Gay-marriage rulings divide religious leaders

By Brittany Hargrave and Kimberly Railey

Religious leaders on opposing ends of the gay-marriage debate alternately referred to Wednesday as a tragic and a celebratory day after the Supreme Court’s decisions on two same-sex marriage cases.

But the traditional religious opponents of gay marriage remained steadfastly against the rulings, condemning them as far reaching and inconsistent with religious principles.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops called the decisions a “tragic day for marriage and our nation.”

In the first decision, United States v. Windsor, the court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. The DOMA ruling will entitle those who are married to the same federal benefits available to opposite-sex married couples. In the second case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, the court ruled that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had no legal standing to hear the appeal of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage after the state’s Supreme Court endorsed it in 2008. The decision clears the way for same-sex marriage to resume in California.

Neither ruling has any direct effect on religious policies regarding marriage.

“The Supreme Court has dealt a profound injustice to the American people by striking down in part the federal Defense of Marriage Act,” Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Subcommittee for the Promotion and Defense of Marriage, said in a statement.

“The court got it wrong,” he said.

The decisions have “highlighted troubling questions about how our democratic and judicial system operates,” said a statement from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Many Californians will wonder if there is something fundamentally wrong when their government will not defend or protect a popular vote that reflects the views of a majority of their citizens.”

The statement says the church maintains its definition of marriage as between a man and woman.

Those in favor of same-sex marriage said the decisions were a step toward equality.

The Rev. J. Bennett Guess of the United Church of Christ, the largest Protestant denomination to come out in favor of gay marriage, praised the decisions as victories for both same-sex and opposite-sex marriages.

“The Supreme Court has underscored the central point that marriage is ultimately about the commitment between two people who love one another,” Guess said. “It is a great step toward full freedom and recognition for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people.”

Jan Uhrbach, the rabbi of Roberta Kaplan, who challenged DOMA on behalf of Edie Windsor in the case that went before the Supreme Court, said she was heartened because of the court’s decision.

“Its sweeping language and the breadth of its recognition of equal protection is really a great moment in American history,” said Uhrbach, a rabbi of a synagogue in the Conservative Branch of American Judaism. That branch formally approved same-sex marriage ceremonies last year.

© 2013 USA TODAY. All rights reserved.

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