In Review: The High Court’s Decisions

In the aftermath of a large national event like the cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court today, citizens often struggle to find an accurate and understandable retelling of what happened and what its effect will be. In an effort to provide both balance and clarity, here is The Family Foundation's take on what occurred this morning. Bur first, for those who haven't followed the arguments involved in the cases up until now, see this comprehensive background piece by Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition. The DOMA Ruling

In the DOMA case (United States v. Windsor), the federal definition of marriage was struck down as unconstitutional on a 5-4 decision (Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan in the majority). The court specifically stated that its ruling did not address whether states could continue to define marriage as between one man and one woman. Therefore, state amendments (including Virginia's) remain valid. Also important to note is that the DOMA case was not a challenge to the Federal Full Faith and Credit Clause meaning that that states (like Virginia) do not have to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. An example of the impact of this case is that a same-sex couple, married in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, can now file their federal taxes jointly. There are many other affects (immigration, military, etc.) that will be uncovered as the analysis of the case continues.

The Proposition 8 Ruling

In the Proposition 8 case (Hollingsworth v. Perry), the court ruled in a 5-4 decision (Justices Roberts, Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan in the majority) that the petitioners lacked standing to appeal and that the judgment of the 9th Circuit Court is vacated and the case is remanded with instructions to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction. In plain English, this means that the pro-marriage organizations defending Prop 8 did not have the ability to appeal this in court. If the attorney general or governor of California had defended Prop 8, standing would have been achieved and the case would have been properly before the court. The Supreme Court, therefore, decided that it could not rule on the case and sent it back to the 9th Circuit with instructions for that court to decide it also could not rule on the case, therefore sending the case back to the U.S. District Court where a single judge ruled that Prop 8 had unconstitutionally denied the plaintiffs (homosexual couples from Alameda and Los Angeles) marriage licenses.

The real question now becomes, who does the decision apply to? Does it apply to the entire state of California or just Alameda/Los Angeles or just the same-sex couples who sued? Analysis on this question is vitally important and will likely continue in California for months to come. For now, what is important to know is that the decision does not intrinsically overturn California's marriage amendment and does not have any bearing on marriage amendments in other states.

In Summary

The media is opining that these were two landmark decisions granting rights unilaterally to same-sex couples, but do not be so easily deceived. These were two very complex cases deciding a very narrowly-tailored legal question. Here are a few clarifying take-aways from the decisions:

» The U.S. Supreme Court got a few things wrong. Unlike what was decided today:

» Congress should have the right to make their own definitions (i.e. marriage) for their own federal programs.

» The people should be able to defend the law when their government does not.

» Citizens can still debate, discuss and vote on marriage. The debate is nowhere near over.

» The Court did not create a constitutional right to same-sex marriage as it did for abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. Today's decision was not the decision that homosexual rights advocates hoped for.

Most importantly we must remember that regardless of the decision, the court does not have the power to change the reality that children deserve both a mom and a dad. We will continue to do all we can to educate citizens on the importance of natural marriage for children and society.

Stay tuned. More analysis to come.