A man holds a gay pride flag in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday (June 26, 2013) after the court decided to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

Gay marriage fight shifts to the states

(RNS) The legal battle over same-sex marriage has shifted from the Supreme Court to state capitals and lower courts as supporters seek to build on their recent victories and opponents hope to thwart that progress.

A man holds a gay pride flag in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday (June26) after the court decided to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act.  RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

A man holds a gay pride flag in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday (June26) after the court decided to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act. RNS photo by Adelle M. Banks

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Armed with Justice Anthony Kennedy's decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act, lawyers representing same-sex couples filed a lawsuit in Pennsylvania on Tuesday (July 9), and vowed to follow with others in North Carolina and Virginia.

Those cases will be added to at least 11 pending from New Jersey to Hawaii.

"There are a lot of cases out there," said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's LGBT & AIDS Project, which filed the Pennsylvania challenge. "It's quite clear to me that this issue is headed back to the U.S. Supreme Court and is likely to get there sometime over the next several years."

On Thursday, Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Kathleen Kane, said she would not defend the state against a lawsuit to overturn a ban on same-sex marriage, following in the footsteps of attorneys general in Illinois and California who also declined to defend their states in similar cases.

The flurry of activity is prompted in part by what gay-rights groups see as the long-term implications of Kennedy's ruling. If federal benefits cannot be denied legally married same-sex couples, they say, states ultimately cannot deny gays and lesbians the right to marry.

The legal and legislative efforts are welcomed by opponents of same-sex marriage, who worry that the high court's ruling has left lower courts in limbo.

Although the soaring rhetoric in Kennedy's opinion seemed to make any discrimination against same-sex marriages unconstitutional, the ruling reiterated states' jurisdiction over marriage policy. That could help opponents in state and federal courts that are less inclined to sanction same-sex marriage than those in states such as New York and California.

"I'd like to see this settled," said John Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage. If judges rule against the new challenges — as district courts already have done in Nevada and Hawaii — "then that will stop the train for the time being and give Congress an opportunity to weigh in."

Both sides have stepped up their lobbying efforts. The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay-rights organization, sent officials to Arkansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia this week to highlight what it calls the "two Americas" left in the wake of the Supreme Court's verdicts in late June.

While same-sex couples can marry in 13 states — including California, following the high court's procedural ruling in late June against the state's marriage ban — they are precluded in the others, including the entire South. The group is seeking to reverse state laws and repeal constitutional amendments barring gays and lesbians from marrying.

"Over the next few weeks and months, it is going to be open season on marriage litigation," said Fred Sainz, vice president for communications at the Human Rights Campaign. "My suspicion is that this is only the beginning. There's been built-up demand for relief from these onerous laws."

The National Organization for Marriage also has stepped up its advocacy and fundraising efforts. At the outset, it is seeking to add Indiana to the list of 29 states with constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

"The legal landscape is littered with lawsuits and other legal actions against small businesses, individuals and religious groups who refuse to ignore their beliefs about the truth of marriage," the group's president, Brian Brown, wrote supporters last week. "Please give generously so that we have the resources necessary to lead this incredibly important fight."

In Washington, the battle has moved from the Supreme Court to Congress and the White House. A Senate committee on Wednesday approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit discrimination against gays in hiring and on the job — considered critical for same-sex couples seeking marriage benefits. And President Obama is under pressure to apply those benefits nationwide.

The latest lawsuit in Pennsylvania was filed by 10 same-sex couples, two children and a widow from all walks of life: a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a truck driver, a dog trainer and others, including several military veterans.

"Many have been together for decades, and some are raising children together," said U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa. "The situations faced by these couples are similar to those faced by the thousands of same-sex couples in Pennsylvania who are being denied the basic rights that are afforded by marriage."

Whether the lawsuits are being filed too soon — before more states have adopted same-sex marriage — is a matter of debate among gay-rights groups. Some want to reverse more state laws and bans before a case works its way back to the high court. But that may be possible only in a few additional states, such as New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii.

"We're running out of states," Sainz said. "Getting rid of a constitutional amendment is a very high bar. It is the Supreme Court that is eventually going to make marriage equality the law."

(Richard Wolf writes for USA Today.)


  1. ““The legal landscape is littered with lawsuits and other legal actions against small businesses, individuals and religious groups ” – Mr. Brown NOM

    Mr. Perkins (FRC) made a similar claim on Face the Nation a week ago. When asked, he too could not come up with any number or particulars of “lawsuits and other legal actions.”

    There’s “litter” out there, alright.

  2. Homosexuality should be criminalized. Homosexuals commit crimes against God, against nature, against the Holy Bible and against the human race.
    After reading this I now know why God wrote:
    Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
    Romans 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
    :26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
    :27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

  3. Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… end of debate.

    I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.

    1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

    2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

    3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual unseemliness – Lev. 15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

    4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev. 1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

    5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

    6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?

    7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

    8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

    9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

    10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really
    necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev. 24:10-16.

    Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

    I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

    Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

  4. Rev…Your anger and animus towards gays and lesbians is simply wrong. Look in your heart and believe what Jesus would do. Stop reading these experts written by men like you over the ages. May GOD be with you.

  5. Alslander…This is a brilliant writing. May I ask for reprinting rights? I promise to give you credit. This should be sent to every pastor, reverend, bishop and pope and ask for answers to these questions.

  6. Jeff:
    Thanks for the compliment, but I cannot take credit. This list has been used many, times. It is believed to have originated as a “letter to Dr. Laura”. Parts of it were also used in an episode of the TV series ”
    The West Wing” (the episode is entitled “The Midterms”. Where the “President” used some of this to rip a new one to an anti-gay character who was obviously intended to be Dr. Laura.

    In any event, do feel free to use it all you want…it certainly does point out the hypocrisy of using scripture to condemn gay people, doesn’t it? And frankly, I’ve never heard a cogent response. Some people have tried to say that the “ceremonial” admonitions and abominations are no longer relevant using some sort of convoluted logic.

    However, owning slaves or selling one’s daughter into slavery or putting to death your child for being disobedient are hardly “ceremonial issues”.

  7. While I disagree that homosexual behavior should not be criminalizes the post you are so enamored with is so full of holes and ignorance about the purposes and types of Levitical Laws any reputable biblical scholar at best will just sigh and shake their head.

    In other words if someone wishes to display their ignorance by all means repost it.

  8. Oops sorry I meant to say I don’t believe homosexual behavior should be criminalized.

  9. I agree. His anger is misplaced. If it’s grief he is feeling, that would be appropriate.

  10. Gee, Frank, it’s awfully convenient to say it’s full of holes without specifics.
    And besides, lots of biblical scholars also will argue that the scriptures regarding homosexuality are mistranslated, misinterpreted and otherwise full of holes as well.
    It is also important to remember that same sex marriage is a matter of CIVIL law, and that as tax-paying law-abiding US citizens, gay people are guaranteed equal treatment under civil law by our Constitution. Nothing is going to require churches to perform nor recognize ANY marriage that it chooses not to. The only infringement on “religious liberty” (the latest red herring to be exploited by the religious right) is denying the right of the MANY denominations which DO support gay marriage to be able to perform them.
    People of faith should well remember that Freedom OF Religion absolutely requires Freedom FROM Religion in our country as well. The United States was founded in large part to escape the tyranny of what was felt to be the “correct” religion in other countries. How would you like it, if say, laws were passed that denied YOUR particular faith the ability to follow its beliefs? People who have religious objections to gay marriage have no right to impose those beliefs upon faiths that believe differently and certainly not upon secular civil marriages either.

  11. A is ple search will reveal the different types of biblical laws and their purposes and what laws have been done away with and which still S
    stand. Its quite interesting and enlightening so I encourage you to look into it.

    As far as the words game spells, play with the bible they have been debunked ad naseum and its embarrassing that people still seriously preset that case.

    Aside from the obviously faith objections to SSM there are many secular reasons as well.

    This social experiment will ultimately fail.

  12. A complete spell check fail above. My apologies but I think you get what I said.

  13. Frank, trust me, I have looked into these arguments. I find them unconvincingly convenient. If one can pick and choose scripture, then it’s just a matter of convenience to support one’s predisposed bias.
    And as far as secular reasons, NONE stand the slightest legal scrutiny..

    The very best lawyers and experts the anti-gay forces could muster tried their hardest to make the secular case in court. They failed abysmally and utterly. (You don’t have to believe me, read the transcripts…particularly of Schwarzenegger v Perry — eventually Hollingsworth v Perry — as well as the other relevant case transcripts.) In fact, the lead anti-gay expert in Schwarzenegger v Perry actually wound up admitting under oath that families and society as a whole will be better off with legal same sex marriage!

    Some people try to say it’s all about the children. Well again, the only damage to children is caused to the many hundreds of thousands of children in same sex households who are disadvantaged by denying them the protections and dignity that can only come from legal marriage.

    There is absolutely NO argument other than animus that can sustain the position against same sex marriage. That’s why were winning virtually every case, and it is only a matter of time until marriage equality is the law of the entire land.

  14. No offense intended but the truth doesn’t need your confirmation to be true. There are different types of laws that are and were fulfilled in different ways. Rejecting this truth only shows someone’s lack of study or bias.

    And no there are other choices than acceptance or animus. You saying that only exposes more of either your ignorance or bias.

    And if everyone beloved SSM was good for society than we would have had it long ago.

    This social experiment will fail its just a matter of when.

  15. Frank:
    Your arguments lack any specifics and are simply wrong.

    But the beauty of our secular government is everyone’s ability to live by THEIR faith and THEIR truth. You can still disapprove of gays all you want. Your church can continue to refuse to perform or even recognize gay marriages.

    But you absolutely can NOT impose your “truth” nor your religious beliefs upon the civil laws of this country. And without that prohibition,

    I am absolutely certain your predictions of failure are wrong. Years from now people will be just as dumbfounded why this was even an issue just as we are now regarding segregation, inter-racial marriage, a woman’s right to vote or slavery.

    For someone who seems so certain of his prognostications you certainly offer no sustainable nor substantive arguments to support your failing position.

  16. Sorry that third paragraph should have read:

    But you absolutely can NOT impose your “truth” nor your religious beliefs upon the civil laws of this country. And without that prohibition, EVERYONE’S religious freedom would be at risk.

  17. If you choose to reject a clear truth backed up by a mountain of scriptural and theological evidence that’s your choice. A comment section is too restrictive to lay out the scholarship of the issue.

    Time will prove one of us correct. I am absolutely comfortable with that.

  18. Well Frank, I have enjoyed having a civil discussion of this important issue with you. And we can agree on one thing, we’re both very confident that we are right.

    As far as your mountain of scriptural and theological evidence however, do remember that MANY denominations, Christian and Non-Christian alike, reject that “mountain of evidence.” My (Christian) church is just one of many that supports and performs same sex weddings, as I am fortunate enough to live in a state with legal same sex marriage. And besides scriptural and theological dogma or “truths” have absolutely zero meaning nor weight in civil law, which is what we are talking about here.

  19. I have yet to see a cogent scripturally supported argument that God or condones and blesses homosexual behavior. I wouldn’t trust any theologian claiming that it exists.

  20. Frank…
    A simple google search of “why the bible does NOT condemn homosexuality” will lead you to some pretty cogent arguments…(probably some non-cogent ones too, LOL, but I’d encourage you to check some out some of the better ones regardless) And I understand the discussion might be too lengthy to have here, but you have not responded to my questions here which are ultimately pertinent here…those regarding the civil law issues, and I’d certainly like to hear your views.

    The great thing here, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out is that you are free to live by your faith and your truth as YOU believe it to be in our free country. But, of necessity, so are others free to live their faith and truth as THEY believe it, not as you believe they should, unless it causes demonstrable harm to you.

    There is no dispute that this is a matter of civil law. And our constitution expressly forbids imposing religious beliefs upon civil law. Can’t you see the distinction?

    Why would you insist on imposing your religious beliefs upon others, denying them equal treatment (and thus causes demonstrable harm) with respect to such an important civil contract (marriage) when, if the tables were turned you surely would feel very persecuted? How does granting this equal treatment to gay citizens damage you or cause you harm in any way (other than offending you, which is absolutely meaningless legally)? These are the critical underlying legal questions here.

    If you don’t believe in gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person! Don’t go to a gay wedding. Don’t join a church that supports gay marriage. It’s that simple. It won’t change your life or beliefs or rights in any way. The only right you lose is one you never really had — that to insist civil law unfairly discriminate against law-abiding tax-paying US citizens.

  21. I have studied them all extensively and none of them show in any way that God condones or blesses homosexual behavior. In fact its just the opposite. The case is so weak that it only reinforces it.

    As far as the civil law goes we have a representative democracy that is working this issue out. Everyone has a right to stand up for the country they want. That being said there is not right to marriage in the constitution and everyone is equally able to marry someone of the opposite sex. Marriage is man and woman, always was and always will be no matter what people call it. This is the family unit that is best for children and something that will always be unique.

    As I said before this social experiment will fail although neither one of us will be around to see ti.

  22. Actually Frank, the US Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the right to marry IS one of the most fundamental of civil rights. See Loving v Virginia, among others.

    Even if I accepted your argument that marriage always was, is and will be, that doesn’t cut it legally either. The same arguments were made against inter-racial marriage, women’s right to vote and slavery. But don’t worry, you can keep your own definition of marriage for yourself. Operative phrase: For Yourself.

    And I assume that your comments about representative democracy imply that our republic should go by majority rule on this issue. Well the Constitution is designed to protect the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority. It is a travesty that any minority’s rights could be subject to a majority vote. Again, what if your particular faith were singled out to have its rights denied?

    Although honestly maybe you haven’t been keeping up with current events. Even the most conservative of polls now show more people in the US supporting legal gay marriage than opposing it.

    Neither you nor anyone has been able to produce one shred of legally admissible harm that would be caused by same sex marriage. Given that there is none, same sex marriage is inevitable.

    The war is over, but that’s not to say that the battles won’t go on for quite some time. Particularly as the anti-forces have turned this issue into very lucrative careers…check out how much Brian Brown, Frank Schubert and Maggie Gallagher (for example) are personally pocketing each year from gullible donors. But it’s absolutely inevitable that same sex marriage will be the law of the land, and I predict it won’t take as nearly as long as you think.

  23. Another illustration of what’s unworthy about certain scripture —

    Psalm 14:1 says — The fool says in his heart, “God does not exist.” They are corrupt; they do vile deeds.

    Really ?

    Is there intelligent truth here ?

    Is this wisdom ?

    Are those who don’t believe in God fools ?

    Are they corrupt ?

    Do they actually commit vile deeds ?

    Don’t we know or have known an unbeliever ?

    Do we personally consider them to be fools and corrupt and vile ?

    There is obviously something asinine about some scripture.

    So, what can we say here —

    Our Bible, as all holy text, has its limitations.

    Paul put it this way —

    “ The Kingdom of God is not in “ word ” (that means scripture verse), but “ POWER ” (that means, at least, the loving and protecting divine presence in all of us, especially those that believe)………….it’s not food and drink but “ righteousness ” (that means doing good works and deeds) and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit ”.

    The Bible doesn’t determine what the Holy Spirit does and the Spirit doesn’t consult what is written down as it goes about its work.

    Can’t we say that the Holy Spirit will lead and guide us and show us all good and truthful things we need to know ?

    Isn’t that our authority, being led and moved by the Spirit, to review things that are known to make sure they are important and meaningful ?

    Scripture verses are not equal.

    Some verses are more important than others.

    All holy books have their asininity and cobwebs and hype and potholes.

    It is written that scripture is inspired, but that doesn’t mean that scripture is complete, concise, without issues, applicable to all, of a single interpretation or with excellent clarity.

    What can we really trust in ?

    It is written that “Jesus went about doing good”.

    Isn’t that a great role model for us to follow ?

    Isn’t “good works” the essence of all mature religious teaching ?

    Surely, we must rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit as our trust for our decision making.

    Let’s wish that more good and better things happen to all LGBT folks.


  24. 1Co 1:27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
    1Co 1:28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, [yea], and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 1Co 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

    If you want to use God’s Word to bring forth truth, truth is there.

    If you don’t believe God’s Word, He’s given all of mankind the universe to behold — believe nature and biology. Men with men and women with women is both against nature and biology. That is a self-evident truth!

  25. CarolinaSistah:
    As I’ve repeatedly said: in this free country YOU are free to live by your truth. But the rest of us are also free to live by a truth that may be different than yours. Marriage is a civil contract governed by civil law. (try getting married in a church without a marriage license sometime.) Furthermore, many Christian and non-Christian denominations DO support gay marriage. Doesn’t mean you have to have one nor your church perform any marriage it doesn’t want to. But the Constitution is clear; all citizens are guaranteed equal treatment under civil law. If you wish to live under civil law controlled by religion, move to a theocracy. You have no right in the USA to determine what MY truth is no matter how self evident your sanctimonious holier than thou self thinks it is. And for that, I surely thank God and our founding fathers. I’ll bet you believe the Earth is only 5000 years old too, despite how scientifically absurd that notion is.
    Why can’t you bible thumpers get it through your head that religion has absolutely no weight in U.S. civil law, and that this is a good thing…it is what lets you live by your own beliefs and not have someone else’s forced upon you or me or anyone else. Does your religion require you to lose all ability to understand this concept? Keep your religion to yourself and let me keep mine.

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