Supreme Court decision comes, coincidentally, at the beginning of an important meeting in Rome
Specifically, the Court refused to hear appeals from five states — Virginia, Oklahoma, Indiana, Utah, and Wisconsin – whose state prohibitions on same-sex “marriage” were held to be unconstitutional by three US Circuit Courts of Appeals: Utah’s and Oklahoma’s in the 10th Circuit, Indiana’s and Wisconsin’s in the 7th, and Virginia’s in the 4th. Other states within those jurisdictions that have bans against same-sex “marriage” include North Carolina, Colorado, Kansas, Wyoming, West Virginia and South Carolina. Their laws are effectively invalidated by Supreme Court’s action.
As in many cases, the high court’s refusal to do something can create effects every bit as momentous as a definitive ruling. In this case, the court may be signaling to the lower courts and state legislatures that it considers the issue of “gay marriage” settled. If those bodies take the hint — as they’re likely to do — same-sex “marriage” could well be legal in all US states and territories within a couple of years.
All of this follows from the logic of Windsor v. United States, the now landmark 2013 ruling in which the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which had defined marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman for purpose of federal benefits payments. The Obama Administration abandoned DOMA in 2011, refusing to defend it in the courts after the Barack Obama and his Attorney General, Eric Holder, concluded that it was unconstitutional.
Windsor v. United States was widely interpreted as giving homosexual couples a constitutional right to marry that is applicable in all 50 states. In fact, the decision was fairly narrow and didn’t really address the constitutionality of state bans. But by deciding this week not to hear appeals by states, the Supreme Court is letting stand lower court rulings on that very question. In other words, the court appears to have backed its way into a position that such laws are, in fact, unconstitutional.
For Catholics, the irony is that at this very moment an Extraordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops is meeting in Rome to discuss marriage and the family. Both institutions are in crisis throughout the Western world, and indeed in every society that has been influenced by the atomizing, rights-obsessed force of liberalism.
Here in the United States, for instance, the cast of TV’s popular show “Sister Wives” successfully sued in federal court to have Utah’s law against polygamous “marriage” overturned. In Germany, a government ethics panel recently recommended that marriage between adult siblings be permitted on the grounds that incestuous couples have a “fundamental right … to sexual self-determination.” This individual right, said the panel, trumps any conception of the common good, including what it called “the abstract idea of protection of the family.”
“That is very similar to the rationales that have been used to uphold reproductive rights and to strike down bans on same-sex marriage throughout the United States,” wrote Damon Linker in a piece at The Week. “And we have every reason to think the same logic will eventually apply to bans on sibling incest in this country.”
The proponents of same-sex “marriage” have long dismissed such “slippery slope” arguments as a form of hysteria. That was the position of the Human Rights Campaign in 2011, for instance. “Granting same-sex couples the right to marry,” said the HRC, “would in no way change the number of people who could enter into a marriage (or eliminate restrictions on the age or familial relationships of those who may marry).” But in fact, proponents of same-sex “marriage” failed to show then or since why number, relation or even age – provided there is consent – should be factors in recognizing marriage any more than gender.
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