November 2014 Church & State | Editorial

The U.S. Supreme Court normally makes news when it issues rulings. But on Oct. 6, the high court captured headlines for another reason: It decided not to hear a number of cases challenging same-sex marriage.

The court’s action left several lower court rulings that invalidated bans on same-sex marriage intact. Marriage equality was expanded to Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. It was also legalized in several nearby states covered by the federal appeals courts in question. Marriage equality is now the law in at least 30 states.

Religious Right groups were not pleased. The Alliance Defending Freedom issued a statement insisting that the fight is not over. Another group, the National Organization for Marriage, called for amending the U.S. Constitution to limit marriage to one man and one woman. The Family Research Council insisted that most Americans oppose marriage equality – the opposite of what the polls show.

These organizations seem unable to accept the reality that their arguments have simply failed to carry the day. There’s a reason for that: Their arguments are not very good.

Time and again, when these cases were argued in the lower courts, the attorneys representing “traditional marriage” would be challenged by judges to make their case: Why shouldn’t the economic and social benefits of marriage be extended to committed same-sex couples?

And the attorneys would sputter. They would mutter something about chil­dren – as if same-sex couples were in­capable of raising children. They would point to discredited research. They would talk about the right of states to decide the matter for themselves.

One thing they would not do is make arguments grounded in theology. Groups that oppose marriage equality are quite happy to make these arguments when preaching to their followers. But they knew such assertions would be non-starters in court. That left them with precious little to hang their hats on.

Marriage equality first became legal in Massachusetts in 2004. Opposite-sex marriage hasn’t collapsed, and the apocalypse hasn’t been ushered in by a wrathful god. No house of worship has been forced to perform a same-sex marriage.

It would have been better if the high court had accepted a case and extended marriage equality nationwide. For whatever reason, the court has declined to do that. It seems to be moving ahead piecemeal. So be it.

Whether Religious Right groups care to acknowledge it or not, change is already here. Their reaction to recent developments shows that once again, these organizations are on the losing side of law, history and simple decency.