A Massachusetts court decision legalizing same-sex "marriage" underscores the need to pass an amendment to the Constitution protecting the traditional definition of marriage, conservatives say.
The ruling November 18 by the Supreme Judicial Court, the highest court in the state, legalizes "marriage" between homosexuals, although it doesn't grant them licenses immediately. The court stayed its ruling for 180 days to give the Massachusetts legislature time to take action "it may deem appropriate."
The decision will begin a push to amend the Massachusetts constitution to ban same-sex "marriage," although conservatives believe the U.S. Constitution should be amended as well. One such effort, the Federal Marriage Amendment, has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and has some 100 cosponsors. It would add language to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex "marriage."
"The Federal Marriage Amendment is the only way to adequately deal with this judicial assault on the sanctity of marriage being defined as God intended it, the union of one man and one woman," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Commission. "The assertions by the majority on the Massachusetts Supreme Court that their decision will not drastically weaken the institution of marriage if it is allowed to stand are simply that — assertions with no evidence and no authority other than themselves to back up those assertions."
The ruling November 17 was one that Land and other conservatives, such as Matt Daniels of the Alliance for Marriage, have been warning about for months. The Alliance for Marriage has been lobbying politicians in Washington to support the Federal Marriage Amendment.
"It's simply proof that what we've been saying for years is true — the courts are going to destroy marriage as [a union between] a man and a woman unless we amend the Constitution to stop them," Daniels told Baptist Press. "The Massachusetts court, predictably, has taken that first step.
"We either amend our Constitution to protect marriage or it's going to be destroyed by the courts. The clock is ticking."
Four major polls this year showed that between 54 and 58 percent of Americans support a constitutional amendment banning same-sex "marriage." Conservatives believe that support will grow now that a court has issued a ruling.
"As this news breaks and gets out into the media, we're going to see more and more support for it," Mike Haley of Focus on the Family told Baptist Press.
Haley noted that the court's ruling goes against public opinion.
"[W]hen this issue has been given to the people, no matter what state it's been given to — even in California, one of the most liberal states — we've found that the majority of individuals desire to see marriage kept between a man and a woman," he said.
R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said the decision should "awaken any Americans still unconvinced of the need for the Federal Marriage Amendment."
"Unless we define and protect marriage within the U.S. Constitution, we should expect the Massachusetts decision to be the shape of the future," he said.
Glen Lavy, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, compared the ruling to two decisions of the past — the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion and the Lawrence v. Texas decision overturning anti-sodomy laws.
"The court rejected the will of the people and the moral judgment of the legislature and imposed its own moral views on the people of Massachusetts," he told Baptist Press. "This is very anti-democratic."
Lavy said he believes the 180-day stay is intended to give the Massachusetts legislature time to pass a constitutional amendment if they so desire. He added that the opinion is vastly different from the 1999 Vermont Supreme Court decision in which that court told the Vermont legislature to give same-sex couples marriage rights but stopped short of legalizing same-sex "marriage."
"The Massachusetts court came up with the solution itself," he said. "The court gave lip service to the idea that it's up to the legislature to decide social and policy issues. But then the court itself redefined the basic institution of society.
"… The Massachusetts court did it. The Massachusetts court did not tell the legislature to do it."
Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State said he supports the decision.
"This decision deals only with civil marriage, not religious marriage," he said. "It's important for all Americans to understand that under this ruling every house of worship retains the right to marry or not marry same-sex couples in keeping with their faith traditions."
But Mohler said the decision's significance is enormous.
"This decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will be remembered as a frontal assault upon the institution of marriage and the moral principles that have guided human experience for millennia," he said.
"Make no mistake: The court put itself into play in the culture war, redefining marriage so that it is severed from the procreation of children and from the union between a man and a woman.
"Nothing could be more destructive of marriage as an institution. Nothing could promise a more devastating impact upon America's families. Nothing could be more offensive to the moral values of the majority of Americans, who have no question that marriage is a heterosexual institution."
The case is another example of "social engineering by black-robed autocrats," he added.
"It will be difficult to exaggerate the impact of this decision."