Welcome to the (New) Family!

non trad family

The Supreme Court’s opinions in the Obergefell vs. Hodges case, legitimizing same-sex marriage, has predictably generated much scandalous controversy and angst among the dissenters, particularly from the Evangelical and Christian fundamentalists who are panicked that this ruling hastens the country towards barbarism reminiscent of the Last Days of the Roman Empire. It may, or it may not, but what this ruling indeed does is to provide an awakening to these religious Christians believers that their assumption that the United States of America is solely bound and defined by Christian theological ethics has been grossly mistaken.

Everyone has heard of this ubiquitous meme of America’s “separation of church and state,” and fortunately for the religious, the placement of that divide is a crucial safeguard that has given mainline believers undeserved tax breaks and other benefits and considerations (and to be frank, they are all fine and dandy with that). However, that divide not only exists to protect the belief systems from the encroachment by the State, but conversely to protect others from religious domination by the believers into the legal sphere.

Conservative Christian commentators and their political cohorts are twisted up in knots in trying to come to grips with the reality that the USA is in fact a pluralistic society, and that not everyone practices or believes in the same religion as they do. Some are wailing and gnashing their teeth about this ruling foreshadowing the death of democracy and imminent religious persecution.

Christian believers understand that marriage is defined and given by God, but legally, they seem unable to comprehend that marriage is sanctioned by the State, not by the Church. The chief argument made by the mainline Christian community against SSM is that marriage is ordained by God and is meant to exist properly within a fixed male and female pairing for purposes of procreation, and that the male/female set is the only legitimate (and spiritual) principle in forming a family.

The Supreme Court’s majority decision is based on the logical application of human rights guaranteed under the Constitution, a document that was not created by churchmen inside a place of worship, but by an elite of White propertied males who failed to share any uniform Christian perspective. What they did seem to share was a deep mistrust of the power the religious institutions could wield if given the chance. Thus, marriage is necessarily ordained by the State – not by the Church. It is a legal contract, not a spiritual one because there’s no instrument in the Constitution that gives the church the means to officially stand in the place of the State. Even the dissenting Justices can’t manage to wrap their brains around this fact (or seem unwilling to admit it). Supreme Court Justice Alito’s dissenting opinion contains the following alarmist and false assertion:

“Today’s decision usurps the constitutional right of the people to decide whether to keep or alter the traditional understanding of marriage.”

This decision does no such thing.

Firstly, the American Citizen has always – and will continue – to define or alter their understanding of marriage for themselves, without guidance from the State. If you believe same-sex marriage is wrong, this ruling does not force you into holding a contrary belief about it. People are still free to marry (and divorce) regardless of what Adam and Steve does in their marriage, or what serial adulterer Donald Trump does in his. 

Secondly, there has been a social evolution of the definition of marriage and family within American society that has existed from the beginning of the country’s history. It was less than 50 years ago when the courts began overturning the criminalization of interracial marriage [1] –  causing an ensuing social panic led by social conservatives who claimed under biblical authority that such unions were against Christian teachings when it was actually used to criminalize one’s race.  

Thirdly, Alito seems to be angling for a conflation of the legal definition of marriage condoned by the State with that of a religious conception of marriage and family ordained by God into a single definition – which is impossible due to the separation of Church and State provisions within the Constitution. Deep down, the dissenting Justices know this, but their conservative theological commitment leaves them in a panic about the legal implications this ruling may have. 


Probably one of the oldest social conventions in human history is the family. Let’s agree that a ‘family” is a small group of beings bound together by genetics, opinions, language, values and common interests, etc. It’s the fundamental social block which forms human relationships. The family is a social convention created by beings within a society. It isn’t ordained by “God” since “God” is also a social convention of created by certain religious beliefs. A belief does not stand for the truth – it merely expresses a desire for something to BE “true.” Social conservatives want to believe that it is a truth that marriage is about the children. It hasn’t been exclusively that. In many cultures, some far more ancient than our own, marriage had always been about property

The fact of the matter is that many of the Christian social conservatives appear to be unwilling to take responsibility for their imagined crisis of having their religious liberty being threatened by society (and the Supreme Court).Going back to the Ozzie and Harriet days of the 1950s where Dad’s job gave him enough money to raise a family and allowed the wife to stay at home isn’t an option anymore, because that job has long since disappeared to Third World economies. Neoliberal economics has been forcing families into single-parent households for decades. One can make the argument that these social and economic pressures have far more to do with the perception of the collapsing of American Family Values than two guys or ladies desiring a legal means to combine their properties or begin a family. Nobody is trying to take anyone’s religious liberty away from anyone. What is happening is that there are less legal ways to allow abuse and mistreatment of one group of citizens over another by application of religious belief backed by State power. 


[1] Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967),[1] is a landmark civil rights decision of the United States Supreme Court, which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage. Chief Justice Earl Warren expressed this in his opinion:

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

Loving v. Virginia was used as a precedent in the Obergefell v. Hodges case.

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