Jewish Journal

Thoughts on the Supreme Court’s DOMA and Prop 8 rulings

by Mark Paredes

July 2, 2013 | 12:34 am

"By ruling that supporters of Proposition 8 lacked standing to bring this case to court, the Supreme Court has highlighted troubling questions about how our democratic and judicial system operates. Many Californians will wonder if there is something fundamentally wrong when their government will not defend or protect a popular vote that reflects the views of a majority of their citizens. In addition, the effect of the ruling is to raise further complex jurisdictional issues that will need to be resolved. Regardless of the court decision, the Church remains irrevocably committed to strengthening traditional marriage between a man and a woman, which for thousands of years has proven to be the best environment for nurturing children. Notably, the court decision does not change the definition of marriage in nearly three-fourths of the states." -- Official statement of the LDS Church on the recent Supreme Court rulings on gay marriage


It’s almost impossible to be a Mormon blogger and not weigh in on last week’s Supreme Court rulings on DOMA (the federal Defense of Marriage Act) and Proposition 8. After all, my church is a prominent foe of same-sex marriage, a position that I continue to support for religious reasons. That said, I do not believe that there is a convincing set of entirely secular arguments that can be made against gay marriage. Given these convictions, I support the majority ruling in DOMA and have mixed feelings about the Prop 8 case.

I don’t think that states should legalize gay marriage, but if they do, I don’t see why it makes sense to tell a lesbian resident of Massachusetts that she is married if she stays in Boston, but becomes single again if she joins the Army. I also don’t think that other states should have to recognize her marriage, but as a conservative I reject the idea that it’s the federal government’s business to favor certain legal marriages over others. If a gay man is legally married and serves in the military or delivers my mail, the government should treat his marriage the same as traditional ones when it comes to tax, retirement, and other benefits.

There is simply no secular case to be made in 2013 for the federal government – which does not issue marriage licenses -- to treat gay marriages differently from traditional ones. Mormons who care about this issue will note that the LDS Church’s brief statement on the rulings (see above), though generally critical, did not mention the part of DOMA that was struck down by the Court.  

The same cannot be said of the Prop 8 ruling, which was made even more painful by the presence of Justices Roberts and Scalia in the majority. I am disturbed that the Court allowed our state’s governor and attorney general to thumb their noses at the clearly expressed will of millions of California voters, and find it difficult to understand why a gay federal judge in a partnered relationship failed to recuse himself from the case. However, proper procedure was followed in the case: we lost at the district court level, then a three-member panel of federal judges from the 9th Circuit ruled against us, and finally Roberts and Scalia stabbed us in the back by disqualifying the plaintiffs. Our side received a fair hearing, at least by the last two panels, and we lost.

Faithful Mormons ultimately look to prophets, not Supreme Court Justices, for guidance on moral issues, and our opposition to gay marriage does not depend on well-crafted judicial opinions or legal arguments. However, as citizens of this country we depend on the courts to rule fairly and equitably on issues of consequence. The Supreme Court was correct to strike down part of DOMA, but I do wish that it had not allowed California state officials to shirk their duty vis-à-vis Prop 8. Gay marriage is legal once again in California, though I suspect that most decent people on the pro-gay marriage side are less than pleased at the means used to achieve the end in this case.

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Mark Paredes is a former Mormon bishop currently living in Los Angeles. He has worked for the ZOA, the American Jewish Congress, and the Consulate General of Israel in Los...

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