Post-DOMA, gay marriage backers target states
At least five states are facing legal battles over marriage definitions that could determine whether the tone set by the Defense of Marriage Act’s demise will resonate in individual states.
An Arkansas lesbian couple filed a lawsuit in Pulaski County Circuit Court that alleges the unconstitutionality of an Arkansas amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman, the Arkansas Baptist News said.
According to the Detroit Free Press, another lesbian couple has pushed for the legalization of gay marriage in Michigan, another state with a marriage amendment.
Gay marriage advocates also have announced plans to try and overturn traditional marriage laws in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The suits, if eventually taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court, could result in gay marriage being legalized nationwide. The Senate and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts already are supporting an affirmation of same-sex couples’ rights to federal benefits no matter what state they live in, The New York Times reported.
Maggie Gallagher, author of “Debating Same-Sex Marriage,” said American political order shifted when the Supreme Court made its decision to overturn DOMA June 26, with traditional marriage supporters becoming a “disempowered and disfavored” minority.
“Marriage as an important cultural status is rooted in a shared belief that we need to bring together male and female to make and raise the next generation together, and that adults have a serious obligation to make serious sacrifices, including their sexual life, to make that happen,” Gallagher said to editor-at-large Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review Online.
“Marriage, after gay marriage, is an under-defined commitment to love and caretaking, whose public character and status is newly uncertain,” Gallagher added. “Why love? Why sex? Why just two? What does this have to do with parenting? What other relationships have an equal right to be counted as marriage?”
The Boston Globe said Indiana and Iowa could become the focal points for traditional marriage supporters trying to pass marriage amendments.
Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, was not surprised the Supreme Court struck down DOMA, but he was startled by the justices’ reasoning, he said.
The majority “essentially said there’s no reason to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman exclusively except for hostility and animus toward persons, which we don’t believe is the case,” Moore said on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”
“I think [Associate Justice Antonin] Scalia is right [in his dissenting opinion], that it will be very difficult for the court now to allow states to state-by-state define marriage in the way that they currently do,” Moore said. “I think the language there is setting the court up for a Roe versus Wade type of decision in the future.”
Roe v. Wade was the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated all state restrictions on abortion.
Lawsuits against state bans on same-sex marriage were “nearly a given” after the DOMA decision, said Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith & Ethics Council. Gay marriage opponents may not have been expecting the lawsuits so quickly, he added, but same-sex marriage advocates are taking advantage of the shock waves created by the Court’s decision.
“What we are witnessing is the metamorphosis of the U.S. Supreme Court -– it has ceased being a fair and impartial arbiter of legal disputes in which it interprets the law,” Page said. “[It] has transformed itself into a forum in which political correctness and the whims of popular opinion dictate its decisions, rather than the strict letter of the law or the will of the body politic as manifested in legitimate elections.”
Arkansas constitutional Amendment 83 bans same-sex marriage, which lesbian couple Kendall and Julia Wright said “violates their constitutional rights.” The Wrights were married in Iowa and are suing on behalf of 11 other homosexual couples in Arkansas.
Same-sex partners April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse have adopted children separately, according to the Detroit Free Press, but wish to legally marry and unite their families in Michigan. Bernard Friedman, a federal judge in Detroit, said the couple is “entitled to their day in court and they shall have it.”
But same-sex marriage supporters are not the only group reveling in the Court’s decisions, Religion Today reported. Polygamists also are celebrating the overturning of DOMA. Some say the decision could eventually provide equal rights to having multiple marriage partners.
“Proponents of ‘plural marriages’ are riding the homosexual movement’s wave of success all the way to legitimacy,” said Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. “They’re using the same playbook, the same sound bites. … After all, who are we to say that two or three or nine consenting adults shouldn’t be able to make the same commitment? Love is love, right?”
Gallagher said she would like to see Congress pass an expanded DOMA that would include specific statements forbidding polygamous marriages.
Compiled by Beth Byrd, who serves as a staff writer for Baptist Press. This article originally appeared July 10, 2013.