Supreme Court to decide marriage equality
The United States Supreme Court will decide the issue of the legality of same-sex marriage once and for all. The court announced late Friday, Jan. 16, that it will take up marriage equality cases from four states sometime in April.
When the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld same-sex marriage bans in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, in November, national leaders of the United Church of Christ were confident that the cases were far from settled. With the court agreeing to hear those cases, their hope for equality has been renewed.
“Across Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, there is now renewed hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will right the wrong issued by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, when it ruled narrowly against marriage equality and against the prevailing spirit of fairness for same-gender couples that has been sweeping our country,” said the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, a UCC national officer.
Forced in part because of a split in federal rulings, the Supreme Court plans to consolidate all four cases and hear them together. The decision from the nine justices could come down in June.
“After the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals handed down its decision in November, we were hopeful the Supreme Court would take up the issue once again,” said the Rev. Mike Schuenemeyer, UCC executive for health and wholeness advocacy. “Same-gender-loving couples should be treated equally under the law in every state. The cases the court has decided to hear provide a great opportunity to correct the injustice done to loving LGBT couples who have been denied the right to marry, as well as, to rectify the inconsistency of the 6th Circuit Court’s ruling with that of other federal courts.”
The 6th Circuit is the only appeals court to uphold state same-sex marriage bans since the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. The 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th circuit courts all ruled that same-sex marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution.
“The time is ripe for the court to settle the matter,” Schuenemeyer said. “My own marriage is already recognized in the state where I was born (Missouri) and in the state where my parents live (Oklahoma). Like any loving couple, we also want our marriage to be recognized where we live, right here in Ohio.”
There are already 36 states in the U.S. where LGBT couples enjoy the freedom to marry. At this time last year, there were just 17 states, including the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage was recognized, but state and federal judges have struck down marriage bans in 20 states. More than 216 million Americans—approximately 70 percent of the country—live in a state with marriage equality.
This summer will mark the 10th year since the UCC’s General Synod passed the historic resolution that affirmed equal marriage rights for all couples regardless of gender.
“I am proud of the persistent witness of people of faith, and especially with the United Church of Christ at the vanguard, that has contributed to this potential watershed moment that could finally see marriage equality become that prevailing law in all 50 states,” Guess said. “I am prayerfully confident it will happen.”
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