Appeals court upholds state marriage laws
    November 7 2014 by Tom Strode, Baptist Press

    A federal appeals court upheld state laws that refuse to recognize same-sex marriage Thursday (Nov. 6), seemingly preparing the way for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide a contentious issue it has avoided so far.

    In a 2-1 opinion, a panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled four states – Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee – did not violate the U.S. Constitution by limiting marriage to the union of a man and a woman. The decision conflicts with rulings by four other federal appeals courts that struck down state laws that refused to recognize gay marriage.

    The same-sex couples who lost could ask for “en banc” review of the ruling, which would include all the members of the Sixth Circuit Court, or they could appeal to the Supreme Court. If they take the latter course and the justices grant review, the high court could issue a decision on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage before its current term ends next summer.

    Advocates for the biblical, traditional definition of marriage welcomed the Sixth Circuit’s opinion and the opportunity for the Supreme Court to make a final decision.

    “We applaud the decision of the Sixth Circuit Court, breaking a string of decisions by activist judges and courts who have imposed their personal belief systems on the public,” Frank Page, president of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said in a statement. “We pray that the Supreme Court will take up this matter and, specifically, that it will uphold the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”

    President of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission Russell D. Moore said in a statement, “This circuit split means that the Supreme Court’s ignoring of this issue will not be able to continue. The people of the states have the right to recognize marriage the way virtually every human culture has, as the union of a man and a woman. The Supreme Court should affirm this right, for all fifty states.”

    Byron Babione, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said in a written release, “As the [Sixth] Circuit rightly concluded, the Constitution does not demand that one irreversible view of marriage be judicially imposed on everyone. The people of every state should remain free to affirm marriage as the union of a man and a woman in their laws.”

    The Supreme Court has refused so far to review appeals court decisions invalidating state laws prohibiting gay marriage. The Sixth Circuit’s opinion, however, establishes a clash at the appellate level the justices apparently were waiting on before being willing to rule.

    On Oct. 6, the high court denied review of appeals court decisions overturning marriage laws in five states. That order not only meant gay marriage would be legal in those five states but, presumably by extension, in six other states in the same federal circuits. That action – plus an appeals court ruling the next day – set the stage for legalized same-sex marriage to expand to 35 states plus the District of Columbia. Before, it had been legal in 19 states and D.C.

    Given its past actions, the current Supreme Court appears highly unlikely to permit state bans on same-sex marriage – something the Sixth Circuit majority acknowledged.

    “From the vantage point of 2014, it would now seem, the question is not whether American law will allow gay couples to marry; it is when and how that will happen,” wrote Jeffrey Sutton in the Sixth Circuit’s split decision. “That would not have seemed likely as recently as a dozen years ago. For better, for worse, or for more of the same, marriage has long been a social institution defined by relationships between men and women. So long defined, the tradition is measured in millennia, not centuries or decades. So widely shared, the tradition until recently had been adopted by all governments and major religions of the world.”

    The three-judge panel does not have the option of deciding “whether gay marriage is a good idea,” Sutton wrote. Instead, it must determine whether the Constitution bars a state from defining marriage as only between a man and a woman, he said.

    States are permitted to define marriage under previous Supreme Court rulings, Sutton said. It is better for states to be able to determine an issue – marriage, in this case – that has traditionally been in their purview, he explained.

    “When the courts do not let the people resolve new social issues like this one, they perpetuate the idea that the heroes in these change events are judges and lawyers,” Sutton wrote. “Better in this instance, we think, to allow change through the customary political processes, in which the people, gay and straight alike, become the heroes of their own stories by meeting each other not as adversaries in a court system but as fellow citizens seeking to resolve a new social issue in a fair-minded way.”

    (EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.)

    11/7/2014 11:25:56 AM by Tom Strode, Baptist Press | with 0 comments
    Filed under: ERLC, marriage, politics

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