No longer ‘second-class citizens’

Episcopalians applaud Supreme Court rulings on DOMA, Prop 8

By Pat McCaughan
Posted Jun 26, 2013
Janice Reid (left) and Brenda Bos are looking forward to making their marriage “legal” following the Supreme Court's June 26 rulings.

Janice Reid (left) and Brenda Bos are looking forward to making their marriage “legal” following the Supreme Court’s June 26 rulings.

[Episcopal News Service] UPDATED June 27 to include quote from Diocese of El Camino Real Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves.

Janis Reid and Brenda Bos of Los Angeles were parked in front of the family television very early June 26, anxiously waiting to learn if the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on California’s Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) would mean “that we’re no longer second-class citizens.”

The rulings came one day after their second anniversary, and it felt, oh, so sweet, said Reid, 50, a social worker.

Now, the couple, who had a commitment ceremony two years ago at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, can’t wait to make their marriage “legal,” at least in the eyes of state and federal governments.

The high court ruled that Proposition 8, the state’s controversial voter-approved ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional and also struck down sections of DOMA which prevented same-sex couples like Reid and Bos from receiving family medical leave or retirement and other federal benefits.

“We’re hoping we can do it [get married] in the next couple of weeks,” Reid said during a telephone interview from her home shortly after Supreme Court decisions were announced.

Reid joined Episcopalians across the church in applauding the court decisions, which essentially gives gay couples the right to marry in California, and said same-sex couples are eligible for the same federal benefits as opposite-sex couples.

Bells pealed at Washington National Cathedral and elsewhere in a show of unity, the Episcopal Church presiding officers and some bishops issued congratulatory statements, while some dioceses and congregations announced interfaith and other celebratory services.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said she welcomed the decision striking down “the 17-year-old law prohibiting federal recognition of same-sex civil marriages granted by the states.

“The unmistakable movement toward civil marriage equality in the states over the past decade reflects the will of the people in those states to grant equal rights and dignity under the law to all married couples and families, and today’s decision will appropriately allow those families to be recognized under federal law as well,” she said in a statement.

“At the same time, the court’s withholding of judgment on the ultimate constitutional question of whether a state may ban same-sex marriage reflects the fact that this conversation will continue to evolve in coming years,” she added, referring to California’s Proposition 8.

“I trust that Episcopalians will contribute actively and faithfully to this conversation, particularly as our nation begins to discern the many practical implications of today’s decisions for areas of our shared life, ranging from immigration law to family rights.”

Similarly, President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings said the rulings “will allow more people of all faiths to see what we in the Episcopal Church have seen for decades: Same-sex couples and their families are evidence of the goodness of God’s creation. They bless our congregations and communities immeasurably, and we have all learned from their steadfast love for one another and the evidence of God’s goodness that they show us.

“We are not done yet. We will not be done until the laws of the entire land and the whole church of God recognize the dignity of every human being and the equality of all faithful couples. Today, however, we are closer to the justice God calls us to seek.”

Patrons watch coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act at the Stonewall Inn in New York June 26, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday handed a significant victory to gay rights advocates by ruling that married gay men and women are eligible for federal benefits and paving the way for same-sex marriage in California. Photo: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Patrons watch coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act at the Stonewall Inn in New York June 26, 2013. The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday handed a significant victory to gay rights advocates by ruling that married gay men and women are eligible for federal benefits and paving the way for same-sex marriage in California. Photo: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

In response to the high court rulings, Los Angeles Bishop Jon Bruno said: “Today we reaffirm that marriage equality does indeed mean marriage equality for all. This understanding is widely held within the Diocese of Los Angeles and endorsed by the larger Episcopal Church through its General Convention.”

“We rejoice at the repeal of DOMA’s discrimination against LGBT families, and we feel confident that Governor Brown and Attorney General Harris will act swiftly to restore marriage” for same-sex couples in California now that the U.S. Supreme Court action will allow the lower court’s decision to stand,” Bruno added.

Pastoral and liturgical support for same-sex couples “remains a priority in the Diocese of Los Angeles,” said Bruno, who five years ago formed a diocesan Task Force on Marriage to provide consultation and collaboration in this area. Meanwhile, Episcopalians at the churchwide level, responding to General Convention actions, formed a similar body and developed liturgies for provisional use.

Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves of the Diocese of El Camino Real (which covers parts of in northern and central California) told ENS that while she personally rejoices “that those who have waited so long to be joined in marriage may now do so, enjoying the same rights, social recognition and all-encompassing transition into deeper union one with another, as has been the privilege of heterosexual couples throughout history,” she also recognizes that some are joyous at the Supreme’s Court’s decisions and others are not.

“We continue to ‘set a broad table’ within the diocese, respectful of the diversity of intellectual and emotional responses regarding the lifelong commitment of same-sex persons in the union of marriage and the church’s place in blessing those relationships,” she said, adding that diocesan clergy know they have permission to perform marriages for same-sex couples as soon as they are legal, but that “no clergy person is required to perform any marriage they feel is not appropriate, or which compromises their own moral or theological beliefs.”

The Rev. Susan Russell, a gay activist and former president of Integrity USA, hailed the rulings as historic but lamented that they came a day after the court struck down portions of the 1964 Voting Rights Act.

“As a California priest and pastor I rejoice that my church can now offer both equal blessing and equal protection to the couples who come to us for marriage,” Russell, a senior associate rector at All Saints, Pasadena, said in a statement.

“As an American citizen I am proud that my country is continuing to evolve toward that “more perfect union” where liberty and justice applies to all – not just some – Americans. And as an activist committed to the audacious goal of full equality for LGBT Americans I am celebrating today’s rulings as incremental victories toward that not-yet ‘mission accomplished’ goal. We did not get the whole enchilada – but there is enough guacamole for me.”

However, the organization Protect Marriage, which supported the controversial proposition, said in a statement posted on its website, that they “will continue to defend Prop 8 and seek its enforcement until such time as there is a binding statewide order that renders Prop 8 unenforceable.”

Proposition 8
Reid and others expressed surprise that the court, by a 5-4 majority, rejected Proposition 8 on the basis of legal standing rather than dealing directly with the issue of gay marriage, but said they were grateful for the outcome nonetheless.

“It’s interesting that they [the justices] threw it out based on the standing issue rather than just deciding it, but I’ll take what I can get,” Reid said.

The court held that the supporters of the gay marriage ban did not have the legal standing to appeal a lower court decision rejecting the measure as unconstitutional.

California voters approved Proposition 8 by a slim margin Nov. 4, 2008. The ballot measure restricted marriage to opposite gender couples only. It was similar in wording and intent to the previous Proposition 22, which 61 percent of state voters approved in 2000, but on May 15, 2008 the California Supreme Court ruled that the measure was unconstitutional.

A month later, the court denied the request for rehearing by opponents of gay marriage. Between June 19 and Nov. 4, 2008, some 18,000 same-sex couples legally married in California.

After voters approved the measure by a 52.3 percent to 47.7 percent margin in November 2008, two same-sex couples, Kristin Perry and Sandra Stier of Berkeley, and Jeffrey Zarrillo and Paul Katami of Burbank, sued the state and local county clerks, who oversee marriage licenses, because Prop. 8 prevented them from marrying.

On Aug. 4, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker overturned Proposition 8, in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, ruling that the ballot initiative violated the U.S. Constitution. He issued an injunction against enforcing it, and a stay pending appeal; the decision was upheld by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal. Prop. 8 supporters appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in the case on March 26, 2013.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Justice Elena Kagan. Justice Anthony Kennedy filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Sonia Sotomayor.

However, recent polls have indicated that public opinion has shifted since 2008, when voters approved Proposition 8 by a vote of 52.3% to 47.7%. Nearly six in 10 California voters favor same-sex marriage, according to a recent Los Angeles Times poll.

Defense of Marriage Act

In the day’s first historic decision, the high court struck down, 5-4, a section of the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples, like Social Security, family medical leave or the ability to file income tax returns jointly.

Kennedy authored the majority opinion, concluding that DOMA’s principal act is to identify and make unequal a subset of state-sanctioned marriages. He was joined by Bader Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor. Roberts, Scalia and Alito all filed dissenting opinions. Thomas joined Scalia’s dissent in whole and parts of Alito’s opinion.

Diocese of Eastern Michigan Bishop Todd Ousleyhailed the ruling, saying “I join with my fellow Episcopalians in rejoicing that the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled unconstitutional the Defense of Marriage Act, paving the way for equality under the law for all expressions of covenantal love. I pray that the State of Michigan will quickly follow suit.

DOMA was enacted Sept. 21, 1996 and is a federal law restricting federal marriage benefits and required inter-state marriage recognition only to opposite-sex marriages in the U.S. The law passed both houses of Congress by large majorities and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on Sept. 21, 1996. President Barack Obama and the Department of Justice have refused to defend it in court; the Republican leadership instead took up the charge, prompting justices to question if they had standing to defend the law in court.

Focused on upholding families, all families
At St. Margaret’s Church in Palm Desert, in the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego, the Rev. Lane Hensley, rector, said that rather than focusing the conversation on who should or shouldn’t be married, the focus should be on upholding families.

“How does the church answer its call to be a place that upholds couples together in their life together in Christ?” he said during a telephone interview from his Palm Desert office. “If a couple says we are committing ourselves to each other, it’s not mine either to give permission for that or to declare it is or isn’t a marriage if they say it is. The church’s job is to hold the couple up, to witness their vows and help them uphold those vows.”

Hensley announced St. Margaret’s will begin celebrating same-sex marriage ceremonies using a rite adapted from the blessing ceremony approved in August 2012 by the General Convention for trial use in the church.

He had already turned to the task of practicality, hosting a 7 p.m. forum June 27 to discuss the local impact of the court rulings.

Other services were planned throughout the country, including a 7 p.m. June 27 evening Service at St. John’s Pro-Cathedral in Los Angeles with Bishop Suffragan Mary Glasspool as guest preacher.

Meanwhile, Reid said she had no illusions that full equality will happen overnight.

Just filling out forms at the school attended by her 16-year-old son Joshua — whom the couple is adopting through the foster care system — are a reminder “that you are not normal.

“The things that are going to take a long time to change are when I register my son for school and all of the forms say father, mother so you have to cross out everything. Those kind of things that don’t just assume this is a possibility will take a long time to change.

“But,” she added that, “today’s decision is one more crack in that wall toward total equality. It’s a slow progression, but every battle moves us closer to that.”

–The Rev. Pat McCaughan is a correspondent for the Episcopal News Service. She is based in Los Angeles.


Comments (14)

  1. Julian Malakar says:

    Let us not forget that as disciple of Christ we are more eager to be first class citizen of Kingdom of God, where pleasure of life flows day and night without end, like stream of river. Supreme Court decision by 5-4, elevate individual status from 2nd class to 1st class with financial benefit. But that does ensure increasing one higher spiritual level with Christ Jesus than previously understood since human being started living together.

    We all know that Almighty God is sovereign; His righteousness is untouched either by any Supreme Court decisions in country, or political, social, cultural and polls of any nation. But we know His mercies increase 2 folds with increase of one sin to defeat Devil at the end. Christ’s sorrowful passion at the cross and concurring death after three days ensured His mercies for our increasing sins with days passed by. Supreme Court decision could be milestone for history of Mankind and it ensured financial gain of LGBT couple anywhere in USA, filing joint federal tax return and receiving maximum deductions. Moreover they could bring their spouse from foreign county legally. For earthly matter it is day of celebration for LGBT and I congratulate them, but in heavenly matter total humanity is put in great danger.

    By ages God revealed His truth thru prophet and Bishop Gene Robinson is not at all close to any prophet of our forefathers we know. Like Supreme Court decision did not settle down this legal dust, doubt that inflicted in spiritual mind of humanity by this legal ruling, will remain until God’s direct intervention to shake up conscience as we saw in Israel’s history?

    1. Rick Spring says:

      According to most Christian Bibles, no prophet was accepted or understood in his own time or his own home(town), even the Christ, when some of his own thought he might be (at least) another great prophet, but became wary and afraid of him when he told them the truth. So your basic supposition appears to be just your interpretation and probably erroneous when you say The Rt. Rev V. Gene Robinson “is not at all close to any prophet of our forefathers we know.” It appears he fits the model very well, especially among people who make the statements you make.

      1. Julian Malakar says:

        Our Lord Jesus Christ, son of Mary raised in Nazareth, Whose message is that He is Son of Almighty God, came down from Heaven with God’s message of abundant love for mankind, showed many miraculous signs and presented many prophesy of past to proof Himself as Son of Eternal God and the message He brought is true to infinite time. But people rejected and killed Him. John the Baptist’s message was that he was not worthy of removing Christ’s sandal who is coming after him. King killed John the Baptist for pointing finger to King’s body thorn (lust). King had intimate relationship with his brother’s wife.

        But Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson’s message is that fleshy thorn (sexual urge) as understood from creation of mankind is not thorn of body at all. It is results of God’s abundant love for mankind, but unfortunately people of all ages including prophets of the past underestimated God’s love and caused some human being suffered from social prejudice including Bishop Robinson himself.

        Interestingly within 10 years after his proclamation (2003) of Gay himself, people of this age (2013) receive him with hero’s welcome. Whereas Jesus of Nazareth, John the Baptist and other prophets of our forefathers we know were killed by the people. Our Savior Lord Jesus Christ and prophets of the past sacrificed their life for our salvation, but Bishop Robinson was awarded by us accepting his double marriages, one with man (current) and the other with woman (last). This is the difference, between Bishop Robinson and prophet of the past. He belongs to opposite pole of spiritual world.

        Choice is ours who to believe about Almighty God’s righteousness for the time eternity. May God bless us with His holy wisdom to understand His love for us and His commandment to reframe from doing will of evil spirit to be eligible 1st class citizenship in His Kingdom of Heaven, we all are looking for?

  2. Doug Desper says:

    “The unmistakable movement toward civil marriage equality in the states over the past decade reflects the will of the people in those states to grant equal rights and dignity under the law ..” Yet that is not the case. This ruling essentially overturned 2 – two – votes of the population of California (“the will of the people in those states….”) to define marriage as one man-one woman. It was overturned only on a technicality of who the defending party should be and is not some higher moral ground as is being claimed. After California’s legislature asked their voters to rule on the matter – twice – and they did – the State’s officers chose to not abide by the very votes that it asked for, so the Supreme Court erroneously believed that only the State’s officers could be a party to defend DOMA, which they refused to do after the votes. I suppose that “some” laws and the will of just “some” people are worth pulling bells and issuing congratulations. Civil rights are one thing – and should be granted -, but deference to a model that redefines marriage cannot be defended by the words of Christ himself – and in fact are entirely contrary to His words on marriage. That’s no reason to let the bells peal, unless you believe that human will trumps all else. Now that the majority of the country have revised their constitutions to support marriage as one man-one woman, the same rejoicing loud voices will have to quickly make them into villains; objects to be pitied and worked on. Maybe the bell pealers and shouters don’t want to be in a Church with people like that after all. The Church house is getting smaller and smaller…

  3. Ruppert Baird says:

    Could someone please explain why our church is openly promoting, supporting and celebrating sin?

    1. Bruce Bogin says:

      Yes, I will explain it to you. Sin is in the eye of the beholder. What you view as sin, others view as beauty. I am not a homosexual, but I believe that the same God that made me and others heterosexual made other people homosexual. I think it is counter-intuitive to think that ideas of 3,500 years ago should still be followed today. The fact that a tribe of Hebrews wrote a book 3,500 years ago encapsulating their history and philosophy does not compel us to follow all their ideas as though they were cast in concret for all time. Hopefully we have learned something in the passage of time. We have learned that slavery is ignoble. We have learned that women need not be subservient to men. We have learned that black people are equal to and indeed no different from white people. At leat many of us have learned this. Now we have learned that certain people, about 5%, are born with same-sex orientation. It is not a life style they choose, any more than a person chooses to be born black or hispanic or asian. If Jesus stands for anything, he stands for the proposition that we should love one another, and “by this all men shall know that you are my disciples, by the love you have for one another.” So I suggest that you quit casting stones unless you are that rara avis the person without sin. Homosexuals are not committing sin. They are doing what is natural for them to do by reason of the way God made them. Okay?

      1. Steven Lee says:

        As we say in New Orleans, “Right, dat!”

      2. Sin is in the eye of the beholder, Bruce? Really? Hope you still feel that way if you ever come home and find someone in bed with your wife. But it’s nice to know that Leviticus 19:18 no longer applies unless I want it to.

        Oh and Bruce? Homosexuals are so committing sin. And please don’t come with that “born that way” nonsense. All of us were “born that way,” dude.

      3. Geoffrey Peckham says:

        Is it because “Bede Parry is who he is” OR is it “Bede Parry does what he does” that he molested choir boys? Or is because “KJS is who she is” OR “KJS does what she does” that led her to believe that Bede Parry would be a good fit in her DioNevada back in the day?

      4. Sarah Whitingham says:

        You have to be kidding . Sin is sin and the Bible is true . According to the
        Centers of Disease Control in Atlanta , GA , 70 % of all the deaths from AIDS in the past
        30 years in CA were homosexual men ! They contracted the AIDS virus mainly
        because they engaged in promiscuous sex with multiple infected partners . The Bible is there for protection and to help us lead a healthy live
        spiritually ,mentally, emotionally and physically .

        Please don’t try to whitewash the truth .

    2. Steven Lee says:

      They’re not.

  4. Steven Lee says:

    I have the highest regard for ANYONE who legitimately wants to become a bishop
    these days! The problem I had with Gene Robinson, though, was not his homosexuality,
    but that he and his ex wife just made up their own “divorce rite,” which I found ridiculous.
    In any event, I believe the supreme court acted correctly last week, and I was reminded
    by one of my longtime, ecumenical friends that we must understand that what the
    court ruled has NOTHING to do with the church!

  5. G Forrest says:

    Bruce, perhaps it is true that “Sin is in the eye of the beholder”, but it would do well to know that the eye of the beholder is the Lord God of Hosts, Creator of the Universe…and author of that moldy old book that you choose to dismiss. If you dismiss the Old Testament, why do you pay attention to Jesus of the New Testament – I mean, like that was written – OMG two THOUSAND years ago. Just do what you want, and stop trying to say that God “approves” – you have no way of proving that, outside than using a book that you reject.

  6. Sarah Hey says:

    RE: “Could someone please explain why our church is openly promoting, supporting and celebrating sin?”

    Hi Ruppert — the same reason why the Boy Scouts switched their position. Their middle and highest bodies were taken over by revisionist activists, and the majority of conservatives ignored the political process entirely. Once the revisionist activists owned the levers of power they then forced that change on the rest of us. Now the Boy Scouts will enjoy — *is* enjoying — predictable results as the people leave the organization. Same thing is happening to our church.

    If you’re still in TEC, don’t act like so many other conservatives did and still do. If you’re remaining, make sure you get good people to run for vestry — people who actually believe the Gospel, and who are not like our current leaders. As the vestry elections go, so go the rector search committees, and so go the clergy hired as rectors.

    That’s your first start — begin to think politically, as the revisionist activists have done for 40 years in TEC — with your own parish.

    Right now, there are two differing, antithetical and mutally opposed foundational world views represented in TEC. The leaders in charge believe their particular gospel, and the rest of us believe the Gospel. There will never be any peace or unity as long as that exists. But God doesn’t always give Christians peace within organizations; we’re only promised that as a fruit of the Spirit of Christ, which obviously doesn’t exist as a whole within the organization of TEC.

    That’s no reason to despair. There are many many Episcopalians who believe the Gospel and who do not promote, support and celebrate sin. Your job is to find them and work with them, and against those who do promote, support, and celebrate sin.



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