Tag archives: Marriage

Churches Are Sticky”: How Believers Can Help to Strengthen and Save Marriages

by Daniel Hart

October 23, 2019

Although the divorce rate in the U.S. has declined over the last few years, the raw number of divorces that continue to take place in America is still disturbingly high—an average of well over 800,000 per year. As a result, over one million children suffer the effects of their parents’ divorce every year.

Let’s not gloss over these statistics. As Dr. Pat Fagan has written, “The marriage between a man and a woman is the single most important human relationship. Period.” When that relationship is severed, particularly when children are involved, the result is often catastrophic—not only for the husband, wife, and children, but for society at large.

In an extensive synthesis of the major research on divorce, the Marriage & Religion Research Institute (MARRI) found that “[d]ivorce detrimentally impacts individuals and society in numerous ways across all major institutions.” This impact includes:

  • Family: Divorce permanently weakens the family and the relationship between children and parents. It frequently leads to the development of destructive conflict management methods, diminished social competence, the early loss of virginity, diminished sense of masculinity or femininity, more trouble with dating, more cohabitation, greater likelihood of divorce, higher expectations of divorce later in life, and a decreased desire to have children.
  • Religious practice: Divorce diminishes the frequency of worship of God and recourse to Him in prayer.
  • Education: Divorce diminishes children’s learning capacity and educational attainment.
  • The marketplace: Divorce reduces household income and deeply cuts individual earning capacity.
  • Government: Divorce significantly increases crime, abuse and neglect, drug use, and the costs of compensating government services.
  • Health and well-being: Divorce weakens children’s health and longevity. It also increases behavioral, emotional, and psychiatric risks, including even suicide.

What is most heartbreaking about divorce is how it affects children. Elizabeth Marquardt’s landmark book Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce presents an intimate portrait of how profoundly divorce affects the children caught in its snares, not just in their childhood years but throughout their entire adult lives.

As believers, what can we do to change the culture of divorce in our country?

The Critical Role Churches Play in Decreasing Divorce

As reported by Christianity Today, something amazing happened in the Jacksonville, Florida area between 2016 and 2018. In a coordinated campaign that involved about 50 Protestant and Catholic churches and 40 nonprofit organizations in Duval County, over 58,000 people took part in a variety of marriage enrichment events and programs over the course of those three years.

The results were astonishing. A report done by the Institute for Family Studies found that “‘divorce fell about 21 percent more in Duval County’ than in comparable counties across the United States” during the time of the marriage campaign.

JP De Gance, the head of the campaign, pointed out that what was unique about it was how it combined the forces of both secular nonprofits and local churches, who all had the shared goal of reducing the number of divorces in the Jacksonville area, which had a higher divorce rate than other comparable metro areas around the country before the campaign began. In particular, De Gance noted the “sticky” nature of relationships within church ministry compared with secular organizations:

What we later realized is that churches are the best at strengthening marriages. And the reason, using secular social science arguments, is that churches are sticky in a way that nobody else is sticky. And when you show up to your local Boys and Girls Club, a secular NGO, there isn’t a deep membership who is passionate about forming personal relationships outside of the programs that exist there. But with churches, that’s a huge part of what they do. So, if you go to a ministry at a church, you’re going to meet somebody, and they might invite you over for dinner. You might be invited back to join one of their small groups. You might be invited back for a service. You’ve got a deep reservoir of your membership passionate about forming one-to-one, life-changing relationships, which produces the stickiness that churches have over other NGO’s. So, in Jacksonville, churches made the difference.

3 Ways Churches Can Minister to Marriages

The success of this marriage campaign in Jacksonville is a great reminder of the power that we believers have to change lives and impact culture. Given its success, believers should take note of the content of the campaign and should consider imitating it in our own churches if possible. The main nonprofit partner that provided the programming of the Jacksonville campaign was Live the Life, which has excellent resources on ways to minister to engaged couples, enrich marriages, and heal marriages in crisis.

Here are some takeaways from this campaign that we can bring to our own churches to strengthen marriages and decrease divorce.

1. Ministering to and Mentoring Engaged Couples

A template for a strong marriage needs to be formed before a couple ties the knot. This in turn will make it less likely that married couples will be blindsided by major conflict that they did not anticipate years into their marriage, which could lead to divorce.

Obviously, it would be impossible to prepare for every major conflict that could arise within marriage, but there are ways to set healthy and realistic expectations for what marriage actually is and provide couples with ways to effectively navigate differences in their personalities and resolve conflicts.

One invaluable service that churches can provide for engaged couples is to implement a strong marriage preparation program. A key element of this can be to provide each engaged couple with an already married mentor couple from within the church congregation. Engaged couples can meet with their mentor couple weekly or monthly to discuss the particulars of what marriage looks like.

A mentorship program can be mutually beneficial for both couples. It’s a wonderful way for the engaged couple to benefit from the wisdom of the married couple and also for the married couple to be enlivened and enriched by the fresh perspective of the engaged couple. It’s also a great way for married couples to volunteer and be a part of an invaluable ministry within their home church.

2. Providing Marriage Enrichment Ministries

As JP De Gance pointed out, the Jacksonville campaign “illustrated to churches that this [marriage enrichment] is a gap in ministry, and that they need to fill that gap, and that we can resource them on how to do it.”

Every marriage, no matter how strong, is a journey of learning and discovery that never stops until death. But after many years of marriage, many couples tend to fall into patterns and habits that make them lose sight of the beautiful reality of marriage. That’s why every couple needs a shot in the arm from time to time to reinvigorate and enrich their marriage.

There are many marriage enrichment programs out there that churches can implement if they choose (a few are listed below). Another option is for your church to create your own ministry—here’s a helpful guide on starting your own.

3. Helping to Heal Marriages in Crisis

De Gance also noted another important aspect of offering marriage ministries: “[W]hile the churches were running ongoing marriage enrichment, folks who have serious problems would surface at those events.”

Marriages that are in serious crisis will need more help than a simple marriage enrichment small group, weekend, or retreat. These couples may need more professionalized help than what your church can offer. But simply offering a marriage ministry in the first place can be a springboard for these couples to fully face the deep crisis in their marriages instead of continuing to put it off.

Therefore, it will be important for your church to have resources available that you can refer these struggling couples to. Here is a brief list:

Introducing Lecture Me! - A New Podcast from FRC

by Family Research Council

October 15, 2019

We all need to be lectured sometimes.

Family Research Council’s new weekly-ish podcast Lecture Me! features selected talks by top thinkers from the archives of the FRC Speaker Series. Our podcast podium takes on tough issues like religious liberty, abortion, euthanasia, marriage, family, sexuality, public policy, and the culture—all from a biblical worldview.

Listen with us to the lecture, then stick around afterward as we help you digest the content with a discussion featuring FRC’s policy and government affairs experts.

The first three episodes are now available. They include:

  • Nancy Pearcey: Love Thy Body

FRC’s Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview David Closson joins Lecture Me! to discuss Author Nancy Pearcey’s lecture about her book Love Thy Body, in which she fearlessly and compassionately makes the case that secularism denigrates the body and destroys the basis for human rights, and sets forth a holistic and humane alternative that embraces the dignity of the human body.

  • Military Mental Health Crisis

Currently, an average of 21 military veterans are taking their lives each day. FRC’s Deputy Director of State and Local Affairs Matt Carpenter joins the podcast to discuss Richard Glickstein’s lecture as he shares the compelling evidence that proves faith-based solutions reduce suicides, speed the recovery of PTSD, and build resiliency.

  • Repairers of the Breach

How can the conservative movement help restore America’s inner cities? FRC’s Coalitions Senior Research Fellow Chris Gacek joins the podcast to discuss Robert L. Woodson, Sr.’s lecture on how the conservative movement must identify, recognize, and support agents of individual and community uplift and provide the resources, expertise, and funding that can strengthen and expand their transformative work.

Lecture Me! is available at most places you listen to podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, and Castbox.

The Summer of Love: The Beauty of the Marriage Covenant

by Hugh Phillips

June 27, 2019

During the month of June, the wedding season is in full swing. Yet, June is also celebrated as “LGBT Pride Month.” Throughout this month, the LGBT lobby argues that they are “celebrating love” and claim that their movement is based in love and a respect for human dignity. However, much of the LGBT movement is based on a misguided notion of love that is rooted in a harmful postmodern hedonism that, as Nancy Pearcey details in her book Love Thy Body, actually devalues human dignity.  

In this season, Christian conservatives must draw Americans toward the beauty of the true love that the natural marriage covenant between one man and one woman provides. To do this we must properly define love.

Competing Views of Love

Natural marriage and the LGBT movement represent two competing worldviews on what love and marriage actually mean. The LGBT movement, born from the sexual revolution, bases its definition of love on subjective feelings and emotions. They argue that all feelings, attractions, and passions for a person, and any relationships that result, should be celebrated and protected by state law.  This view can be tied with the modern assertion of marriage and relationships as merely contractual agreements.

 Pearcey discusses this when she notes that, long before the sexual revolution, the secular worldview devalued the basis of love and marriage from an unconditional covenant to a contract focused on how the relationship can benefit each individual. Thus, the modern view of relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual, is based on personal fulfillment of desire and is no longer grounded in selfless love and fulfillment based on adhering to God’s natural design. This irrational view of relationships overlooks the unnatural and harmful effects of such relationships while also disregarding a truthful view of what love actually is.

Biblical Love and the Marriage Covenant

By contrast, the biblical worldview sees relational love as an objective choice and duty that, while often accompanied by emotions, is not dependent on those emotions as the basis of the relationship. In fact, as C.S. Lewis notes in The Abolition of Man, the hallmark of adulthood is being able to train one’s emotions so that they conform to the moral law of God’s natural order. Marriage is the greatest expression of and training ground for this because, under the biblical model, the couple are called to give up their own desires and wants for that of their spouse.

Marriage is the best institution in which to express the biblical model of love. This is revealed in God’s original purpose for marriage. The Bible is clear that the marriage covenant was created by God as a metaphor for His sacrificial love and salvation for His people. Theologian Dr. R.C. Sproul noted: “Marriage is ordained and instituted by God—that is to say, marriage did not just spring up arbitrarily out of social conventions or human taboos. Marriage was not invented by men but by God.” Thus, when Paul speaks on marriage, it makes absolute sense when he urges husbands to “…love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her…” Covenant marriage is an institutional protection of covenant love.

The biblical model of love and marriage, as revealed strikingly in God’s design for marriage, is revolutionary because its emphasis is, not on the individual, but on the other person. This is explicitly shown in the marriage vows which detail and initiate the marriage covenant. In the vows, the focus is on one’s duties and obligations to the other person, not on fulfilling one’s own desires. This is an expression of biblical love. When Paul speaks on the characteristics of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, all the characteristics are strikingly focused towards the good of others and not one’s own good.

This is why Family Research Council has always defended natural marriage and has seen it as the bedrock of a safe and prosperous society. Besides the plethora of proven social benefits that marriage has for society, it is one of the keys to the future of America, both culturally and politically. It is so for this reason: it both teaches and models selfless love for another, a trait vitally necessary for the survival of any Republic such as ours.

The Beauty of True Love and the Marriage Covenant

In an age of LGBTQ “rights” and the celebration of sexual confusion and personal desire above all, our culture must return to a celebration and respect for the beauty of the selfless marriage covenant. Let’s return to the picture of a man and a woman sacrificially committing themselves to each other in marriage on a beautiful summer afternoon. Let’s also think of the beauty and powerful testimony of that same couple, now old, having remained faithfully committed in a lifetime of service to each other under God. Most Americans would smile at this picture. Why wouldn’t they? Such a relationship is a natural human desire!

Thus, in an era dominated by individualism and obsessed with personal autonomy and choice, Christians and conservatives should counter the LGBT movement by showing the beauty and joy of the mutual sacrifice and commitment of the natural marriage covenant. Nothing will counter the harmful effects of the sexual revolution or show the Gospel more clearly than the picture of a man and a woman unconditionally giving themselves to each other’s service for a lifetime. Against this type of true love and commitment the sexual revolution has no power.

So, this summer, let’s respond to LGBT Pride Month by celebrating the beauty of marriage according to God’s design and the couples who have been faithful in marriage. Let us also recommit ourselves as a movement to living out in our own marriages the faithfulness of the marriage covenant and truly mirroring God’s faithfulness towards us, His redeemed! It’s June—thank God for the wonder of His gift of marriage!

Hugh Phillips is a Government Affairs Intern at Family Research Council working on pro-life legislation.

3 Things to Remember About the Importance of Marriage This Valentine’s Day

by Hugh Phillips

February 14, 2019

Most people see Valentine’s Day as a fun opportunity to express their love to their spouse or significant other. Therefore, it’s a great time for Christian conservatives to take this opportunity to emphasize, through public policy and social activism, the critical importance and beauty of marriage, both to individuals and to our culture as a whole.

Marriage, designed by God to be between one man and one woman, reveals the beauty of God’s design for social order. FRC has consistently argued that marriage is critical to the maintenance of society and is the foundation of civilization. Yet too often, modern conservatives overlook the importance of marriage in the war for the soul of America. The following are three things Christian conservatives must make clear:

1. Marriage is a gift.

In a time when young Americans are putting off marriage, whether it be to find that perfect job or get one more degree, a sense of loneliness is drifting over American society. Against this background, Christian conservatives must remind society of the importance of marriage and the beauty of a life-long relationship to one person. In today’s anti-marriage and anti-commitment culture, Christian conservatives must argue that marriage is one of the most fulfilling and essential aspects of life. God’s design for marriage is such that having a spouse provides the necessary emotional and spiritual support that we all need every day.

2. Marriage is a responsibility.

In the modern day, many argue that marriage is not only old-fashioned, but unnecessarily restrictive of the freedoms of individuals. Christian conservatives must respond to this argument by showing that marriage is one of the healthiest and most necessary steps a young person must take to mature. A society that values marriage is happier and more productive. When discussing marriage, as with other issues like government, Christian conservatives must make clear that it is not unlimited freedom but ordered liberty that makes for happy, fulfilling lives.

3. Marriage is critical to the maintenance of society.

Only strong families can ensure a stable, healthy, and safe society, and families are only strong if marriages are strong. The many social problems America faces arguably have their root in the breakdown of marriages caused by the rise of the sexual revolution in the 1960’s. If social problems are to be eased, the value of marriage must be upheld in public policy and in the culture at large.

Social conservatives must not give way but instead defend the sanctity and importance of marriage. This can be done on the public policy level by, for example, eliminating the marriage penalty and reforming divorce laws to reflect the value of the marriage covenant. Even more importantly, Christian conservatives must defend and promote the sanctity of marriage in the broader culture. Only then will public policy victories on this issue increase as the nation realizes the importance of marriage to our society. Happy National Marriage Week, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

Hugh Phillips is a Government Affairs intern at Family Research Council working on pro-life legislation.

Four Short Observations about Justice Kennedy’s Opinion on Same-Sex Unions

by Rob Schwarzwalder

June 26, 2015

Homosexuality is an “Immutable” Characteristic

Far from seeking to devalue marriage, the petitioners seek it for themselves because of their respect—and need—for its privileges and responsibilities.  And their immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.” Opinion of the Court, p. 4

Wrong: Homosexuality is NOT an immutable characteristic.  This is documented copiously and is demonstrated anecdotally by everyone from Rosaria Butterfield to Chirlane McCray, the wife of New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio.

As reported in an amicus brief for the Family Research Council, an examination of just some of the complaints that have been brought to date challenging state marriage laws reveals that dozens of the plaintiffs seeking to marry someone of the same sex previously were married to someone of the opposite sex. Notwithstanding their (presumed) sexual orientation, they were issued a license to marry. It might be argued that at the time of their previous marriage, they were not homosexual. But that response creates a new problem. If they were heterosexual then, but are homosexual now, then their sexual orientation could not be said to be immutable. – FRC Senior Fellow Peter Sprigg, The Wrong Argument Against Traditional Marriage, April 27, 2015

Changing Understandings of Marriage”

The ancient origins of marriage confirm its centrality, but it has not stood in isolation from developments in law and society. The history of marriage is one of both continuity and change. That institution—even as confined to opposite-sex relations—has evolved over time.  For example, marriage was once viewed as an arrangement by the couple’s parents based on political, religious, and financial concerns; but by the time of the Nation’s founding it was understood to be a voluntary contract between a man and a woman … Indeed, changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations, often through perspectives that begin in pleas or protests and then are considered in the political sphere and the judicial process.” Opinion of the Court, pp. 6-7

Wrong: The nature of marriage as the union of one man and one woman has never changed. Legal matters attendant to marriage (women’s property rights, arrangements by parents, etc.) have changed, but the nature of marriage has itself never changed.  Kennedy’s argument says, in essence, that because a car now has airbags, it should be called an airplane.  Incorrect: It remains a car, even if improvements have been made to its engine, its safety, etc.

These aspects of marriage—the complementarity of male and female, and the irreplaceable role of male-female relations in reproducing the human race—are part of the original order of creation, and are evident to all human beings from the enduring order of nature. These common elements of marriage are at the heart of our civil laws defining and regulating marriage. Therefore, people of all cultures and religions—including those who lack faith in God, Christ, or the Bible—are capable of participating in the institution of marriage. – Andreas Kostenberger, Ph.D., “The Bible’s Teaching on Marriage and Family”

Homosexuality is analogous to race

When new insight reveals discord between the Constitution’s central protections and a received legal stricture, a claim to liberty must be addressed.  Applying these established tenets, the Court has long held the right to marry is protected by the Constitution.  In Loving v. Virginia, 388 U. S. 1, 12 (1967), which invalidated bans on interracial unions, a unanimous Court held marriage is ‘one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men’.” Opinion of the Court, p. 8

Wrong: Race is immutable and benign.  It is irrelevant to with one’s character or conduct.  Homosexuality is not immutable and those who practice same-sex intimacy are engaging in behavior that has intrinsic moral content.

One of the four criteria for defining a classification such as sexual orientation as suspect—which in turn subjects laws targeting that class of people to the highest burden of proof—is that the group in question share an immutable characteristic. The immutability of sexual orientation is hardly a settled matter—just ask Anne Heche (the former partner of celebrity and lesbian Ellen DeGeneres who has now affirmed her heterosexuality). - Margaret Talbot, “Is Sexuality Immutable?” The New Yorker, January 25, 2010

Marriage is a matter of “individual autonomy”

A first premise of the Court’s relevant precedents is that the right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy.” Opinion of the Court, p. 13

Wrong: While individual autonomy in terms of “personal choice” is “inherent in the concept” of marriage, marriage is not strictly about personal volition.  It is a social institution designed for procreation and child-rearing in a complementary household in which a child benefits from the influence of differently-gendered parents.

Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father. Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths. Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. By encouraging the norms of marriage—monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanence—the state strengthens civil society and reduces its own role. The future of this country depends on the future of marriage. – Ryan T. Anderson, “Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It”, Heritage Foundation, March 11, 2013

Overview of Obergefell v. Hodges: Supreme Court Discards Voters’ Views on Marriage

by Travis Weber

June 26, 2015

In a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that states must license same sex marriages and recognize licenses issued by other states. The decision was based on the due process and equal protection provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment.

There are two over-arching errors in this decision.

First, in reading this right into the Constitution, the Court played social policy maker instead of judge. This issue should have been left to the states, but the Court chose instead to make extensive pronouncements of social policy and create a right to same sex marriage under the Constitution.

Second, the Court overlooks huge logical gaps throughout its use of precedent and case law. All of the marriage decisions the majority relies on pertained to marriage between a man and a woman. None of them dealt with a marriage between two people of the same sex. To claim all those decisions contemplated such relationships as constitutionally protected marriages is an incredible leap in legal reasoning. However, it is more understandable when one views marriage (as the majority appears to do here) as simply an interaction between civil government and the individual (Justice Kennedy stated the institution of marriage “has evolved over time). The Court arrives at its conclusion here by viewing marriage as simply whatever man says it is; once its reasoning is divorced from God’s authority, the Court more easily appends same sex “marriage” to the view of “marriage” it believes is constitutionally protected.

If there is a silver lining to the ruling, it is that because this ruling is heavily based on due process grounds, and focused less on equal protection (and avoiding animus entirely), there could be more leeway to protect religious freedom when regulating matters related to same sex marriage.

Majority Opinion

In the majority opinion, authored by Justice Kennedy (and joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan), the Court relies on its own view and judgment of the history of marriage, along with legal validation of gay rights in Bowers and Lawrence, and subsequent more recent cases, as purported precedent for its decision.

In an attempt to legitimize its reasoning and conclusions, the Court makes many social science pronouncements on marriage—such as “new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution of marriage” and “many persons did not deem homosexuals to have dignity in their own distinct identity.” Regardless of their accuracy, the Court has no authority or expertise to make such claims.

At one point, Justice Kennedy claims the petitioners did not intend to denigrate natural marriage. The problem is, whether they intend to or not, disrupting marriage as God intends it will eventually lead to its destruction.

Due Process

The Court first held that Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process protections required states to license same-sex marriage. In the Court’s view, this right extends to “personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs.” Which rights are protected by substantive due process “requires courts to exercise reasoned judgment in identifying interests of the person so fundamental that the State must accord them its respect… . That process is guided by many of the same considerations relevant to analysis of other constitutional provisions that set forth broad principles rather than specific requirements. History and tradition guide and discipline this inquiry but do not set its outer boundaries.”

The Court starts by recognizing that it has long protected the “right to marry”—relying on rulings in the racial, child support, and prison contexts. The Court recognized that none of these dealt with same sex marriage, and attempts to excuse itself: “The Court, like many institutions, has made assumptions defined by the world and time of which it is a part.”

At one point (which is lacking airtight reasoning), the Court basically acknowledges it is recognizing this right for the first time—yet marginalizes Glucksburg, the case governing recognition of due process rights—and proceeds to rely on four reasons for doing so:

(1)   “[T]he right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy” (citing the racial, child support, and prison context). “Choices about marriage shape an individual’s destiny.” “The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation.”

(2)   Relying on Griswold, the Court claims: “A second principle in this Court’s jurisprudence is that the right to marry is fundamental because it supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals.”

(3)   “A third basis for protecting the right to marry is that it safeguards children and families and thus draws meaning from related rights of childrearing, procreation, and education.”

(4)   “Fourth and finally, this Court’s cases and the Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone of our social order.”

Ironically, Justice Kennedy’s third point is precisely why children need a mom and a dad. The Court here relies on Pierce, a case which by no means contemplated that marriage could be anything other. And his fourth point is exactly why marriage is between a man and a woman. Calling it anything other reveals how when officials (including judges) depart from an understanding of what higher law and natural law say about mankind, their reasoning goes astray.

Throughout the majority opinion, the Court makes social pronouncements it has no authority to make. And none of the cases it relies on ever contemplated that marriage could be anything but between a man and a woman. Justice Kennedy quotes the 1888 case Maynard v. Hill, which relied on de Tocqueville to explain that marriage is “‘the foundation of the family and of society, without which there would be neither civilization nor progress.’ Marriage, the Maynard Court said, has long been ‘a great public institution, giving character to our whole civil polity.’”

Does Justice Kennedy sincerely believe that the Maynard Court, which he quotes, contemplated its holding as applying to marriages besides those between men and women? Or that that Court would view such marriages as helpful to the “social order?” Yet he proceeds to claim “[t]here is no difference between same- and opposite-sex couples with respect to [the] principle” that marriage plays an important part in the “social order.”

Equal Protection

The Court next held that the state laws at issue also violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection provision. In its earlier marriage cases, the Court asserts, equal protection and due process grounds had been intertwined. The Court attempts to show that due process and equal protection also intertwine to protect same sex marriage in this case. The equal protection grounds are less clear and do not feature as prominently as the due process arguments in the majority opinion. At this point, the Court also expressly overruled Baker.

In his opinion, Justice Kennedy acknowledged his recent pro-democracy thinking in Schuette, but (unfortunately) did not decide to heed it:

Of course, the Constitution contemplates that democracy is the appropriate process for change, so long as that process does not abridge fundamental rights. Last Term, a plurality of this Court reaffirmed the importance of the democratic principle in Schuette v. BAMN, 572 U. S. ___ (2014), noting the “right of citizens to debate so they can learn and decide and then, through the political process, act in concert to try to shape the course of their own times.” Id., at ___ – ___ (slip op., at 15–16). Indeed, it is most often through democracy that liberty is preserved and protected in our lives. But as Schuette also said, “[t]he freedom secured by the Constitution consists, in one of its essential dimensions, of the right of the individual not to be injured by the unlawful exercise of governmental power.” Id.,at ___ (slip op., at 15). Thus, when the rights of persons are violated, “the Constitution requires redress by the courts,” notwithstanding the more general value of democratic decisionmaking. Id.,at ___ (slip op., at 17). This holds true even when protecting individual rights affects issues of the utmost importance and sensitivity.”

Why, then, did Justice Kennedy decide as he did here? In essence, he appears to feel differently about private sexual matters compared to other issues; this is evident in his consideration of Bowers and Lawrence, which he discusses here. Thus, the Court denied its own reasoning (indeed, Justice Kennedy denied his own reasoning) from the Schuette case.

Justice Kennedy decides that same sex marriage will not harm natural marriage, and ends with another policy pronouncement:

Decisions about whether to marry and raise children are based on many personal, romantic, and practical considerations; and it is unrealistic to conclude that an opposite-sex couple would choose not to marry simply because same-sex couples may do so.”

The Court concludes that its reasoning requiring states to license same sex marriages would undermine any opposition to recognizing such marriages from out of state. Thus, the Court held that states must issue same sex marriage licenses and must recognize same sex marriages performed in other states.

Here, the Court’s thinking again reveals an approach to marriage that only appears more logical (if at all) when God is removed from the picture, and is evidenced by such statements as: “It would misunderstand these men and women [the petitioners] to say they disrespect the idea of marriage.” Unfortunately, the truth that this reasoning harms marriage by removing its Author from the picture whether or not people intend to was missed here.

The Court does briefly address religious liberty concerns:

Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same-sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex.”

While this recognition of religious liberty protections is better than nothing, it does not accurately capture a satisfactory vision of how religious liberty should be (or even currently is) constitutionally or statutorily protected. Several dissenting Justices make similar observations.

Dissenting Opinion by Chief Justice Roberts

Chief Justice Roberts wrote a dissenting opinion (joined by Justices Scalia and Thomas), noting that the majority ruling was a policy decision, not a legal decision. He observes that the changes in marriage laws over time (while changing the regulation of marriage in some respects) did not, as the majority claims, alter the “structure” of marriage as between a man and a woman.

In short, the “right to marry” cases stand for the important but limited proposition that particular restrictions on access to marriage as traditionally defined violate due process. These precedents say nothing at all about a right to make a State change its definition of marriage, which is the right petitioners actually seek here.”

He aptly pointed to Dred Scott as an example of when the Court’s view on substantive due process got out of hand and is now viewed with distain many years later.

The Chief also recognizes that the majority’s claim that marriage is restricted to “two” people just can’t logically hold up under its own reasoning, and could easily be extended to plural marriage:

Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective “two” in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not. Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradition, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world. If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.”

He continues:

Those who founded our country would not recognize the majority’s conception of the judicial role. They after all risked their lives and fortunes for the precious right to govern themselves. They would never have imagined yielding that right on a question of social policy to unaccountable and unelected judges. And they certainly would not have been satisfied by a system empowering judges to override policy judgments so long as they do so after “a quite extensive discussion.”

Chief Justice Roberts then quotes Schuette, and notes that although there is still a losing side in a democratic debate, at least those people will know “that they have had their say,” unlike here, where the court has disenfranchised over 50 million Americans.

He also recognizes religious liberty issues which may arise:

Today’s decision … creates serious questions about religious liberty. Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is—unlike the right imagined by the majority—actually spelled out in the Constitution. Respect for sincere religious conviction has led voters and legislators in every State that has adopted same-sex marriage democratically to include accommodations for religious practice. The majority’s decision imposing same-sex marriage cannot, of course, create any such accommodations. The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to “advocate” and “teach” their views of marriage… . The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to “exercise” religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.”

There is more:

Hard questions arise when people of faith exercise religion in ways that may be seen to conflict with the new right to same-sex marriage—when, for example, a religious college provides married student housing only to opposite-sex married couples, or a religious adoption agency declines to place children with same-sex married couples. Indeed, the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage… . There is little doubt that these and similar questions will soon be before this Court. Unfortunately, people of faith can take no comfort in the treatment they receive from the majority today.”

The Chief then takes issue with the majority’s statement that laws supporting natural marriage are demeaning; he does not like the majority’s implication that those supporting such laws wish to demean anyone. He concludes that “while people around the world have viewed an institution in a particular way for thousands of years, the present generation and the present Court are the ones chosen to burst the bonds of that history and tradition.”

Dissenting Opinion by Justice Scalia

Justice Scalia also dissents (joined by Justice Thomas) and accuses the majority of legislating, not judging.

He aptly points out that the Windsor majority blatantly contradicts itself today:

It would be surprising to find a prescription regarding marriage in the Federal Constitution since, as the author of today’s opinion reminded us only two years ago (in an opinion joined by the same Justices who join him today): “[R]egulation of domestic relations is an area that has long been regarded as a virtually exclusive province of the States.”

Justice Scalia concludes with a warning:

With each decision of ours that takes from the People a question properly left to them—with each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the “reasoned judgment” of a bare majority of this Court—we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence.”

Dissenting Opinion by Justice Thomas

Justice Thomas also dissents (joined by Justice Scalia), noting the danger (as evidenced today) of substantive due process doctrine—by which rights “come into being” under the Fourteenth Amendment. He argues the Framers recognized no “right” to have the state recognize same sex relationships; there is no liberty to government benefits, just liberty from adverse government action.

He continued by focusing on the threat to religious liberty this decision represents, recognizing that while this ruling may change governmental recognition of marriage, it “cannot change” the religious nature of marriage. “It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.”

Justice Thomas also points out the problems with the majority’s conception of religious liberty:

Religious liberty is about more than just the protection for ‘religious organizations and persons … as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.’ … Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice.”

Had the majority allowed the definition of marriage to be left to the political process—as the Constitution requires—the People could have considered the religious liberty implications of deviating from the traditional definition as part of their deliberative process. Instead, the majority’s decision short-circuits that process, with potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty.”

Dissenting Opinion by Justice Alito

Justice Alito also dissented (joined by Justices Scalia and Thomas), arguing that the Court’s decision is based on a flawed understanding of what marriage is, and that it takes the decision out of the hands of the people who have the authority to decide it.

He also believes this decision threatens religious liberty:

It will be used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy. In the course of its opinion, the majority compares traditional marriage laws to laws that denied equal treatment for African-Americans and women… . The implications of this analogy will be exploited by those who are determined to stamp out every vestige of dissent.”

Perhaps recognizing how its reasoning may be used, the majority attempts, toward the end of its opinion, to reassure those who oppose same-sex marriage that their rights of conscience will be protected… . We will soon see whether this proves to be true. I assume that those who cling to old beliefs will be able to whisper their thoughts in the recesses of their homes, but if they repeat those views in public, they will risk being labeled as bigots and treated as such by governments, employers, and schools.”

Justice Alito recognizes that the Court now makes it impossible for states to consider how to legislatively protect conscience rights should they want to do that while at the same time legislatively authorizing same sex marriage.

He concludes:

Most Americans—understandably—will cheer or lament today’s decision because of their views on the issue of same-sex marriage. But all Americans, whatever their thinking on that issue, should worry about what the majority’s claim of power portends.”

Is Rubio Right About Christianity Being Designated “Hate Speech?”

by Rob Schwarzwalder

May 29, 2015

It is always encouraging when politicians speak truth boldly.

Marco Rubio did just that earlier this week, in an interview with CBN’s David Brody. Referring to strident advocates of same-sex “marriage,” he said:

If you think about it, we are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech. Because today we’ve reached the point in our society where if you do not support same-sex marriage you are labeled a homophobe and a hater. So what’s the next step after that? After they are done going after individuals, the next step is to argue that the teachings of mainstream Christianity, the catechism of the Catholic Church is hate speech and there’s a real and present danger.

Is he right? I think so.

Christianity teaches eternal destruction (read that, hell) for those without the Savior it heralds.

Christianity teaches that all men and women are sinners by nature and by choice.

Christianity teaches that there’s only one way to God — Jesus Christ.

Christianity teaches that all other professed ways to God are false.

Christianity teaches that its written text, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, were inspired without error in all they affirm.

Christianity teaches that sexual intimacy is reserved solely for one man, one woman marriage.

These and many other things abrade today’s cultural sensitivities and social demands. As such, is not Sen. Rubio’s prediction pretty obviously correct?

What do you think?

March for Marriage on Saturday, April 25th

by Leanna Baumer

April 20, 2015

With the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments regarding the constitutionality of state marriage laws on Tuesday, April 28th, supporters of natural marriage plan to gather in Washington, D.C. on April 25th to rally and pray for the Court. Saturday’s “March for Marriage” will begin at noon in front of the U.S. Capitol and finish at the steps of the Supreme Court. Schedule, map, and speakers can all be viewed here.

2015 March for Marriage

For the past two years, state and federal courts have dealt with the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s 2013 United States v. Windsor decision, mostly choosing to ignore the limits of the holding and instead imposing judicial redefinitions of marriage on states where voters have previously chosen to uphold marriage as the union of a man and a woman. (FRC Senior Fellow Peter Sprigg has written previously regarding Windsor’s narrow outcome). This spring, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to correct the course of lower courts and reaffirm its previous declarations that marriage policy “[b]y history and tradition” has been “treated as being within the authority and realm of the separate States.”

Given the profound costs to the rule of law, federalism, and First Amendment freedoms that will result from a judicial redefinition of marriage imposed on all fifty states, the Supreme Court would be wise to leave to the democratic process a policy question nowhere answered in the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, when polled earlier this year by WPA Opinion Research, that’s precisely the outcome 61% of Americans said they wanted to see. Saturday’s March for Marriage will offer thousands of Americans the public opportunity to remind the country and the Court that marriage has profound public importance and deserves the careful definition and debate that can only occur in the democratic process.

Social Conservative Review: An Insider’s Guide to Pro-Family News February 12, 2015

by Lela Mayfield

February 13, 2015

Click here to subscribe to the Social Conservative Review


This week is National Marriage Week, fitting given that the week culminates in Valentine’s Day (that’s Saturday, guys; forget at your peril).

It is oddly unfitting that Valentine’s Day is also when the film “Fifty Shades of Grey” is being released and marketed aggressively. One of the marketing tools being used for the film isa little Teddy Bearholding not roses or a box of chocolates but handcuffs. Another is jewelry: For example, jeweler Janet Cadsawan is selling a “double handcuff necklace” for a mere $150.

Fifty Shades” is based on the best-selling book of the same name. The book and movie go beyond mere graphic depictions of sexual intimacy, which are, of course, pornographic and exploitative in their own right. As commentatorRichard Swiernotes, “It is a story of a girl being sexually molested, over and over again, by a male figure with all the power, all the control. It is the classic abuse scenario.” The movie features horrific scenes of violent sexual abuse, to the point that the female star of the movie, Dakota Johnson, saysshe doesn’t want her own parents to watch it.

The movie is pornography of a particularly vile type. It celebrates things – abuse, rape, violence against women, manipulation, male domination – our culture claims to protest.

Radical sexual autonomy is now society’ssummum bonum. When combined with an ethos of moral relativism animated by the denial of an infinite, personal God Who has revealed His moral will clearly and with finality, this autonomy has led to growing chaos – and growing darkness.

Inreports being released today by FRC’s Marriage and Religion Research Institute, we learn that just 46 percent of U.S. teenagers ages 15-17 have grown-up with both biological parents always married. In the African-American community, “only 17 percent of black teenagers reach age 17 in a family with both their biological parents married.”

Marriage is in crisis. Human dignity, whether through promiscuity, pornography, homosexual behavior, or whateverother deviation from God’s standard for sexual intimacy, is being degraded. Is there hope?

Yes, in part because the conscience is not wholly dead: Even Ms. Johnson, who willingly subjected herself to what Yale cognitive scientist Joshua Knobe has called“animalization,”has sufficient shame and horror at her own cinematic acts that she does not want her parents to view them.

This is good news for followers of Jesus. Christians should take note that “the works of the law (remain) written on the heart” (Romans 2:15). That should give us a clue as to how to make public arguments during an era of moral disarray, and also provide an entry point for us to share the transforming Gospel of Jesus Christ.

With God, there no shades of grey, no “variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). His truth is always the same, and resonates in all but the most calloused of hearts.That’s good news for troubled marriages, broken hearts, and a wounded culture.

Sincerely,

Rob Schwarzwalder
Senior Vice-President
Family Research Council

P.S. Don’t miss my colleague Jessica Prol’s wonderful meditation on meaning, marriage and singleness, “Marriage Haves and Have-Nots Don’t Have To Square Off” inThe Federalist.


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Lesson from Obama Deception on Same-Sex “Marriage”: Watch What He Does, Not What He Says

by Peter Sprigg

February 13, 2015

News broke this week that former Obama political strategist David Axelrod has published a book in which he admits that, as Time magazine put it, “Barack Obama misled Americans for his own political benefit when he claimed in the 2008 election to oppose same sex marriage for religious reasons.”

It may well be that adopting this posture was effective in reassuring some moderate to left-leaning evangelicals, and socially conservative pastors and members in African American churches, who were drawn to Obama’s historic candidacy but would not have supported a redefinition of “marriage.”

Mr. Obama continued to publicly oppose a redefinition of marriage until he announced a change of heart in 2012.

The revelation that Mr. Obama’s position was one of convenience rather than conviction comes as no surprise to Family Research Council. President Obama’s actions have always spoken louder than his words, and his actions always belied his claim to oppose same-sex “marriage.”

As early as August of 2008, shortly before then-Senator Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for President, I wrote something that seems to be essentially what Axelrod is now verifying:

. .  [I]t is clear that Obama’s supposed “opposition” to “gay marriage” is a matter of political strategy—nothing more.   All it means is that he is unwilling, for political reasons, to make legalizing it a policy priority for which he will actively campaign.”

Below is reprinted in full the piece that I wrote for FRC Action (which is still available on the web):

Obama Backs Same-Sex “Marriage”

By Peter Sprigg
FRC Action
August 2008
http://www.frcaction.org/get.cfm?i=WX08H01

 

In recent weeks, there has been a spate of stories suggesting that Barack Obama has begun moving to the center.   On issues ranging from the Iraq war to terrorist surveillance to gun control, Obama has been moderating some of his previous liberal positions.

But there is at least one issue on which Obama has been moving steadily to the left.   In fact, it’s now fair to say it—Barack Obama supports same-sex “marriage.” All that’s left is for him to admit it.

You may not find a statement anywhere from Obama in which he comes right out and says, “I support same-sex marriage.”   In fact, on March 2, Obama said, “I will tell you that I don’t believe in gay marriage … . I believe in civil unions … . [but] I don’t think it should be called marriage.”

But when Obama says, “I don’t believe in gay marriage,” what is he really saying?   The evidence suggests that he is not saying what most people would mean by that statement-namely, that there is good reason why marriage, in principle, ought to be defined as the union of one man and one woman.

In fact, when you examine it closely, it is clear that Obama’s supposed “opposition” to “gay marriage” is a matter of political strategy—nothing more.   All it means is that he is unwilling, for political reasons, to make legalizing it a policy priority for which he will actively campaign.

For example, Obama has more than once endorsed the analogy, often used by activists, between homosexual “marriage” and interracial marriage.   He told The Advocate, “I’m the product of a mixed marriage that would have been illegal in 12 states when I was born.   That doesn’t mean that had I been an adviser to Dr. King back then, I would have told him to lead with repealing an antimiscegenation law, because it just might not have been the best strategy in terms of moving broader equality forward.”

Presumably, Obama supports legal recognition of his parents’ marriage-so the comparison would suggest that he supports legal recognition of same-sex “marriage” also, but worries only that the current campaign for it is not “the best strategy.”

When the California Supreme Court legalized same-sex “marriage” in May, it would have been a perfect opportunity for Obama to display “centrist” credentials.   To be consistent with his stated position on the issue, Obama should have condemned the court’s decision, while endorsing the status quo of the generous “domestic partner” benefits already granted under state law.   Instead, his campaign announced that Obama “respects the decision of the California Supreme Court.”

Are there any policies safeguarding man-woman marriage that Obama will endorse?   Not constitutional amendments, since he has declared, “I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.”

What about the federal Defense of Marriage Act?   This is the 1996 statute, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, which defined marriage for all purposes under federal law as the union of one man and one woman.   It also declared that states would have no obligation to recognize same-sex “marriages” from other states.

Obama favors complete repeal of this law, which would open the door for the federal government to recognize same-sex marriages in Massachusetts and California and grant domestic partner benefits to federal employees, and would in effect allow California to redefine marriage for the entire country.

I haven’t found any evidence that Obama supports statutory provisions at the state level to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman, either.   He joined the Illinois State Senate the year after that state adopted its Defense of Marriage Act.

The final nail in the coffin for Obama’s supposed “opposition” to same-sex marriage can be found in a letter he wrote to a California “LGBT Pride” group on June 29.   Obama concludes the letter by saying, “I want to congratulate all of you who have shown your love for each other by getting married these last few weeks.”

To summarize, Obama supports granting 100% of the legal rights and benefits of marriage to homosexual couples; opposes virtually any legal means available of defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman (calling them “divisive and discriminatory”); “respects” courts that unilaterally overturn the democratically determined definition of marriage; compares legalizing same-sex “marriage” with legalizing interracial marriage; and “congratulates” homosexual couples who have entered into legally-recognized civil marriages.

This is not the description of someone who opposes same-sex “marriage.”   Obama supports same-sex “marriage”—and he should be honest enough to say that to American voters. 

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