Today the United States Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a case that overturned bans on same-sex marriage in several states, and extended the right to marry to same-sex couples in all fifty states. Below, following excerpts from the majority opinion authored by Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, and the dissenting opinion by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, we have compiled a list of responses from an array of Seventh-day Adventists to the High Court's ruling. -Ed.
From Justice Kennedy’s Majority Opinion:
"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed.
"Finally, it must be emphasized that religions, and those who adhere to religious doctrines, may continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that, by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be condoned. The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations and persons are given proper protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure they have long revered. The same is true of those who oppose same-sex marriage for other reasons. In turn, those who believe allowing same- sex marriage is proper or indeed essential, whether as a matter of religious conviction or secular belief, may engage those who disagree with their view in an open and searching debate. The Constitution, however, does not permit the State to bar same-sex couples from marriage on the same terms as accorded to couples of the opposite sex."
From Justice Thomas's Dissenting Opinion:
"Numerous amici—even some not supporting the States—have cautioned the Court that its decision here will “have unavoidable and wide-ranging implications for religious liberty.” Brief for General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists et al. as Amici Curiae 5. In our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well. Id., at 7. Today’s decision might change the former, but it cannot change the latter. It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.
The majority appears unmoved by that inevitability. It makes only a weak gesture toward religious liberty in a single paragraph, ante, at 27. And even that gesture indicates a misunderstanding of religious liberty in our Nation’s tradition. Religious liberty is about more than just the protection for “religious organizations and persons . . . as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” Ibid. Religious liberty is about freedom of action in matters of religion generally, and the scope of that liberty is directly correlated to the civil restraints placed upon religious practice.
Although our Constitution provides some protection against such governmental restrictions on religious practices, the People have long elected to afford broader protections than this Court’s constitutional precedents mandate. Had the majority allowed the definition of marriage to be left to the political process—as the Constitution requires—the People could have considered the religious liberty implications of deviating from the traditional definition as part of their deliberative process. Instead, the majority’s decision short-circuits that process, with potentially ruinous consequences for religious liberty."
Adventists Against Prop 8 (an advocacy group created in 2008)
Adventists Against Prop 8 celebrates today's decision by the Supreme Court of the United States in Obergefell v. Hodges. Indeed, "no union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family... [The LGBT petitioners] ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right." With some 1,500 who joined us in 2008 to stand up against California Proposition 8, we are proud to have played a part in this historic cause of marriage equality. Our hope, however, is greater and deeper—a hope that burns within our hearts. It's the hope that LGBTQI members of our tradition and congregations will be loved, embraced, and celebrated within our own family and circles of faith—for full membership in the global Seventh-day Adventist Church, for God-ordained ministry and leadership, and for authentic expression of each person's sexual and gender identity as partakers in the image of God and the character of Christ. So the work of restoring a fuller image and character of our Maker in our own communities lives on. That is our enduring hope, rooted in Advent Hope, as we celebrate today's decision.
Marcos Muniz Apolonio, Pastor, Church 1.0
(His story was featured in the film "Seventh-Gay Adventists")
“I woke up this morning to a country that is more in alignment with its own ideals of freedom and equality. It is very emotional, I can't hold the tears back as I think that people are now free to marry who they love regardless of their gender throughout the entire United States. What a message to the world! It is a recognition that LGBT people are not second class citizens and have the right to pursue happiness like anybody else in this country. I praise and thank God for that decision because it is congruent with truth, freedom, equality and justice. Now LGBT immigrants can marry their legit partners and be legal, which is avoiding so much suffering, struggles, separation and broken hearts. It feels wonderful to know that others are not going trough the excruciating process that I had to go through to became a resident. There were seven years, U$17.000 of fees and a huge team of loving fighters in order to be able to get a green card. At the end I was grateful, but emotionally wasted. Today I am married to the person I love—he is God's gift to me. It is a blessing to have him on the other side of the bed, on the other side of the car, on the other side of the table and not on the other side of the world. Hurray! Now the same right is extended to my LGBT brothers and sisters across the country!”
Presidential Candidate Dr. Benjamin Carson
"While I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision, their ruling is now the law of the land. I call on Congress to make sure deeply held religious views are respected and protected. The government must never force Christians to violate their religious beliefs. I support same sex civil unions but to me, and millions like me, marriage is a religious service not a government form."
Eliel Cruz, Faith organizer
"The ruling this morning recognizes me and my friends as equal citizens under the law. There was no secular argument against same-sex marriage and the courts recognized it. My hope is that the Seventh-day Adventist church responds with grace to the historic ruling and not one that continues to alienate many of us that are in the pews.”
Jonathan Doram, a gay Seventh-day Adventist college student
"This decision brings so much healing to me and the entire LGBTQ community. Now young gay teens growing up will know that they are equal under the law and that love truly does win out in the end!"
Jacqueline Hegarty, wife, mom of grown children, grandmother, and webmaster, most notably for Glendale City Church; moderator for Adventist Vegetarian Diabetics Facebook group
When I woke this morning, it was everywhere—Facebook, Twitter, email. I knew there was a possibility, but I didn’t want to hope for something that might not happen. Yet, here it is—a day that will go down in history as the day that the Supreme Court of the United States confirmed and legalized marriage equality! Even when, two years ago today, Prop 8 (in California) was defeated and DOMA was struck down, I honestly never thought we would see in our lifetime the day when marriage between persons of the same gender would be legal in every state. It still seems a bit unreal. It’s like, you know, every Adventist has wondered what it might be like to be among the living when Jesus comes. I have to say that, to be alive today, is second only to the privilege of being alive at the Second Coming! Linda Wright and I got legally married in August 2013, less than two months after it became legal to do so in California. This was after being together for 19 years! Today we are beyond ecstatic for our friends in other states who will now be able to be treated equally, as well. And I can only think of the very fitting words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow written during the Civil War: "...the wrong shall fail, the right prevail"! It’s Pride weekend in San Francisco. How could anything be more perfect?!
Seventh-day Adventist Kinship, Interntional
Love won. Today's historic ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges affirms once and for all that loving same-sex couples across the United States are entitled to equal protection under the law with respect to marriage. June 26 is a day that will certainly be remembered as monumental for LGBT rights. The United States joins a list of almost two dozen countries that have established marriage equality. Many Kinship members have already been able to join in the institution of marriage, and many more will now be able to. A dream of generations has been realized, and tonight, we celebrate and take pride.
Dr. Keisha E. McKenzie, Maryland
"I welcome the Supreme Court's recognition of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people's respect for commitment, marriage, and family. I'm thrilled to see the Court recognize that "history and tradition guide [our] inquiry but do not set its outer boundaries." Here are civil leaders discovering the principle of progressive and present truth—a deepening awareness that builds on the legacies and structures that our elders left us and empowers us to create new, healthier structures for more and more members of the human family. My thoughts today are with all the families who now have more civil options, all the Adventist family pastors who may struggle to serve in an increasingly restrictive denominational environment, and with everyone who recognizes that this civic victory does not end our yearning for justice for all people. As we bury some of the victims of the Emanuel AME Church shooting today, I remember that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere—and justice begins in the space between two people. Today's ruling is a wonderful step forward for families across the country, and I'm grateful."
Dr. Aubyn Fulton, professor of psychology at Pacific Union College
"It's Just Called Marriage Now...The decision is not just a victory for millions of Americans who have so long been denied the dignity and respect and right to marry whoever they choose, it is a victory for the idea of America. We are all better off today than we were yesterday. This is true to for even the most conservative of fundamentalist Christians. My understanding is that marriage equality is not just consistent with, but required by the moral principles of the Bible. However Justice Kennedy specifically noted that nothing in this decision prevents Americans with different understandings of the Bible from expressing their opposition to same-sex marriage. And no Church will ever be required to sanction a same-sex marriage, no member of the clergy will ever be forced to perform a same-sex wedding. What is prevented here only is religious people attempting to impose their particular religious views on to others using the force of the government."
Dori Moore, a bisexual woman and student at Andrews University
"To me, what it means to be LGBT is to strike out on my own path; to love who I will love; and to strive to accept myself, though others emphatically do not....[the Supreme Court judges] have ruled in favor of love and courage, and against ideologies of fear and hate."
Amador Jaojoco, Pacific Union College class of 2012, former GASP president
We, GASP (Gay and Straight People, unofficial club at Pacific Union College-Ed.), never gave up our belief in love. Throughout all of the doubt, the hours of talking, lecturing and enduring so much confusion, we knew that we knew what love was. We saw it was unconditional, that it was color blind, how it saw no gender, and is much bigger than what the Bible itself can only attempt to describe. I am happy. I am so happy that SCOTUS saw what we've witnessed all our lives as LGBT and allies: That love belongs to everyone. It is indestructible, and it is a force to be reckoned with.
North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists
The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, June 26, released its decision legalizing same-sex marriage across the United States. Even with the Supreme Court’s decision, the Seventh-day Adventist Church maintains its fundamental belief that marriage was divinely established in Eden and affirmed by Jesus to be a lifelong union between a man and a woman. While the church respects the opinions of those who may differ, it will continue to teach and promote its biblically-based belief of marriage between a man and a woman. The Seventh-day Adventist Church believes that all people, regardless of race, gender, and sexual orientation are God’s children and should be treated with civility, compassion, and Christ-like love. More information on the Adventist Church’s belief on marriage can be found here.
Quinn, a Seventh-day Adventist queer transgender woman
"While I understand that this ruling will create tensions and challenges for the Seventh-day Adventist church, this is still a landmark event, and many decades in the coming. There are still so many further victories that must be fought for and won before true LGBT equality is achieved, however. For example, many transgender people in the United States still face intense discrimination from the government, as well as housing, insurance, medical care, and job security issues. The importance of this SCOTUS decision cannot be understated, but with this win, the frontlines in the battle for LGBT equality must push onward and remain vigilant."
Fredy Reinosa, a pastor in the Potomac Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Ronaoke Virginia, husband of one wife, Primrose, and father of 4 children
"I disagree with the supreme court ruling because it goes against what scripture says (Genesis 2). God created Adam and Eve male and female, marriage is a sacred institution. Marriage according to Jesus in Matthew 19 is between a man and a woman. He established two genders to complement each other “to become one flesh.” No Judge or any other person has the authority to change that definition. I agree that people of the same sex can live together and share property and other rights if they choose, but the issue for me is to link marriage to those “rights.” As a Seventh-day Adventist pastor, I feel we respond to a higher law than the law of the land and I can not bless something God has not blessed."
Bri Carballo Wilcox, First-generation Uruguayan-American pursuing a doctorate in clinical neuropsychology
I feel a sense of closure with this decision; we've been battling out the marriage issue for so long, it's a relief that human decency won out in the end. This ruling is a huge watershed moment for civil liberties in America. Nation-wide gay marriage is hugely symbolic in terms of legitimizing my relationships and my identity, and now we as a nation have declared that the gays are people, too. I'm finally a first-class citizen with rights worth protecting. Now we can focus on equal housing and job security, because having a home and a job to pay the bills with is even more important than marriage tax benefits.
NOTE: The General Conference Office of General Counsel (OGC), which on March 6, 2015 filed an amicus brief in favor of neither party with the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the Adventist Church (referenced in Justice Thomas's dissent above), was asked several days in advance of this story's publication to provide a statement in response to the High Court's ruling. After exchanging email messages, the OGC at length stated that the North American Division's statement (see above) was also the OGC's response.