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Episcopalians welcome Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage

28 June 2013

PA

Ruth Langstraat (left) and Roxanne Whitelight celebrate the Supreme Court's ruling, on Wednesday, granting same-sex couples the same federal entitlements as heterosexual couples. The couple married in Vancouver in 2012

Ruth Langstraat (left) and Roxanne Whitelight celebrate the Supreme Court's ruling, on Wednesday, granting same-sex couples the same federal entitle...

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 other bishops.

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 states.

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 couples."

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."

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