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Florida Churches changing bylaws after gay marriage ruling

Prophecy News Watch reports:

Worried they could be sued by gay couples, some churches are changing their bylaws to reflect their view that the Bible allows only marriage between one man and one woman.

Although there have been lawsuits against wedding industry businesses that refuse to serve gay couples, attorneys promoting the bylaw changes say they don’t know of any lawsuits against churches.

Critics say the changes are unnecessary, but some churches fear that it’s only a matter of time before one of them is sued.

“I thought marriage was always between one man and one woman, but the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision said no,” said Gregory S. Erwin, an attorney for the Louisiana Baptist Convention, an association of Southern Baptist churches and one several groups advising churches to change their bylaws. “I think it’s better to be prepared because the law is changing. America is changing.”

In a June decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as between a man and a woman for purposes of federal law. A second decision was more technical but essentially ushered in legal gay marriage in California.

Kevin Snider is an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute, a nonprofit legal defense group that specializes in conservative Christian issues. His organization released a model marriage policy a few years ago in response to a statewide gay marriage fight in California. Snider said some religious leaders have been threatened with lawsuits for declining to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.

Dean Inserra, head pastor of the 1,000-member City Church Tallahassee, based in Florida, said he does not want to be alarmist, but his church is looking into how best to address the issue.

Inserra said he already has had to say no to gay friends who wanted him to perform a wedding ceremony.

“We have some gay couples that attend our church. What happens when they ask us to do their wedding?” Inserra said. “What happens when we say no? Is it going to be treated like a civil rights thing?”

Critics, including some gay Christian leaders, argue that the changes amount to a solution looking for a problem.

“They seem to be under the impression that there is this huge movement with the goal of forcing them to perform ceremonies that violate their freedom of religion,” said Justin Lee, executive director of the Gay Christian Network, a nonprofit that provides support for gay Christians and their friends and families and encourages churches to be more welcoming.

“If anyone tried to force a church to perform a ceremony against their will, I would be the first person to stand up in that church’s defense.”

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia now recognize gay marriage.

Some Christian denominations, such as the United Church of Christ, accept gay marriage. The Episcopal Church recently approved a blessing for same-sex couples, but each bishop must decide whether to allow the ceremony in his or her local diocese.

Read more.

Marriage: What It Is, Why It Matters, and the Consequences of Redefining It

Ryan T. Anderson from The Heritage Foundation has released a comprehensive report on marriage. Here is the abstract:

Marriage is based on the truth that men and women are complementary, the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman, and the reality that children need a mother and a father.

Redefining marriage does not simply expand the existing understanding of marriage; it rejects these truths.

Marriage is society’s least restrictive means of ensuring the well-being of children. By encouraging the norms of marriage—monogamy, sexual exclusivity, and permanence—the state strengthens civil society and reduces its own role.

The future of this country depends on the future of marriage.

The future of marriage depends on citizens understanding what it is and why it matters and demanding that government policies support, not undermine, true marriage.

The report addresses three important questions: At the heart of the current debates about same-sex marriage are three crucial questions: What is marriage, why does marriage matter for public policy, and what would be the consequences of redefining marriage to exclude sexual complementary?

To read the full report click here.

RELATED COLUMN: The Well of Lonliness by Mary Kay Ruppel

Catholic Bishops file amicus brief in support of Defense of Marriage Act

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on January 29, 2013 filed amicus briefs in the United States Supreme Court in support of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8, both of which confirm the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

DOMA was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996 and defines marriage for federal and inter-state recognition purposes. Proposition 8 is a state constitutional amendment approved by the citizens of California in 2008. Both laws are challenged because they define marriage exclusively as the union of one man and one woman.

Urging the Court to uphold DOMA the USCCB brief in United States v. Windsor says that “there is no fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex.” The brief also states that “as defined by courts ‘sexual orientation’ is not a classification that should trigger heightened scrutiny,” such as race or ethnicity would.

It added that “civil recognition of same-sex relationships is not deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition—quite the opposite is true. Nor can the treatment of such relationships as marriages be said to be implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, such that neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed.”

USCCB argued that previous Supreme Court decisions “describing marriage as a fundamental right plainly contemplate the union of one man and one woman.”

The USCCB also cautioned that a decision invalidating DOMA “would have adverse consequences in other areas of law.”

In a separate brief filed in Hollingsworth v Perry urging the Court to uphold Proposition 8, the USCCB states that there are many reasons why the state may reasonably support and encourage marriage, understood as the union of one man and one woman, as distinguished from other relationships. Government support for marriage, so understood, is “recognizing the unique capacity of opposite-sex couples to procreate” and “the unique value to children of being raised by their mother and father together.”

The USCCB brief states that “[T]he People of California could reasonably conclude that a home with a mother and a father is the optimal environment for raising children, an ideal that Proposition 8 encourages and promotes. Given both the unique capacity for reproduction and unique value of homes with a mother and father, it is reasonable for a State to treat the union of one man and one woman as having a public value that is absent from other intimate interpersonal relationships.”

The USCCB brief adds that “While this Court has held that laws forbidding private, consensual, homosexual conduct between adults lack a rational basis, it does not follow that the government has a constitutional duty to encourage or endorse such conduct. Thus, governments may legitimately decide to further the interests of opposite-sex unions only. Similarly, minimum standards of rationality under the Constitution do not require adopting the lower court’s incoherent definition of ‘marriage’ as merely a ‘committed lifelong relationship,’ which is wildly over-inclusive, empties the term of its meaning, and leads to absurd results.”

“Marriage, understood as the union of one man and one woman, is not an historical relic, but a vital and foundational institution of civil society today,” the USCCB brief states. “The government interests in continuing to encourage and support it are not merely legitimate, but compelling. No other institution joins together persons with the natural ability to have children, to assure that those children are properly cared for. No other institution ensures that children will at least have the opportunity of being raised by their mother and father together. Societal ills that flow from the dissolution of marriage and family would not be addressed—indeed, they would only be aggravated—were the government to fail to reinforce the union of one man and one woman with the unique encouragement and support it deserves.”

The USCCB brief also notes that “Proposition 8 is not rendered invalid because some of its supporters were informed by religious or moral considerations. Many, if not most, of the significant social and political movements in our Nation’s history were based on precisely such considerations.Moreover, the argument to redefine marriage to include the union of persons of the same sex is similarly based on a combination of religious and moral considerations (albeit ones that are, in our view, flawed).As is well established in this Court’s precedent, the coincidence of law and morality, or law and religious teaching, does not detract from the rationality of a law.”

USCCB notes that a judicial decision invalidating Proposition 8’s definition of marriage would have adverse consequences in other areas of law.

“[R]edefining marriage—particularly as a matter of constitutional law, rather than legislative process—not only threatens principles of federalism and separation of powers, but would have a widespread adverse impact on other constitutional rights, such as the freedoms of religion, conscience, speech, and association.Affirmance of the judgment below would create an engine of conflict in this area, embroiling this Court and lower courts in a series of otherwise avoidable disputes—pitting constitutional right squarely against constitutional right—for years to come.