Wooden gavel

Wooden gavel Wikimedia Commons

Writing about same-sex marriage coming to Arkansas last week, I quoted Judge Chris Piazza’s declaration, “It is time to let the beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.” In overturning the bans on SSM in other states, other judges have also taken the opportunity to deliver some moral poetry along with the legal prose of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. Here a sampler.

Yesterday in Pennsylvania, Judge John E. Jones III:

The issue we resolve today is a divisive one. Some of our citizens are made deeply uncomfortable by the notion of same-sex marriage. However, that same-sex marriage causes discomfort in some does not make its prohibition constitutional. Nor can past tradition trump the bedrock constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. Were that not so, ours would still be a racially segregated nation according to the now rightfully discarded doctrine of “separate but equal.” (See Brown v. Board Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954), overruling Plessy v, Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896). In the sixty years since Brown was decided, “separate” has thankfully faded into history, and only “equal” remains. Similarly, in future generations the label same-sex marriage will be abandoned, to be replaced simply by marriage.

We are a better people than what these laws represent, and it is time to discard them into the ash heap of history.

In Oregon on Monday:, Judge Michael J. McShane:

Generations of Americans, my own included, were raised in a world in which homosexuality was believed to be a moral perversion, a mental disorder, or a mortanl sin. I remember that one of the more popular playground games of my childhood was called “smear the queer”…Even today I am reminded of the legacy that we have bequeathed today’s generation when my son looks dismissively at the seater I bought him for Christmas and, with a roll of his eyes, say “dad…that is so gay.”

…Where will this all lead? I know that many suggest we are going down a slippery slope that will have no moral boundaries. To those who truly harbor such fears, I can only say this: Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other…and rise.

In Michigan on March 21, Judge Bernard A. Friedman:

In attempting to define this case as a challenge to “the will of the people,” Tr. 2/25/14 p. 40, state defendants lost sight of what this case is truly about: people. No court record of this proceeding could ever fully convey the personal sacrifice of these two plaintiffs who seek to ensure that the state may no longer impair the rights of their children and the thousands of others now being raised by same-sex couples. It is the Court’s fervent hope that these children will grow up “to understand the integrity and closeness of their own family and its concord with other families in their community and in their daily lives.” Windsor, 133 S. Ct. at 2694. Today’s decision is a step in that direction, and affirms the enduring principle that regardless of whoever finds favor in the eyes of the most recent majority, the guarantee of equal protection must prevail.

In Virginia on February 14, Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen:

Justice has often been forged from fireof indignities and prejudices suffered. Outriumphs that celebrate the freedom of choice are hallowed. We have arrived. We have arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect.

In Oklahoma on January 14, Judge Terence C. Kern:

Exclusion of just one class of citizens from receiving a marriage license based upon the perceived “threat” they pose to the marital institution is, at bottom, an arbitrary exclusion based upon the majority’s disapproval of the defined class. It is also insulting to same-sex couples, who are human beings capable of forming loving, committed, enduring relationships.

And in Utah on December 20, Judge Robert J. Shelby:

Rather than protecting or supporting the families of opposite-sex couples, Amendment 3 perpetuates inequality by holding that the families and relationships of same-sex couples are not now, nor ever will be, worthy of recognition. Amendment 3 does not thereby elevate the status of opposite-sex marriage; it merely demeans the dignity of same-sex couples….The Plaintiffs’ desire to publicly declare their vows of commitment and support to each other is a testament to the strength of marriage in society, not a sign that, by opening its doors to all individuals, it is in danger of collapse.

Categories: Culture

Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life.

5 Comments

  1. It should be noted that PA judge John E. Jones III, a “W” appointee was the same one who envicerated Intelligent Design a few years back in Dover v, Kitzmiller.

  2. While I agree with the judges here, I have to admit I am not yet comfortable with the term “opposite-sex marriage”. I used to tell people I drive a Chevy. Now, with the popularity of electric cars, I supposed I have to tell people that I drive a “gasoline-powered Chevy”.

    • CarrotCakeMan

      How about “mixed-sex marriage”?

      Blame your discomfort on the anti-gays, who keep shrieking “gay marriage” in an effort to distract Americans away from the photos of loving, committed same gender American couples who have been together 20-30-40 years finally being able to protect each other through legal marriage, and instead con normal, non-homophobic Americans into sharing the anti-gays’ obsession with “gay sex.”

      The term you want is “marriage equality,” steve shay, not those terms created by anti-gays in an effort to drive yet another wedge between Americans.

  3. The rulings have shown 3 things:
    1. Marriage is a civil right
    2. There are no rational and secular purposes served by banning marriage equality
    3. Although there is opposition to marriage equality it is not articulated in terms which are relevant to the law. Custom, religion and tradition are not enough to warrant depriving others of a civil right.

    • CarrotCakeMan

      All correct, Larry.

      It’s always important to remember it isn’t just a matter of those denominations who LIE that they’d be “forced” to perform same gender marriages. The major Christian, Jewish and other denominations that are marrying same gender couples now are being denied their right to practice their religion freely in 32 US States. These denominations will marry same gender couples in 18 US States and the District of Columbia:

      Affirming Pentecostal Church International
      Alliance of Christian Churches
      Anointed Affirming Independent Ministries
      The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
      Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
      Community of Christ
      Conservative Judaism
      Ecumenical Catholic Church
      Ecumenical Catholic Communion
      The Episcopal Church
      Evangelical Anglican Church In America
      Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
      Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals
      Inclusive Orthodox Church
      Metropolitan Community Church
      Old Catholic Church
      Progressive Christian Alliance
      Reconciling Pentecostals International
      Reconstructionist Judaism
      Reform Judaism
      Reformed Anglican Catholic Church
      Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
      Unitarian Universalist Church
      United Church of Christ
      Unity Church

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.