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UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey
Lesbian WeddingJulie Bruno (right) and Susan Laurie serve Holy Communion to guests following their marriage ceremony at General Worth Square in Fort Worth, Texas, across the street from the site of the 2008 United Methodist General Conference. The lesbian couple held the ceremony next to the assembly to protest denominational policies that do not recognize same-sex marriages.
A UMNS Report
The full ramifications of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings Wednesday, June 26, on same-sex marriage still are being hashed out.
But on one thing many United Methodists agree: The decisions will add fuel to a longtime denominational debate on how the church ministers to gays and lesbians.
In the case Windsor v. United States, a 5-4 majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy ruled Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, arguing that it is a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons as protected by the Fifth Amendment.
“DOMA singles out a class of persons deemed by a State entitled to recognition and protection to enhance their own liberty,” Kennedy wrote.
The case does not establish a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. What it does is establish that same-sex couples who are legally married are entitled to equal treatment under federal law. These couples now will be able to receive the same federal benefits, with regard to such matters as income taxes and Social Security, that the U.S. government grants to other married couples.
The court did not address whether states that ban same-sex marriage must recognize such marriages that take place in other states.
n the case Hollingsworth v. Perry, the majority opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts ruled that proponents of California’s Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in the state, did not have standing to defend the law on appeal after it was struck down in federal district court. California government officials who normally would have defended the law in court declined to do so.
As a result, the Supreme Court held that the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has no legal force. It sent the case back to that court with instructions for it to dismiss the appeal. The ruling potentially clears the way for same-sex marriage in California.
What this means for the church
Ahead of the rulings this week, Indiana Area Bishop Mike Coyner published an “E-pistle” noting that he expected people to “be upset and distressed” by the court’s rulings — some wanting more restrictions on marriage and some wanting fewer.
“I believe that we United Methodists need to respond to whatever the Court may rule with these attitudes: prayer, patience and respect for one another,” he wrote.
What the rulings do not change, Coyner noted, is The United Methodist Church’s definition of marriage.
The Book of Discipline, the global denomination’s law book, affirms the “sanctity of the marriage covenant that is expressed in love, mutual support, personal commitment, and shared fidelity between a man and a woman.”