The U.S. Supreme Court will hear two and a half hours of arguments Tuesday (April 28) as the next step toward a long-awaited decision that will determine if marriage in all 50 states is expanded beyond the definition it has held since the beginning of time.
In oral arguments in the landmark case, the justices will ponder whether the U.S. Constitution requires a state to license or recognize a marriage between people of the same sex. In a ruling expected in late June or early July, the court could legalize same-sex marriage throughout the country, permit states to maintain their authority to define marriage as only a heterosexual union or require states to recognize gay marriages from other states without preventing them from licensing only male-female marriages.
The Supreme Court’s ruling “could potentially transform the cultural landscape of America,” Southern Baptists’ lead ethicist, Russell Moore, has said.
“The stakes are high,” Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), has told Baptist Press in a written statement. “The price of getting marriage wrong is steep, and as in the rest of the Sexual Revolution, children will foot much of the bill. It matters tremendously to our nation and to future generations that we agree with God on this.
“We appeal to the Supreme Court to recognize and to stay within the limits of its authority.”
Many observers, however, expect the justices to rule in favor of same-sex marriage. The oral arguments may provide additional insight into the court’s ultimate action, but they are not always a good barometer of its decision-making.
The high court is considering two questions in the case: 1) Does the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution require a state “to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?” and 2) Does the 14th Amendment require a state “to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?”
The justices will hear from private and government lawyers during the arguments, which will be 90 minutes longer than the normal one hour.
In the 90 minutes allotted to the first question, Mary Bonauto — longtime director of the Civil Rights Project at Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders — and U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli will argue on behalf of same-sex couples challenging state laws limiting marriage to heterosexual couples. John Bursch, former solicitor general of Michigan, will represent the states with traditional marriage laws.
On the second question, the Supreme Court will hear from Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, a Washington lawyer who formerly served as an assistant to the U.S. solicitor general, in behalf of gay couples and Joseph Whalen, associate solicitor general of Tennessee, for the states.
The oral arguments will come in a case, Obergefell v. Hodges, from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the first federal appellate court to rule that states have the authority to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. Five other appeals courts have invalidated state laws that prohibited gay marriage.
The November opinion by the Sixth Circuit Court, based in Cincinnati, took place in challenges to laws in the states of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. Voters in those four states passed constitutional amendments between 2004 and 2006 that limited marriage to a man and a woman.
Courts have overwhelmingly issued opinions in favor of gay marriage since the Supreme Court struck down a section of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in June 2013, saying it violated “equal protection” under the Constitution by refusing to recognize same-sex marriages. Though the high court refused to say states could not limit marriage to heterosexual couples, most courts have used the decision as a basis for striking down state laws that define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
In its 2-1 opinion, the Sixth Circuit panel acknowledged the legalization of gay marriage appears inevitable. In spite of what seems inevitable, the majority said states are permitted by Supreme Court precedent to define marriage. It is better if state voters or legislatures instead of judges determine an issue that has traditionally been in their purview, the majority explained.
At the time, R. Albert Mohler Jr. — president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary — described the Sixth Circuit opinion as “a triumph of constitutional argument and the defense of common sense. It is a masterpiece of logic and a compelling argument for the rule of law.”
The panel’s decision shows it believes “any straightforward reading of the Constitution in terms of its original meaning would allow the states to regulate marriage and to protect natural marriage as the central organizing principle of human society,” Mohler, a frequent cultural commentator, wrote in a blog post.
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SOURCE: Baptist Press