Supreme Court Will Hear Challenges to Anti-Equality Laws

Advent—the season before Christmas when Christians celebrate the movement from the darkness of sin and suffering into light of salvation—has been particularly busy on the LBGT equality front. After an election season that rang in marriage equality victories in Maine, Maryland, Washington, and Minnesota, along with the historic elections of lesbian and gay senators and congressional representatives, LBGT rights seem to be sledding into the new year with increasing momentum.

Earlier today, the Supreme Court announced that it will review a federal appeals court ruling overturning California’s Proposition 8, which in 2008 barred marriage of same-gender couples. The justices will also consider whether health care, pension, inheritance, and other benefits offered to heterosexual couples and their children can be denied by the federal government to LBGT persons.

Opponents of marriage equality, seeing an opportunity to tighten judicial interpretation of the definition of marriage, have also petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a challenge to a Nevada law banning marriage by same-gender couples, attempting to bypass challenges before the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco sponsored by marriage equality advocates. No announcement has been made on whether the court will review the case.

Meanwhile, four years after a bare-knuckle battle to pass the California anti-marriage equality Proposition 8, and in the shadow of a presidential campaign in which a Mormon candidate and his conservative Catholic running mate echoed the same sort of alliance of anti-equality bedfellows, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has launched a campaign aimed at softening its rhetoric toward the LBGT community and LBGT Mormons in particular. A new website, “Love One Another: A Discussion of Same-Sex Attraction” offers videos from Mormon leaders, gay Mormons, and their families by way of urging greater empathy and love for LBGT sinners that might mute the continued condemnation of homosexual sex itself as a sin. 

Genuine gift of Christian compassion, or more masterful Mormon marketing in the face of a rapidly changing attitudes toward LBGT equality and what is increasingly seen as recalcitrant anti-gay bigotry among its conservative religious peers? Regardless, surely the more valued holiday treasure for LBGT folks and their allies will be the genuine equality offered by the much hoped for overturn of the Defense of Marriage Act. Happy New Year to that.

Elizabeth Drescher [@edrescherphd] is the author, with Keith Anderson, of Click 2 Save: The Digital Ministry Bible (Morehouse, 2012). She teaches religion and pastoral ministries at Santa Clara University. She is currently at work on Choosing Our Religion: The Spiritual Lives of Religious Nones, a project funded in part through a grant from the Social Science Research Council’s “New Directions in the Study of Prayer” project through the Templeton Foundation. Her website is www.elizabethdrescher.com