Marriage Equality: One Step at a Time

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This week the United States Supreme Court announced its 5-4 decision in United States v. Windsor that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1996, which blocked same-sex couples whose marriages were recognized by their home state from receiving benefits available to other married couples, is unconstitutional as it violates the equal protection clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. constitution. The tides are turning! Thirteen states now grant same-sex marriage, plus the District of Columbia, with three states on their way to doing so. California is among them, despite attempts to block it through Proposition 8 which the SCOTUS dismissed on grounds that those bringing the suit had no standing to defend on behalf of the state which chose not to do so (Hollingsworth v. Perry)

The tide is certainly turning to further build and defend the freedoms of all people. But 28 states still have a ban on same-sex marriage, either constitutional or statutory. Because the decision on California’s Prop 8 was dismissed on procedural grounds, there seems to still be no decision on the constitutionality of state bans. One could infer that the decision in the Windsor case is a statement on the constitutionality of such bans, but it remains to be clarified.

We still have work to do! In my own denomination, the PC(USA), still does not allow ministers to perform same-sex marriages, even in states where such marriages are granted. We can ordain them, but we can’t marry them. Please do not read into these SCOTUS decisions that we are done. Please continue to stay engaged in the ongoing national and ecclesiastical dialogue.

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