After more than a decade of legal wrangling and a burst of judicial activism that overturned the will of the voters in dozens of states, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Friday to rule on whether same-sex “marriage” is an unalienable constitutional right.
Justices announced Friday that they had consolidated four cases from the states of Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan, and Kentucky, scheduling two hearings for April.
According to the Court's document, the first 90-minute session will ask, “Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?” The second session, scheduled to last one hour, will ask, “Does the Fourteenth Amendment require a state to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-state?”
The move comes after the High Court declined to hear a series of appeals in October, leaving states where judges had redefined marriage without legal recourse. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hinted at a public hearing that justices could weigh in on the issue if lower court rulings began to conflict.
In November, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Ohio, upheld the constitutionality of constitutional marriage protection amendments in four states – the four states where the justices agreed to hear appeals on Friday.
Court watchers expect a ruling before the end of the court's term in late June.
“This case could potentially transform the cultural landscape of America. We should pray for the Court, that they will not seek to redefine marriage,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Marriage was not created by government action, and shouldn't be re-created by government action. Even more than that, we should pray for churches who will know how to articulate and embody a Christian vision of marriage as the one flesh union of a man and a woman in the tumultuous years to come.”
But the New York Times greeted the news by stating, “The court's announcement made it likely that it would resolve one of the great civil rights questions of the age before its current term ends in June.”
The vast majority of states have seen the definition of marriage overturned by judicial decree.
Same-sex “marriage” is currently legal in 36 states – in 28 by judicial fiat. Two of those states subsequently passed laws ratifying the definition of marriage imposed by the judiciary. Nine other states and the District of Columbia have adopted same-sex “marriage” by often controversial legislative votes. In only three states – Maine, Maryland, and Washington – have voters approved of same-sex “marriage” by popular referendum.
Five additional states – Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, South Dakota, and Texas – have had their state laws overruled by the judiciary, but the rulings are currently stayed.