DOMA Struck Down

Thoughts? One way or the other.

(Reuters) – The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a federal law that restricts the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples in a major victory for the gay rights movement.

The ruling, on a 5-4 vote, means that legally married gay men and women are entitled to claim the same federal benefits that are available to opposite-sex married couples.

The court was due to decide within minutes a second case concerning a California law that bans same-sex marriage in the state.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller and Will Dunham)

USA Today:

WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court gave a major boost to gay and lesbian rights on Wednesday, striking down a key section of a federal law that denied federal benefits to legally married same-sex couples.

The justices declared unconstitutional part of the 17-year-old Defense of Marriage Act, a law that has denied federal benefits to married gays and lesbians in a dozen states, from Maine to Washington, and the District of Columbia.

The decision gives the high court’s blessing, at least in part, to a gay-marriage movement that has gained momentum in the past decade and now stands on the threshold of full equality. The ruling represents a major step forward for marriage equality and a setback for defenders of traditional marriage between only men and women. But 36 states still ban same-sex marriage, and the high court’s ruling doesn’t affect them.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • rdugall

    I have no problem with this aspect of the decision because of the fact that it deals with benefits from the government that has to do with equal rights. I’m more interested in the California decision because of its dynamics regarding state initiatives, etc.

  • http://www.jeremybouma.com/ jeremy bouma

    As a former employee of the State (i.e. congressional staffer) I can understand the ruling, and even sympathize with it constitutionally. As a now employee of the Church (i.e. pastor with the ECC) I am grieved that Empire America has endorsed the same licentiousness of Empire Rome.

    I will not go apocalyptic, though, as in generations past. Nor will I fight for more Christian Members, Justices, or Presidents. The Church—not Congress, the White House, or the Supreme Court—is the hope of the world. This ruling hasn’t changed that. Which demands we remain sane and humble, but also honest about what God intends for families inside and outside the Church.

    That our culture is confused about the meaning of marriage is as much a result of the force of sin at work in our world as it is the laziness of the Church to graciously and honestly bear witness to God’s intent for human flourishing and make disciples of Christ, regardless of the ruckus such honesty makes.

  • Rick

    Per NBC:

    “In a separate case, the court ruled that it could not take up a challenge to Proposition 8, the California law that banned gay marriage in that state. That decision means that gay marriage will once again be legal in California.”

  • scotmcknight

    Robin, SCOTUS has ruled on Prop 8 and California.

  • Richard

    I think this decision is consistent with the US Constitution regardless of whether I or others think it’s consistent/inconsistent with Scripture.

  • rdugall

    OK – now we have a quandary…this is actually more of a legal issue that the state of Calif, as well as other states, have to deal with (in terms of the State initiative process). In this case the people of Calif voted twice on the definition of marriage. This ruling essentially says that the vote of the people of Calif is revoked. That’s significant. The initiative process is “up for grabs” as a result of this ruling. The issue of GAY RIGHTS is still not an issue for me personally. Equal, legal rights should be available to all people. What is still a problem for me (personally) is that I’m still not convinced about the redefinition of marriage. I know and admit and confess that I come from a specific relational paradigm. I do believe that paradigm is informed by what I regard as a “truth source” (in this case the bible). I do believe in a relational paradigm that is embedded into creation’s DNA as recorded in the opening chapters of the bible. I do also admit that I have a specific interpretation of the bible that may be (in some people’s perspective) “flawed” but is still something to which I adhere. And you know, my desire for community, open communication, thoughtful prayer and reflection as well as a desire to NOT have MORE issues divide will keep me struggling with this issue for years to come. In many respects, these decisions about gay marriage will continue to practically divide well-meaning Jesus followers…for me, that’s sad because of the NUMEROUS issues that already divide the body of Christ. On the other hand, it does continue to demonstrate that there is a moral imperative and lifestyle that will continue to differentiate between those who desire to live a biblical lifestyle and those who do not. Being “in the world but not of it” takes on newer and broader meaning as culture continues to “evolve.” I think it was Fitch that said something about NOT taking a public stand on this issue because of the assumptions that are made when someone PROCLAIMS their personal perspective on the issue. Because our society is so polarizing…we want to divide opinions into all sorts of damaging and narrow categories that we, oft times, negate the person and “heart” of a personal opinion. I’m going to keep my personal “feelings” out of the public sphere. I do celebrate the upholding of ALL human rights. I’m still not sure that the concept and institution of MARRIAGE is a human right. Marriage, as defined legally, is more of a state’s recognition issue than a spiritual one. So, I’m going to continue to “tread water”…I’m listening and loving as best I can. Scot, that’s the best I can do!

  • Rick
  • Chris Brooks

    Government is not the hope of the world, but good government is important to all of us. I can’t help thinking to myself, “Woe to those who call good evil and evil good.” Thankfully the Court stopped short of fiat creation of same-sex marriage nationwide.

  • http://www.jeremybouma.com/ jeremy bouma

    “good government is important to all of us.” For sure! I say what I said because of my personal experience working for the Religious Right on Capitol Hill.

    There is this tendency to think if we get the right person elected or appointed then America will have hope again. (I’m not saying you’re saying that, Chris…) It’s times like these the Church—and I!—need to remember we have everything we need to offer the only hope that America needs—rescue and re-creation through Jesus Christ.

  • Kyle J

    If you read accounts of the people involved in these long-term relationships, applying the word “licentiousness” to them is ridiculous. This is not Roman Senators diddling schoolboys at the bathhouse. To ignore the real life stories of the people involved is the very definition of ungraciousness.

  • http://www.jeremybouma.com/ jeremy bouma

    I appreciate the reality of gay people—their stories, their love. I’m not ignoring them. I have cousin-in-laws who are partnered and close friends who are gay, some celibate and some not. They’re all nice, great people.

    But your “long-term relationships” language forgets about a significant act in those relationships: gay sex. Let’s appreciate and embrace the real stories. But let’s also not ignore revelation—that God condemns gay sex. And doesn’t gay marriage promotes gay sex, as much as it promotes gay love?

    Can’t we balance both graciousness and honesty? Appreciation and truth? Reality and revelation in this important conversation?

  • Kyle J

    Interesting that you’re effectively separating love and sex as two different and distinct things, which is exactly what real licentiousness is, right?

    In the context of the culture in which it is written, the Bible clearly condemns licentious gay sex (as well as licentious opposite-sex sex). It is not clear to me that gay sex in the context of a long-term relationship is sin. It bears none of the other characteristics of sin–damage to other human relationships, etc.

    What does your idea of balance mean in real life for, say, a lesbian couple that has lived together for 20 years and is raising a child? What would you have them do to meet your definition of God’s revelation?

  • metanoia

    Although the Defense of Marriage Act has been shot down by the Supreme Court, it is this language by Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing in support of the decision, that concerns me. “The differentiation demeans the couple, whose moral and sexual choices the Constitution protects, and whose relationship the state has sought to dignify.” Now the battle begins to define what other “morals and sexual choices the Constitution protects.” 8-l

  • Jesse Taylor

    The book of Leviticus was used as property code and condemns many things we choose to ignore, such as how many threads compose your shirt. There’s a reason all these material reason marriages were arranged, and with a little thought you can understand why there’s no benefit for the parents who arrange to marry their sons. However, marriage is no longer about property, but love. You can call the sex unnatural, but in doing so you need to be judged on the same plain. Any sex that’s not solely for the purpose of reproduction by this standard becomes “unnatural,” and then you must therefore condemn any married couple who has had sex for pleasure. Which is all of them. While this had a role four thousand years ago, it’s arbitrary today, and it’s depressing you don’t use the head your god gave you to question the intention of his words when he wasn’t the one who wrote them.

    This same argument was used to repress blacks and women, and history will remember you and your supporters in the exact same light. You needn’t respond to this post

  • Eric Weiss

    A friend posted this link to a series of blog posts wherein the author explains step-by-step how he wrestled with the Scriptures to arrive at his current stance on the church and GLBT folks:

    http://pilgrimpathways.wordpress.com/2011/01/20/glbt-persons-in-the-church-index/

    Worth reading even if you disagree with the author. He presents a bibliography of writings on all sides of the issue(s).

  • Tom F.

    God condemned many things that God today permits, and God permitted many things that God today condemns. I’m not saying that makes revelation worthless, or that everything is relative. I just think we need more than just the blunt fact that “gay sex was condemned in scripture” to arrive at a firm conclusion that “gay sex is today condemned by God”.

    For example, it would *really, really* help if conservatives on this issue could help me to see what aspects of human flourishing are damaged by committed, long-term relationships between gay persons. Then I could feel more secure in making moral appeals to gay persons to refrain. Its not that scripture should just be thrown out, but if scripture is left orphaned, without a connection to some larger picture of human flourishing, then I think its legitimate to be nervous about whether we really understand that scripture.

  • Marshall

    Compare the decision on the Voting Rights Act … this could be viewed as a defense of States’ Rights rather than Human Rights.

  • Rick
  • Tom F.

    Yeah, I know. I posted a response there too. I understand Crouch to be saying: “LGBT don’t believe the body matters, therefore they must be wrong, and we should reject any compromise.” What is unclear to me is why a theology that says that the body matters would not be able to understand and adapt to when bodies go wrong. Crouch himself admits that gay men are unlikely to change, due to biological (bodily) factors. It seems like a theology that took the body seriously would be able to adapt to these sort of situations where biology goes awry, rather than react with defensiveness and rigidity. Is there really no third way other than accepting wholesale everything LGBT folks say or accepting as perfect everything the tradition says? This seems to be a false dichotomy.

  • http://LostCodex.com/ DRT

    Horaay! Hopefully this will start the churches down the path of getting out of the legal marriage business.

  • attytjj466

    As it relates to State’s rights vs Federal law, the ruling makes sense. Marriage has traditionaly been a State’s issue not a federal issue. But to the degree that Kennedy went beyond that and blurred the line between a decision based on federalism and a decision based on equal protection and/or fundamental right reasoning, which it appears to do, following a proposed line of reasoning in the Lawrence case, that would suggest that when a state law barring gay marriage correctly does come before the court, such state law will also be struck down under equal protection and/or fundamental right grounds. That is probably now a delayed but inevitable outcome, and this decision, while not going that far, does prepare and pave the way for that ruling by the SCOTUS later.

  • Barb

    Its a good day.

  • Tom F.

    I really like his thoughts, especially his dialogue with Hays. Thanks for the link.

  • Alberto Medrano

    Here’s my response to you regarding your position, and many like yours http://goo.gl/nNElC

  • Alberto Medrano

    Here’s my response to you regarding your position, and many like yours. Same sex activity is always viewed as sinful throughout. http://goo.gl/nNElC

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    (I actually meant this as a reply to mdugall but I see it went elsewhere… where it seems to still fit)…. I’m wondering what you think of perspectives and postures toward homosexuality by many Christians, often very dedicated, biblically studious ones like Glennon Melton and her post of today, reflecting a similar very popular one of hers of 2010 re. being gay, following Jesus, etc.? I liked it (or them both) so much I posted a rare link to them on my blog.

    As you seem to imply, the Bible doesn’t seem to try to define marriage in a specific way, but does speak (including Jesus) to the ethics surrounding it – to loyalty, honesty, etc. While “conservative” Christians may dislike or even fear today’s SCOTUS rulings, I’d think a deeper look would mean appreciating how they reflect the development of some of the important values (“family values”) that surround and empower loving relationships, whatever their gender mix. We tend to get way too centered on the sexual aspect — more so than the Bible does.

  • http://www.naturalspirituality.wordpress.com/ Howard Pepper

    Yeah! Let churches favor and PERFORM whatever kind of marriage they want — some or all. But seems it would be better constitutionally and practically for all LEGALLY recognized “marriage” (or relabel it “legal union” or whatever) be with any two people over 16 (or whatever) and done only by an arm of the state (court, etc.)

  • Tom F.

    I’m going to focus on one paragraph, if that’s alright.

    “Jesus would denounce any activity that would work in contradiction to the created work he co-created. Any sexual act outside the natural pairing Jesus co-sanctioned is an injustice to him, to humanity, and to the
    ecosystem. Homosexuality then becomes a dis-order to the created order. It rejects and rebels against what God designed for pro-creation, to allow humankind to
    flourish. It selfishly denies the creative work along with the Creators, and says “God and nature does not dictate who I am and what to do with my body. I am ruler over my body and I choose how I want to view and practice my sexuality.”

    You say that any sexual act outside the natural pairing Jesus co-sanctioned is an injustice to him, ect. But why? A dis-order to the created order- isn’t this just another way of saying the same thing? The question is still *why* its a disorder. “It rejects and rebels against what God designed for procreation”- well, so does birth control, are you against that too?

    “Rejects and rebels”- why? Why is it necessarily a rejection? Is it not possible that homosexual persons could affirm God’s intention for marriage and complementarity, but simply ask for an exception because, for whatever reason, that is not an option for them? If they were to *ask* God, and not *demand* it, why would a gracious God not offer relief to them, so long as there is no harm to anyone else?

    “Selfishly denies the creative work”- again, why would it have to deny it? Its not enough to simply say an action is different than God intended: you also have to show that the different action is harmful to God’s intent. And it is not at all clear to me how making an exception for homosexual people will harm heterosexual people from carrying out God’s intent. Homosexual persons were never going to carry out that intent anyway, even if they were to be celibate.

    “God and nature do not dictate what I do with my body. I am the ruler over my body…” This feels like another false dichotomy: either accept the traditional interpretation or you are a rebel and trying to self-rule. Again, if people were to *petition* God for relief, why wouldn’t he say yes if it weren’t about self-rule and rebelling against God. How many honest Christians have likely prayed from a place of complete despair about these feelings, Christians who are not trying to “rule their own lives”.

    Altogether, with the argument from nature, it is not enough to point out that homosexuality is different than what God intends, you have to show that it actively harms what God intends. If the goal is procreation, allowing or disallowing homosexual behavior ends up in the exact same place, unless you want to gay people in marriages with incredibly difficult sexual relationships.

  • Andrew Dowling

    The religious right couldn’t keep itself to the church sphere . .
    they tried to impose their own version of “Empire America” on the
    population and frankly they are seeing it blow up in their faces due to
    their arrogance and hostility to rational thought, and are taking a lot
    of Christianity, associated or otherwise, down with the ship. Funny how
    many who just a few years ago were celebrating the collusion of
    conservative fundamentalism and government now say that we should “stick
    to the Church as the light of the world.”Maybe there should be
    some repenting for the massive screw-up that was the 1980-2008 era of
    Christian right/political bed-sharing.

  • Guest

    My only question is this: If the Fall wouldn’t have occurred would their be 1) homosexual attraction; and 2) homosexual practice. How you answer that questions gets at how God views both.

  • http://www.jeremybouma.com/ jeremy bouma

    My only question is this: If the Fall wouldn’t have occurred would their be 1) homosexual attraction; and 2) homosexual practice. How you answer that questions gets at how God views both, and then how the Church should respond to both.

  • http://www.jeremybouma.com/ jeremy bouma

    I’ll ask the same question I asked of Tom F.: If the Fall wouldn’t have occurred would their be 1) homosexual attraction; and 2) homosexual practice?

    As you can imagine I’d answer ‘no’ for both. Frankly it’s how the Church has answered both for generations. How Paul did. And Jesus, too.

    “Long-term relationship” is a nice rhetorical device but it’s a red-herring. The issue is how has God self-disclosed to humanity His intent for marriage and human sexuality? It’s a questions that matters to your rhetorical scenario about the 20 year-long lesbian couple, too.

    The Church is most loving when She is most honest.

  • Jeremy B.

    I’m not sure that’s an entirely practical point from which to argue. The fall is only a few chapters in with only one forbidden thing, so there isn’t a whole lot of material to work with. Besides, there are a LOT of things that probably wouldn’t exist if the fall hadn’t happened. By that logic, we should all be nudist vegetarians that have never enjoyed a good movie.

  • Henriet Schapelhouman

    Christianity has never been dependent on the culture. Jesus is Lord regardless of what the world is doing. In fact, the early church dealt with lots of challenging moral and legal issues. Jesus and the Apostles focused on sharing the great Good News. I think our response is to continue to follow Jesus’ commandment and commission: Love God, love each other and live a life of love so others will get to know Jesus.

    We don’t need a Christian country or culture. We need Christians to live as Jesus commanded so that He can further his Kingdom through us.

  • Tom F.

    Hi, Jeremy.

    If the fall hadn’t occured, there would be no disability, right?

    Is it wrong to allow disabled people not to work? God’s intention was for them to work, no? (Creation mandate and all of that.)

    The question is whether homosexual attraction/practice is the unfortunate result of living in a broken world, or if it is the sort of thing that makes the world more broken. Unlike the standard LGBQ line, I tend to think its the result of living in a broken world. It was not God’s intent. At the same time, I can not take the standard evangelical line any longer either. These folks are hurting and they yearn for what all of us do: love and companionship, and a legitimate outlet for their sexuality. Again, if making an exception could be shown to cause harm, than obviously that can’t be allowed. But your “only question” is frustratingly unrelated to harm or damage. The question could be turned back on you as well: why don’t committed same-sex relationships offer a way for gay persons to approximate, as best they can, the goodness of “not being alone” (Genesis 2:18)?

    Respectfully, I would like to hear about the particular ways that you see how homosexual attraction/practice makes the world more broken. No circular arguing please: it can’t lead to more brokenness simply because God says so, for that makes God arbitrary.


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