Supreme Court Decisions on Marriage Equality Will Involve Catholics On All Sides

The Supreme Court begins oral arguments today on two cases with implications for marriage equality, one a challenge of California’s Proposition 8 and one a challenge of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. As has been the case during state level efforts to expand marriage rights, Catholics are prominently featured on both the pro-marriage equality campaigns, the opposition, and now as six of the nine Supreme Court justices. Chief Justice John Roberts, along with Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, and Antonin Scalia are all Catholic, some more publicly about the role faith plays within their position than others.

Justice Scalia  is expected to be  at the forefront of marriage equality opposition.  He previously compared homosexuality in the legal system as equivalent to anti-bestiality and murder laws. One observer writes of Scalia in the New York Times:

“No one expects the conservative 78-year-old jurist to have a sudden equal-protection epiphany. He has made it abundantly plain that he has no use for same-sex unions; he thinks they are immoral…

“His increasingly cranky and intolerant pronouncements have become an embarrassment even to people who tend to agree with him. Justice Scalia has not merely pre-judged the issue of same-sex marriage, but has cemented the impression of an anti-gay bias. He is something of a political cheerleader for anti-gay marriage forces and the belief that there is something wrong with gay relationships.

“If Supreme Court justices were subject to the ethics code that applies to lower federal court judges, Justice Scalia would probably have to recuse himself.”

Other justices, in keeping with traditional norms around judicial impartiality, are more reticent to make their opinions known on marriage equality. Interestingly, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kennedy are considered the two unknowns who could vote either way in a decision. Concerning their votes, a law professor from UCLA writes in The Huffington Post:

“Roberts is very firmly in the conservative camp on nearly every hot-button issue that comes before the Court. He’s voted with the right wing of the Court to strike down affirmative action plans, restrict access to abortion, deny victims of discrimination back pay and allow corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on elections. Given that track record, Roberts seems likely to vote to uphold bans on gay marriage…

“Roberts must know that long before his tenure as chief justice is up in 25 years or so, any decision by the court upholding bans on gay marriage will seem retrograde and foolish. That won’t stop Scalia and Thomas, but it might stop Roberts.

“Kennedy is a Catholic appointed by President Ronald Reagan, so one might predict he’d be hostile to claims of gay marriage. Kennedy, however, voted in favor of equality in the Supreme Court’s two biggest gay rights cases of the past twenty years, Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas

“Yet, even for Kennedy, gay marriage may be a bridge too far. And Olson and Boies’ case, despite being carefully and strategically crafted to goad the Supreme Court into ruling on the constitutionality of gay marriage nationwide, has a number of escape routes for Roberts and Kennedy.”

Roberts’ cousin, Jean Podrasky, is a lesbian advocate for marriage equality who will be seated in the court as arguments are heard in these two cases, attending as a guest of the chief justice as reported by ABC News. Nationwide, Catholic support for marriage equality has emerged from supportive families as much as LGBT individuals themselves, so it remains to be seen if the cousin’s invitation is a telling sign that Roberts might decide in favor of marriage equality.

Whichever way the Supreme Court decides, the products of Catholic education and Catholic values surrounding LGBT issues will be prominently featured in coming days, even if only implicitly, as the courtroom fills with pro- and anti-marriage equality advocates.

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

0 replies
  1. NeoMorph
    NeoMorph says:

    Here’s my take. It’s not gay marriage. It’s marriage (See Mary Beth Williams, that matter, it’s not marriage. It’s equality – period, full stop. All people, all rights. Moreover, the constitution isn’t based on the bible. (again, Mary Beth Williams) Sure, it was Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve. But just an aside, Adam and Eve broke the only law there was so let’s maybe get off Steve’s back. The point remains the constitution isn’t about the bible.

    Not even a ignorant non-biblical interpretation of the bible that says Jesus, St. Paul and the people of Leviticus all rejected homosexuality. Same sex committed loving, married, relationship is a recent phenomenon (as is interracial marriage). How could the people then have rejected something non-existent and a concept they couldn’t possibly conceive. Biblical redactors have put on the lips of Jesus, St Paul and the people of the Hebrew Scriptures a clear rejection of pederasty or the relationship between two males involving a minor (think only of the RC Church abuse scandals, Jerry Sandusky, et al). Unfortunately, English translations have erroneously bastardized the biblical languages and oversimplified with insertion of the word “homosexuality.” Pederasty, on the other hand, is a very old, familiar concept — older than biblical days, older than the allegedly straight Greeks and Romans who were married but had their prostitute boys on the side at the local bath houses (pun intended) — abusive relationship not of love which would’ve been known to Jesus and St. Paul and most certainly worthy of their condemnation.

    Jesus who is God (if you subscribe to this) – yes, let’s say it – was limited, restricted by cultural norms. Remember, he humbled himself to become like us, fully human, so we might become more like him, more holy and divine in his image. So the more fully (loving) human we become, i.e. the more true to our nature we become, then the more we as creatures model our Creator (In a word, incarnation).

    So get over it. Get over yourselves. Get over us. Jesus woke up in the morning as many do: he burped, farted and scratched himself. If this makes you wince then this is wherein lies society’s problems with sex. He was human.

    What is it about a society still so Victorian, spill over Puritanical, that reduces heterosexual married relationship to no different from animals copulating for procreation? Silly me, I thought love (incarnate) was a primary good of a committed relationship. If marriage equality loses (if equality loses) short term, then maybe it wins long term because I sure as hell would not want my loving relationship lumped with pederasty and being bestial.

    It may very well be that history will look back at this current equality debate as a hinge on which society swings forward to unshackle itself from, or swings backward to remain in the chains of, Victorian-Puritanical fiction-fixation, twisted read of Genesis: that somehow God created us and it (and we) were (and are) very bad, very bad body (image), very bad (shameful) sex). In other words, just as we project post-biblical realities on ancient bible texts and their corresponding societies, now we project being hung-up with pelvic issues on God on the Constitution.

    C’mon! WWJD?

    The same as what GLBT and associates must continue to do: continue to love God in Christ including love of neighbor, including love of enemies. Who is the neighbor? Buzz! Wrong question. Try again. To whom do we make ourselves neighbor? Ding, ding. Correct. We are the neighbor. Love your neighbor as yourself. Love your neighbor; it is yourself. The neighbor: it’s you! Perhaps it isn’t that people against equality are stupid but that they don’t love – don’t love themselves as neighbor and ironically choose to remain in the Victorian-Puritan closet.

    GLBT and associates, let’s therefore love them (note to selves: Jesus incarnate Martin Luther King peaceful and nonviolent). Otherwise we become them. We have to keep figuring out how to love them meta implied how to love us. Perhaps same sex committed loving (married) relationship is a start.


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