DOMA, Prop 8, and legally defined marriage

There are two court cases in the US right now that have an interesting tension together. One is in Massachusetts, and the other is in California.

In the MA case, a decision from a federal district court judge in Boston last night struck down the 1996 federal law that defines marriage as a union exclusively between a man and a woman. It was the “Defense of Marriage Act” known as DOMA. DOMA was passed as a federal public law in 1996, and its precepts were that no state (or other political subdivision within the United States) needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state. And secondly, the federal government defines marriage as a legal union exclusively between one man and one woman. Judge Tauro wrote, “The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state.”

This was challenged in MA and last night the judge declared DOMA unconstitutional on the grounds that it takes away from the individual states their right to define marriage in the way they see fit.

However, the second case in CA is being challenged exactly because the state defined marriage, but not in the way that is preferable to homosexuals. California’s legal history with same-sex marriage is a long and a sad one. Without getting into boring specifics, in the past, the people voted traditional marriage as the only valid marriage to be recognized in the state, the homosexual lifestyle lobby challenged it in court, and it was overturned. Rinse. Repeat. This cycle has been ongoing for several years but in the latest iteration, the November 2008 elections contained a ballot initiative known as Proposition 8. This proposition amended the state constitution to declare marriage between a man and a woman as the only validly recognized marriage in the state. It passed.

The homosexual lifestyle lobby immediately challenged it in court and that is the CA decision we are awaiting imminently. If the Federal court in MA declared that DOMA was unconstitutional because the rights of states to determine for themselves which kind of marriages are legal, and California validly went through a process defining marriage just as the MA Judge said they have the right to do, it will be interesting to see how this CA judge decides this Prop 8 case and on what grounds.

That was the legal summary. Here is the cultural summary. Last night Drudge had a red blaring headline announcing that the Prop 8 case decision would be released at 9 pm ET. This rumor caused swarms of reporters, television crews, and activists to storm the courthouse in anticipation. Emotions were running high because of another controversial decision handed down shortly before regarding the Mehserle trial for murder, known as the BART murder. Indeed, riots broke out in Oakland. And adding to the emotional mix, the MA DOMA decision was handed down that dame day, fueling conjecture that more riots would break out in CA, depending on which way the CA verdict went.

Well, no verdict came out on the Prop 8 decision but that didn’t stop the twitter-sphere from running rampant with emotions and accusations of “rights denied”. One particular point of the defense of overturning Prop 8’s definition of traditional marriage, was that homosexual lifestyle adherents are being denied their civil rights. This is not the case, however. There are five states and one District of Columbia which allow gay marriage. Three other states offer reciprocity in recognizing gay marriages from other states. Rights cannot be denied if they exist.

Of course, gay marriage is not about rights at all. Gays have not been deprived of the law’s equal protection, the clause under which many of their challenges are based.  Nor have they been deprived of the right to marry — only of the right to insist that a single-sex union is a “marriage” according to a legal definition. Boston Globe commenter Jeff Jacoby explains, “They cloak their demands in the language of civil rights because it sounds so much better than the truth: They don’t want to accept or reject marriage on the same terms that it is available to everyone else. They want it on entirely new terms. They want it to be given a meaning it has never before had, and they prefer that it be done undemocratically — by judicial fiat, for example, or by mayors flouting the law. Whatever else that may be, it isn’t civil rights. “

Traditional marriage as defined as the union of a man and a woman does not deny homosexuals the basic civil rights accorded other citizens. Nowhere in the Bill of Rights or in any legislation proceeding from it are homosexuals excluded from the rights enjoyed by all. Here is the Family Research Council’s FAQ on ten facts about gay marriage.

Supporters of same sex marriage block the streets in a civil disobedience act in San Francisco, California, May 26, 2009. In a victory for gay rights in the United States, a U.S. district court judge in Massachusetts ruled on Thursday that a federal ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. source

In any case, homosexuals who choose that lifestyle are not qualified for marriage under the one law that counts: God’s law. Engaging in same sex sexual activity is sinful behavior condemned in the bible, along with other sinful behaviors. Attempting to set aside the standard of marriage that has for thousands of years been  the norm, to placate a small set of the population who declares it their right, is something that they will discover is a dangerous activity indeed. Displeasing the LORD is shaky ground and its effects last for all eternity.

Christian, please review these matters, it is an enormous national issue right now. Having both the legal facts and the spiritual facts, and then being able to speak the truth in love will do much for influencing those who are lost in hearing the truth. Being uninformed, or worse, being harsh and judgmental, will only further close the ears of those who need to hear the truth the most.

I’ll be awaiting the CA judge Walker’s decision. Please pray that he makes the right one: that the right of a citizenry to define marriage for themselves is valid. I hope he does not take away the rights of those voters. They participated in a valid and legal process, they voted, and they won. It is how democracy works. For now.