’s role is to apply the law as written or, as in this case when the Constitution is silent, leave it for the people to decide. Today, five members of the United States Supreme Court cast aside this long- existing rule of law and forced upon the entire nation their preferred marriage policy.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who on June 24 announced that he is running for President, condemned the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.
Jindal said, “The Supreme Court decision today conveniently and not surprisingly follows public opinion polls, and tramples on states’ rights that were once protected by the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that.
“This decision will pave the way for an all-out assault against the religious freedom rights of Christians who disagree with this decision. This ruling must not be used as pretext by Washington to erode our right to religious liberty,” continued Jindal.
“The government should not force those who have sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage to participate in these ceremonies. That would be a clear violation of America’s long held commitment to religious liberty as protected in the First Amendment,” the statement read.
“I will never stop fighting for religious liberty and I hope our leaders in D.C. join me,” said Jindal, who issued an Executive Order to protect religious freedom in the state on May 19.
Gene Mills, President of Louisiana Family Forum, said in a statement issued by LFF that the Supreme Court has stripped all Americans of the freedom to debate and decide marriage policy through the democratic process.
“We are grateful Gov. Bobby Jindal took the first step in protecting Louisiana from judicial tyranny when he issued his Executive Order during the last legislative session,” said Mills. “Today’s Supreme Court decision has affirmed the wisdom of that Executive Order.”
“The Court has overridden the considered judgment of tens of millions of Americans who throughout American history have affirmed marriage as only the union of a man and a woman,” said Mills. “The Court has also cast aside the understanding of marriage’s nature and purpose that has been embraced for millennia by diverse cultures and faiths across the globe.
“Regardless of this Court’s 5-4 decision,” said Mills, “this opinion of a fallible court will not end society’s debate about the future of marriage and laws affecting the family. This country must rededicate itself to creating a constitutional based rule of law as well as a thriving marriage culture. Pastors nationwide have pledged to defy any direct order to violate their oath of fidelity to the Word of God. I would strongly encourage churches, non-profits and private and parochial schools to prepare for a litigation onslaught.”
Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) in a statement on his Facebook page wrote, “The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do – redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.
“This ruling is not about marriage equality, it’s about marriage redefinition,” continued Huckabee. “This irrational, unconstitutional rejection of the expressed will of the people in over 30 states will prove to be one of the court’s most disastrous decisions, and they have had many.
“The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the laws of gravity. Under our Constitution, the court cannot write a law, even though some cowardly politicians will wave the white flag and accept it without realizing that they are failing their sworn duty to reject abuses from the court,” he continued. “If accepted by Congress and this President, this decision will be a serious blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment.”
In a statement issued by Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell office, it expressed Caldwell’s disappointment in the high court’s ruling.
“This Supreme Court decision overturns the will of the people of Louisiana, and it takes away a right that should have been left to the states. Louisiana voters decided overwhelmingly to place in our constitution an amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman,” he said. “I fought to uphold Louisiana’s definition of traditional marriage, and I was the first attorney general in the nation to be successful at the federal court level.”
“I am extremely disappointed by this decision,” wrote Caldwell. “It fails to respect traditional marriage as defined by Louisiana voters, and is yet another example of the federal government intrusion into what should be a state issue.”
The statement went on to add that the Attorney General’s Office “has found nothing in today’s decision that makes the Court’s order effective immediately. Therefore, there is not yet a legal requirement for officials to issue marriage licenses or perform marriages for same-sex couples in Louisiana.
“The Attorney General’s Office will be watching for the Court to issue a mandate or order making today’s decision final and effective and will issue a statement when that occurs,” said Caldwell.
Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage, said despite what the Supreme Court has ruled, the truth is marriage is between one man and one woman. He said no Bible-believing church can have a pastor who performs same-sex marriages.
“If the state ever were to force that on a church, it would be time for open civil disobedience,” Brown said.
He believes in the days ahead it will be more difficult to stand for the biblical definition of marriage but Christians should not back down from speaking out.
“We need to love everyone as human beings created in the likeness of God,” Brown said. “But at the same time, part of that love is not being a part of anything that is against the truth that Christ revealed.”
Brown said Christians will be tested and the ruling by the Supreme Court could spark a Great Awakening of the church in the United States.
“It may spark folks realizing that as Christians, we have an obligation to be part of the public square,” he said. “We can’t just hide ourselves away. We have to be salt and light.”
A statement from GuideStone Financial Resources stated the company “is studying the Supreme Court’s decision that legalizes same-sex marriage in all 50 states. We join with the vast majority of Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians in strongly disagreeing with the Supreme Court’s decision to redefine judicially what we believe God has defined perfectly for all time, and which has been the building block of every decent society for thousands of years.
“We find ourselves much like Peter and the apostles in Acts 5 as they told the leaders of their day, ‘We must obey God rather than men,’” said GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins. “GuideStone Financial Resources continues to recognize that marriage is a God-ordained institution of one man and one woman united for life.
“Any other definition is unacceptable.”
For churches interested in knowing more about equipping themselves with legal protection against sexual orientation and gender identify lawsuits, the ERLC and Alliance Defending Freedom has released a 44-page booklet.
The “Protecting Your Ministry” guide includes checklists to guide Christian institutions on maximizing their liberty protections under the law and maintaining their freedom to proclaim Christ. This booklet also includes sample documents such as a membership agreement, article for a statement of faith and facility use policy.
It can be accessed online at erlc.com/store.
The decision, which was announced on the weekend of Gay Pride festivals in New York City and San Francisco, comes 12 years after Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. Since then, other states followed suit.
In 2013, the Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, paving the way for same-sex marriage in more states. Justice Kennedy authored that majority opinion as well.