The U.S. Supreme Court today is hearing oral arguments in a case about the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), a federal law that bars federal government recognition of the marriages of same-sex couples. Yesterday, the justices heard arguments in a case dealing with Proposition 8, a California constitutional amendment that removed the right of same-sex couples to marry.
The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, gave the following address today at the “United for Marriage” rally in front of the Supreme Court building.
“I am a minister in the United Church of Christ and a member of the Supreme Court bar. Long ago, I gave up thinking I had the gift of prophecy generally and I’ve also given up trying to predict specifically what the justices behind us will do.
“Two groups of Americans have been gathering here for the past two days. I know quite a few people in both camps. Those who are anti-marriage equality are not all haters and bigots. But – they are all wrong. Their time is past and they know it; polls demonstrate that they cannot even convince their own children they are right. Their ethical analyses and their purportedly moral viewpoints will soon be relegated to the dustbin of human history.
“I oppose the agenda of the Religious Right every day at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, because I know that the United States is not a theocracy; it is not a place where the law reflects some powerful group’s narrow and crabbed view of what any holy scripture allegedly says. It is why we have fought for a separation of church and state – and why we need to get that correct each day.
“We would not have DOMA or Proposition 8 if it were not for the wealthy and powerful sectarian forces that stand behind the rubric of marriage inequality and who treat some to a second-class citizenship our Constitution abhors.
“American history is an interesting thing. Taking the long view, it is crafted by ordinary people like us more than by presidents or senators or Supreme Court justices. And sometimes sooner, sometimes later, we the people tend to get it right. And we – the second camp – are getting it right today: we are standing up for something so fundamental, so real, so remarkably simple that these marble steps cry that we haven’t seen it sooner.
“I have been married to my spouse Joanne for 42 years; we have two great children – one girl, one boy; we are just what one anti-equality speaker on the radio yesterday said was the dream American family. I know how good that feels. Yesterday, I was in tears listening to the dreams of other families, dreams that cannot yet be fulfilled for them because of the very law being debated today inside that building.
“You shouldn’t need a theological or a legal degree to recognize one simple equation. All people who are willing to accept the rights and responsibilities of a long-term commitment deserve equal treatment under our Constitution no matter what job they do, no matter what state they live in, no matter who they love. A simple equation of simple justice!
“As I said, I don’t know what this Supreme Court will do in June. I don’t know whether our side will win or lose or get a mixed message or perhaps get no definitive answers at all. This I do know. If decisions don’t go our way, we will find every other venue in which to make our arguments; and we will return to this court one day.
“Even if we prevail on the arguments of the past two days, our job will not be over. Decisions of this court are not self executing. We will need to be vigilant that every family is accorded whatever rights this Court grants them. Just like Brown v. Board of Education, we will need to be sure that every state, every community, puts the principle into practice and that no one is left behind.
“And we will do that because we have always done that. We do not stop litigating, we do not stop marching, we do not stop debating, we do not stop organizing until we win for everyone. “
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.