Local responses to the U.S. Supreme Court decisions on Wednesday that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act and invalidated California’s ban on gay marriage reflect the complexity of the issue across the nation.
Many religious groups vowed Wednesday to continue efforts to prevent same-sex marriage from further legalization including the Southern Baptists Convention.
Floyd Paris, pastor of Unity Baptist in Ashland and the immediate past president of the Kentucky Southern Baptist Convention, called Wednesday’s decisions “a travesty of justice.”
“From the legal standpoint there are some 39 states that are in opposition to the Supreme Court. The citizens of some 39 states have laws on the book that define marriage as between one man and one woman,” he said.
“It seems like a travesty of justice that even when the majority of Americans have spoken that the Supreme Court can look at that and overturn it,” he said. “It is almost as though they are trying to legislate law from the bench. It is not the Supreme Court’s job to legislate, it is to interpret the laws that are already passed, not change laws that are already passed.”
Actually there are 35 states that limit marriages to opposite-sex couples, according to the Washington Post. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage and 10 states recognize unions and partnerships.
Paris said he believes the “only solution” from a legal standpoint is a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
Warren Howard disagrees. He called the decision “a win, win. I know people who have fought for equal treatment for years. This gives them freedom. It is finally an affirmation that there is not something wrong with them,” said Howard. “My son, he was very happy about it. He is young. It gives him a future.”
To Howard it’s not an issue of sexual orientation, it’s a Civil Rights issue.
“Equal rights are equal rights,” he said. “I think whenever people are denied rights that other people have freely, we are lesser for it,” said Howard. “When people are given the same rights as other people — just as a human being — it is a win, win situation. I don’t see their sexual preference playing into it as much as a denial of equal rights,” said Howard.
Howard is an Ashland Community and Technical College education professor and said he teaches that discrimination for any reason has no room in the classroom.
“As teachers we should be able to set our biases and beliefs aside and teach,” he explained. “When I teach teachers, I tell them the responsibility of their job is they are really going to be asked to be more of a listener. As teachers we need to be color blind to any kind of difference that a child brings into a classroom. We have to understand that is part of their upbringing, it is not our duty to change that. Sexual orientation is part of that, whether we want to admit it or not.”
Paris agreed sexual orientation is not the issue, for him it is just about defining marriage.
“Homosexuality, while I do not believe that is a Christian lifestyle, I certainly understand that they have the right to privacy in their own home,” he said. “When you are trying to change the definition of an institution that has been around since the beginning of time, just to accommodate your own sexual orientation, seems like a gross miscarriage of justice to me.”
Both agreed to disagree on another point too, that the times have changed.
“Forty years ago,” said Paris, “If you had asked people what marriage is, they would say it is one man and one woman joined in holy matrimony.”
He said the ruling issued Wednesday, “is almost like the institution of marriage itself has changed and it has not.”
“We stand where we always stood. God’s definition of marriage is between one man and one woman. That is where God has always stood. This nation has always stood.”
Warren has a different perspective.
“It is a different time,” he said. “I’ve heard people say it’s a lot like the Civil Rights movement, where we look back and say, ‘We can’t believe we treated African-Americans that way.’ In 50 years, we’re going to say ‘I can’t believe they had to have a Supreme Court decision over gays getting married,’” Howard said. He added, the next thing the country should work on is ensuring women have equal rights, too.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org