A federal judge struck down Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional late on Thursday, saying it denied gay couples a fundamental freedom to marry.
The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen in Norfolk, Virginia, added momentum to growing acceptance of gay marriage in the United States.
Allen said Virginia’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violated the right to due process and equal protection of the law under the U.S. Constitution. However, she stayed execution of her order striking down the ban pending an appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The Court is compelled to conclude that Virginia’s Marriage Laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia’s gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry,” Allen, a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, wrote in her 41-page opinion.
She ordered submission of a proposed final order by March 14.
The decision in Bostic v. Rainey, in which two gay couples sought to strike down the Virginia ban, follows two high-profile rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.
The high court paved the way for gay marriage to resume in California. It also struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
Federal judges have cited the DOMA ruling in finding gay marriage bans unconstitutional in Utah and Oklahoma.
Seventeen states plus the District of Columbia recognize gay marriage, including eight states where it became legal in 2013.
Thirty-three ban same-sex couples from marrying by constitutional amendment, statute, or both. In Indiana, a vote by state residents on a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage was delayed by at least two years on Thursday.
The American Foundation for Equal Rights, which brought the Virginia case, said Allen’s ruling upheld core U.S. principles of equality.
“Laws excluding gay men and lesbians from marriage violate personal freedom, are an unnecessary government intrusion, and cause serious harm. That type of law cannot stand,” lead co-counsel Theodore Olson said in a statement.
Olson was part of the legal team that argued before the U.S. high court for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.
Also applauding the ruling, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in a statement that it “is the latest step in a journey towards equality for all Virginians, no matter who they are or whom they love.”
Herring, a Democrat, said last month he would not defend the state’s ban on gay marriage in court.
In 2006, 57 percent of Virginians voted for the constitutional amendment imposing the ban. But a poll released in October by Virginia’s Christopher Newport University showed that 56 percent of likely voters opposed the ban, while 36 percent favored it – reflecting the reversal in public opinion.
In the Prop 8 case, the majority decided that the plaintiffs did not have standing to argue this case before the Supreme Court. It remains to be seen what the exact implications of this will be, but for the time being it looks like gay marriage will resume in California.
The Court also decided that section 3 of DOMA—the part defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman—is unconstitutional. It left in place section 2 of DOMA which says that states do not have to recognize gay marriages performed legally in other states.
What does all of this mean? Clearly the most significant of the two decisions is the DOMA decision. It lays the constitutional groundwork for someone to sue the government and provoke another Constitutional challenge. Based on the logic of today’s decision, it is almost certain that a follow-up case would provide a Constitutional guarantee of a right to same-sex marriage. In this sense, it would be like Roe v. Wade and its companion decision Doe v. Bolton. Roe would not have been a sweeping decision without Doe. But taken together they invalidate all state laws prohibiting abortions.
Likewise, today’s DOMA decision will likely be followed by another one that taken together will provide legal gay marriage across the country. As Justice Scalia said in his dissent, we are just waiting for that other shoe to drop. In fact, Scalia says that the majority practically invited the follow-up case. He writes:
By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition. Henceforth those challengers will lead with this Court’s declaration that there is “no legitimate purpose” served by such a law, and will claim that the traditional definition has “the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure” the “personhood and dignity” of same-sex couples… The majority’s limiting assurance will be meaningless in the face of language like that, as the majority well knows. That is why the language is there. The result will be a judicial distortion of our society’s debate over marriage—a debate that can seem in need of our clumsy “help” only to a member of this institution.
Mark it down. The challenges will come, and they won’t be long in getting here. It will go something like this. A legally married lesbian couple receives federal benefits in New York where gay marriage is legal. That couple moves to Louisiana and then loses those benefits because their new state doesn’t recognize their marriage. That couple can then sue the federal government using the precise language from today’s DOMA case. If the case makes it to the Supreme Court, the Court would be poised to make gay marriage a constitutional right nationwide.
But even more troubling in the Court’s decision is the language that the majority used to describe those who favor traditional marriage. Those who passed DOMA acted with the “purpose” to “disparage and injure” gay couples. They wanted to “demean” and to “impose inequality” and a “stigma” on gay people. They wanted to deny gay people “equal dignity,” to declare them as “unworthy,” and to “humiliate” their children. This kind of language paints all traditional marriage supporters as “bigots” and as “enemies of the human race” (as Roberts and Scalia argue in their dissents). How long can religiously based objections to gay marriage stand in the face of such moral condemnation heaped on them by the Supreme Court?.
There will be religious liberty implications as legal gay marriage spreads across the country. And gay marriage is coming to a statehouse near you one way or the other.
Christians need to beware of going to extremes in the face of this recent news. Some may be tempted to view this in apocalyptic terms, as if it’s the end of the world. Others will be tempted to shrug their shoulders as if this is no big deal. I think that neither of those reactions rings true. If God is sovereign and His purposes unshakable, we can have courage in the face of whatever may come down the pike. Likewise, if we love our neighbors, then how can we be indifferent about things that hurt them and debase the culture? That is why we have an interest in promoting ours and our neighbor’s good in the public space. And that means that we have a continuing stake in the public debate over gay marriage.
I had a reporter ask me if a hysterical and panicked response from Christians would be helpful to the cause of traditional marriage. I think the question kind of answers itself. We may be unjustly labeled as “bigots” and “enemies of the human race.” But panic and hysterics help no one, much less Christians who profess to believe in a sovereign God.
Nothing has happened at the Supreme Court that diminishes the power of the gospel or the fortunes of Christ’s church in this culture. The Court is on the wrong side of history. The Kingdom of God marches on, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
DOMA is a 1996 law blocking federal recognition ofgay marriage. With that ruling, and because the high court decided not to give its opinion on a challenge to a ban on gay marriage in California known as Proposition 8, the road is paved for same-sex marriage in the Golden State. And that may open the floodgates.
Clearly, our nation is seeing Romans 1 play out before its very eyes because although we know God, we have chosen not to glorify Him (Rom. 1:21).
Exchanging the Truth for a Lie
Our Supreme Court has “exchanged the truth of God for the lie” (v. 25). A growing number of our citizens are fine and dandy with the fact that women exchange “the natural use for what is against nature,” and more are accepting of the fact that men have left “the natural use of the woman” and have “burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful” (vv. 26-27).
Many of our nation’s leaders have given in to a “debased mind” (v. 28). Our nation is marked by “all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness” (v. 29). Many of our citizens are “full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful” (vv. 29-31).
Our Supreme Court just opened the door to more of the same. Could it be possible that one day marriage as an institution could be outlawed altogether? I believe that is part of Satan’s end-time strategy.
Recognizing the Signs of the Times
Paul hints at this in a prophetic letter to his spiritual son, Timothy, more than 2,000 years ago. Paul wrote, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry” (1 Tim. 4:1-3).
We are in the latter times. We are in the end times even now. And many are indeed departing from the faith. Less than 1 percent of 18- to 23-year-olds have a biblical worldview, according to a recent Barna Group survey. Seven in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23, LifeWay Research reveals. And the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life reports that half of former Protestants who left the church said they turned away from their childhood faith because they stopped believing in its teachings—and about 40 percent said they did so because they do not believe in God.
We are in the latter times. We are in the end times even now. And some are indeed giving heed todeceiving spirits and doctrines of demons. Look at the likes of Rob Bell, with his “no hell” theology; John Crowder, with his distorted hypergrace messages; and Carlton Pearson, with his universalistic “gospel of inclusion.” Then there’s the false justice movement that talks about Jesus while holding Bible studies, worship meetings and performing good works—but it’s a different Jesus at the center. These are just a few of the doctrines of demons circulating through the church today that are leading us toward the end-time harlot church.
We are in the latter times. We are in the end times even now. And some are indeed speaking lies in hypocrisy. Some are indeed living with a seared conscience. So the question is, Will 1 Timothy 4:3 be the next part of this prophetic Scripture to come to pass? Will we see governments forbidding marriage? I believe it’s inevitable as we get closer to the Second Coming of Christ. I believe the institution of traditional marriage will come under attack in parts of the earth as the deceptive gay marriage agenda continues to gain momentum.
Today’s rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court are about more than allowing gays to tap into federal benefits that, until now, were reserved for couples in traditional marriages. Today’s rulings set into motion a dynamic that could mainstream gay marriage in this nation sooner than later—and forward the satanic agenda to eventually end a godly institution that’s almost as old as the world itself.
The new act hasn’t been introduced again in either the House or Senate, but gay rights activists hoping to seek the bill say the amount of support for same-sex marriages means now is the time to bring the bill back, reports The Hill.
The Supreme Court may issue a ruling leaving most of DOMA intact, gay rights advocates fear, as justices are only examining the section of the law as defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. That provision still denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples.
The lobbyists are arguing that passage of the Respect for Marriage Act is needed because the Supreme Court might issue a ruling that leaves much of DOMA intact.
Justices are only looking at Section 3 of the law, which defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. The provision denies federal benefits to married same-sex couples in nine states and the District of Columbia.
Lobbyists say they have thanked several senators who have said they favor same-sex marriage rights, and plan to ask the more than 200 lawmakers who signed an amicus brief against DOMA to back the new bill.
DOMA advocates, though, may have difficulty finding Republicans who agree with same-sex marriages. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio is the only Senate Republican to back gay marriage, but even he only supports a partial repeal of DOMA. An aide said Portman does not plan to co-sponsor the Respect for Marriage Act, and he still supports DOMA’s section 2, which he believes protects states from having marriage definitions pushed on them.
Without a Republican senator to co-sponsor the repeal bill, advocates are short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster.
In addition, some gay rights advocates are not in favor of re-introducing the bill, especially before the court acts, saying that could influence the court’s decision. They also note the legislation would have difficulty passing the Republican-controlled House.
Several Supreme Court justices on Wednesday indicated interest in striking down a law that denies federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples, presenting the possibility of a major change in a few months in gay marriage law.
The 1996 U.S. law denies married same-sex couples access to federal benefits by defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Kennedy referred to DOMA as “inconsistent” because it purports to give authority to the states to define marriage while limiting recognition of those determinations.
The court is expected to issue a ruling by the end of June.
“What gives the federal government the right to be concerned at all about the definition of marriage?” Sotomayor said.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg also raised concerns about the law, stressing how important federal recognition is to any person who is legally married.
“It affects every area of life,” she said.
Comparing marriage status with types of milk, Ginsburg said that a gay marriage endorsed by a state, but not recognized by the federal government, could be viewed as the equivalent of “skim milk.”
The law is the focus of a second day of oral arguments before the high court as it tackles the gay marriage issue.
It is possible the court would not reach the wider issue in the DOMA case because of preliminary legal matters relating to whether the court can hear it.
On that issue, conservative justices criticized the decision by President Barack Obama to abandon the legal defense of DOMA and called into question his willingness to defend other laws passed by Congress and challenged in court. “It’s very troubling,” Kennedy said.
While the criticisms may not affect how the justices eventually rule, it showed frustration with how Obama has walked a difficult political line on gay marriage.
Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, said in February 2011 they would cease defending the law because they believed it to be invalid under the Constitution.
In the place of the Justice Department, Republican lawmakers have stepped in to argue for the law.
President Barack Obama (who was against same-sex “marriage” before he was for it) and his administration (which said the Defense of Marriage Act was constitutional before they said it was unconstitutional) may be on the verge of another flip-flop.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments in late March on two marriage cases–one challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), and the other challenging California‘s marriage amendment, Proposition 8. Both DOMA (for purposes of federal law) and Prop 8 (for California law) define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
Although Obama has always favored repeal of DOMA–which prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex “marriages” even in states where they are legal–his Justice Department originally said that the law could be defended as constitutional. They reversed that position in 2011, however, and have intervened in the DOMA case to call for it to be overturned.
The Associated Press has reported that, under pressure from supporters of marriage redefinition, the president and his Solicitor General are considering filing a brief in the California case as well, to urge that Prop 8 be overturned.
If they do so, it would be a sharp reversal from the position President Obama articulated just last May, when he finally announced that he had “evolved” to a position of support for same-sex couples “marrying.”
In the interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts where he announced his new position, he repeatedly said it would be a mistake to “nationalize” the marriage issue. In fact, he said, that was a key part of why he opposed DOMA.
Here is an excerpt of what Obama said on May 9, 2012:
. . . [W]hat you’re seeing is, I think, states working through this issue–in fits and starts, all across the country. Different communities are arriving at different conclusions, at different times. And I think that’s a healthy process and a healthy debate. And I continue to believe that this is an issue that is gonna be worked out at the local level, because historically, this has not been a federal issue, what’s recognized as a marriage.
. . . [O]ne of the things that I’d like to see is- that a conversation continue in a respectful way.
Roberts even pressed him on the possibility of the Justice Department pushing more strongly to redefine marriage:
Can you ask your Justice Department to join in the litigation in fighting states that are banning same-sex marriage?
Again, Obama resisted:
I’ve got an opponent on–on the other side in the upcoming presidential election, who wants to–re-federalize the issue [with] a constitutional amendment . . . And, you know, I think it is a mistake to–try to make what has traditionally been a state issue into a national issue.
If Obama now decides to challenge Proposition 8–“federalizing” what is a settled matter under California state law–it would be a brazen act of hypocrisy.
Supporters of redefining marriage, and their allies in the media, seek to promote a narrative that homosexual “marriage” is “inevitable.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it is laughable to pretend that a position adopted by only nine states out of 50, and rejected by voters at the ballot box in 31 states out of 34, should be considered “inevitable.”
Some point to polls that purport to show a majority of Americans backing same-sex “marriage.” But polls are very sensitive to how a question’s wording frames the issue. Questions asking about noble-sounding concepts like “equality” and “rights,” and pitting them against policies to make certain relationships “illegal,” will always generate a sympathetic emotional response. Polls asking the real question at issue–should marriage be defined as the union of a man and a woman?–still show that 60 percent of Americans back this natural definition of marriage.
Of course, the Supreme Court could short-circuit the ongoing democratic debate that President Obama said he supports. However, I consider that unlikely. The role of marriage in promoting responsible procreation, and in keeping a man and woman together to raise the children produced by their union, is more than sufficient “rational basis” for laws classifying opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples differently.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Prop 8 case are urging the Court to impose a redefinition of marriage on all 50 states by judicial fiat. I am also skeptical that the justices will adopt such a Roe v. Wade approach to marriage. I think they have learned from that 1973 mistake, which undermined respect for the Court and served only to indefinitely inflame, not settle, the issue of abortion.
The debate over marriage can, and should, continue through the democratic process.
Peter Sprigg is senior fellow for Policy Studies at Family Research Council.
As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to take up same-sex marriage next month, laws barring recognition of such unions are not the only issue hanging in the balance. The very question of whether gay people constitute a vulnerable group that needs the court’s help in asserting equal rights is also at stake.
Ahead of two high-profile oral arguments in March, backers of gay rights and defenders of more traditional marriage are zeroing in on whether courts should be wary of any laws that target gay people.
The underlying question is whether bans on gay marriage violate the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
The Obama administration is due to weigh in by Friday, its deadline for written submissions in a case questioning the constitutionality of a central part of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage under federal law as being between a man and a woman.
The other case before the nine-member court asks the justices to consider whether Proposition 8, a California ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage, should be struck down. The cases will be argued on March 26 and 27. A ruling is expected by the end of June.
It’s unclear how the court will rule, but conventional wisdom is that Justice Anthony Kennedy, the most moderate justice on the conservative wing of the court, will be a deciding vote.
While the court has no obligation to address the bigger gay rights issues raised in the cases, if it does, the justices would first have to consider whether gay people merit the same protections as some other groups that have experienced discrimination.
That finding determines what standard the court will adopt in reviewing the law in question. If it deems that a particular group merits protection, the justices will look at the statute with a more skeptical eye and are more likely to strike it down.
Court rulings in the past have held that, in the face of discrimination, classifications based on race, national origin and gender all require closer “scrutiny,” the term the court invokes in discrimination cases.
Any ruling that laws affecting gay people require tough scrutiny has implications that go beyond the two cases before the court. It could influence future cases involving not just gay marriage but also any laws seen to infringe upon gay rights.
“It would be an invitation for lawsuits to pop up in every state of the union,” said gay rights legal expert William Eskridge, a Yale Law School professor who is filing a brief urging that the California law be struck down.
Not only would same-sex marriage bans be more legally suspect, but also laws relating to other family matters involving such issues as adoption or custody, he said.
There has been a long history of laws targeting gays and lesbians, gay rights activists say. Homosexual conduct was for a long time illegal in many states.
More recently, various states have passed laws that critics say aim to counter the rise of the gay rights movement.
In 2011, for example, Tennessee enacted a law that stripped local governments of their ability to pass stricter anti-discrimination ordinances. Gay rights activists say it was designed specifically to invalidate a Nashville law that provided protections on the basis of sexual orientation.
The level of scrutiny varies based on the protected group, with the most stringent, known as “strict scrutiny,” reserved for classifications based on race. Distinctions based on gender prompt a lower level of review known as “intermediate scrutiny.”
Legal experts don’t think the court will opt for the highest level of scrutiny, but even if the justices do pick something along the lines of the second option, it would mean they would look at DOMA andProposition 8 with more suspicion, meaning they would be more likely to strike them down.
Alternatively, the court could find that gay people don’t warrant special protection. In that case, both laws might have a greater chance of surviving court review.
DOMA supporters point out that in the past, the court has declined to extend special protections to the impoverished, the elderly and those with mental disabilities, among other groups.
As John Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University who has filed a brief in support ofProposition 8, put it, “it makes it a more uphill battle” for his side if the court believes gay people constitute a protected group.
What the Obama administration says in its DOMA brief in the coming week is of particular importance because the court traditionally pays some deference to what the executive branch says.
The case focuses on whether Edith Windsor, who was married to a woman, could get the federal estate tax deduction available to heterosexuals when their spouses pass away.
Gay rights supporters are hoping the U.S. Justice Department will argue in favor of tough scrutiny of any laws targeting gay people.
“It would be a very strong statement that gay people have really suffered a history of discrimination,” said Susan Sommer, a lawyer with Lambda Legal.
The Justice Department has already said it believes DOMA is unconstitutional. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli is expected to argue–as he has previously–that laws affecting gay people should face some kind of “heightened scrutiny,” a catch-all phrase to refer to any type of enhanced review.
DOMA’s defenders before the court, a group of Republicans in the U.S. Congress, say the court should adopt the lowest standard of review, which would not categorize gay people as a group in need of protection.
Their lawyer, Paul Clement, noted in his already filed brief on the issue that the Supreme Court has previously applied the lowest standard of review to matters involving sexual orientation.
The first instance, in 1996, concerned a Colorado law that sought to prevent gay people from being able to assert rights based on sexual orientation. The second, in 2003, focused on a Texas law that criminalized sexual conduct between same-sex couples. In both cases, the court–in opinions written by Justice Kennedy–struck down the statute in question.
But in neither case was marriage the issue.
There are several rational reasons for defining marriage as between one man and one woman, Clement said, including the “unique relationship between marriage and procreation that stems from marriage’s origins as a means to address the tendency of opposite-sex relationships to produce unintended and unplanned offspring.”
Although the Justice Department brief is in the DOMA case, lawyers involved in the litigation think what the solicitor general says on behalf of the Obama administration could influence the court’s consideration of Proposition 8.
The federal government is not a party in the latter case, but it does have the option of filing a friend of the court brief before a February 28 deadline. The Justice Department has left lawyers guessing as to whether it will take a stand.