Some twelve years ago, on Nov. 18, 2003, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued a ruling that allowed same-sex marriages. That was the start of what today has become a reality in 37 states, with an addition 12 on the fence; an astonishing sweep for an issue that in those early days was regarded as a “time bomb” and a “national tragedy.”
The attitudes toward the right of gay couples to marry have changed at a remarkable rate. In 2003, polls showed that 37 percent of Americans were in favor of same-sex marriage; today, the rate has almost doubled, largely due the cascade of federal court decisions that found that state bans on such marriages were unconstitutional.
The momentum though was slow to build. It took five years before another state, California followed Massachusetts’ lead. But, following an initial heady start the court ruling in March 2008 allowing same-sex marriages was trumped eight months later by Proposition 8, a statewide referendum in which voters chose to ban them.
Same sex couples can now marry legally in 37 states - AL, AK, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DE, FL, HI, ID, IA, IL, IN, KS, ME, MD, MA, MN, MT, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OK, OR, PA, RI, SC, UT, VA, VT, WA, WV, WI, and WY -
This year the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in several marriage legal cases. A favorable outcome could bring the freedom to marry to same-sex couples nationwide. This spring, Freedom to Marry will continue its work to demonstrate that all of America is ready for the freedom to marry. Nearly 72% of the U.S. population lives in a state currently issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples state-wide.
What’s ahead for freedom to marry in the USA? And will religious institutions have a final voice?
For better or worse, the fate same-sex marriage bans across the nation now rests squarely with the U.S. Supreme Court. Arguments suggest that the court is profoundly divided about redefining an institution as traditional and central to human culture as one-man, one-woman marriage while recognizing that denying it to gay and lesbian couples may violate equal protection guarantees enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
What the court is being asked to do: recognize that cultural life in America has evolved to the point where a fundamental right to marriage should be extended to same-sex couples, despite an acknowledgement that that was never the original intent.
"This case isn't about how to define marriage. It's about who gets to decide that question," Bursch, who was making his ninth appearance before the Supreme Court, said as he opened his argument. "Is it the people acting through the democratic process or is it the federal courts?"
The church, including the Salvation Army, has every right to refuse to perform or acknowledge same sex marriages within its walls. Church leaders can decide who is good enough to be baptized, enrolled as members, ordained and elected to lead. But in good conscience can they/we then turn around and say they're/we're not judging anyone?
I believe we agree that we should not have the right to force our church/SA policies and religious beliefs onto the rest of the USA population through legislation. However, we would remind all that ours is a position long recognized by our nation; the sacrament of marriage was a religious institution well before it became a legally recognized bond by the state thus, the reason why so many people voted against Prop 8.
Perhaps we, the religious body, ought to consider completely removing the term "marriage" with the next proposition. Regardless of sexual orientation, everyone should be granted a "civil union". (and equal rights). Perhaps we should rid ourselves of society’s nominal marriage term and encase it solely as a religious term. It will take some doing but we might begin by instituting civil unions and equality. How can the religious right argue that?
The thing to note is that this Christian attitude can be linked to different attitudes in the public debate. Paul's texts were written 2000 years ago and they were expressions of contemporary values then and form the basis of varied contemporary Christian values today.
Our country, no matter the spiritual and religious slogans, banners and quips we adorn it with, is a secular one. ‘Marriage’, for those that seek it can do so in their own spiritual way, separate of the state.