There it was, a front-page headline on the New York Times: “Judge Topples U. S. Rejection of Gay Unions.” In Boston, Federal Judge Joseph Tauro had ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, “plainly encroaches” on the right of the state like Massachusetts to define marriage and ensure its benefits.
In a separate ruling, Tauro ruled that DOMA violates the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. Gay couples have brought the suits because, even though married in Massachusetts, they couldn’t get federal benefits, like Social Security, for their “spouses.”
DOMA was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton in 1996. It prevents one state from redefining marriage for the other 49. It defines marriage for purposes of federal law as the union of one man and one woman. Under DOMA, a state may define marriage however it wants, but the impact of that definition is limited to that state’s law.
DOMA was hailed as a victory for traditional marriage when it passed. No longer. Unless, as I pray, Tauro’s decision is overturned on appeal.
I am especially saddened personally because Joe Tauro is a long-time friend whose appointment as a federal judge I urged President Nixon to make. It’s for me a very painful irony.
My own personal “black Friday” was made complete by something else I read in that same edition of the Times: a review of the movie The Kids Are All Right, which celebrates the story of lesbian couple having a child through the aid of a sperm donor.
Come on! This comes right on the heels of a study definitively showing that sperm donor babies are more likely to suffer serious life-long emotional wounds than children raised by their biological parents.
Tauro’s decision and the gushing review of the movie are a clear sign that the gay-rights movement, unlike the Church, has mastered the long game and is capable of fighting on several fronts at the same time—politics, the courts and, especially, culture.
Tauro’s dismissal of DOMA was only possible because of the effort to change cultural attitudes about homosexuality. It’s as if the gay-rights movement took a page right out of the playbook of my hero, William Wilberforce, the British parliamentarian and Christian who led the decades-long movement to abolish the slave trade. He fought the slave trade and worked to change cultural prejudice. He sparked a revival in the Church. And he won.
Sadly, Christians today seem to have a limited attention span and are confused about how or whether to shape culture. Our occasional political victories are nullified, however, where they matter—in the hearts and minds of Americans. The fate of DOMA is a bitter lesson.
Let’s be clear. This is every bit the victory gay-rights advocates say it is, which makes families and kids the big losers.
So Christians, we had better wake up. Don’t take the advice of those who are telling us we shouldn’t try to change the world. Let’s get busy, work harder, and take the long view—to restore, pray God, sanity to our culture.