HISTORIC SUPREME COURT HEARINGS
ON MARRIAGE EQUALITY
IN THE UNITED STATES
History was made on March 26th and 27th as the Supreme Court of the United States held its first hearings on Marriage Equality. Metropolitan Community Church clergy, congregations and leadership were there providing a meaningful witness in support of Equality and Justice for all people. The Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, Moderator of Metropolitan Community Churches worldwide said, “I am so proud of MCC’s witness at the Supreme Court, with so many others! I am proud of our Public Policy Team and all our churches, pastors, and members who participated in so many rallies and prayer vigils both in our nation’s capital and around the country! We will win this fight.”
On Tuesday, March 26, 2013, the Court heard arguments both for and against California’s controversial Proposition 8, which stripped away marriage rights for same gender couples in that state. Justice Sonia Sotomayor challenged those who sought to deny same gender couples marriage rights on the basis of procreation with the question, “Suppose a state said that because we think that the focus of marriage really should be on procreation, we are not going to give marriage licenses anymore to any couple where both people are over the age of 55. Would that be constitutional?” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg picked up on the theme, asking whether someone serving a life sentence in prison should be prevented from marrying because there is no possibility of them becoming a parent. Another part of the hearing focused on whether the four private individuals seeking to uphold Proposition 8 – originally five before one pulled out – had the authority to bring the case to the Supreme Court after the California state government decided not to defend the measure.
“What I heard today made me optimistic that we soon will see further progress. The questioning strongly suggested that the justices either will rule that the proponents of Prop 8 did not have the right to appeal the trial court’s ruling that the initiative is unconstitutional – which should again permit same-sex couples to marry in California – or will outright find Proposition 8 unconstitutional. While it is always hard to know for sure, there did not seem to be five votes to uphold the measure,” wrote Jon W. Davidson, Legal Director for Lambda Legal.
Wednesday’s hearing focused on the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which deprives same gender couples of more than 1,100 federal rights that come with legal marriage. At the close of the hearing, most analysts agreed that the court appeared ready to strike down DOMA. Under the law, federal tax, Social Security, pension and bankruptcy benefits, along with family medical leave protections and other provisions do not apply to gay and lesbian couples legally married in states that recognize such unions. A decision is expected within the next three months.
“The founding principle of MCC ~ that we are all who we are by the grace and design of God ~ has become the rallying cry for people across the land seeking marriage equality and, perhaps equally important, seeing the connection between marriage equality and every other movement for equal access and equal treatment under the law. The victory of this moment is that a wide spectrum of humanity came together to stand for our common human dignity and rights. That victory will lead ultimately to the justice marriage equality represents,” said The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair of MCC’s Public Policy Team.
“Regardless of the outcome, what we have witnessed during these two days cannot be put back into a closet or a box. Love wins today and every day,” said Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt, Marriage Equality Director for MCC’s Public Policy Team. “We will continue to be vigilant in the days pending the high court’s decision, and we will not lose an opportunity to move this fight for equality forward at every level with every opportunity we have.”
“MCC started this battle over 40 years ago,” concluded The Rev. Elder Wilson. “We offered the first public weddings for same gender loving couples in the United States and our Founder filed the first lawst seeking legal recognition of our relationships. We have demonstrated on courthouse steps and marched through the streets, celebrated our victories and mourned our losses and kept moving forward. No one knows what the outcome of the Supreme Court hearings will be, but this I trust: Justice will prevail! And whether it’s today or next June or many Junes from now, we will win the right to Marriage Equality for the sake of God’s people everywhere.”
This statement prepared in conjunction with the Public Policy Team of Metropolitan Community Churches,
The Rev. Pat Bumgardner, Chair, and The Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt, Public Policy Team Member
and Director of Marriage and Relational Equality Issues.
Contact: The Rev. Dr. Jim Merritt, Public Policy Team Director for Marriage Equality