The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday signaled its support for redefining marriage to include same-sex couples.
The court declined to listen to conservatives’ appeals against decisions by lower-level courts which declared that marriage rules in five states are unconstitutional because they don’t give marriage licenses to single-sex couples.
“Nothing in the Constitution forbids a state from retaining the traditional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman,” said a critical statement from Utah Sen. Mike Lee. “Whether to change that definition is a decision best left to the people of each state — not to unelected, politically unaccountable judges,” said Lee, a conservative from Utah.
Lee called for the Supreme Court to let voters decide marriage rules in their states, instead of imposing a single rule from Washington D.C. “The Supreme Court owes it to the people of those states, whose democratic choices are being invalidated, to review the question soon and reaffirm that states do have that right,” he said.
However, most Republican legislators stayed quiet.
“Marriage is the union of one man and one woman… it’s mind-boggling that lower court judges would be allowed to impose the redefinition of marriage in these states, and our highest court would have nothing to say about it,” said a statement from the National Organization for Marriage.
“The effect of the lower court rulings is to say that a constitutional right to same-sex ‘marriage’ has existed in every state in the union since 1868 when the 14th Amendment was ratified, but somehow nobody noticed until quite recently,” said NOM. “That’s the absurd belief we are being told to accept.”
Fewer than five percent of Americans identify as gay or lesbian.
The five courts’ decisions are partly based on a 2013 ruling by the Supreme Court which slammed the federal government’s long-standing view of marriage as a government-backed union of two child-rearing parents.
Government validation should boost the social status of gay couples, say advocates for single-sex marriage.
The Supreme Court endorsed that ambitious goal in June 2013, when it struck down a bipartisan federal marriage law.
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity,” said the critical June opinion from Justice Anthony Kennedy.
“By seeking to displace this protection and treating those persons as living in marriages less respected than others, the federal statute is in violation of the Fifth Amendment,” Kennedy declared.
Since June 2013, that language has been cited by advocates for single-sex marriage, and by sympathetic judges, to redefine marriage in numerous states. The judges and advocates have used the language to redefine marriage even in states whose voters recently changed their state constitutions to protect marriage for only heterosexual couples.
The court’s refusal to block the lower-level decisions gives more judges a green light to spread single-sex marriage across the nation.
Aided by the court’s 2013 decision, and by growing public support, gay advocates have changed marriage rules in 30 states.
Heterosexual-only marriage rules remain intact in 20 states, but many legal experts expect a five-judge majority in the nine-judge Supreme Court to intervene if low-level judges don’t redefine marriage in the remaining states.