High Court Rules Marriage Benefits Not Just for A Man and A Woman

The Supreme Court has spoken. Marriage cannot be defined as between a man and a woman. What does that mean for the church?

The Supreme Court’s recent decision has caused a lot of Christians to view it as a threat to traditional marriage. But is that what we should be concerned about? (Photo courtesy of thinkstockphotos.com)

The saying often heard in churches that God intended marriage for “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” may soon be just another cliché as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in support of same-sex marriage, particularly the extension of benefits within same-sex marriages.

In separate 5-4 decisions, the justices struck down a part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and let stand a lower court decision overturning California’s Prop 8, which banned same-sex marriage. Holding that the issue is a question of equal protection under the law, the justices established that federal services and benefits must be applied equally to all married couples recognized by states. It also reaffirmed that the federal government must respect state laws.

“DOMA’s principal effect is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages,” read the majority opinion. “It contrives to deprive some couples married under the laws of their state, but not others, of both rights and responsibilities, creating two contradictory marriage regimes within the same state.”

In the Prop 8 case, the court declined to hear the appeal to reverse the California state court’s decision to overturn the same-sex ban. The justices said those who brought the suit before the high court were not entitled to do so. The court, in effect, dismissed the 8 million Californians that voted for Prop 8, which passed in 2008 with 52% of the vote after the state Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriages.

“I have directed the California Department of Public Health to advise the state’s counties that they must begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in California as soon as the Ninth Circuit confirms the stay is lifted,” California’s Gov. Jerry Brown said.

The justices did not issue a broad opinion about the morality of same-sex marriage, which remains banned in 38 states.

The court’s decisions have shaken many faith communities in America. For conservatives, particularly those who  believe that America is a Christian nation whose laws should comply with the Bible, the court’s ruling is a travesty. They say the justices overstepped their bounds by redefining marriage, which is the domain of God alone.

For many other Christians, besides those brothers and sisters in Christ who are gay, the decision is not as cut and dry. It’s neither tragic nor a reason to hope for a wedding party where water is turned to wine. As a man who has been married to the same woman for more than 20 years, I consider myself among this number.

Though I believe the Bible affirms that marriage is a holy union between a man and woman only, I also believe that consenting adults have a right to live the way they want. Over the course of world history, people have gotten married for various reasons that often had nothing to do with religion or God. Many tax paying citizens see marriage not as a holy covenant, but as a contract. America is a pluralistic society where the government is constitutionally prevented from aligning with any particular faith. American citizens have a right to practice their faith – be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. – as well as to be agnostics or atheists. If two consenting adults love each other and want to spend their lives together, the government has no right to get in their way – period. The government’s role is to protect us from each other to insure that our individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not infringed upon. The government has no right to dictate what we can and cannot do with our bodies, including whom we live with or who we choose to be intimate with. The same goes for the church.

Many Christians may reject same-sex marriage on biblical grounds, but we still have no right to dictate to others through state or federal laws how they should live their personal intimate lives. True, the church is the only institution in society that, as God’s representative on Earth, is ordained with the responsibility to define how we should morally behave toward each other, including even our private intimate relationships. Christians believe our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit. However, God still grants individuals the “free will” to govern their own bodies. Whether pastors, ministers or lay members, Christians are called of God to state what we believe the Bible says. But after that, we are ultimately called to live lives as examples of Christ’s love daily.  We are to inspire and influence people with our godly light, not condemn and force them into submission. Certainly Jesus is heartbroken over Christians who are aligned with those who verbally or physically assault members of the LGBT community, or who drive many of them to committ suicide. Certainly we have no business cursing them to a hell that we do not own, as if we are sinless. This is what Jesus meant by “Judge not, that ye not be judged.” We will all have to face God’s judgment seat alone regarding our individual sins. But God reserves that final decision exclusively.

So rather than be upset about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, I simply prefer to trust the Lord. The God who tossed the stars into the sky and who keeps the Earth revolving around the sun without crashing into the other planets is certainly big enough to handle “Adam and Steve” or “Alice and Eve.”

Besides, with divorce (which the Bible says is a sin) being high among heterosexuals, including among Christians, I’d rather stay focused on keeping my own marriage together.

About the author, Wil LaVeist

Wil LaVeist is an award-winning journalist, professional speaker, and author of Fired Up: 4 Steps to Overcoming a Crisis, Including Unemployment. Contact him at www.WILLAVEIST.com, and listen to The Wil LaVeist Show Wednesdays at Noon to 1 p.m. on 88.1 WHOV in Hampton, Virginia.

  2. Mr. LaVeist, I have several problems with your commentary. First, you talk about “…brothers and sisters in Christ who are gay…” as if you’re referring to brothers and sisters in Christ who are black or who are white. According to the scriptures being gay is like being an adulterer. Both are sins in the eyes of God. There is no such thing as a Christian adulterer and there is no such thing as a Christian homosexual. There are Christians who struggle with adultery and there are Christians who struggle with homosexuality and we serve a God Who can deliver us from both.

    You also said “…The government has no right to dictate what we can and cannot do with our bodies…The same goes for the church.” You are correct when you say this, but the church is composed of tax-paying citizens who have the right to vote. Those who support laws such as DOMA have a right to vote for it. Those who oppose it have the right to vote against it. The outcome of that vote decides whether or not it becomes law. If it becomes law then it is enforced by the government. That’s not the church dictating to anyone, that’s the democratic process at work. Why does opposition from Bible-believing Christians on this issue always get reduced to folks accusing us of wanting to beat people into submission?

    This comment goes along with “We are to inspire and influence people with our godly light, not condemn and force them into submission.” Who is trying to do this? The only thing we citizens are trying to do is exercise the same rights as everyone else. Sometimes we win on an issue through the vote and sometimes we lose, but no one is trying to force anyone into submission.

    You are right to say that we shouldn’t curse anyone to hell, but we have a duty to warn people of a hell that is sure to come if they do not repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness. This includes warning the homosexual and the straight fornicator!

    You are right when you say that Christ is heartbroken over Christians who verbally and physically assault gay men and women. He is even more heartbroken over Christians who will not warn them that this lifestyle is not acceptable to Him or the Father!!! The heart of the Gospel is the call of preachers, teachers, and everyday disciples persuading others to turn from sin and turn to the Great Sin-Bearer!

    One last thing. The reason so many of us take issues like these so serious is because there are individual sins that only affect individuals and their families. Then there are national sins that affect the nation. One that comes to mind is slavery in America. It almost split this nation and could have brought about its downfall. The same goes for racism since the end of slavery. We’re still wrestling with this issue. Two other issues threaten the life of this nation, the sin of abortion and the sin of homosexuality. One is the shedding of innocent blood, the other is a sin against the very image of God in every individual. It is open rebellion against God instituted as the law of the land. That makes the USA ripe for the judgment of God.

  3. Edward: You say you have several problems with what I wrote, but you seem to agree with everything I wrote. As you know, Romans 10:9 states what it takes to become a Christian — a brother and sister in Christ.. Men/women can define who is a member of their church, but the personal definitions of men and woman regarding who is a Christian are irrelevant. There are several sins that threaten the nation. For example, war, which is obviously opposite the will of the Prince of Peace. Perhaps our priorities are off that we cherry pick certain “low hanging fruit” sins to get overly excited about. Lastly, many of the church leaders who have been passionately against homosexuality have been ‘outed’ as homosexuals themselves. Perhaps it’s easier to hone in on other people’s personal lives to deflect attention/scrutiny from our own. Regardless of what we say, do or write, God sees and knows us. I’m confident that we should stand firm on the truth of God’s word and be known most of all for how well we express God’s love. As it stands now, I think Christians in the US are probably more known for trying to dictate how everyone should live. There’s a difference.

    • Mr. LaVeist,
      What will you say when your met our Lord in heaven. I didn’t tell them about their sins because it wasn’t my place. We are our brothers’ keeper. We are suppose to preach the word in season and out. Even if it isn’t policially correct.

      We love our brothers and sisters that struggle with homosexuality. But, like I once was a fornicator, it took my brother and sisters in Christ to help lead my out of my sins. Who will help our brothers and sisters in the homesexual lifestyle break free. Isn’t the same as fornication, that I was delivered and set free from?