Court rulings last week make same-sex marriage legal this week in 3 more states, 32 total

by Karen L. Willoughby |

An Obama appointee, U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl overturned Wyoming's law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, writing, "It is not the desire or preference of this Court to, with the stroke of a pen, erase a State's legislative enactments. Nonetheless, the binding precedent of [the 10th Circuit's decisions] mandate this result, and this Court will adhere to its Constitutional duties and abide by the rule of law."

PROVO, Utah (ChristianExaminer.com) – Arizona, Wyoming and Alaska have learned judges' rulings that same-sex marriages would be permitted immediately in Arizona, and Oct. 23 in Alaska and Wyoming.

The dominoes started falling in Arizona, when early Friday morning, Oct. 17, U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick canceled Arizona's voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

By midday, U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl in Wyoming canceled that state's ban.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its rejection of Alaska's request to delay enforcement of a lower court's ruling that permitted homosexuals to marry.

In each of these three states, bans were approved by a majority of voters in ballot initiatives.

By contrast, in the 32 states where same-sex marriage now is legal, only three—Maine, Maryland and Washington—had voters approve same-sex marriage referendums. In 28 of 30 other referendums, voters chose to approve marriage as only between a man and a woman.

To many, it may seem like a non-story. Only the Los Angeles Times among mainstream media outlets has published an article at the release of this ChristianExaminer.com report about the triple rulings.

To many Christians, however, the rulings bring an opportunity to comment on biblical law.

"Marriage has always been and always will be between a man and a woman," said Bruce Hausknecht, judicial analyst for Focus on the Family, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo. "Ultimately no court can change that truth. Regardless of legal outcomes, Focus on the Family will continue to address the importance of one man/one woman marriage to families, society and especially for children who have a right to both a mother and a father."

The practical affects of state and local laws allowing homosexuals to marry are now being felt by Christians.

In Idaho, a "gay marriage is legal" ruling went into effect Oct. 15.

Todd Starnes of Fox News wrote an article Oct. 20 about a pastor who for 25 years has had a wedding chapel business in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Because the chapel is a business and not a church, he is now required by a city law to perform gay marriages or face up to a $1,000 fine and 180-day jail sentence.

Alliance Defending Freedom of Washington D.C. has taken the case.

"The government should not force ordained ministers to act contrary to their faith under threat of jail time and criminal fines," ADF attorney Jeremy Tedesco told Starnes, the Christian issues watchdog said. "The city is on flawed legal ground, and our lawsuit intends to ensure that this couple's freedom to adhere to their own faith as pastors is protected, just as the First Amendment intended.

"The other side insisted this would never happen, that pastors would not have to perform same-sex marriages," Tedesco continued. "The reality is, it's already happening."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told Starnes it's "open season on Americans who refuse to bow to the government's redefinition of marriage. ... Americans are witness to the reality that redefining marriage is less about the marriage altar and more about fundamentally altering the freedoms of the other 98 percent of Americans" who aren't gay. ... Government officials are making clear they will use their government power to punish those who oppose the advances of homosexual activists."

In Houston, city officials have used a city council ordinance granting rights to transgenders—including access to restrooms without regard to gender (biological males in women's restrooms and vice versa)—as the basis for first demanding pastors' sermons and notes about the mayor or the ordinance, then replacing their demand for "sermons" with one for "speeches."

Back to Arizona: In 2008, Proposition 102 legally defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman, passing with 56 percent of the vote. A year ago, the state legislature passed a bill allowing businesses to deny service to homosexuals and lesbians.

Sixty-eight percent of Alaskans in 1998 voted that marriage was between one man and one woman. U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess on Oct. 14 determined Alaska's same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional, in violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment. The state says it plans to appeal the decision.

In Wyoming on Oct. 7, a day after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear cases from five states wanting to ban same-sex marriage, allowing the lower court ruling to be the law. Two states – Oklahoma and Utah – are like Wyoming in the 10th Circuit. The 10th Circuit concluded that marriage bans violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution.

"No one should be discriminated against, but have you noticed," Starnes asks, "that any time a city passes a 'nondiscrimination' ordinance, it's the Christians who wind up being discriminated against?"