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Same-Sex Marriage – SCOTUS Dissenting Opinions

Over the next few weeks, let’s look at the dissenting opinions from the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. (If you go to the ruling page, note that the majority opinion and each dissenting opinion start at page number 1.)  Rather than the usual statement—“I respectfully dissent”—these opinions broke from the norm by saying “I dissent” while others left the phrase out altogether. Additionally, the dissenting opinions use somewhat disrespectful language. This accentuates the divisive nature of the ruling. What does that mean for people believing that marriage is between one man and one woman?

The first thing to note is that none of the dissenting opinions was based on God’s one man / one woman design. While Roberts and Alito reference religious tradition for marriage, ALL of the dissenters use the Constitution to frame their arguments which, of course, is what they are supposed to do. In the strongest terms, they show how the decision diminishes the role of the people and increases the power of the Court at the expense of the Constitution. But, in their opinions is a “heads up” to organizations supporting traditional marriage.

To start this series, here are three quotes from Justice Roberts’ dissenting opinion.

  1. “Although they [the majority] discuss some of the ancillary legal benefits that accompany marriage, such as hospital visitation rights and recognition of spousal status on official documents, petitioners’ lawsuits target the laws defining marriage generally rather than those allocating benefits specifically.” [p 24]
  2. “Respect for sincere religious conviction has led voters and legislators in every State that has adopted same-sex marriage democratically to include accommodations for religious practice. The majority’s decision imposing same-sex marriage cannot, of course, create any such accommodations. The majority graciously suggests that religious believers may continue to ‘advocate’ and ‘teach’ their views of marriage. Ante, at 27. The First Amendment guarantees, however, the freedom to ‘exercise’ religion. Ominously, that is not a word the majority uses.” [p 27-28]
  3. “…the Solicitor General candidly acknowledged that the tax exemptions of some religious institutions would be in question if they opposed same-sex marriage. See Tr. of Oral Arg. on Question 1, at 36–38.” [p 28]


What implication does this hold for Christians (and those of other beliefs who hold to the traditional view of marriage)?

  • There are three frames of reference: the majority opinion that same-sex marriage is a good thing, the dissenting opinion that the court has no business defining rights and that this is a matter for the states, and the third being that marriage should remain between a man and a woman.
  • None of the dissenting opinions in this case directly addressed the validity of the traditional view.
  • While there is some rationale for government defining a civil union for purposes of “ancillary legal benefits,” this opinion went much further by actually redefining marriage. This puts the State at odds with the Church.
  • Unless churches can find a way to separate their practice of marriage from the term used in the Supreme Court ruling, they will likely face legal issues in the future, including maintaining a tax exempt status.


#ScotusSameSex #dissentingopinion #gaymarriage #thomasmacy #separationofchurchandstate

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