WASHINGTON, D.C. –The Supreme Court on Jan. 30 said it would decide whether all 50 states must issue licenses for same-sex marriages.
It was only a matter of time before the court agreed to take up the issue, after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling upholding marriage laws in the states under its jurisdiction. The circuit ruled voters, not courts, should decide the issue of gay marriage.
Ironically that decision created a split among the circuits, which triggered the Supreme Court to step in.
During the fall the high court allowed many lower court rulings, striking down marriage laws to stand, which expanded gay marriage to 36 states.
The court in its decision said it will consider two questions: One, whether the 14th Amendment requires states to license same-sex marriages; and two, whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.
The court’s 2013 ruling striking a portion of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) should raise concerns for traditional marriage supporters. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority ruling in the case, ruling in part in favor of state’s rights.
But he also ruled that DOMA violated equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. He said DOMA created “second-tier marriages” and “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples.”
The opinion befuddled Justice Antonin Scalia, who called Kennedy’s ruling “legalistic argle-bargle.”
“If this is meant to be an equal protection opinion, it is a confusing one,” Scalia wrote in his dissent.
Kennedy seems likely to write a straightforward equal protection opinion in favor of gay marriage this time, but he is hard to predict.
“It does seem likely given the content of the 2013 Windsor decision,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. “Of course, the king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord, and the justices’ hearts are too, so something remarkable could happen. … But the signs seem to indicate that the court will redefine marriage.”
Kennedy, the court’s swing vote, believes in states rights and has a libertarian heart, but he has also written all three of the major gay rights opinions of the court thus far. At the oral arguments in the DOMA case, Justice Samuel Alito – perhaps appealing to the libertarian Kennedy – suggested the government didn’t have the right to be defining the term “marriage” at all, but should rather use a term like “certified domestic units.”
Moore echoed a similar idea, if not in Alito’s legal terms.
“Government recognizes marriage, it does not create marriage,” he said. “No matter what the Supreme Court does, we still have a marriage definition crisis in the country. … The church should be getting ready for ministry in a post-marriage culture. We should have been getting ready for a long time.”
The court consolidated four marriage cases from Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, and Kentucky, all states under the 6th Circuit’s ruling. The justices will hear an exceptional two-and-a-half hours of arguments on those cases. Usually the court only allots one hour of arguments for each case. The hearings likely will take place toward the end of April, and the court should issue an opinion at the end of June.
March For Life Draws
Thousands to D.C.
WASHINGTON, D.C. –Tens of thousands turned out on the National Mall as part of the March for Life, the pro-life movement’s annual rally protesting abortion on the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Crowds comprised primarily of church groups and young adults traipsed through mud-caked grass chanting pro-life slogans and holding signs calling for an end to abortion. Milder weather and broadened social networking efforts likely contributed to the healthy turnout.
Some attendees noted last year’s single-digit temperatures kept many of them away.
Houston pastors press
their case in court
HOUSTON – Houston pastors finally began to get their day in court in their lawsuit against the city and Mayor Annise Parker for dismissing thousands of voter signatures to repeal a controversial pro-LGBT ordinance.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Andy Taylor, will seek to convince the jury to overturn the city’s actions, challenging defense contentions that the signatures were penned to a bad document and duly disqualified.
Geoffrey Harrison, lead counsel for the city defense, claimed in comments to Baptist Press Jan. 29 that the petition circulated by the anti-ordinance No UnEqual Rights Coalition was “fatally flawed.”
Harrison also contended the plaintiffs’ attempt to take corrective measures after the petition’s submission to the city is a violation of state and municipal code.
If, however, the petition form is wrong, Taylor said, the city has only itself to blame, not his clients.
“The very alleged defect that the city claims causes us to lose is the document that they generated and created,” Taylor told reporters Monday, Jan. 26.
“So think about it. The government says, ‘Hey, guys, you lose because you were dumb enough to trust us.’ We trusted them that the document they gave us was the document they wanted. And that’s the one that we used.”
Last August, Parker and then-City Attorney Dave Feldman announced that the effort by a diverse coalition of pastors and civic leaders to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance had failed. The ordinance, championed by the mayor, a self-avowed lesbian, and the city’s lesbian-gay-bisexual-community gives protected legal status to individuals based on their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Ordinance opponents created the No UnEqual Rights Coalition and in 30 days collected nearly 54,000 voter signatures, far more than the 17,269 required to put the ordinance into citizen review.
City Secretary Anna Russell certified the voter signatures last July, but Feldman’s office found reasons to dismiss them.
The city contends there are now roughly 5,000 valid signatures. By its count, the city disallowed more than 90 percent of the signatures collected.
House Vote Small
Consolation to Pro-Lifers
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The vote to defund abortions comes a day after lawmakers tabled a stronger bill.
Congressional efforts to please pro-life advocates fell short at the U.S. Capitol as the nation marked the 42nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. The U.S. House of Representatives approved a ban on taxpayer funding for abortion, but most of the conversation in Washington, D.C., revolved around what Congress didn’t consider.
The Republican effort to pass a ban on abortions after 20 weeks collapsed in the 24 hours leading up to the March for Life on the National Mall, leaving lawmakers in the awkward position of touting their pro-life credentials at the same time they explained themselves to angry activists.
“I am disgusted by this act of moral cowardice,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “The congressional Republicans seem to think that pro-lifers will be satisfied with Ronald Reagan rhetoric and Nancy Pelosi results. They are quite wrong.”
Mitt Romney Passes
on Presidential Run
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The 2012 Republican presidential nominee, who also ran in 2008, will not try his luck a third time. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney announced today he will not join what is expected to be a crowded GOP field for the 2016 presidential primaries.
The decision came as a surprise to political pundits who predicted Romney would be making his much-talked-about candidacy official today. But Romney, who lost to President Barack Obama in 2012 and failed to win the party’s nomination four years earlier, said the GOP needed a fresh face.
“After putting considerable thought into making another run for president, I’ve decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee,” Romney said in a statement he planned to give supporters during a scheduled conference call.
Romney spent the last three weeks feeling out another campaign, telling supporters he was contemplating how he could best help the country. It all started on Jan. 10 when he surprised a small group of former donors with the news that he was thinking about running again for president.
Their responses ultimately killed his short-lived attempt.
Several key Romney supporters and fundraisers have already pledged their support to the first GOP hopeful to announce a possible candidacy—former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The donors told the Associated Press they think Bush, whose father and brother have already served in the White House, has the personality and staff needed to make a successful run, something Romney didn’t have.
Charlie Bass named Brewton-Parker interim president
MOUNT VERNON, Ga. – Charles Bass, a former vice president of Brewton-Parker College, has been named interim president of the Georgia Baptist school, trustee chairman Gary Campbell announced Jan. 29.
“When I heard of Dr. Bass’ potential interest in returning to Brewton-Parker, I knew God was looking out for us” Campbell said.
From conversations around the Mount Vernon campus, Campbell said, “Everyone who hears the name Charlie Bass displays fondness and appreciation for him as a person as well as respect for him as an academic leader.”
Bass formerly served at BPU as vice president of student services; he also has served in the same role at Dallas Baptist University.
In a news release from the college, Bass said his first 100 days as Brewton-Parker’s interim president will entail:
— Providing stability to the college after a traumatic time when its president, Ergun Caner, resigned Jan. 20, stating that he and his family need healing from the suicide of their teenage son, Braxton, last year.
— Continuing to rebuild the image of BPC in the community and across the state.
— Developing a deeper sense of community on campus.
— Build off recent victories, most notably the reaffirmation of Brewton-Parker’s accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in December.
— Reacquainting himself with the people and heartbeat of the campus.
— Reestablish what it means for BPC to be a Christian college.
The Executive Committee unanimously recommended Bass to the full trustee board as interim president. In a resolution, the board cited not only his significant experience in higher education and ministry but also noted: “Dr. Bass and his wife, Lynn, have a love for the College and the community and look forward to the opportunity to return to Brewton-Parker College.”
Alabama judges may issue gay marriage licenses
MOBILE, Ala.– A key judicial organization in Alabama said Wednesday (Jan. 28) that it believes a federal judge’s ruling striking down the state’s gay marriage ban could soon require probate judges to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Following U.S. District Judge Callie vs Granade’s Jan. 23 ruling that the “Sanctity of Marriage Amendment” to Alabama’s constitution violates the federal constitution, the Alabama Probate Judges Association issued a statement claiming the ruling only applied to “parties in the case” and did not require its members to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
But a clarification issued by Granade Jan. 28 led the judges’ organization to change its mind. President Greg Norris said in a statement that the association now believes its members could be required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples Feb. 9, when a stay of Granade’s ruling to allow time for an appeal expires.
“It is the opinion of the association, on the advice of legal counsel, that until the stay is lifted, probate judges cannot issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples,” Norris, probate judge in Monroe County between Montgomery and Mobile, said. “However, on the occasion that the stay is lifted, same-sex couples may apply for marriage licenses.”
Granade’s clarification recounted the Alabama Probate Judges Association’s initial denial that judges would be required to sanction homosexual marriages and then noted, “Because the court has entered a stay of the Judgment in this case, neither the named Defendant [Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange], nor the Probate Courts in Alabama are currently required to follow or uphold the Judgment.
“However, if the stay is lifted, the Judgment in this case makes it clear that the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment and the Alabama Marriage Protection Act “are unconstitutional because they violate the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment,” Granade wrote.
In related news, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore sent a letter to Gov. Robert Bentley Jan. 27 stating that Moore would “continue to recognize the Alabama Constitution and the will of the people overwhelmingly expressed in the Sanctity of Marriage Amendment.” Moore added that “nothing in the United States Constitution grants the federal government the authority to redefine the institution of marriage,” according to a report on al.com.
Atlanta Mayor Denies Religious Motives in Fire Chief’s Termination
Atlanta — Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed fired Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran on Jan. 6 over a spat that started with a faith-based book and ended with LGBT activists demanding swift punishment. Cochran’s self-published book, Who Told You That You Are Naked?, tells the story of his faith in Christ, but also includes comments supporting traditional marriage and orthodox Christian teachings on sexuality. During a news conference to announce the firing, Reed emphatically denied Cochran lost his job over his religious beliefs. Reed insisted he relieved the fire chief of his command because of what amounted to insubordination, saying, “This has nothing to do with his religious beliefs. It has everything to do with the decision to publish a book, with the contents of this book, without talking to your boss. Period.”
Same-Sex Marriages Start in Florida
A judge in Miami-Dade County ruled clerks there may issue same-sex marriage licenses today just before a statewide ruling allowing gay marriage takes effect. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinckle declared the state’s marriage amendment, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman, unconstitutional in August, but stayed the ruling until midnight Tuesday. On New Year’s Day, he issued a clarification that the ruling applied to all Florida counties, not just those named in the original lawsuit. Liberty Counsel, a conservative legal group based in the Orlando area, planned to file complaints in several counties today to block clerks from issuing licenses to same-sex couples.