DOMA and Domesticity: The Supreme Court’s Confusion

Posted on June 26, 2013 by


The long-awaited Supreme Court decisions concerning the right to homosexual marriage under California’s Proposition 8 and the receipt of federal benefits under the Defense of Marriage Act, have now been issued.  I have not yet read the decisions in their entirety, but I will hazard a few comments for the present.

First on Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the court essentially held, using an odd combination of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment and the concept of federalism, that DOMA was unconstitutional as a violation of equal protection and that, apparently, the Federal government must recognize the domestic laws of the states under federalism.  I suppose I could see the logic (not the truth) of one or the other of these rationales, but not both, which seem to create more problems than they solve.  If a homosexual couple lives in a state that recognizes same-sex marriage, then the couple cannot be denied federal benefits.  But what if the couple lives in a state that does not recognize such marriage?  Do they or do they not receive federal benefits?  I assume that probably they do, and that the court really is aiming to make homosexual marriage a new class or category subject to some sort of heightened scrutiny.  But I could be wrong and I think the court was at least confused.

As to the Proposition 8 ruling, I am myself confused.  The court vacated the Ninth Circuit’s ruling that upheld the District Court’s holding overturning Prop 8, but left intact the Federal District Court ruling that also struck down Prop 8 on much broader grounds, which itself upheld a California Supreme Court ruling declaring unconstitutional a constitutional amendment. I am very confused. I don’t know what that means?  Moreover all this was on jusrisdictional grounds and did not (apparently) go to the merits of the case.  Does Prop 8 still stand?  Is it now back to where it was after the District ruling, and, if so, what do supporters of Prop 8 do now?  Do they try again in Federal court with a new set of plaintiffs?  I simply don’t know.

Moreover, the language of the majority in the DOMA case seemed way out of bounds, virtually demonizing those who oppose homosexual marriage.  It is one thing to rule a certain way, but the Supreme Court has spoken in an undignified way here, beneath its office.  That troubles me.

What do I take from all this?  I fear that Christians will have a more difficult time articulating their biblical opposition to the homosexual life.  The tide seems to have turned toward a much more radical movement down the road of the brave new world of morality.  That is the most troubling for me.  I want to read the two decisions in detail before I say more.  But I believe my overall assessment will prove correct–and disturbing.