Profamily activists fear that the Supreme Court's June 26 Lawrence and Garner v. Texas decision, which struck down state laws prohibiting homosexual sodomy, also jeopardizes the marriage laws of all 50 states.
"Laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman are in the gun sights of the courts," said Matt Daniels, founder of the Alliance for Marriage in Springfield, Virginia. "The Lawrence case has everything to do with the legal status of marriage."
The 6-3 ruling struck down a Texas statute against homosexual sodomy. It also overturned the Court's 5-4 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), which found no constitutionally protected right to homosexual sex.
Paul M. Smith of the gay-rights organization Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund argued before the Court in March that Texas's statute violates the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause.
"The petitioners are entitled to respect for their private lives," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the majority. "The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime."
After the Court announced its verdict, Lambda officials said they would use Lawrence as a tool in future lawsuits concerning marriage.
Daniels said the Lawrence ruling, coupled with an expected pro-homosexual marriage decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in Goodridge v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health, would have immediate national implications.
Because of the Full Faith and Credit Clause in Article 4 of the U.S. Constitution, the Goodridge verdict could invalidate the Defense of Marriage Act. Congress overwhelmingly passed DOMA, which President Clinton signed, only seven years ago. DOMA defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Recent appeals court decisions in Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec overturning traditional marriage laws could spark further judicial activism in the United States, Daniels said. "Canada is an example of where we're headed unless we put this in the hands of the American people."
Daniels said a constitutional amendment is the solution. He believes it is feasible, considering that 37 states already have passed DOMA laws—including, most recently, Texas. For a proposed amendment to become part of the Constitution, three-fourths of the states (38) must ratify it.
The amendment is succinct: "Marriage in the United States shall consist only of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any state under state or federal law shall be construed to require that marital status or legal incidents thereof be conferred upon unmarried couples or groups." It says nothing about domestic partnerships and civil unions, which would be left to the states.
First-term U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave secured 75 House cosponsors of the amendment within weeks of the Lawrence ruling. In 2000 she successfully championed defense of marriage legislation as a Republican state senator in Colorado.
Public opinion is less comforting to conservatives than it used to be. As recently as 1960, every state had anti-sodomy laws. In 1986, at the time of Bowers, only 26 did. Before Lawrence, Texas was one of only four states to outlaw sodomy only between homosexual partners.
A May Gallup Poll indicated that a record 60 percent of Americans say that homosexual relations between consenting adults should be legal and that homosexuality is an acceptable way of life. However, a July Gallup Poll found that support had slipped to 48 percent in the wake of the ruling. That compares to only 32 percent at the time of Bowers.
Randy Thomas, ministry manager for Exodus International, an Orlando-based ministry helping people leave homosexuality, said Lawrence will shape public policy.
"This ruling gives validity to the gay community," Thomas said. In addition to potentially redefining the family, it further solidifies their position as a political and social force."
The pressure was already intense. Homosexual rights groups and Democrats castigated Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) in April for suggesting that a government condoning consensual homosexual relations would have to allow bigamy, polygamy, incest, and adultery. Conservative activists such as Gary Bauer blasted Republican leaders for not defending Santorum.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) endorsed a constitutional amendment in an interview on ABC's This Week program immediately after the decision, but he has been largely silent on the matter since then.
Homosexual activists are seeking a social revolution that replicates the judicial fait accompli following Roe v. Wade on abortion, Daniels said. Musgrave said Christians must take a stand.
"In this cultural war," she said, "we cannot lose this one."
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The Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas is available online.
Recent related Christianity Today articles include:
Opinion Roundup: Does Lawrence v. Texas Signal the End of the American Family? | Evangelicals may not agree on antisodomy laws, but they're all concerned about what the Supreme Court's decision of them means. (June 30, 2003)
Marriage in the Dock | Massachusetts case on gay marriage could set off chain reaction. (April 25, 2003)
Christian Conservatives Split on Federal Marriage Amendment | Law would protect marriage from courts, but legislatures could still extend marital benefits to same-sex unions. (June 20, 2002)
Defining Marriage | Conservatives advocate amendment to preserve traditional matrimony. (Oct. 1, 2001)
Past Christianity Today coverage of same-sex marriage in the U.S. includes:
Bishops Sanction 'Resources,' Not Rites | Having confirmed gay bishop, Episcopal leaders turn to discussing same-sex unions. (August 7, 2003)
No Balm in Denver | Episcopalians defer debate over same-sex blessings for another three years. (July 17, 2001)
Marriage Laws Embroil Legislatures | New Englanders push for domestic-partner benefits. (April 26, 2001)
Presbyterians Propose Ban on Same-Sex Ceremonies | Change to church constitution, which passes by only 17 votes, now goes to presbyteries. (July 5, 2001)
Sticking With the Status Quo | United Methodists reject gay marriage, ordination. (May 15, 2000)
Presbyterians Vote Down Ban on Same-Sex Unions | Opponents say vague wording led to defeat. (March 29, 2001)
States Consider Laws on Same-Sex Unions California to vote on 'limit on marriage' in March (Jan. 10, 1999)
Presbyterians Support Same-Sex Unions (Dec. 10, 1999)
Pastor Suspended in Test of Same-Sex Marriage Ban (Apr. 26, 1999)
Same-Sex Rites Cause Campus Stir (Aug. 11, 1997)
State Lawmakers Scramble to Ban Same-Sex Marriages (Feb. 3, 1997)
Clinton Signs Law Backing Heterosexual Marriage (Oct. 28, 1996)
The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) does two things: it provides that no State shall be required to give effect to a same-sex marriage law of another state, and it defines the words "marriage" and "spouse" for purposes of Federal law. It was passed in 1996.
In a 1996 Christianity Today column, Charles Colson said that "accepting same-sex relationships as the moral and legal equivalent of marriage will transform the very definition of marriage—with far-reaching repercussions."
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