jasonbwatson

November 13, 2014

Good news for marriage

Believe it or not, there may be some good news for those of us who believe in defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman. In late October, United States District Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez upheld the Puerto Rican law defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Last week the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled, 2-1, that measures in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee limiting marriage to one man and one woman were constitutional. In both instances, the decisions held that the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, allows for states to define marriage.

Perez-Gimenez stated in his decision, “The Windsor opinion did not create a fundamental right to same gender marriage nor did it establish that state opposite-gender marriage regulations are amenable to federal constitutional challenges. If anything, Windsor stands for the opposite proposition: it reaffirms the State’s authority over marriage, buttressing Baker‘s conclusion that marriage is simply not a federal question.”

Baker v. Nelson, the other decision cited above, was a 1972 case in Minnesota in which the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a Minnesota law limiting marriage to a man and a woman did not violate the Constitution. Baker appealed, but the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) dismissed the appeal “for want of a substantial federal question.” Because of the way in which Supreme Court cases work, the Baker case went to the Supreme Court by way of mandatory appellate review. The refusal of SCOTUS to hear the case therefore became precedent because the refusal to hear the case was considered a decision on the merits of the case. This is important, because Perez-Gimenez explained that the Windsor case did not overturn Baker but rather complements it. “Windsor and Baker work in tandem to emphasize the States’ ‘historic and essential authority to define the marital relation’ free from ‘federal intrusion.'”

The Sixth Circuit decision came after a refusal by SCOTUS on October 6 to hear appeals from states that have had their traditional marriage laws struck down by courts, making it an important decision and one that has received considerable attention and no doubt will continue to do so.

Perhaps even more encouraging to defenders of traditional marriage than either decision in and of themselves, though, is the fact that both decisions take aim at the position of those who argue that homosexual marriage is a constitutional right. Perez-Gimenez wrote, “It takes inexplicable contortions of the mind or perhaps even willful ignorance–this Court does not venture an answer here–to interpret Windsor‘s endorsement of the state control of marriage as eliminating the state control of marriage.”

Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton wrote the majority decision in the Sixth Circuit case. He stated early in his decision that recent decisions are mostly ignoring a very, very long history of defining marriage as between a man and a woman. “For better, for worse, or for more of the same, marriage has long been a social institution defined by relationships between men and women. So long defined, the tradition is measured in millennia, not centuries or decades. So widely shared, the tradition until recently had been adopted by all governments and major religions of the world,” Sutton wrote. Sutton also wrote that it is not the place of the judges of the Sixth Circuit to make policy decisions for the citizens living in its circuit; rather, its purpose is to interpret laws vis-a-vis the existing laws and precedents, of which Baker still is one. This is a breath of fresh air coming from a federal bench, especially since so many courts seem more than happy to assume the role of making, rather than interpreting, laws. Sutton went on to write, “A dose of humility makes us hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the States.”

This element of Sutton’s decision is a unique perspective on the issue, as far as I know, and I think it is going to prove to be a very important component of future cases dealing with the definition of marriage:

What we are left with is this: By creating a status (marriage) and by subsidizing it (e.g. with tax-filing privileges and deductions), the States created an incentive for two people who procreate together to stay together for purposes of rearing offspring. This does not convict the States of irrationality, only of awareness of the biological reality that couples of the same sex do not have children in the same way as couples of opposite sexes and that couples of the same sex do not run the risk of unintended offspring. This explanation, still relevant today, suffices to allow the States to retain authority over an issue they have regulated from the beginning.

The reason why this is so important is that is establishes that states do have a compelling interest in defining marriage as between a man and a woman–something that others have argued is not the case. If states have no compelling interest to define marriage as between a man and a woman, the argument goes, then states have no reason or justification for restricting marriage to a man and a woman other than legalized discrimination. So keep an eye on this rationale, because it is going to be extremely important.

Sutton went on to reinforce his point by writing this: “If it is constitutionally irrational to stand by the man-woman definition of marriage, it must be constitutionally irrational to stand by the monogamous definition of marriage.” This is, of course, one of the keystone elements of the argument I have been making against homosexual marriage all along; if we change the definition of marriage to be other than between a man and a woman we eliminate any justification for prohibiting any definition of marriage, whether male-male, female-female, adult-child, human-animal, multiple spouses, etc. Albert Mohler included this observation in his blog post on the Sixth Circuit decision: “He [Sutton] also recorded that in the oral arguments the attorneys arguing for same-sex marriage had been unable to answer his question [as to why marriage should be defined in terms of monogamy]. They could not, he stated, because the only argument they could advance was moral tradition. They could not cite moral tradition as the authority for monogamy because they argued that moral tradition was not a rational basis for law when it came to limiting marriage to a man-woman union.”

Perez-Gimenez stated in his decision, “The people and their elected representatives should debate the wisdom of redefining marriage. Judges should not.” Similarly, Sutton wrote, “The theory of the living constitution rests on the premise that every generation has the right to govern itself. If that premise prevents judges from insisting on principles that society has moved past, so too should it prevent judges from anticipating principles that society has yet to embrace.” In other words, both judges are taking a stand for courts restricting themselves to interpreting law and letting the people make the decision about how marriage is defined. Interestingly, this is exactly what the Windsor decision meant, as well.

Mohler closed his blog with this statement: “Sometimes the right argument just has to be made, even if it does not win at any given hour. The truth will stand the test of time, and Judge Sutton deserves our gratitude and respect for making an argument in defense of both marriage and the Constitution–and for making it so well.” I echo his sentiment, and would add Judge Perez-Gimenez to that, too. In the words of Galatians 6:9, let us not grow weary in doing what is good–and in this situation, it means continuing to take a stand for marriage as God defined it, and praying for those judges who are courageous enough to defend the right of the people to make that determination.

March 16, 2013

A sad, unfortunate and poorly timed reversal

If you follow the news you have probably already heard that Ohio Senator Rob Portman has very publicly changed his position regarding gay marriage in recent days. Portman has always been a staunch opponent of gay marriage; in 1996, as a member of the House of Representatives, he was a cosponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act; in 1999 he voted for a measure that would have prohibited same-sex couples in Washington state from adopting children; in 2011 hundreds of students at the University of Michigan protested having Portman speak at the school’s graduation ceremony because of his position on gay marriage. In response to that protest, Portman’s spokesman said, “Rob believes marriage is a sacred bond between one man and one woman.”

So what changed? Well, two things. One, Portman’s son “came out,” informing his parents in 2011 that he is gay. Two, this revelation caused Portman to “think of this issue from a new perspective,” he told Ohio reporters.

Senator’s Portman’s son’s sexuality is none of my business; it is a private matter–or at least it was, until his father brought it into the public square to explain his own sad, unfortunate and poorly timed reversal on the issue of gay marriage. And I do not choose those descriptors lightly. Allow me to explain….

The reversal is sad because, based on his own explanations, Portman has allowed the circumstances of his life to cause him to reinterpret Scripture, and to do so inaccurately. Here’s how it worked: Portman believed the Bible was clear in its opposition to homosexuality and its teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman (he was right on both counts); Portman’s son informed his parents he is gay; Portman loves his son; Portman faces moral dilemma; Portman solves moral dilemma by deciding Scripture means something different than what it does, and what he had previously believed it did.

The reversal is sad because Portman decided that it was easier to embrace a false understanding of the very Word of God than it would be to stand firm in his convictions. It is easier to say God is love, and must surely want people to be happy than it is for Portman to tell his son that he loves him, but he hates his sin.

Yesterday Portman wrote a commentary in The Columbus Dispatch. In it he states that his son’s announcement has caused him to think about this issue in “a much deeper way.” Translation: I was opposed to gay marriage until I found out my son is gay, but my love for my son trumps my adherence to the Word of God. Portman writes that his son told him that “his sexual orientation wasn’t something he chose; it is simply a part of who he is.” I am sure Portman’s son may believe that, and Portman may believe it, too. I have written here before about the issue of “homosexual orientation,” and I am not going to rehash that now. (Desire and Deceit, an excellent book on the subject by Albert Mohler addresses this issue, too). According to Portman, “At the time, my position on marriage for same-sex couples was rooted in my faith tradition that marriage is a sacred bond between a man and a woman. Knowing that my son is gay prompted me to consider the issue from another perspective: that of a dad who wants all three of his kids to lead happy, meaningful lives with the people they love, a blessing Jane and I have shared for 26 years.”

Every parent wants–or at least should want–their children to love “happy, meaningful lives.” But part of tough love–in other words, part of being a parent–means standing firm when the way in which a child wants to live that life is contrary to what is God-honoring. Portman’s reasoning is exactly the same as that that I have challenged here repeatedly regarding the slippery slope that is the issue of gay marriage. Portman wants his son to be happy, Portman’s son is gay, so gay marriage should be okay? That’s absurd. What do we do when someone’s else’s son claims that what makes him happy is having sex with children? What do we do when someone’s daughter says that what makes her happy is the challenge of stealing and exploiting someone’s identity? What do we do when someone’s child says that what makes him or her happy is taking the lives of other humans whom they find to be unattractive, undesirable, or just plain irritating? Yes, yes, I know…those are not the same things, many will say. They are not the same actions, true–but they are all choices people make.

Portman continues, “I wrestled with how to reconcile my Christian faith with my desire for Will to have the same opportunities to pursue happiness and fulfillment as his brother and sister. Ultimately, it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God.” There’s nothing wrong with such a wrestling match. What is wrong is realizing that the two cannot be reconciled and so deciding that the “Christian faith” should be reinterpreted in order to make it work out alright in the end. Does the Bible have an overarching theme of love and compassion? Yes. But only because the Bible also has an overarching theme of justice and holiness. We cannot accurately understand the love of God without accurately understanding the justice and holiness of God. Because He is a God of holiness, He cannot tolerate sin or have it in His presence. Because He is a God of justice, sin has a penalty that must be paid. Once we understand that, we can understand God’s love–His incredible, indescribable, truly awesome love that caused Him to send His only Son to pay the price for the sins of humanity because none of us can pay it ourselves. What the Bible clearly does not teach, Senator Portman, is that God’s love and compassion means God wants us to do whatever makes us happy. Are we all the children of God? In so far as He made us all, yes. In so far as we will all go to heaven? Not even close.

As far as I know all three of Portman’s children are grown, but can you imagine sitting down to tell them that what they had been taught and raised to believe was God’s Truth was actually wrong? “Well kids, your mom and I made a mistake. So did the pastor, and the Sunday school teacher, and, well, most of the Bible teachers we have respected over the years. Remember what we taught you about homosexuality? Turns out we were wrong. See, your brother is gay. Yes…that’s right. Your brother…our son. And he surely did not choose to be that way. It is just the way he is. It is the way God made Him, apparently. So, we have been wrong. Now that we know your brother is gay we can see it all clearly. We just never understood before. But gay people really love each other, and they deserve to happy just like everyone else. Just because your brother is attracted to men does not mean that he should be denied the right to marry when he finally finds the man he wants to spend the rest of his life with…..” You get the idea. Do you see it, though? Portman is saying that because his son is gay, God must surely think it’s okay.

Portman goes on to make one of the more idiotic statements on gay marriage I have ever heard: “One way to look at it is that gay couples’ desire to marry doesn’t amount to a threat but rather a tribute to marriage, and a potential source of renewed strength for the institution.” Uh, yeah…that’s one way to look at it alright. One very wrong, misguided, and–sorry, Senator–stupid way to look at it.

Portman’s lack of conviction (lack of spine?) is further evidenced in the following paragraph of his commentary, when he writes this: “Around the country, family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers have discussed and debated this issue, with the result that today twice as many people support marriage for same-sex couples as when the Defense of Marriage Act was signed into law 17 years ago by President Bill Clinton, who now opposes it. With the overwhelming majority of young people in support of allowing gay couples to marry, in some respects the issue has become more generational than partisan.” So, since most people think the idea is okay, it must be okay then. Sure. Another ridiculous argument. God’s Word does not fluctuate with the opinions of the people in America (or anywhere else). God’s Word is the same yesterday, today and forever, and it is absolutely clear on the fact that homosexuality is sin, it is an abomination. Of course, we do live in a representative democracy in the U.S., so the opinions of the people can change the law. If that does happen it will not make it right, though, and Bible-believers need to do everything we can to oppose such a change.

And herein is why Portman’s reversal is so poorly timed: the Supreme Court will soon be hearing arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act, and Portman joins the rising throng of people advocating it being overturned. The only thing Portman gets right in his commentary is his suggestion that the courts, and right now the Supreme Court in particular, should not decide this issue. “I believe change should come about through the democratic process in the states. Judicial intervention from Washington would circumvent that process as it’s moving in the direction of recognizing marriage for same-sex couples. An expansive court ruling would run the risk of deepening divisions rather than resolving them.” I agree with that statement. The Supreme Court needs to find only that the Defense of Marriage Act was passed lawfully and is constitutional, and leave the rest up to “we the people.” The Supreme Court must not legislate from the bench and declare gay marriage to be constitutional.

February 27, 2013

Not going away

The issue of homosexual marriage is not going away anytime soon…which means it will not go away as a topic for this blog, either. It is an issue that is too important to ignore, an issue on which we cannot remain silent.

First of all, I need to state that I am a firm believer in the system of government established in the United States, and despite the fact that I am not always pleased with the decisions that are made or the speed with which they are (or are not) made, I think the system generally works the way the founders designed it to work, and I think they knew what they were doing. In fact, if our elected officials were held accountable for adhering to the requirements that are in place for them, things would work even better.

On that note, despite the fact that I am not an extremist by any means and would ordinarily hesitate to call for something as drastic as the impeachment of the president, President Obama should have been impeached the moment that he announced the he was instructing the Department of Justice not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The Constitution (in Article 2, Section One, Clause Eight) requires that the president take the this oath upon being sworn in to office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Of course, though not constitutionally required, every president has added “So help me God” at the end of the oath, following the example set by George Washington at the very first inauguration. So why should President Obama have been impeached? Because he violated his oath, and has been violating it ever since. He cannot “faithfully execute” the duties of his office if he is instructing the Justice Department to not enforce a law that was passed by Congress and signed by a previous president. Whether he likes or agrees with the law or not does not matter one bit; it is the law, and he is sworn to uphold it. Even worse, the DOJ has gone beyond not enforcing the DOMA to actively opposing it. The Congress has had to hire lawyers to defend the DOMA in court against the DOJ! Interestingly, even Steve Weinstein, EDGE Editor-in-Chief, writing on South Florida Gay News, acknowledged that the president is not upholding it responsibilities: “The House has been voting extraordinary funds to fight DOMA repeal on its own, thus making for a historic clash between a presidency that refuses to defend a law (as the Constitution mandates him to do) on the one hand; and a legislative body taking extra-legislative action by intervening in the courts.”

Now, just last Friday, the DOJ filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief with the Supreme Court, urging the Court to strike down elements of the DOMA. Why should the DOMA be struck down? Because “the broad consensus in the scientific community is that, for the vast majority of people (gay and straight alike), sexual orientation is not a voluntary choice.” This statement itself is a lie, but let’s ignore that. After all, the Obama administration could have found a certain segment of the “scientific community,” the majority of which does assert this claim. (Rather like all the toothpaste commercials that claim that 4 out of 5 dentists recommend their brand, right? After all, if you line up enough of them and stick to it long enough, you could find 4 out of 5 people that would recommend or support just about anything).

It is further evidence of an increasing trend by President Obama and his administration to assert in less-than-veiled terms, however, that those who disagree with their position are, well, stupid. He has taken the same approach to his arguments for addressing climate change, too. In his State of the Union address on February 12 President Obama said that climate change is “the overwhelming judgment of science.” He used the same phrase in his second inaugural address when he said, “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science….”

Back to the DOMA, though, the Supreme Court will hear Harvard Law School professor Vicki C. Jackson argue that it does not even have the authority to hear the case United States v. Windsor since the Obama administration has chosen to stop enforcing DOMA. According to the Harvard Crimson, “Jackson will assert that because the Obama administration has chosen to no longer defend the 1996 law, agreeing with the decision made by a lower court that it is invalid, the court does not have the authority to rule on the case.” So, if the president decides not to enforce a law the Supreme Court cannot even hear cases on it? That’s ridiculous. That flies in the face of the very purpose of the checks and balances system established by our Constitution. If this line of reasoning is followed, we will be well on the way to an autocratic presidency.

Equally troubling–perhaps even more so–is that the Obama DOJ has also asserted in its amicus curiae brief that the lawfully enacted DOMA must be struck down and homosexual marriage must be both granted and protected, the will of the people be damned. Specifically, the brief argues that, in this instance, the Court must not allow the will of the people to run its course. “That approach would be very well taken in most circumstances. This is, however, the rare case in which deference to the democratic process must give way to the fundamental constitutional command of equal treatment under law. Section 3 of DOMA targets the many gay and lesbian people legally married under state law for a harsh form of discrimination that bears no relation to their ability to contribute to society. It is abundantly clear that this discrimination does not substantially advance an interest in protecting marriage, or any other important interest. The statute simply cannot be reconciled with the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. The Constitution therefore requires that Section 3 be invalidated.”

The Constitution requires no such thing. President Obama and his administration are asserting that they know better than the Congress, than the people of the United States, and than the very Constitution of the United States.

Last year Senators Orrin Hatch, Saxby Chambliss, Dan Coats, Thad Cochrane, Mike Crapo, Charles Grassley, Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, Richard Shelby and Roger Wicker filed an amicus curiae brief of their own in the case of Golinski v. Office of Personnel Management on an appeal being heard in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Their brief provides an excellent overview of the history of DOMA and the danger of seeing struck down by the Court for reasons that are not constitutional. (If you’re interested, you can read the brief here: http://www.hatch.senate.gov/public/_cache/files/d78e55fd-f3bd-459e-b424-9875aabf9ddd/Amicus%20Brief%20of%20US%20Senators%20in%20Golinski%20final.pdf).

Former attorneys general Edwin Meese III and John Ashcroft also filed an amicus brief with the court in the Golinski case, arguing that the Obama administration had seriously erred in its decision not to enforce DOMA, and that because of its unprecedented actions in failing to support the law of the land, its opinions must not be given much weight in the deciding of the case. “Due to the historical landscape addressed above, and the fifteen year history of DOJ’s defense of DOMA, the decision to change course and challenge DOMA’s constitutionality should be viewed as an extreme and unprecedented deviation from the historical norm and, as such, the persuasive weight afforded to DOJ’s brief should be less than in the typical case.”

I could go on, here, but I will stop, because this is already getting lengthy and because there is plenty of information out there already that you can read if you want to explore this subject in more detail. Bottom line, we have a President who is violating his oath of office by refusing to enforce a law that was passed by Congress and signed by a previous president, and we now have him using his DOJ to actively oppose the law in court in an effort to see the law ruled unconstitutional. We need to pray for the nine men and women on the Supreme Court. Specifically, we need to pray that they will hear the case and that they will rule that the DOMA is constitutional, and the president and the DOJ must enforce it.

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