My regular readers know that I favor marriage equality for gays and lesbians. And that I find no biblical warrant to consider homosexuality a sin. For my essay on that subject, look under the "Check this out" headline on the right side of this page.
I have argued for years that the best way to solve the national dispute over same-sex marraige is to require all couples -- straight or gay -- who want to be married to get a civil marriage first. That establishes equality under the law. Then, if a couple wants a faith community to bless their union, they would be free to seek that out. And any faith community legally could say yes or no, depending on its theology.
How the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the matter of marriage equality soon will be known. And my guess and hope is that the court will side with those who favor equality under the law.
But I've just discovered a possible surprising way that the court could rule that might delay a final decision for a year or two but, in the end, would resolve the issue in an equitable way, at least according to the author of this Slate piece.
As the piece notes, "The potential for this particular surprise lies in the way the gay couples in Obergefell v. Hodges have asked the court — with the support of the federal government — to decide the case. They’re seeking not just the recognition of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but a decision doing so on the basis of a legal doctrine called 'heightened scrutiny.'”
What is "heightened scrutiny?" To quote the Slate piece again: "The label refers to a more muscular form of judicial review — the kind laws that distinguish on the basis of race and gender receive. Because heightened scrutiny applies to these and a handful of other 'suspect classifications,' the government must provide a compelling reason to justify any distinction it seeks to make along those lines. . .Simply put, for gay rights advocates, if marriage equality is the battle, heightened scrutiny is the war."
The author of the Slate piece, an attorney, doesn't think the court will offer this surprise, though she's hopeful.
What I hope we can avoid is the kind of decades-long, bitter dispute about this that has marked the aftermath of the court's 1970s abortion decision. We don't need pitched battles on this issue, too. We've got enough on our cultural plates and the court would do well to issue a ruling that will find wide acceptance -- as same-sex marriage itself is now doing.
(The photo of the U.S. Supreme Court building here is one I took just a year ago when I was in Washington for the annual conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.)
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PRAYERS FOR CHARLESTON
When a 21-year-old white man murders people at a Bible study in a historically black church, one of the few things we can do that makes any sense is to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. What we don't yet know is whether this was a case of mental instability or a matter of terrible ideas about race driving someone to deadly action. Or, I suppose, both.
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P.S.: The week of Aug. 3-9, I will be at Ghost Ranch, the national Presbyterian conference center in northern New Mexico, teaching a class I'm calling "Writing Your Spiritual Will." The second link in the previous sentence will give you all you need to know to sign up, and I hope you will do that.