Russell D. Moore Says Supreme Court Will Not Be Able to Continue Ignoring Issue of Marriage After Circuit Split

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A federal appeals court upheld state laws that refuse to recognize same-sex marriage Thursday (Nov. 6), seemingly preparing the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide a contentious issue it has avoided so far.

In a 2-1 opinion, a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati broke ranks and ruled four states — Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee — did not violate the U.S. Constitution by limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman. The decision conflicts with rulings by four other federal appeals courts that struck down state laws that prohibited gay marriage.

The same-sex couples who lost could ask for “en banc” review of the ruling, which would include all the members of the Sixth Circuit Court, or they could appeal to the Supreme Court. If they take the latter course and the justices grant review, the high court could issue a decision on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage before its current term ends next summer. Both sides of the legal battle have urged the Supreme Court to rule soon on the matter.

Advocates for the biblical, traditional definition of marriage welcomed the Sixth Circuit’s opinion and the opportunity for the Supreme Court to make a final decision.

“We applaud the decision of the Sixth Circuit Court, breaking a string of decisions by activist judges and courts who have imposed their personal belief systems on the public,” Frank S. Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said in a statement. “We pray that the Supreme Court will take up this matter and, specifically, that it will uphold the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), said in a written statement, “This circuit split means that the Supreme Court’s ignoring of this issue will not be able to continue. The people of the states have the right to recognize marriage the way virtually every human culture has, as the union of a man and a woman. The Supreme Court should affirm this right, for all fifty states.”

Byron Babione, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said in written release, “As the [Sixth] Circuit rightly concluded, the Constitution does not demand that one irreversible view of marriage be judicially imposed on everyone. The people of every state should remain free to affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws.”

A leading supporter of gay marriage criticized the Sixth Circuit opinion and predicted it would be overturned. Evan Wolfson, president of Freedom to Marry, said it is “out of step” with a recent action by the Supreme Court, “out of step with the constitutional command as recognized by nearly every state and federal court in the past year, and out of step with the majority of the American people. This anomalous ruling won’t stand the test of time or appeal.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Tom Strode