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Religious Tolerance logo

Movement toward same-sex marriage (SSM), LGBT equality etc.

2015-APR: Accelerating changes
involving same-sex marriage, LGBT equality, etc:

Current SSM status. SSM in Guam. The March for
Marriage. SSM hearing at the U.S. Supreme Court.
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We use the acronym "SSM" to represent "same-sex marriage."
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay which covered events during late March.

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Status of same-sex marriage at the start of 2015-APR:

Same-sex couples were able to obtain marriage licenses, marry, and register their marriage in 36 states plus the District of Columbia. These states include over 70% of the U.S. population.

In two states of the U.S., marriage equality is in a state of flux:

  • In Missouri, licenses are available in St. Louis and two additional counties, but not in the rest of the state.

  • In Alabama, a constitutional crisis exists between the federal District Court, which has declared the state's ban on same-sex marriages to be unconstitutional, and the state Supreme Court which has declared the ban to be constitutional. We expect that this conflict will be resolved in late June or early July when the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling in the consolidated case Obergefell v. Hodges. This case involves same-sex marriage in four states -- Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The court ruling is widely expected to resolve marriage equality across the entire U.S., including the District of Columbia, all 50 states, and 5 territories either by legalizing same-sex marriage everywhere, nowhere, or in some states and territories but not others.

During March, many Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) briefs favoring marriage equality were filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in the Obergefell case. They came from private individuals, organizations and the Obama administration. They all agree that the requirements that a couple must meet in order to marry are the responsibility of the individual state to write. However, they argued that whatever restrictions states place on marriage, they must not violate the Due Process and/or the Equal Protection clauses in the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. These clauses require the federal government, state governments, and municipal governments to treat people equally.

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Activity during 2015-APR:

Early 2015-APR: Submission of briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court in opposition to marriage equality:

Briefs were filed by individuals and groups opposed to marriage equality. Many of the latter predict impending doom to American society if same-sex couples are allowed to marry. Included were predictions of a precipitous drop in both the birth and marriage rates, as well as a massive increase in the number of abortions which would pose a threat to U.S. society if they were to occur. One media report predicted a horrendous genocide of the U.S. population by fire to be sent by God.

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2015-APR-13: Same-sex marriage in the Territory of Guam:

During 2014-OCT, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling stating that the laws in the 9 states and 3 territories under its jurisdiction that ban same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. Same-sex couples are now able to marry in all nine states under the jurisdiction of the 9th Circuit: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington state. However, they are not currently allowed to marry in any of the three territories: American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands which are under the jurisdiction of the same court.

On 2015-APR-13, a lesbian couple had attempted to apply for a marriage license, Even though Guam law forbids discrimination on the basis of gender, the couple was refused a license, The reason given was that the territory marriage law allows marriages only between one woman and one man. They have filed a lawsuit in the Unified Courts of Guam Hagatna, Guam. A hearing is expected shortly. A ruling by the court will be delayed until after the U.S. Supreme Court rules in the Obergefell case in mid-2015. For more information on the Guam conflict, see: Part 1  Part 2  Part 3

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2015-APR-25: Leadup to the Supreme court hearing:

The third annual March for Marriage was sponsored by the National Organization for Marriage. The theme was "March for freedom, march for truth, march for marriage." It was held in Washington DC on 2015-APR-25. Marchers walked from the Capitol Reflecting Pool to the Supreme Court building. Only a few thousand marchers showed up. There were probably few Supreme Court personnel present to observe the march, because it was held on a Saturday.

The Family Research Council organizied prayer sessions before the hearing with the intent of asking God to influence the thought processes of the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court so that they will reject marriage equality.

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star 2015-APR-28: The Supreme court hearing:

This was definitely the most important development in marriage equality during April. The U.S. Supreme Court held its hearing in the case Obergefell v. Hodges. Observers attempted to assess the questions asked by the Justices during the hearing and predict how many of seven of the Justices will vote. (The votes by the most conservative members of the Court -- Justices Scalia and Thomas -- are generally regarded as certain to be opposed to marriage equality.)

The hearing involved consolidated appeals of 4 same-sex marriage cases, from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee. A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- alone among the four Circuit Courts which have considered same-sex marriage -- had decided by a 2 to 1 vote that the bans on same-sex marriages in these four states are constitutional. This produced what is called a "circuit split" because the 4th, 9th, and 10th circuit courts had previously found similar bans to be unconstitutional. This split appears to have motivated the U.S. Supreme Court to accept the appeals from the four states. More details.

Reporters on the hearing agreed that there is a deep split among the Justices on the marriage equality question. Most media accounts predict a very close vote in favor of marriage equality across the entire U.S. Their ruling is expected during late June or early July.

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A shift in emphasis by groups who are promoting or fighting marriage equality:

A notable shift has occurred among non-profit groups on both sides of the marriage equality conflict. Those opposed to same-sex marriage appear to be directing some of their activities away from banning such marriages toward guaranteeing that owners of public accommodations be given the religious freedom to discriminate against the LGBT community. (A public accommodation is typically a retail outlet like a baker, wedding photographer, wedding venue provider, etc. That is, a company that supplies the general public with goods and services.) Many cities and states have human rights laws that forbid such for-profit public accommodations from discriminating against potential customers on the basis of their skin color, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. A dozen or so conservative Christians who own public accommodations which supply marriage goods and services have run afoul of their local human rights legislation and have been fined.

Surprisingly, a brief scan of articles on the "religious freedom to discriminate" question shows that commentators generally fail to note that Yesua of Nazareth (Jesus Christ) instructed his followers in the early Christian church to do onto others as they would wish others would do onto them. This is called the Golden Rule and is one of a group of Ethics of Reciprocity that are promoted by major religions across the world. This would seem to require Christian owners of public accommodations to do whatever they can to meet the wishes of their customers, even if the owners are opposed to marriage equality in principle.

More details on the transition from the religious freedom of belief and assembly to the religious freedom to discriminate.

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This topic will continue with developments in 2015-MAY

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Mark Your Calendars for the 2015 March for Marriage!" National Organization for Marriage, 2015-MAR, at: http://www.nomblog.com/
  2. David Badash, "Just One Month Away And NOM's March For Marriage Lists Zero Sponsors Or Speakers," The New Civil Rights Movement, 2015-MAR-25, at: http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/
  3. Cheryl Wetzsteim, "March for Marriage attracts thousands to Capitol Hill," Washington Times, 2015-APR-25, at: http://www.washingtontimes.com/

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Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-MAY-10
Latest update: 2015-MAY-10
Author: B.A. Robinson
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