In case you missed it, the state of KY is now among those who have quickly used the Supreme Court’s United States vs. Windsor decision as the principal argument for striking down a state ban recognizing same-sex marriages. On February 12 Judge Heyburn declared that a Kentucky ban on the recognition of same sex marriages is in violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. The speed at which these developments are taking place is simply jaw dropping but I find one element of the whole matter to be especially telling. In his ruling, Judge Heyburn says, “To the extent courts clash with what likely remains that majority opinion here, they risk some of the public’s acceptance.” Adding commentary to this statement, Albert Mohler suggests that the “entire experiment in democratic government requires that courts act in this way rarely and carefully.”
In other words, judges shouldn’t go around nonchalantly overturning the majority opinion of the people who have clearly and overwhelmingly spoken. Judge Heyburn acknowledges how the court has done precisely that by admitting the probable public scrutiny in striking down the majority in favor of the court’s opinion. He offers a prophetic voice by suggesting that his ruling will be accepted by the majority “sometime in the not too distant future.”
This is fascinating to me. A democratic government is dependent on the voice of the people. When the people’s voices are heard but overturned, there better be a good reason. I’m not willing to deny the need for the American people to be pushed along in their thinking on social issues when we are too blind to see the light. History has shown this to be true. But boy, it needs to be a sure thing, which of course is difficult to see in the moment. Is this issue a sure thing?
Albert Mohler has helped demonstrate how Judge Heyburn relies on the ruling of previous courts, especially the Windsor decision, as the principal consideration for the decision. He says, “to date, all federal courts that have considered same-sex marriage rights post-Windsor have ruled in favor of same-sex marriage rights.” Judge Heyburn seems to be telling Kentuckians that he is not making some grand, revolutionary step in his decision, but is simply following the clear implications of the Windsor decision. Although Heyburn continues to admit the seriousness of the step he is taking, he nevertheless invokes the Constitution’s promise for individual liberties over the democratic moral majority when the latter infringes on the former. In other words, it doesn’t matter how many people disagree with the recognition of same-sex marriages, the courts are now informing us how this country has reached a place where we know the denial of marriage benefits for same-sex couples is a violation of their basic individual liberty. All that is left is the passing of time so the rest of us religious zealots can catch up.
This ultimately comes back to what I argued in December of 2013 concerning the nature of our country’s discussions, or lack thereof, of homosexuality. This means that Christians must think intelligently and honestly about our position. As the Church, why do we believe what we believe on homosexuality? It is no longer a question of if the next generation of evangelical Christians will experience persecution for their beliefs, but when. We better know what we believe and why we believe it. Most importantly, we must begin to demonstrate that we are a people who are marked by love for all of God’s creation. Although it seems bigoted to some, there is a way to hold strong biblical convictions and be known by love. My prayer is that Graefenburg Baptist Church, the group of believers I have the honor of pastoring, will be unwavering in our commitment to biblical sexuality, but that we are also known as a people who love, listen, and open our lives to any who will open theirs.