Today, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act was unconstitutional under the 5th amendment, meaning that the federal government must recognize all state marriages for the purposes of applying federal law. The Court did not issue a ruling on California’s Proposition 8 and instead dismissed the case saying that those defending the law did not have the legal right to do so.
We asked our Aleteia Experts for reactions. Reactions will be updated throughout the day as they come in.
Jennifer Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute
"I was a spokeswoman for Prop 8. We spent $40 million on it. We had 70,000 individual contributors from all walks of life and all income levels. We had 100,000 volunteers, from across the religious spectrum. Our masters in Sacramento don’t agree with our views. So, when some Hollywood leftists invent absurd legal challenges to Prop 8, our masters in Sacramento refuse to defend it. Surprise, surprise.
"And now the Supreme Court tells us to sit down and shut up.
"I do not plan to be silent. The scorched earth tactics of the Sexual Revolutionaries are now taking down democracy itself. This is too high a price to pay for the supposed benefits of sexual ‘freedom.’"
Stephen M. Krasen, political science professor at Franciscan University, and founder and president of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists
Peter Lawler, Dana Professor of Government and International Studies at Berry College
"In the majority’s telling, this story is black-and-white: Hate your neighbor or come along with us. The truth is more complicated. It is hard to admit that one’s political opponents are not monsters, especially in a struggle like this one, and the challenge in the end proves more than today’s Court can handle. Too bad. A reminder that disagreement over something so fundamental as marriage can still be politically legitimate would have been a fit task for what in earlier times was called the judicial temperament. We might have covered ourselves with honor today, by promising all sides of this debate that it was theirs to settle and that we would respect their resolution. We might have let the People decide. But that the majority will not do. Some will rejoice in today’s decision, and some will despair at it; that is the nature of a controversy that matters so much to so many. But the Court has cheated both sides, robbing the winners of an honest victory, and the losers of the peace that comes from a fair defeat. We owed both of them better. I dissent."
Peter Wolfgang, Executive Director of the Family Institute of Connecticut
Fr Joseph Fessio, SJ, founder of Ignatius Press
"Justice Kennedy wrote: "The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity." This is only slightly less outrageously self-contradictory than his famous “mystery” utterance: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” If you can define your own concept of meaning, well, I suppose you can play Alice in Wonderland with any concept you want, including marriage. So at least Justice Kennedy is consistent in his self-contradiction, and this decision is simply a consequence of the earlier principle. However, he even goes farther here and apparently can read hearts, since he claims that the “purpose” is to “disparage and to injure”. So one man sets himself against the wisdom of all recorded history which recognizes the obvious: a marital union can do what no other union can; further it is not only a benefit to the state, but the state cannot exist without it. Giving it special status and protection does not disparage or injure anyone; it simply recognizes an empirical fact that only the willfully blind can fail to see.
"Chief Justice Roberts wrote: “"We have never before upheld the standing of a private party to defend the constitutionality of a state statute when state officials have chosen not to. We decline to do so for the first time here," Chief Justice Roberts said, alluding to the state of California’s decision not to defend Proposition 8 in court.” By that principle the Supreme Court should have never made any decisions, since each new decision was a “first time”.
"So we have the sad parody of one Catholic judge being so liberal that even the meaning of meaning isn’t fixed. And another Catholic judge so conservative that he can’t recognize the need for an unprecedented decision when there is an unprecedented set of facts.
"People, myself included, lament the moral decline of America. Without this stunning intellectual decline—where one can claim that an unborn baby is not a human person and that man-to-man copulation is equivalent to marital union—we could not have sunk so low. With this decision we are about to sink even lower. God help us.
"I’m not a prophet. But it is certainly going to make it far more difficult for those who defend marriage.
"[The Church] will call forth saints and scholars who will “shine like the stars in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation”. They will also be humiliated and very likely, in time, persecuted. Welcome to the Brave New World."
Matthw Lamb, Professor of Theology and Chair of the Department of Theology at Ave Maria University
"A proper response to such dictatorial decisions has been provided by St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae I-II, 95, 2:
As Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5) "that which is not just seems to be no law at all": wherefore the force of a law depends on the extent of its justice. Now in human affairs a thing is said to be just, from being right, according to the rule of reason. But the first rule of reason is the law of nature, as is clear from what has been stated above (91, 2, ad 2). Consequently every human law has just so much of the nature of law, as it is derived from thelaw of nature. But if in any point it deflects from the law of nature, it is no longer a law but a perversion of law.
"Fundamental to these issues is the need for twenty-first century scholars to recover the understanding of legislation as primarily an act of intelligence and reason. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI pointed out, a dictatorship of relativism has resulted from the nominalist voluntarism that devalued legislation into acts of will severed from intelligence and reason. It is indeed unreasonable to be shouting out the fiction that homosexuals can be properly married, thereby severing the nature of marriage from the procreation and education of children, at the very time that the so-called advanced societies are dying out. I recommend a reading of Jonathan Last’s recent book
What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: The Coming American Demographic Disaster."
Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute
Fr. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D., pastor of Holy Family parish in New York.
"Religious and other institutions which refuse to comply with this re-defintion of marriage now face hitherto unimaginable intrusions upon their right to act freely in accord with both right reason and religious doctrine. This is a terrible day for the United States. The Supreme Court has essentially said: Words, and hence laws made up of words, have no meaning apart from what we decide.This is perilous for liberty and heralds a flood of discrimination lawsuits and enforcement actions that will make the free exercise of religion in America ever more difficult."
Anthony Esolen, literature professor at Providence College and senior editor for Touchstone
"The decision purports to protect the states against the federal government — a protection very rarely offered in the last century and more; but the aim of DOMA was to protect one state from another, and the very institution of marriage from dilapidation. The people who passed DOMA were concerned that a "marriage" in North Carolina would have to be regarded as such in Virginia, regardless of the understanding of marriage prevailing in that state. It was on such grounds as these that the entry of Utah into the Union was made conditional upon that territory’s rejection of polygamy. For if polygamy is accepted in one state, and if it therefore must be accepted by the federal government for the apportioning of federal benefits, then in effect it becomes legal everywhere, since each state must affirm the contracts made in other states."
John Zmirak, author and blogger at The Bad Catholics Bingo Hall.
"The anti-marriage activists will take this as evidence that their momentum is building, as one more reason for the rest of us to accept that "resistance is futile," so we might as well collaborate, not resist.
"Any progress toward same-sex marriage is very dangerous, given our culture’s deranged attachment to legal enforcement of "equality," which invariably trumps freedom–of association, of contract, even of religion. I foresee states like California suing Catholic parishes that won’t marry two women, or three men and an android, and our fate will be in the hands of Caesar’s magistrates. Orthodox Christians and Jews will be legally the equivalent of white supremacists, people whose crank beliefs cannot prevail against the public consensus of what "equality" means. As Tocqueville warned, it is Americans’ besotted love of equality that might just destroy our country."
Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM)
Rick Garnett, Professor of Law and Associate Dean at Notre Dame Law School
“At the end of the day, the Court declined to announce that the Constitution requires all states to include same-sex unions in their legal definitions of ‘marriage.’ At the same time, the majority’s ruling and reasoning in the Defense of Marriage Act case will encourage additional challenges to most states’ definitions of ‘marriage’ and at least one of those challenges will return to the Supreme Court in the near future.
“It would have been a misguided judicial overreach, and it would have been damaging to our democracy, if the Justices had issued a sweeping ruling that invalidated most states’ marriage laws. At least for now, the political process and public deliberation on the marriage question will continue.”
Fr Thomas Berg, Professor of Moral Theology at St. Joseph’s Seminary