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Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage

By James Howell, Ashe Mountain Times

The Supreme Court of the United States effectively ruled that marriages for same-sex couples are now legal across the United States.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that states cannot ban same-sex marriages on Friday, June 26. This action established a new civil right for the homosexual community, and granted a long-awaited victory for gay rights advocates on a national level.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in favor of the court’s decision. According to his opinion, the SCOTUS held that the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires states to license and recognize marriages between two people of the same sex.

This decision was in response to a case called Obergefell v. Hodges, in which plaintiffs argued that states are required to license a marriage between two people of the same sex under the 14th Amendment and recognize those marriages performed out of state.

The ruling effectively nullifies previous laws passed by states that would have prevented same-sex marriages from being recognized, such as Amendment 1, which passed in North Carolina in 2012.

Following the decision, Virginia Foxx, who represents Ashe and 11 other counties in North Carolina in the U.S. House of Representatives, released a statement regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“Two years ago, the Supreme Court insisted that marriage was a policy decision that properly belonged to the states, but today they have imposed a redefinition of marriage nationwide. This decision undermines the ability of states to set public policy within their borders as voters in North Carolina overwhelmingly did in 2012,” Foxx said. “I’m also extremely concerned about the threat this ruling poses to the conscience rights of people and organizations who believe that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. I will do everything in my power to defend these rights and protect the sacred institution of marriage.”

Not everyone agrees with Foxx’s position. The Supreme Court’s decision was praised by gay rights advocates across the country, including the ACLU of North Carolina.

“Today’s decision has been 50 years in the making and will stand with Brown vs. Board of Education as one of the landmark civil rights moments of our time,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director, in a news release. “Now we take the battle for full legal equality to the states, where 31 states have yet to pass any statewide LGBT nondiscrimination laws. The wind is at our backs, and we are now on the cusp of achieving full legal equality for LGBT Americans across the country.”

Local couple Syndi and Renee Brooks also made a statement in support of the Supreme Court decision on Friday:

“We are absolutely thrilled at the Supreme Court decision. We feel like the nation has taken a step toward equality and toward a more loving society for all its citizens. In the end, love really does win after all,” they said.

Saddened, not surprised

The concern of “redefining marriage” has been voiced by a variety of religious leaders throughout the area, including the evangelical pastor and founder of the Boone-based Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled today that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. With all due respect to the court, it did not define marriage, and therefore is not entitled to re-define it,” he said.

“Long before our government came into existence, marriage was created by the one who created man and woman — Almighty God — and his decisions are not subject to review or revision by any man-made court. God is clear about the definition of marriage in his Holy Word: ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh’ (Genesis 2:24),” Graham said.

“I pray God will spare America from his judgment, though, by our actions as a nation, we give him less and less reason to do so,” he said.

Graham is also the board chairman/president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

Other concerns were voiced by religious leaders at a local level in Ashe County.

“I’m saddened by the decision. I don’t think it was the right decision and I don’t think the court should have the right to redefine marriage,” said Calvary Free Will Baptist Church pastor Sonny Thomas. “I’m saddened but not surprised.”

According to Thomas, he’s noticed national trends moving toward a greater acceptance of same-sex marriages. Also, the sentiment of young people has shifted during time, indicating a heightened level of acceptance of marriage equality.

Thomas said he also fears the possible impact this ruling might have for religious liberties. For example, he said he and fellow pastors share a concern that they will be asked to preside over marriage ceremonies they disagree with.

Thomas also voiced concern that Christian teachings about traditional marriage will be considered as “hate speech” moving forward.

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