High court ruling makes same-sex marriage legal for 30% of U.S. population. Illinois backers claim new momentum.
Springfield | While bells were ringing at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court decisions advancing same sex marriage, Christians elsewhere were lamenting the actions. And in Illinois, people on both sides of the issue were considering the impact of the high court’s rulings on the push to legalize same-sex marriage in our state.
The Court ruled against the federal Defense of Marriage Act, effectively giving married same-sex couples financial benefits previously reserved for heterosexual couples. And the justices’ non-action on California’s Proposition 8 allows a lower court’s ruling against it to stand, meaning same-sex marriages could begin in the state very soon. Same-sex marriage is now legal in 13 states and the District of Columbia.
The rulings do not change the law in Illinois. But favorable response from the Court does signal renewed momentum in efforts to pass SB10, the state’s gay marriage bill, proponents say.
And those defending traditional marriage are taking the court’s actions as a call to redouble their efforts to stop same-sex marriage in Illinois.
“The ruling doesn’t change what’s required of us,” said Ron Knox, pastor of FBC Royalton, Ill. “We must stand for the truth and proclaim the truth. That’s what we’re called to do.”
A shift in momentum?
The Court’s rulings energized supporters of same-sex marriage in Illinois, who are still waiting for SB10 to be called for a vote in the State House.
“Today the Supreme Court took a historic step by providing equal access to more than 1,100 federal rights and benefits for same-sex couples,” Governor Pat Quinn said in a statement immediately after the court’s announcement. “Members of the Illinois House now have more than 1,100 new reasons to make marriage equality the law in Illinois.”
Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), the chief sponsor of SB10 in the Illinois Senate, also urged the Illinois House to pass SB10. “The time is right for Illinois to join the 13 other states (counting California) with equal marriage. When the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act becomes law, the legal rights and responsibilities associated with marriage under both state and federal law will apply to committed, same-sex Illinois couples. … Now it’s time for Illinois to take a stand for fairness.”
But even with the momentum, some opponents of same-sex marriage don’t believe the House will take up again as early as they could, during a special session called by Quinn to handle the state’s pension crisis. It is more likely the House would revisit the bill during the fall veto session, which begins Oct. 22. And because the bill wasn’t passed during the regular spring session, it would need a 3/5 majority, or 71 votes, to make it to Quinn’s desk this fall.
The African-American Clergy Coalition based in Chicago, a major force in slowing SB10’s momentum, showed no signs of giving up after the Supreme Court’s ruling. “The people of Illinois, along with the people of 38 other states, still have the right to determine if gay marriage should become law in their respective states,” the group said in a statement.
Marriage defenders continue to put their trust in God regarding SB10. “The victory we had in the spring was because churches prayed for God’s mercy and stood up and spoke out,” said David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute. “We need to continue to be diligent in praying for and speaking to our elected officials.”
Some have expressed discouragement after the ruling. Smith understands, “It’s easy to get discouraged by the Supreme Court’s ruling. We need to double our resolve and stand on faith. Churches need to teach why God designed the institution of marriage. It’s vitally important we stand by it.
David Howard, Capitol City Association director of missions, also remains hopeful. “There’s no question Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost and we need to that as well. We need to be salt to continue to preserve what is good, and light to illuminate what is bad. The light will overcome the darkness. Ultimately we will win.”
The times, they are a changing
The DOMA ruling and the push to pass SB10 are reflections of the nation’s changing culture. On July 1, USA Today released a poll showing 55% of Americans believe marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights of traditional marriage. This compares to a 1996 Gallup poll which reported just 27% of Americans were in favor of same-sex marriage – a change of 28% in less than 20 years.
What should Christians do as the nation changes? Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, offered this advice: “Christians seeking to witness real cultural impact…need to show grace and friendship to those who struggle, while holding fast to what the Scriptures teach. Without hiding our beliefs, we need to look for opportunities to have conversations, build relationships, and demonstrate grace.”
Russell Moore, new president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called the ruling an opportunity for “gospel witness” and “to take marriage as seriously as the Gospel does, in a way that prompts the culture around us to ask why.”
And for those who may be having a difficult time managing their emotions, Moore offers this: “Same-sex marriage is headed for your community. This is no time for fear or outrage or politicizing. It’s a time for forgiven sinners, like us, to do what the people of Christ have always done. It’s time for us to point beyond our family values and our culture wars to the cross of Christ as we say: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”