The Supreme Court heard arguments this week as to whether the American people have a right to truthfully define marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Supporting this position is the National Coalition of Black Pastors and Christian Leaders, a group of over 25,000 African-American Christian churches and ministries who filed a “Friend of the Court” brief in this case. Much like Noah before the flood, the pastors leading these churches and ministries carry on the lonely task of speaking truth to a Court that might be on the verge of abandoning it altogether.
Their message is compelling. They begin with the fundamental principle that all human beings have inherent value because God created every person in His image. Thus, it is their position before the Court that the government should never classify or discriminate against another human being based on who they are. As the pastors explain to the Court in their brief, however, a person’s sexuality and sexual preferences are, unlike race, not their state of being, or even an immutable aspect of who they are. The truth is that sexual conduct is an activity. For the pastors, truth matters. It should also matter to the Court.
In their brief the pastors correctly argue that a State has no responsibility to promote any person’s sexual proclivities, whether heterosexual, homosexual, or otherwise—and certainly is not required to accept that one’s sexual conduct preference is the same as an immutable characteristic like race. Government may not regulate people based on who they are, but it may regulate their conduct, including sexual conduct. Even more germane to this case is the principle that government need not—and, indeed, must not—force its citizens to promote a type of sexual behavior to which its citizens object.
Marriage redefinition activists contend however, that any State-approved truthful definition of marriage violates the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment holds special significance for Black Americans. The text of the Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that “no state shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.”
When the Equal Protection Clause became law in 1868, many Black Americans were recently emancipated slaves. The brief of the African-American churches and ministries respectfully reminds the Court that comparing the dilemmas of same-sex couples to the centuries of discrimination faced by Black Americans is a deceptive distortion of our country’s culture and history. As one pastor in the Coalition states:
The disgraces in our nation’s history pertaining to the civil rights of Black Americans are unmatched. No other class of individuals, including individuals who are same-sex attracted, have ever been enslaved, or lawfully viewed not as human, but as property. Same-sex attracted individuals have never lawfully been forced to attend different schools, walk on separate public sidewalks, sit at the back of the bus, drink out of separate drinking fountains, denied their right to assemble, or denied their voting rights.
The legal history of these disparate classifications, i.e., immutable racial discrimination and same-sex attraction, is incongruent. Yet, many now understate this incongruence to manufacture and mandate a limitless (and therefore meaningless) concept of “marriage equality,” thus contending that any State-approved truthful definition of marriage violates the Fourteenth Amendment. The pastors, citing our nation’s deeply rooted legal traditions, history, and morality, convincingly show it does not.
The African-American pastors understand better than many that “tradition” alone cannot justify a law, no matter how hoary its pedigree. But they do not argue that the people’s will, as expressed in their State Constitutions, should remain unmolested by the federal judiciary merely because it upholds long-standing tradition. Contrary to facile analysis put forth by marriage re-definition activists, mere “tradition” is not the reason the State marriage definitions here are constitutional. The truthful and reliable reasons for the tradition are the reasons that the States’ laws are constitutional (e.g., Human history, scientific observations of human biology, and our own experience, common sense and reason all tell us that children naturally come exclusively from opposite sex unions, and that children benefit from being raised by their biological parents whenever possible). Nonetheless, marriage redefinition activists ask an unelected federal judiciary to abrogate the people’s will by destroying the definition of marriage so that it can include any kind of sexual relationship. Undeniably, they desire the Court to commit an act of judicial overreach, aggrandize the power of a limited federal judiciary, and improperly diminish the power of the States. The Court should decline the invitation.
To the pastors of the 25,000 churches and ministries, and to most Americans, the proposed federalization and redefinition of marriage directly harms and threatens this sacred and foundational institution. There is no surer way to destroy an institution like marriage – and hence, the family – than to destroy its meaning. If “marriage” means whatever a political activist, or a politically unaccountable judge wants it to mean, it means nothing. If it has no fixed meaning, it is merely a vessel for an unelected judge’s will. It is a subterfuge for an imperial judiciary imposing its personal will on the citizenry. And as Montesquieu observed: “There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.” We pray that the Court will refuse to tyrannically destroy our most basic unit of government, the family, by destroying the institution of marriage on which it is founded, and we ask others to join us in these prayers.
William Wagner, John Kane, and Erin Mersino authored the friend of the court brief filed on behalf of the 25,000 African-American churches and ministries.