Supreme Court Debated Homosexual Marriage and Barely Mentioned Religion


This week’s oral arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges barely mentioned religion. In fact, the only person to give a religious argument against same-sex marriage was a protestor who interrupted the proceedings.

After the attorney for Obergefell—a gay man suing Ohio for recognition of his out-of-state marriage—finished her argument, someone in the audience began shouting.

“The Bible teaches that if you support gay marriage, then you will burn in hell!” the protester yelled. He referred to homosexuality as an “abomination,” and warned that “the judgment of God will be upon this nation” if the Court recognizes a right to same-sex marriage. He continued to yell as security removed him from the courtroom.

The whole interruption lasted less than 20 seconds. After Chief Justice Roberts asked if the justices and the attorneys were prepared to continue, Justice Scalia quipped, “It was rather refreshing, actually.”

Those twenty seconds marked religion’s most prominent role in Tuesday’s arguments.

In searching the transcript of the arguments—which spanned two-and-a-half hours, more than twice the amount of time allotted for a typical case—few references to religion can be found. And most of these come from the justices through questions to the attorneys.

For example, Justice Breyer was not convinced religious objections are enough for states to ban gay marriage: “There’s no question about [religious objectors’] sincerity, but is a purely religious reason on the part of some people sufficient?”

Breyer later added, “[Our analysis] is not going to get into all these questions balancing free religion rights versus gay rights and so forth. We’d avoid that in this case.”

And Justice Scalia did worry about the wisdom of “imposing through the Constitution – a requirement of action which is unpalatable to many of our citizens for religious reasons.”

The importance of tradition, though, was clear for some justices. Justice Kennedy’s statement epitomizes this: “This definition [of marriage] has been with us for millennia. And it’s very difficult for the Court to say, oh, well, we know better.”

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SOURCE: Daniel Bennett
Religion News Service

Daniel Bennett, PhD, researches the conservative legal movement. He is an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Kentucky University. You can follow him on twitter at @BennettDaniel.

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