by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
Many people of faith (Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, etc.) believe that God and Gays go together like oil and water. In fact, whenever the religious right aren't using the 'the Gays want to recruit your children' as a scare tactic they predictably fall back to that old tried and true 'marriage is between one man and one woman' to justify hating on the LGBTQ community and, for decades, denying us the right to marry. And no matter how many open and affirming congregations there have been - and there have been a lot of them - the majority of religious-affiliated people of the world just don't want us to be able to marry. It's stupefying, really.
KEY EXCERPTS ON RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
The Supreme Court on Friday ruled 5-4 that the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live and that states may no longer reserve the right only for heterosexual couples.
The case has raised questions over how legalizing same-sex marriage would affect religious institutions.
Here's a key section on religious views from the majority ruling:
'Many who deem same-sex marriage to be wrong reach that conclusion based on decent and honorable religious or philosophical premises, and neither they nor their beliefs are disparaged here. But when that sincere, personal opposition becomes enacted law and public policy, the necessary consequence is to put the imprimatur of the State itself on an exclusion that soon demeans or stigmatizes those whose own liberty is then denied. Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right.'
'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.'
In his dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr. discussed religious liberty concerns.
'Today's decision, for example, creates serious questions about religious liberty,' Roberts wrote. '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 28 OBERGEFELL v. HODGES ROBERTS, C. J., and dissenting 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. Ante, at 27. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to 'exercise' religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.'
Roberts noted that the question of tax-exempt status of religious institutions could become an issue.
'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. See Tr. of Oral Arg. on Question 1, at 36-38. 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.'
Justice Clarence Thomas issued the following on religious liberty in his dissent:
'Aside from undermining the political processes that protect our liberty, the majority's decision threatens the religious liberty our Nation has long sought to protect. Numerous amici - even some not supporting the States - have cautioned the Court that its decision here will 'have unavoidable and wide-ranging implications for religious liberty.' Brief for General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists et al. as Amici Curiae 5. In our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well. Id., at 7. Today's decision might change the former, but it cannot change the latter. 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.'
He also wrote the following on religious liberty:
'Although our Constitution provides some protection against such governmental restrictions on religious practices, the People have long elected to afford broader protections than this Court's constitutional precedents mandate. 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.'
MORMON CHURCH REMAINS OPPOSED
The LDS Church and Catholic Church maintain that marriage is only between a man and a woman, and neither church is about to bend its teachings or its opposition to marriage equality. The high court has jurisdiction in civil laws, but not over heavenly decrees, they argue, and both faiths want to keep it that way.
'The court's decision does not alter the Lord's doctrine that marriage is a union between a man and a woman ordained by God,' The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in a news release. 'While showing respect for those who think differently, the church will continue to teach and promote marriage between a man and a woman as a central part of our doctrine and practice.'
Given the Constitution's freedom-of-religion protections, enshrined in the First Amendment, the ruling does not force churches to recognize same-sex marriages or force them to perform the ceremonies in their church. That means, of course, that marriages performed in LDS temples will continue to be between only faithful men and women. Mormons view such marriages as lasting for eternity.
LDS leaders teach that same-sex attraction is not a sin, only acting on it is.
It is important to note though, that top Mormon officials have said Latter-Day Saints who support marriage equality are not in danger of losing their church memberships or temple privileges.
CATHOLICS REMAIN ANTI-LGBTQ
Conservative Catholic leadership has said the court's ruling does not end 'the debate over the definition of marriage.'
'As Catholics, we seek to uphold our traditional belief in marriage as a sacrament, a well-established and divinely revealed covenant between one man and one woman, a permanent and exclusive bond meant to provide a nurturing environment for children and the fundamental building block to a just society,' Catholic leadership said in a statement. 'Although we respectfully disagree with those who would define marriage otherwise, we firmly hold that all persons are loved by our compassionate God and deserve the respect and dignity that is inherently theirs as human beings.'
MUSLIM IN A SECULAR LAND
Imam Muhammed Mehtar, who leads services at the Khadeeja Islamic Center in West Valley City, Utah, took much the same approach.
'It is our duty to teach that which is good and refrain from that which is poor in choice,' Mehtar said. 'God wishes us to continue procreation for the sake of sharing good, kind, loving values.'
But America is a country with strong secular values.
'In such an environment, we feel that when individuals make choices that are contrary to us, we will try to defend them, their safety and well-being,' Mehtar said, 'We will never say, 'Hurt Gays and Lesbians, or take away their rights, or that they are less human than we are.'
HATE ON PARADE
In Seattle, during the annual Pride Parade downtown, the same group of about a dozen anti-LGBTQ Christians show up with their poorly made signs with messages of hate in tow. They always stand off to the side of the route. This year was no exception. The group found themselves space to protest down the way from The Seattle Lesbian parade stand. This year no one was having it. They had the Dykes on Bikes rev up their bike motors to make more noise than them; people formed a physical wall, made of humans linking arms and standing their ground, and more.
Confrontations between the community and our supporters remained nonviolent - unlike years past. In 2013, a street preacher was repeatedly punched in the head and kicked by two heterosexual men at Seattle's Pridefest and the entire confrontation was caught on camera.
In the 2013 video, two Christian street preachers can be seen standing on a grassy area at Seattle Center. One of the preachers holds a sign that says 'Jesus saves and heals,' and 'Repent or else,' while the other holds a Bible.
A man approached the two preachers angrily, while another woman repeatedly shoves the man carrying the Bible and demands that the two men leave. The situation continued to heat up, until at one point a number of people attempt to snatch the sign away from the sign-wielding preacher. When one man succeeds, a melee ensues in which the angry man seen at the beginning of the video runs at and punches the preacher in the head several times while another kicks him repeatedly.
Last year, local drag queen Mama Tits towered over a group of anti-LGBTQ street preachers who decided it would be a good idea to march down the parade route with their signs. Mama Tits stopped them in their tracks and schooled them about staying true to the Bible teachings, much to the delight of the crowd gathered at Westlake Center in downtown Seattle.
A photo that hat has won the Internet over is, hands down, the big winner this year. In the photo, first-grader Zea peacefully stands up to a ranting street preacher during a festival in Columbus, Ohio, the day after the SCOTUS ruling on same-sex marriage.
PROPONENTS OF TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE ARE NOT 'RELIGIOUS EXTREMISTS'
Judd Birdsall, the managing director of the Cambridge Institute on Religion & International Studies and an editorial fellow with The Review of Faith & International Affairs warns that the LGBTQ community should be mindful of messaging because before we know it, we could be the new bigots.
'On Friday we saw religious extremism for what it truly is - and is not,' Birdsall said. 'Despite dire warnings that 'anti-Gay extremists' would lash out in anger over the Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage, conservative American religious groups responded with remarkable charity, humility and civility.'
Meanwhile, on the very same day, extremists linked to the Islamic State killed more than 60 people and injured more than 200 others in attacks at a seaside resort in Tunisia and a Shiite mosque in Kuwait, according to Birdsall. 'And in southern France a man caused an explosion at an American-owned chemical plant after beheading his boss and leaving the head hanging on a fence. That's religious extremism,' he said.
Birdsall says he highlighted those actions not to make an argument about Christianity vs. Islam (the vast majority of Christians and Muslims abhor religiously inspired violence) but to bring the true nature of religious extremism into stark relief.
'Labeling peaceful proponents of traditional marriage 'religious extremists' is as misleading as it is mean-spirited,' he said.
'Human Rights Campaign and other leading Gay rights advocates routinely smear their opponents as 'extremists,' points out Birdsall.
As an example, Birdsall said, 'Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State celebrated that 'love and the Constitution triumphed over bigotry and religious extremism,' but warned that 'aggressive Religious Right groups seek new ways to stop the spread of equality.'
'To give Lynn and others the benefit of the doubt, they don't seem to be equating marriage traditionalists with violent religious extremists,' he said. 'Or perhaps they really do believe opposition to Gay marriage is a form of violence. Whatever the case, they surely understand the evocative power of 'religious extremists' as a term of derision and exclusion - not unlike the epithets hurled at the LGBT community.'
According to Birdsall, religious extremism is the stuff of bombings and beheadings. 'Americans are fortunate to live in a democratic system that helps channel the passions of faith toward peaceful engagement rather than violent confrontation,' he said.
'Our system faces a new challenge now that same-sex marriage is the law of the land,' said Birdsall. 'How will America's diverse religious and secular communities live together peacefully despite their deep differences on fundamental issues like gender, sexuality, and marriage?'
'My hope is that the jubilant victors in the marriage debate will respond in kind,' Birdsall concludes.
He says President Obama models a way forward.
In his remarks on the Supreme Court ruling, Obama offered this reminder, 'I know that Americans of good will continue to hold a wide range of views on this issue. Opposition, in some cases, has been based on sincere and deeply held beliefs. All of us who welcome today's news should be mindful of that fact and recognize different viewpoints, revere our deep commitment to religious freedom.'
Whatever the religious fallout is, the fact remains that the United States Supreme Court ruled DOMA unconstitutional and took away the ability for any state in our union to vote our marriages illegal. For the first time in the history of the United States of America, marriage equality is real. But even when facing a SCOTUS ruling that they do not agree with, it seems that the religious leaders of the country - and in some cases the world - are standing firm that they will not accept same-sex marriage. With dwindling numbers in congregations, the fact that the younger generations aren't by and large anti-LGBTQ, and that once something becomes law it instantly begins to resemble normalcy, you will see that there really truly is only one winning argument and that is - LOVE - LOVE wins. And thanks to a poetic decision from SCOTUS, LOVE indeed prevailed, 100 per cent.
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