News outlets are abuzz this week as the Supreme Court prepares to hear two cases relative to same-sex marriage. The court’s decisions, due by June, could be landmark findings, or a more cautious response.
National sentiment has swung markedly in favor of equal rights for gay and lesbian persons, including the right to express a lifelong commitment through taking marriage vows. Though polls and regional attitudes vary, most of them show a slight majority of Americans now favoring the right of gays to marry. That number will continue to grow: a full 73 percent of younger Americans (ages 18-29) favor gay marriage. As the Millennials and those who follow them grow in influence, support for marriage equality will only increase.
Of course, the Supreme Court’s job is not to make decisions based on public opinion, but on the Constitution. If the Court were only a shill for the political winds or personal preference and not willing to make hard calls based on a reasonable interpretation of Constitutional principles, its decisions would have no more lasting value than the painted fabric facade that currently covers the building as it undergoes renovations (click to enlarge the photo for a clearer view: from a distance, the facade is convincing).
Parsing the Constitution is not an easy task, for the world has changed significantly in the past 225 years since it was ratified, and justices must walk the sometimes difficult path of holding to its basic principles while being flexible on particulars. It’s not unlike interpreting the Bible.
Many of us will be praying this week as the Court hears cases related to California’s Proposition 8 as well as the Federal “Defense of Marriage Act,” though I’m sure we won’t all be praying for the same outcome.
My prayer is that their decision will reflect the American ideals of “liberty and justice for all” — no more, no less.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.