The court could uphold Proposition 8, California's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Or it could overturn it through one of four decisions. One: those supporting the ban in court lack legal "standing" to do so. Two: voters are not entitled to withdraw this right, since it had previously been established by the California Supreme Court. These two decisions would affect only California.
Three: states which provide for civil unions, such as California, violate the Constitution by withholding the designation of "marriage" (this is the Obama administration's position). Six other states would be affected. Four: all bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution. In this case, every state would be affected.
On the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the court will determine whether federal marriage benefits can legally be withheld from same-sex couples in states where such marriages are legal. The court could determine that the law withholding such benefits is constitutional, changing nothing. It could decide that the court lacks jurisdiction, which would probably have the practical effect of overturning DOMA with regard to federal marriage benefits.
Or it could decide that this provision is unconstitutional, which would clear the way for such benefits in the District of Columbia and 12 states which have legalized same-sex marriage. In even the worst case for defenders of biblical marriage, no other states would be affected directly. However, the push to legalize same-sex marriage in these states would be empowered significantly.
In tomorrow's Cultural Commentary, we'll discuss the consequences of the court's decision for our country and for those who defend biblical marriage. For today, I'd like to offer an observation: this debate, however it turns out, is only one indicator of a much larger battle being waged in our culture. Like a temperature warning light on a dashboard, it tells us that something is seriously wrong with the engine.
In essence, "marriage" is being redefined before our eyes. Rather than a covenant for the sake of the other, children to come, and society, it is becoming an arrangement of convenience for the sake of financial and legal benefits. Given the foundational significance of marriage and family to our nation, we cannot yet predict the future consequences of these seismic shifts.
But we can pray for spiritual awakening (2 Chronicles 7:14), speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), intercede for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2), and shine our light in the darkness (Matthew 5:14-16). In fact, we must. The darker the room, the more powerful the light.
Jim Denison, Ph.D., is a subject matter expert on cultural and contemporary issues. He founded the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, a nonsectarian "think tank" designed to engage contemporary issues with biblical truth in 2009 and is the author of seven books, including Radical Islam: What You Need to Know. For more information on the Denison Forum, visit www.denisonforum.org. To connect with Dr. Denison in social media, visit www.twitter.com/jimdenison or www.facebook.com/denisonforum.
Publication date: June 26, 2013