Rachel Allen

The Supreme Court, Marriage, and You: Understanding and Moving Forward

This week, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled on two controversial cases about what it means to be married in this country. And I'm afraid to write this blog about it.

WHAT HAPPENED

The Supreme Court overturned the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), an initiative to nationally define marriage as the union of one man and one woman for all legal purposes (such as Social Security, benefits, taxes, etc.), on the claim that individual state governments should define marriage, not the federal government.

Supreme Court judges ruled (5 judges over 4) that federally defining marriage as one man and one woman was unconstitutional and should be decided by each state. The Court also ruled that the laws of individual states need not apply to other states … meaning that if same-sex marriage is legalized in California but not in Missouri, for example, then a same-sex couple has legal married rights if they choose to live in California but not if they relocate to Missouri.

The Court also decided (again, 5-4) that those who called for a Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 8, a voter-approved measure to ban same-sex marriage in the state of California, did not have the legal authority to argue this case before the Court.

The Court's decision effectively affirms the lower court's decisions that Prop 8 was unconstitutional and same-sex marriage should be legalized in California.

WHAT IT MEANS

Depending on which news source/political group/Twitter account you consult, the Court's rulings were either a victory, a tragedy, or not much of anything at all … since the Court didn't really rule on anything, but rather affirmed that the individual states, not the federal government, should make decisions on marriage.

You can read the United States Council of Catholic Bishops' official response to the rulings here.

The Church is clear on her definition of marriage: it's a lifelong, exclusive union between one man and one woman that must be open to the creation of new life. That's not the same definition our culture is embracing, although that's nothing new. It's not even a definition that all American Catholics embrace . . . although that's nothing new, either.

And, as of June 26th, it's not a definition supported by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Our nation is talking … about what marriage is, what it means, what's legal, what's moral, and how it affects our lives and the lives of people we love.

That's the real reason I'm afraid of writing this blog … because there are people I love who experience same-sex attraction. Some embrace their attractions as a lifestyle, some choose a life of chastity and celibacy, some are struggling and aren't sure which way to turn, and some have experienced same-sex attractions in the past but, through their own initiative and with the help and support of many, are now happily married in traditional marriages.

All of them have felt doubt, fear, loneliness, and confusion … we all have. All of them have known love, support, friendship, and joy … I hope we all have, too. The people I love who experience same-sex attraction are all, simply, people I love.

And I was afraid to write this blog because, in light of the Court's rulings and the Church's response, they might doubt that they are loved … when the reality is that the Church's teaching calls all of us to love. We just need to know more about what love really means.

WHAT NOW

So where do we go from here? As faithful Catholics, in the United States of 2013, who know and love people who experience same-sex attraction (probably some of us who are reading this blog right now) … what is it that we are called to do, now?

1. LEARN

I mentioned above that not all Catholics agree with the Church's teaching on marriage, but I'm largely convinced that's because not all Catholics really understand what the Church teaches and why. There is so much to learn … from Scripture, from the Catechism, from the teachings of Blessed Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, and from natural law.

So start learning. Ask questions. Express your doubts. Argue your points. All of the above will make you stronger in your faith and more knowledgeable of the truth.

Just make sure you're learning from the right people … when we seek to grow in our faith, we don't ask advice from atheists. We ask people of faith. So as you seek to learn more on the Church's teaching about marriage, ask faithful, trusted, knowledgeable Catholics who can help you understand what the Church teaches and why. Whenever we have questions, there are always answers.

Please don't make the mistake of saying, 'I think you're wrong' and walking away without ever really learning the ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏwhys' behind the Church's ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏwhats.'

2. PRAY

The Supreme Court issued their rulings, but there is still a lot to pray for. Individual states will make decisions on marriage. Other cases will find their way to the Supreme Court.

Culture will clash with Church teaching. Religious liberty will be challenged. You will have questions. Your loved ones will, too. There will be arguments and discussion and hurt and confusion.

People's hearts are at stake … and so are their souls. So pray for a spirit of wisdom, courage, truth, and authentic love to prevail in our nation . . . because this topic isn't going to disappear any time soon.

3. LIVE CHASTITY

We are all called to embrace the virtue of chastity. Chastity is for those of us who are single, married, parents, celibate, priests, religious, teenagers, senior citizens, heterosexually or homosexually inclined … all of us. Chastity is a virtue of self-control that leads us to freedom. By living this virtue well and embracing whatever vocation God gives us, our lives will testify to the beauty of God's plan for sex and our sexuality.

When we live in the joy and freedom of that truth, we become the people that God created us to be. Learn more about chastity, start living it now, and lean on God's grace through the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist to help you live it well.

4. LOVE

In the big book of Catholic teaching, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there are 2,865 paragraphs that explain what the Church teaches and why. And of those 2,865 paragraphs, there are 3 dedicated to persons with homosexual inclinations. That's all … paragraphs 2357, 2358, and 2359. There are many more paragraphs about marriage and chastity, but only 3 on same-sex attraction.

The Church, in her wisdom, chose to use that space to clearly declare that all persons with homosexual inclinations must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity, and that every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard is unacceptable.

As you learn, and pray, and talk with others about this topic, make sure that you speak and act with the utmost love and charity. Love isn't a feeling or an emotion. It's a decision you make about the way you treat others. Choose to love.

I was afraid to write this blog. But I believe in the wisdom of our Church and the truth of God's design for sexuality. And I will do my best to make sure that I follow St. Paul's fearless example and encouragement to stand firm in the faith, with courage and strength … my every word and action done with love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14). I'll be praying for you to do the same.

Rachel Allen

About the Author

I work for a retreat ministry called the REAP Team, where it's my full-time job to talk about sex, love, dating, and chastity (which can sometimes lead to some awesomely awkward moments). I love being Catholic, watching movies, and browsing antique malls. The only thing I have against winter is the fact that there's no baseball. Feel free to email me at [email protected] or follow me on Twitter @rachel_m_allen