Roundup: Groups Speak Up on Same-Sex Marriage Decisions

All eyes were on the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday when it handed down rulings in a pair of cases related to same-sex marriage. A wide variety of associations, including medical and faith-based organizations, reacted strongly to the landmark decisions.

This week’s Supreme Court decisions in  same-sex marriage cases  involving the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 were cheered by associations and other nonprofit groups that support gay rights. Meanwhile, many faith-based organizations weighed in, some applauding the rulings, others pledging to continue their advocacy against gay marriage.

In the DOMA decision [PDF], a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court held that the part of the  1996 law that disallowed federal benefits for same-sex spouses is unconstitutional. The decision does not guarantee a right to same-sex marriage, but it requires that gay couples married in states that allow same-sex marriage be afforded the same federal benefits as heterosexual married couples. The Prop 8 decision [PDF], meanwhile, let stand a lower court ruling that found the California ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The justices held that supporters of the measure who appealed that decision did not have standing to defend Prop 8 in federal court.

Here’s a roundup of how organizations responded to the landmark rulings.

Medical groups focus on Healthcare

As CBS News reported, a number of medical organizations—including the American Medical Association (AMA), the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics—hailed the decisions, saying they will improve access to healthcare for all families.

“The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings today… will help eliminate health disparities in same-sex households by ensuring all households are afforded the same healthcare rights,” said AMA President Ardis D. Hoven, M.D.

Anthropologists note social impact

In a statement on the Prop 8 ruling, the American Anthropological Association, which filed a brief in the case, cited the harmful effects of state-sanctioned discrimination against gay couples.

“As stated in our amicus brief, throughout history, state interference with the ability to marry has been a means of oppression and stigmatization of disfavored groups, serving to degrade whole classes of people by depriving them of the full ability to exercise a fundamental right,” the association wrote in a press release. “This discrimination has been shown to have severe social and psychological impacts. By singling out gay men and women as ineligible for the institution of marriage, it invites the public to discriminate against them. And by depriving same-sex couples of the ability to marry, adverse effects are imposed on their children.”

Opponents cite religious liberty

American Family Association President Tim Wildmon, in a press release, said the group was “deeply saddened by today’s decision to not only allow but encourage same-sex marriage in our country—a country that was founded on biblical principles. We mourn for America’s future, but we are not without hope. Our next line of defense is to vigorously protect our religious liberty.” The group noted that there would be time for an appeal on Prop 8.

Faith-based groups split

Opinions among faith-based groups ranged from strong opposition to approval.

Opponents included the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which called the rulings “a profound injustice to the American people,” and the Southern Baptist Convention, which noted “a rapidity of cultural change that is mind-boggling.”

However,  the Unitarian Universalist Association called the rulings “a victory for the principle that civil rights belong to all.” And Rabbi Gerald Skolnick, president of the Rabbinical Assembly, praised the decisions for “opening the way for loving and committed same-sex couples to enjoy the rights and privileges of marriage. This is most clearly modeled in the case of Edith Windsor, a Holocaust survivor who enjoyed a loving relationship with her wife of many decades and had been unable to inherit her partner’s estate as her spouse.”

The Religion News Service has gathered a diverse array of comments from across the religious spectrum.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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