The Supreme Court has decided. On Wednesday, the high court struck down the Defense of Marriage act as unconstitutional and declined to rule on Proposition 8, sending the measure back to California, where same-sex marriages are expected to resume. In the majority opinion for the DOMA case, justices noted American culture’s “evolving understanding of the meaning of equality” in marriage.
This notion of the definition of marriage as evolving is a key point of disagreement for religious leaders in America. In statements Wednesday, leaders who reject gay marriage denied that the institution can change, while progressive religious leaders pointed to the decisions as proof of increasing justice for LGBT people.
Here’s our initial list of how religious and cultural leaders are responding to the news:
Statement from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage:
“Today is a tragic day for marriage and our nation. The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The Court got it wrong. The federal government ought to respect the truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman, even where states fail to do so. The preservation of liberty and justice requires that all laws, federal and state, respect the truth, including the truth about marriage.
…“Our culture has taken for granted for far too long what human nature, experience, common sense, and God’s wise design all confirm: the difference between a man and a woman matters, and the difference between a mom and a dad matters. While the culture has failed in many ways to be marriage-strengthening, this is no reason to give up. Now is the time to strengthen marriage, not redefine it.
…“Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life. We also ask for prayers as the Court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified.”
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention:
“God designed the one-flesh union of marriage as an embedded icon of the union between Christ and his church. Marriage and sexuality, among the most powerful pulls in human existence, are designed to train humanity to recognize, in the fullness of time, what it means for Jesus to be one with his church, as a head with a body.
“Same-sex marriage is on the march, even apart from these decisions, and is headed to your community, regardless of whether you are sitting where I am right now, on Capitol Hill, or in a rural hamlet in southwest Georgia or eastern Idaho. This is an opportunity for gospel witness.
“For a long time in American culture, we’ve acted as though we could assume marriage. Even people from what were once called “broken homes” could watch stable marriages on television or movies. Boys and girls mostly assumed they had a wedding in their futures. As marriage is redefined, these assumptions will change. Let’s not wring our hands about that.” (Read more here)
Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association:
“We are deeply saddened by today’s decision to not only allow but encourage same-sex marriage in our country—a country that was founded on biblical principles. We mourn for America’s future, but we are not without hope . . . Our next line of defense is to vigorously protect our religious liberty. The homosexual lobby and agenda is running rampant across America, and is even pervading our elementary schools. . .”
Official statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
“By ruling that supporters of Proposition 8 lacked standing to bring this case to court, the Supreme Court has highlighted troubling questions about how our democratic and judicial system operates. Many Californians will wonder if there is something fundamentally wrong when their government will not defend or protect a popular vote that reflects the views of a majority of their citizens.
“In addition, the effect of the ruling is to raise further complex jurisdictional issues that will need to be resolved.
“Regardless of the court decision, the church remains irrevocably committed to strengthening traditional marriage between a man and a woman, which for thousands of years has proven to be the best environment for nurturing children. Notably, the court decision does not change the definition of marriage in nearly three fourths of the states.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary:
[The DOMA ruling] “will be a devastating thing for this country. . .I believe that marriage is a pre-political institution, that is one of God’s greatest gifts to his human creatures and that it always has been and always must be the union between a man and a woman. To radically transform the institution of marriage is to change the definition of what it means for humans to exist together in community.”
Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod:
“Though the ruling is not a surprise, we are saddened for our nation, even as we call our fellow Christians to faithfulness and prayer.
“As Christians, we believe and confess that God Himself instituted marriage as the life-long union of one man and one woman. Same-sex unions are contrary to God’s will, and gay marriage is, in the eyes of God, no marriage at all. As Christians, we proclaim this truth, no matter what the courts or legislatures may say. We are called not to popularity but to truth. Therefore, we call on our fellow Christians to be faithful first to God’s Word, knowing that another court is ultimately supreme.”
Concerned Women for America:
“Today the Supreme Court issued the Roe v. Wade of marriage. These rulings will continue to divide our Republic just as Roe continues to do 40 years later. The Supreme Court continues to lose credibility at an alarming rate with today’s decision.
“While the justices sit in their high chairs, these decisions will have very real-life consequences for American families, especially as it relates to our religious liberties. Those who hold a Biblical view of marriage can expect much persecution from the government in the years to come. In addition the thirty-eight states that have affirmed the traditional definition of marriage can expect to be dragged into future courts. The Justices have thrust us into another life-long battle for religious freedom and a bitter dispute for truth, just as they did with Roe.”
Rev. William Owens, president of the Coalition of African-American Pastors:
“We are devastated that the Supreme Court succumbed to political pressure by voting to weaken the sacred institution. They neglected our most precious children who need a mother and a father united in marriage for healthy development.”
The leadership of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America:
“In response to the decisions announced today by the United States Supreme Court with reference to the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8, we reiterate the historical position of the Jewish faith, enunciated unequivocally in our Bible, Talmud and Codes, which forbids homosexual relationships and condemns the institutionalization of such relationships as marriages. Our religion is emphatic in defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman. Our beliefs in this regard are unalterable. At the same time, we note that Judaism teaches respect for others and we condemn discrimination against individuals.
“We are grateful that we live in a democratic society, in which all religions are free to express their opinions about social issues and to advocate vigorously for those opinions. The reason we opt to express our viewpoint in a public forum is because we believe that our Divine system of law not only dictates our beliefs and behaviors, but also represents a system of universal morality, and therefore can stake a claim in the national discourse. That morality, expressed in what has broadly been labeled Judeo-Christian ethics, has long had a place in American law and jurisprudence.
“We also recognize that no religion has the right to dictate its beliefs to the entire body politic and we do not expect that secular law will always align with our viewpoint. Ultimately, decisions on social policy remain with the democratic process, and today the process has spoken and we accord the process and its result the utmost respect.”
Welton Gaddy, the Interfaith Alliance:
“I am hopeful that today’s decision striking down DOMA as unconstitutional and overturning the Proposition 8 case on standing will be followed by continued victories in this fight for equality. That a majority of the Court recognized in the DOMA case that this was an issue of equal protection denied is no small victory.
“To those critics who will try to characterize these decisions as a threat to their religious freedom, let me say they could not be more wrong. No members of the clergy can be required to perform a religious ceremony that goes against the dictates of their faith, and thanks to the protections afforded by the First Amendment nothing in today’s decisions changes that fact. Interfaith Alliance’s work for LGBT equality is not finished and we will not be finished until all Americans are afforded the rights restored today for the people of California.”
The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of the House of Deputies of The Episcopal Church:
“I join with millions of Christians across the country in celebrating today’s Supreme Court rulings that extend equal protection under federal law to all marriages and allow marriage equality to resume in California. We are moving ever closer to civil laws that recognize the God-given dignity and equality of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender sisters and brothers.
“Today’s rulings will allow more people of all faiths to see what we in the Episcopal Church have seen for decades: Same-sex couples and their families are evidence of the goodness of God’s creation. They bless our congregations and communities immeasurably, and we have all learned from their steadfast love for one another and the evidence of God’s goodness that they show us.”
Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington:
“Scripture teaches us that God shows no partiality. Today our country has moved closer to this vision of equality and unity, and I give thanks for our progress. Now, as always, the ability to create a more just and caring country lies with us. Heartened by today’s decisions, may we recommit ourselves to this difficult but holy work.”
Michael De Dora, director of public policy at the secularist advocacy organization The Center for Inquiry:
“As an organization grounded in the values of secularism and humanism, which recognize the intrinsic value of every person, we are delighted to celebrate these milestones in the struggle for full equality before the law for all citizens . . . DOMA and Prop 8 were betrayals of the secular ideals set forth in our founding documents, relegating LGBT Americans to second-class status. The Court’s rejection of these measures strongly reinforces the idea that religiously based attitudes on sex and marriage will not stand in the way of granting fundamental rights to anyone.”