Monday, June 29, 2015

SSM Ruling Fallout

Associated Press/Religious liberty

The US is in a buzz with the confirmed interpretation of the Constitution by SCOTUS that marriage is equally protected for all legal and consenting adults, irrespective of gender. Conservatives bemoan the decline of the "sacred" nature of traditional marriage and the family, as well as the infringement of religious liberties and democracy, while liberals celebrate the social progress and victory towards a "more perfect union".

Within three weeks, assuming no challenge to the ruling, all states and counties in the US must issue licenses to same-sex couples, including the 14 states who still had bans on it. Many counties immediately issued licenses upon hearing the ruling, while others decided to withhold following the law until more instruction was provided. Others claimed technical difficulties to excuse providing the licenses.

Friday evening, hundreds of Utahns gathered at City Creek Park to rally in celebration of the ruling--excited to know that their country recognizes same-sex marriages as valid, protected unions. The Episcopal Church had several ministers at the rally willing to marry same-sex couples on the spot. Although many if not most Christian institutions are against same-sex marriages, others use religion as a reason to fight for marriage equality. Other such rallies were organized across the US.

In light of the Supreme Court decision, a group has organized a protesting a conference for the "World Congress of Families" in October. The family conference focuses on the "natural family", meaning it only recognizing a marriage between one man and one woman. The HRC announced that it would be holding a counter conference just before the family conference. They will decry the World Congress of Families as discriminatory and exclusive to the diversity of families. Families come in all shapes and sizes, they say, and Utah is not a place to discriminate against certain types of families. Inclusiveness and celebration of diversity will be the focus--in contrast to the World Congress.

In addition, Republican presidential seekers have switched their debate from same-sex marriage to religious freedom. Some politicians are seeking for judicial reform, where appointed judges must undergo democratic review, or be voted in altogether. Others wish to restrict the ability of judicial decisions to affect religious groups--specifically decisions on marriage. Laws across the nation have popped up in defense of traditional marriage. They seek to prevent the government from forcing religious institutions to marry same-sex couples or from performing other actions that go against their beliefs. Other laws, including one introduced by Mike Lee of Utah, seek to prevent government punishment to anyone who discriminates against same-sex married couples (essentially again legalizing discrimination based on religion).

Although the ruling resolves the national confusion of what is legal in terms of marriage, the debate continues, and the fight will escalate. LGBT activists are still pushing for national nondiscrimination in housing, business, and education concerning gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender Americans. Conservatives will attempts to retaliate against the ruling by introducing more laws to protect religion and religious individuals (and even businesses operated by religious people), further reducing the equality and dignity for LGBT Americans.

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