What’s Next? Same-Sex Marriage is Legal.
As I share the following thoughts on the recent Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in every state, let me be clear that nothing I say means to be an attack on or hate for those who struggle with same sex attraction. The proper biblical view of homosexuality is that it is a sin just like so many others: lying, stealing, covetousness, adultery, drunkenness and gluttony. Homosexual activity is a sin, but it’s not the only sin, and it’s certainly not the unpardonable sin. If you are struggling with this particular sin, you are encouraged to search Scripture for yourself and realize the great effect of God’s amazing grace.
However, the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday is the equivalent of an atomic bomb to the long-standing idea of marriage as the union between one woman and one man. In a sharply divided 5-4 decision, the SCOTUS has imposed its mandate for redefining marriage in every state.
I now share with you five categories of thought on this latest Supreme Court decision. Please note that my ultimate concern is not to condemn or cast hatred toward those who disagree with me. However, I am greatly concerned, as you will see below, with an overactive judiciary as it relates to religious liberty issues. Beyond what this means for marriage, my concern rests in what this ruling will ultimately mean to Christian colleges, Christian churches and Christian individuals.
1) LEGALLY: Legally, this decision appears to be a disaster for the Constitution. Granted, I am not a lawyer, nor am I the son of a lawyer. Chief Justice Roberts rightly noted in his minority dissent, “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not a legal judgment.” It should concern every one of us when the highest court in the land imposes its will on people instead of making legal judgments.
Justice Kennedy, who expressed the majority argument, asserted that the right of same-sex couples to marry is based on: a) individual autonomy as related to sexuality, b) a superior context for raising children, and c) upholding marriage as a central pillar to civilization. However, the intuitive reader notes that the Justices in the majority did much more than simply affirm marriage as it relates to sexuality, child rearing, and the importance of marriage. The majority did much more than simply affirm marriage—they “redefined” marriage as an institution.
In order to redefine marriage as an institution, the majority used the nation’s highest legal authority to not only render a judicial decision, but instead to impose its will on the people of our land. Read again those words from Chief Justice Roberts’ minority dissent: “The majority’s decision was an act of will, not a legal judgment.”
Justice Kennedy wrote for the majority, “The right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, couples of the same sex cannot be deprived of that right and that liberty.”
It is worth noting that as hard as Justice Kennedy might like to try to assert that a right to marry is in the Constitution, the truth is that marriage is not found in the Fourteenth Amendment. Actually, marriage is found nowhere in the Constitution. Thus, as the Chief Justice Roberts previously noted, the majority opinion did not make a constitutional argument at all. Their argument was based on personal, moral will and philosophy, and not on the Constitution.
In his dissent, Chief Justice Roberts accused the majority of nothing less than “judicial policymaking” that puts our democratic society in peril. The Chief Justice went on to repudiate the majority of his colleagues by stating, “The Court today not only overlooks our country’s entire history and tradition but actively repudiates it, preferring to live only in the heady days of the here and now . . . Over and over, the majority exalts the role of the judiciary in delivering social change”. It should disturb each of us when the highest court in the land is driven more by moral philosophy and social change than they are by the Constitution and legal prudence.
Some of you may be asking, “What does a pastor know about the Supreme Court’s operations and decisions?” That is a valid question, but let me remind you that I am not sharing my opinion; I am simply quoting what the Chief Justice wrote in his minority dissent.
The question the Chief Justice poses to those in the majority was this: “The majority lays out a tantalizing vision for the future for members of this Court. If an unvarying social institution enduring over all the recorded history cannot inhibit judicial policymaking, what can?” Now that is a poignant and provocative question. If the Supreme Court will place itself above such a revered and historic institution as marriage and give unto itself the power to redefine marriage, there is no limit or judicial restraint whatsoever.
Lest you think that I am making this a bigger deal than it really is, look at these words from Justice Scalia found in his harsh rebuke of the majority. He said, “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed super-legislative power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government.” If that were not harsh enough, Justice Scalia goes on to say, “A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.” Again, these are not my words; they are his.
I stated earlier that I am not a lawyer, nor am I the son of a lawyer. I am also not a prophet or a son of a prophet. However, several years ago, I stood before our church and read a statement speaking directly against our current President’s support for legalizing same-sex marriage. In that statement, I said that legalizing same-sex marriage would do two things: 1) it would redefine marriage completely; and 2) it would put us on a slippery slope that logically and legally leads to polygamous marriage and a host of other things masquerading as marriage. I received several sharp rebukes from people who said I was being a sensationalist, but we are here, now. Marriage, as an institution, has been redefined
Listen to these words by the Chief Justice in his minority dissent. He wrote, “It is striking how much the majority’s reasoning would apply with equal force to the claim of a fundamental right to plural marriage. It is even more striking that the majority is not even concerned about the extension of its laughable logic to polygamy and beyond”.
You can bet there are teams of lawyers high-fiving all over the nation as they prepare their legal sleds for the slippery slope to anywhere. The logic in the majority decision has no, as in zero, legal or Constitutional basis, and therefore cannot be limited to the right of same-sex couples to marry. Now that individual autonomy and equal protection is the law of the land, other groups will the nation’s highest court driving their Mack truck through the same argument. At that point, the Court will find itself in a noose of its own making.
2) RELIGIOUS LIBERTY: As I move beyond the Court’s laughable ruling, I must now address an issue that is actually in the Constitution—that issue is none other than religious liberty. The majority’s verdict jeopardizes every religious institution that intends to uphold its biblical certainty limiting marriage to one man and one woman.
Justice Clarence Thomas noted in his dissent that this decision would have “ruinous consequences for religious liberty”. Justice Thomas further argues, “The majority decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect”.
To be fair, I must share with you excerpts from the single paragraph in a very long majority opinion that Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote to affirm his commitment to Religious Freedom. Justice Kennedy wrote palatably, “Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premise . . . and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here”. However, he notes that their sincere, personal opposition cannot be enacted law and public policy any more without violating the Fourteenth Amendment.
Kennedy further tries to allay our fears by stating, “It must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned.” He goes on to say, “The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths”. He also recognized the importance, “to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered”.
Chief Justice John Roberts is less confident about the protection of religious liberty. In his dissent, he argues that the majority’s decision “creates serious questions about religious liberty”. He wrote, “Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is . . . actually spelled out in the Constitution”.
Chief Justice Roberts continues, “The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to ‘advocate’ and ‘teach’ their views of marriage”. However, Chief Roberts then has to remind the majority that, “The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to ‘exercise’ religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.” The term, “exercise”, is defined as bodily or mental exertion or something done or performed as a means of practice or training. In other words, exercise is more than teaching, and it is more than learning—it is practicing, acting and living out the Gospel beyond the walls of the church in our homes, neighborhoods, schools and places of employment.
Chief Justice Roberts then gives note of a few upcoming battles that will call into question the tax status of Christian colleges and universities over this ruling noting that President Obama’s Solicitor General has already noted that the tax status of some Christian colleges will be called into question if they do not abide by this ruling. However, that tax status question most assuredly will not be limited to Christian colleges and universities.
That religious liberty challenge will ultimately affect every individual who holds to the biblical belief in the traditional view of marriage. Justice Alito notes, “The majority attempts, toward the end of its opinion, to reassure those who oppose same-sex marriage that their rights of conscience will be protected. We will soon see whether this proves to be true. I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.” Justice Alito carries the idea of advocating and teaching of biblical doctrine in homes and perhaps houses of worship, but suggests Christians dare not exercise their religious freedoms in public.
Justice Alito candidly noted that the majority decision “will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” The majority’s decision repeatedly vilifies any individual or any institution that holds to a theological conviction that marriage is between a man and a woman. The majority’s decision equates our biblical conviction that marriage is between one man and one woman and our belief that homosexuality is a sin to the assumption that Christians hate all homosexuals. Thus, in one fell swoop, many revered individuals and organizations have been reduced from law-abiding citizens and establishments to scoundrels and houses of prejudice, and our nation’s highest court bears direct responsibility for this unholy transfer.
3) OUR CHURCH: Our church is a Bible teaching and Bible believing church. We simply cannot and will not perform same-sex unions because the Bible teaches that marriage is between one man and one woman regardless of the legal or societal pressure. (See Gen. 2:22-24; Deut. 24:5; Prov. 5:18-19; 12:4; 18:22; 19:14; 20:6-7; 30:18-19; 31:10; Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9; 1 Cor. 7:1-16; Eph. 5:22-33; Col. 3:18-19; Heb. 13:4-7; etc.)
4) OUR MEMBERS: While, as God’s children, we do acknowledge the Supreme Court’s authority in legal matters and still disagree vehemently with the Court’s decision. At the same point, as God’s children, we are called to be godly citizens and good neighbors. However, a biblical Christian can never accept the redefinition of marriage. We cannot join in this moral revolution or devolution. We are a Bible-believing people called to believe and live the truth, even when the truth is unpopular. There is also no place for hatred of those who struggle with same-sex attraction. Our church is a place of grace, redemption and hope.
5) OUR MISSION: The Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage has changed a lot, but it has not changed everything. God’s truth revealed in Scripture has not changed. The Gospel has not changed. The mission of the church has not changed. Jesus has not changed, for He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Amen!
Matthew 26:36-40 reads “’Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”