Episcopalians welcome Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage
A LANDMARK Supreme Court ruling on the rights of gay married
couples has been welcomed by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal
Church in the United States, Dr Katharine Jefferts Schori, and
The Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the Defence of
Marriage Act (DOMA) was discriminatory. DOMA, which came into force
in 1996, denies federal entitlements, such as tax and pension
benefits, to same-sex couples who have married in the 13 states
where gay marriage is lawful. The Supreme Court did not rule,
however, on whether gay people have a constitutional right to
marry, meaning that gay marriage remains unlawful in more than 30
The Court also declined to rule on Proposition 8, a law
prohibiting gay marriage in California. This lets stand a
lower-court ruling that the ban is unconstitutional.
Dr Jefferts Schori said in a statement issued on Wednesday that
the Episcopal Church "has taken the position that neither federal
nor state governments should create constitutional prohibitions
that deny full civil rights and protections to gay and lesbian
persons, including those available to different-sex couples through
the civic institution of marriage.
"Accordingly, I welcome today's decision of the United States
Supreme Court that strikes down the 17-year-old law prohibiting
federal recognition of same-sex civil marriages granted by the
states. The unmistakable movement toward civil marriage equality in
the states over the past decade reflects the will of the people in
those states to grant equal rights and dignity under the law to all
married couples and families, and today's decision will
appropriately allow those families to be recognized under federal
law as well.
"At the same time, the Court's withholding of judgment on the
ultimate constitutional question of whether a state may ban
same-sex marriage reflects the fact that this conversation will
continue to evolve in coming years."
The Supreme Court's ruling was welcomed by other Episcopalian
bishops. The Bishop of Washington, the Rt Revd Mariann Edgar Budde,
said on Wednesday: "Scripture teaches us that God shows no
partiality. Today our country has moved closer to this vision of
equality and unity, and I give thanks for our progress."
The bells of Washington Cathedral rang at midday on Wednesday,
after the ruling was announced. The Dean of Washington Cathedral,
the Very Revd Gary Hall, said that this was to celebrate "the
extension of federal marriage equality to all the same-sex couples
modelling God's love in lifelong covenants".
The Bishop of Atlanta, the Rt Revd Robert C. Wright, said that
the ruling moved "the country forward in respecting the dignity of
every human being. . . With this decided, my prayer is that we as a
nation might now focus on care for our veterans, support for our
aged, and education and hope for our poor."
The President of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church,
the Revd Gay Clark Jennings, said that the ruling would "allow more
people of all faiths to see what we in the Episcopal Church have
seen for decades: same-sex couples and their families are evidence
of the goodness of God's creation."
She continued: "We are not done yet. We will not be done until
the laws of the entire land and the whole Church of God recognise
the dignity of every human being and the equality of all faithful
The Vice-President of the National Association of Evangelicals,
Galen Carey, criticised the ruling. He said: "The Supreme Court had
the opportunity to uphold both marriage and democracy, and it did
neither. The Supreme Court also did not unilaterally create a new
right to redefine marriage. Instead the Court has allowed the
conversation on marriage to continue."
The President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the
Revd Dr Albert Mohler, said that the ruling on DOMA "makes the full
legalisation of same-sex marriage nationwide almost inevitability"
and "basically invites a future challenge to any state law that
prohibits legal same-sex marriage. . .
"The great moral divide in this country over same-sex marriage,
over marriage itself, and over sexual morality in general, is fully
evident in these decisions and in the public response to them."