Courts do what churches won’t
By Michael McManus
— In recent weeks, courts in six different states have taken the conservative position that state legislatures, or the public in a referendum, have the right to limit marriage to a man and a woman.
Such decisions might have been expected in states like Georgia and Nebraska, but were delightfully surprising in “blue states” Washington and New York.
The Washington State Supreme Court overturned lower court cases permitting gay marriage by stating that the Legislature “was entitled to believe that limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples furthers procreation, essential to the survival of the human race and furthers the well-being of children by encouraging families where children are reared in homes headed by the children’s biological parents.”
Even the high court in New York state came to the same conclusion, that the state constitution “does not compel recognition of marriages between members of the same sex. Whether such marriages should be recognized is a question to be addressed by the Legislature.”
However, before concluding that a federal marriage amendment is not needed, remember two facts. First, the liberal New Jersey Supreme Court appears likely to endorse same-sex marriage in a case it has been sitting on for months.
Second, the winds of change are rushing through major Christian denominations. The Presbyterian Church voted in June to allow local presbyteries and churches to declare the church’s constitution’s prohibition of ordaining practicing homosexuals as “non-essential.”
By a vote of 298-221, the church’s 217th General Assembly allowed a “local option” which sets aside the ordination requirements that a person be either married and faithful or chaste, if single. Practicing gays or lesbians had been effectively proscribed from ordination.
However, 30 of the 173 presbyteries have already ordained gays or conducted same-sex “blessings,” so the local option decision simply ratifies what has been going on.
Nevertheless, a coalition of conservative Presbyterians denounced the decision as “a profound deviation from Biblical requirements, and we can not accept, support or tolerate this decision.”
The denomination lost 65,000 members in 2005 alone, and even the national church predicts a loss of 85,000 in 2006. The 4.3 million Presbyterians in 1965 has fallen to 2.3 million.
The future of these mainline denominations can be seen in the United Church of Christ. A year ago, it voted to grant marriage rights to same-gender couples. Since that decision, the 1.1-million member church (down from 2.1 million in 1965) has lost 196 congregations.
Religious leaders are supposed to be America’s moral leaders. It is ironic that many courts are assuming that role.
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