The legal and political fight to redefine civil marriage is over. In the United States, this moment was signaled in June 2015 by the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges, requiring states to permit same-sex marriage.1 A similar conclusion is being reached in other countries.
Such a deeply held belief is a matter of conscience that cannot be shaken by contrary values of culture, politics, or law.
What does this mean and what is the way forward for believers? To me, as a follower of Jesus and a First Amendment lawyer, this decision can and should mark the dawning of an era of liberation for the church – setting believers free to advance the work of the gospel boldly and without distraction.
Certainly, we need to consider the cultural, political, and legal implications of Obergefell. But most importantly, we need to give witness to the truth in word and deed. For two thousand years Christians have believed that the only place for sex is in a marriage covenant between one man and one woman for life. Such a deeply held belief is a matter of conscience that cannot be shaken by contrary values of culture, politics, or law.
- Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ___, 192 L. Ed. 2d 609 (2015).
- See, e.g., Obergefell, 192 L. Ed. 2d at 668 (Thomas, J., dissenting) (citing Brief of General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists and Becket Fund for Religious Liberty as Amici Curiae in Support of Neither Party, Obergefell, 576 U.S. ___ (No. 14–556)).
- Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967).
- Brief of Douglas Laycock, et al. as Amici Curiae in Support of Petitioners, Obergefell, 576 U.S. ___ (No. 14–556).
- Ten states still recognize extended cohabitation as valid civil marriages. See Ira Ellman, Paul Kurtz, and Elizabeth Scott, Family Law: Cases, Text, Problems (Matthew Bender, 3rd ed. 1998), 929–996.
- Brief of Douglas Laycock, supra note 3, at 24.
- This includes not only their rights of free exercise of religion and freedom of speech, but also the too-often neglected rights of assembly and association. See, e.g., John D. Inazu, Liberty’s Refuge: The Forgotten Freedom of Assembly (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2012).
- For a thoughtful discussion, see Corey Widmer, “Traditional Sexuality, Radical Community,” The Gospel Coalition, October 3, 2014.