7 Must-Know Facts About Same-Sex Marriage and the Supreme Court Ruling

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Being aware of the details of the rulings will help church leaders’ perspectives when deciphering reality from emotional reaction.

On June 26, 2013, the United States Supreme Court issued two rulings addressing same-sex marriages.

While a lot of talk surrounds the rulings and speculation, there are important facts to note about what was actually included in these rulings and what the language points to for future action.

In the first ruling, the Court struck down a provision in the federal Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”) defining marriage for purposes of federal law as a union between a man and woman.

In the second case, the Court dismissed (on technical grounds) an appeal of a 2010 federal district court ruling invalidating (on constitutional grounds) a referendum by the voters of California (“Proposition 8”) that amended the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and woman.

Here are seven key points for church leaders to note about the Supreme Court’s two rulings:

1. The seven state statutes and 30 state constitutions defining marriage as a union between a male and female are not affected.

Neither of the Supreme Court’s rulings addressed the constitutionality of these laws.

2. It is likely, if not inevitable, that the Supreme Court will one day address the constitutionality of state laws declining to recognize same-sex marriages.

A careful reading of the Court’s ruling in the DOMA case suggests that it is likely to rule that state statutes and constitutions that preclude same-sex couples from marrying violate the “equal protection of the laws” provision of the United States Constitution.

Richard Hammar Richard R. Hammar is an attorney, CPA, and author specializing in legal and tax issues for churches and clergy. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, and attended Harvard Divinity School. He is the author of several books, including Pastor, Church & Law, the annual Church and Clergy Tax Guide, Reducing the Risk, the biannual Compensation Handbook for Church Staff and the Essential Guide to Copyright Law for Churches.

More from Richard Hammar or visit Richard at http://www.churchlawandtax.com/who-we-are/advisors/richard-r-hammar.html

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  • Colette1966

    When an inch of ground is given away more is expected, get your heads out of the sand !!!!

  • http://www.ronfurg.wordpress.com ronfurg

    We shouldn’t be looking for a political or legal solution to what is essentially a spiritual issue.

  • GWC

    “Churches need to carefully evaluate the application of federal laws and regulations to church employees who are lawfully married under state law to a person of the same sex.”
    I am confused by that statement or maybe I am reading it wrong. Why would a church that believes same sex marriage is wrong and against the Word of God have as employees people who contradict God’s Word on marriage? Did I read this wrong or am I missing the point?

    • pjsr

      Imagine you’re a church that has a full-time custodian or even a part-time choir director, that you provide health insurance for. If that person is legally married or gets legally married, then you would be obligated to provide the same coverage for spouse and any new dependents as you do other employees. Ditto for federally mandated maternity leave etc
      That’s my understanding anyway.

  • Chris Harris

    Not sure what they were thinking in posting an article that supports a view such as this. (Quote from article) “Churches need to carefully evaluate the application of federal laws and regulations to church employees who are lawfully married under state law to a person of the same sex.” If God’s infallible word teaches us that homosexuality is WRONG, then why would His Church hire employees whom would be living out that sin? It goes against everything Sripture teaches us about sin. By posting this article, it’s as if they have shown support and have seemingly condoned this sin. Very sad. We should not be watering down or compromising scripture to suit a culture that finds it painful or difficult to accept the truth – THE TEXT of God’s word (2 Tim 3:16)

    • Mar Komus

      True, but then again “churches” hire materialists for ministers all the time.

  • lovingthegospel

    All is all, it’s a pretty good article. I think some of you are misreading it. What I have experienced in the last week or two from churches is that they have literally jumped to extremes on talking about what the ruling was. I’ve heard some amazingly off based comments from preachers and churches about this. I sat there and wondered, “do you actually know what the ruling was? Or is it anytime you hear about same sex marriage you just go off on a tantrum about how terrible of a government we have?” Apparently the writer of this article heard some of the same things I was hearing from Christians. I think he was just stating what was changed and what was not changed. Simple as that. In no way did I read this article and think they were “okay-ing” same sex marriage.

  • jazzrik

    I don’t care what the laws of the land are, we will never hire a practicing homosexual and will never perform a same sex marriage ceremony or recognize a same sex marriage as a legitimate relationship. Sorry. take a stand for what is right.

    • Chris Harris

      AMEN. Stand in the truth!

    • pjsr

      Have you ever considered why ministers do weddings? Jewish priests were not involved at wedding ceremonies. There is no scriptural sanction for pastors marrying couples. We must read the text instead of going by man’s tradition
      It’s my understanding that it wasn’t until the 4th century when Rome merged church and state that priests were named government officials and started legally sanctioning weddings.
      Can anyone offer Biblical or Godly historical reasons why a pastor and/or church should be in the wedding business?

  • pastorjg

    I read it and it don’t matter what the court says I’m stand on what the bible say about same sex. JUST LIKE THAT !!!

  • Chris Harris

    We need to separate the difference between in loving all sinners (as we ALL have been called to do) and the church (God’s house) hiring gay or lesbian pastors, bishops and staff members. If scripture said its wrong, then it is. If you disagree with that – the only reply I have is “IT’S IN THE TEXT”

    • Walter Thompson


    • jazzrik


    • Cristina L. Torralba


  • http://www.everyonelovessex.org/ BryanASands

    Thank you for this concise article. I feel I have a better grasp on the situation now!

  • jason

    this issue is one of freedom not of morality. when we do wrong in God’s eyes, he still let’s us do it. as the church we may not be able to convince people that homosexuality is outside mankind’s original purpose of “be fruitful and multiple,” but we can be the love that Christ mentioned when he said all people will distinguish your affiliation with me because of that love. I accept the drunkard thought its not right. I accept the person with foul language, though that behavior is not an ideal Christian behavior. I accept the sexually promiscuous, though that is not model Christian behavior. I know that many circumstances I find myself brushing the presence of these negative behaviors aside in order to Minster to them in terms if a relationship, just like God does with me.

    • jazzrik

      so what’s your point. There’s a difference in ministering to and marrying or employing those who are willfully and unrepentantly living in a lifestyle that is inconsistent with God’s design and desire for human sexual expression. I wouldn’t hire someone living together outside of marriage either. We need to remember that as ministers of the gospel that even though God is love and is patient not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance, He is not tolerant of sin in any form. God loved us so much that we can have a way of escape not only from the penalty of sin but also from the power of sin in our lives. Jesus rubbed shoulders with the sinners but also told them to go and sin no more. Love people, minister to them and seek to lead them in and to the truth but don’t condone sin all in the name of tolerance. That is the spirit of the world.

      • SAM


      • Cristina L. Torralba

        Amen to that!

  • Walter Thompson

    To change someone’s ways his heart must be changed. We need to pray for a grass roots Gospel revival in this nation.

  • robbo

    If God says no then its no and if the courts say yes then its still no God is the judge not man

  • Charles

    Something not mentioned in the article that I find disturbing is the technicality used to dismiss the prop 8 case. The history of that case is in short.
    1 the people passed it at the polls
    2 when challenged in court the the Dem controlled state government refused to defend it
    3 supports stepped in to defend it 4 the Supreme Court said you can’t represent the state.
    So if the people pass a ballot initiative that the sitting government doesn’t like all they have to do is refuse to defend it in court. By doing so they can by pass the will of the voters. Outside of the specific case this ruling provides a precedent for the government to take power away from the people. Obama did the same thing in the DOMA case but the Republican House stepped in to defend that law. We need laws that require the State or Fed to defend laws already on the books, even if they don’t like them.

    • Nancy

      Charles, so it was okay for Southern states to deny civil rights to blacks because the majority of voters “passed it (Jim Crow laws) at the polls”? Separate is not equal in the United States. Churches are still able to deny same sex couples the holy act of marriage because churches are private enterprises (although they get a federal tax break…don’t see any Conservative Christians whining about that “government intervention”). Churches protect common beliefs, not people. The state, which protects ALL CITIZENS, has a duty to uphold equality. There is no separation between any law abiding person, ever, in our Constitution. If you would like there to be separation, you would be required to do more than just “change laws”…you would have to create and pass an amendment stipulating that it is okay for one group to impose its belief system on another. Good luck with that.

  • Brother Thomas L. Hopkins

    Everything going on today is found in tjhe Bible(The books of secrets revealed to mankind).Isaiah5:20,paraphrased:Beware of people that say good is evil & evil is good.Doesn’t that describe the world today.USA beware we are on the way out!

  • lovingthegospel

    Again, as I stated earlier, I think many are reading too much into this article. The article never suggested that we should hire homosexuals in our churches, nor perform the wedding ceremonies for them either. If it did, I missed it. It actually stated that you are free NOT to perform the ceremony’s, etc. Literally, nothing has changed in my life due to this ruling by our government. Christians are still called to live like Christians, and the government hasn’t done a thing to prevent us from doing so.

  • Jessiemae224

    I have a question for all of you… Why does it matter to you what someone does behind their closed doors? Why does it matter to you that two men or two women are in love? Love is love. It doesn’t make someone a bad person for loving someone of the same sex. I SUPPORT MARRIAGE OF TWO PEOPLE IN LOVE NO MATTER WHO THEY LOVE.

    • Gabriel

      It matters to God

    • Hinson

      Jessiemae224; it really doesn’t matter at all to me what someone does “behind their closed doors.” Whether it be with a same sex partner, their sibling, their pet, or an inanimate object. That is between them and God. However, once they bring it out from behind those closed doors and try to force me to go against my beliefs and not only condone it but to accept it as normal, then it matters quite a bit.

    • Mar Komus

      By THAT logic, is it ok for two nine year olds to do things behind closed doors? Love is love. Ok…bad example; after all, they should be adults, right? Because no nine year old ever thinks of having sex till later in life–when they’re really ready for it and are of consenting age for their state and local laws. Because that’s how nature operates–on a time clock. But LOVE IS LOVE! So how about a man and his horse? LOVE IS LOVE. Or how about a woman and her dog? LOVE IS LOVE. Or a man and his age of consent daughter? LOVE IS LOVE. Or how about a man and two women? Or two men and one woman? Or five men, two goats, three women, and a partridge in a pair tree? LOVE IS LOVE. Do you get how ridiculous that stupid mantra is now? Not all “love” is love.

      • tom

        Pretty childish to go to the tired mantra about animals, or children. Nobody said that. How many liars or cheaters or thief’s in your church today, they sin why dont you toss them out also

        • Mar Komus

          Cowardly to reply as a guest, “one up” your own reply, and then conveniently not have to deal with my reply to you. But for the sake of those who will read this (which will apparently not be you, coward)…

          Your reply shows your ignorance. “Nobody said that.” YES THEY DID!!! I’m talking about the broader context of life–not limiting reference to this narrow little sliver on this forum only. You obviously pay ZERO attention to the world around you. Those kinds of things I listed are following on the coattails of this whole “love is love”…thing. “Love is love.” How quaint. But really, that’s just another tired old mantra in the making. And you didn’t even see that? Who’s childish, again?

          As for why liars, cheaters, etc. aren’t thrown out on their ear–I think you actually make a valid observation here. Too many Christians–especially in the States–make a big hullabaloo about homosexuality, but don’t care that they themselves are materialists with zero regard for the poor (“Let them get a job, for as the scripture says, ‘If a man doesn’t work, neither let him eat'”). Such attitudes will land people in hell.

  • bolan

    thank you for the enlightenment. i hope that no man or woman will be stumbled as he or she reads the article. lets accept the simplicity of the gospel noting that we are and will always be pilgrims on this earth. all this gay thing should happen until the evil one comes and demands worship. this is the beginning of perilious times. but take heart – the messiah conquered.