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LDS, Catholic and other religious leaders react to DOMA, Prop 8 Supreme Court rulings

Published: Monday, Aug. 31 2015 8:51 a.m. MDT

This June 24, 2013 file photo shows people waiting outside the Supreme Court in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press) This June 24, 2013 file photo shows people waiting outside the Supreme Court in Washington. (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — In a statement issued within hours of the Supreme Court’s announced rulings on two issues relating to same-sex marriage, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reconfirmed the church’s commitment to traditional marriage between a man and a woman while expressing concerns about the decisions.

“By ruling that supporters of Proposition 8 lacked standing to bring this case to court, the Supreme Court has highlighted troubling questions about how our democratic and judicial system operates,” said LDS spokesman Michael Otterson. “Many Californians will wonder if there is something fundamentally wrong when their government will not defend or protect a popular vote that reflects the views of a majority of their citizens.”

Otterson added that “the effect of the ruling is to raise further complex jurisdictional issues that will need to be resolved.”

Arriving at the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, on a final day for decisions in two gay marriage cases are plaintiffs in the California Proposition 8 case. From left are, Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, plaintiffs Paul Katami, his partner Jeff Zarrillo, Sandy Stier and her partner Kris Perry, and Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press) Arriving at the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, on a final day for decisions in two gay marriage cases are plaintiffs in the California Proposition 8 case. From left are, Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, plaintiffs Paul Katami, his partner Jeff Zarrillo, Sandy Stier and her partner Kris Perry, and Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

Nonetheless, Otterson noted that "the court decision does not change the definition of marriage in nearly three-fourths of the states.”

“Regardless of the court decision,” Otterson continued, “the (LDS) church remains irrevocably committed to strengthening traditional marriage between a man and a woman, which for thousands of years has proven to be the best environment for nurturing children."

The Most Reverend John C. Wester, Catholic Bishop of Salt Lake City, called the Supreme Court decision regarding the Defense of Marriage Act “disappointing.”

“While civil law establishes societal standards of conduct, we must also consider the natural law, moral law and divine revelation,” Bishop Wester said. “It is from these fonts of wisdom and grace that we Catholics understand that marriage between one man and one woman is a gift to humanity. The blessings of such a marriage cannot be legislated, litigated or changed by civil authorities.

Arriving at the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, on a final day for decisions in two gay marriage cases are plaintiffs in the California Proposition 8 case, from left, Paul Katami, his partner Jeff Zarrillo, and Sandy Stier and her partner Kris Perry. (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press) Arriving at the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, on a final day for decisions in two gay marriage cases are plaintiffs in the California Proposition 8 case, from left, Paul Katami, his partner Jeff Zarrillo, and Sandy Stier and her partner Kris Perry. (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

“I acknowledge that there are those who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage and that their lives are affected by such decisions as made today by the Supreme Court,” Bishop Wester continued. “At the same time, I affirm that marriage is a sacred and precious gift to humankind, a gift that is inviolable and unalterable, given to us by the Creator for the good of the individual, the family and the fulfillment of human beings, all of whom are created in God’s image and likeness.”

While a broad swath of churches were actively involved in the 2008 campaign to pass California's Proposition 8, which amended the state constitution to certify that "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," the Catholic and LDS churches were most often singled out by proposition opponents for their support of the amendment, and both churches have experienced some backlash as a result. However, a March article in the Washington Post suggested that the primary reason the measure passed was that "many largely black churches supported Prop. 8 while Hispanics, a heavily Catholic community, were more naturally inclined to side with their faith — and against gay marriage."

California's Proposition 8 plaintiffs Sandy Steir, center, holds hands with her partner Kris Perry, right, as they and Jeff Zarrillo, and Paul Katami, left, walk into the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013.  The Supreme Court is meeting to deliver opinions in two cases that could dramatically alter the rights of gay people across the United States. The justices are expected to decide their first-ever cases about gay marriage Wednesday in their last session before the court's summer break. (Cliff Owen, Associated Press) California's Proposition 8 plaintiffs Sandy Steir, center, holds hands with her partner Kris Perry, right, as they and Jeff Zarrillo, and Paul Katami, left, walk into the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. The Supreme Court is meeting to deliver opinions in two cases that could dramatically alter the rights of gay people across the United States. The justices are expected to decide their first-ever cases about gay marriage Wednesday in their last session before the court's summer break. (Cliff Owen, Associated Press)

Other religious spokespeople echoed the LDS and Catholic concerns. “Today is a devastating day for traditional marriage and religious freedom,” said Southern Evangelical Seminary President Richard Land. “Defining marriage for the American people is way above the Supreme Court’s pay grade. God created marriage and he has defined its parameters, regardless of what the majority of Supreme Court justices might think.”

“We are deeply saddened by today’s decision to not only allow but encourage same-sex marriage in our country — a country that was founded on biblical principles,” said Tim Wildmon, president of the religiously oriented American Family Association. “We mourn for America’s future, but we are not without hope.”

Wildmon said his organization’s next line of defense will be to “protect our religious liberty.”

Plaintiffs in the California Proposition 8 gay marriage case Paul Katami, center, and his partner Jeff Zarrillo, greet former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. In a major victory for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California.  (Charles Dharapak, Associated Press) Plaintiffs in the California Proposition 8 gay marriage case Paul Katami, center, and his partner Jeff Zarrillo, greet former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. In a major victory for gay rights, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a provision of a federal law denying federal benefits to married gay couples and cleared the way for the resumption of same-sex marriage in California. (Charles Dharapak, Associated Press)

“We must warn against the coming persecution, the barrage of criticism and the aggressive action of the homosexual agenda to indoctrinate and change the thoughts and convictions of Americans to accept this lifestyle as the new normal,” Wildmon said, adding that he was also concerned about the trend to classify “statements that have a biblical foundation as ‘hate speech.'”

Leadership of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America issued a statement from their New York City headquarters, reiterating “the historical position of the Jewish faith, enunciated unequivocally in our Bible, Talmud and Codes, which forbids homosexual relationships and condemns the institutionalization of such relationships as marriages.”

However, the Jewish statement continued, even though their beliefs are “unalterable,” Judaism “teaches respect for others and we condemn discrimination against individuals.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, left, and Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights arrive at the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013.  (Cliff Owen, Associated Press) Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, left, and Adam Umhoefer, executive director of the American Foundation for Equal Rights arrive at the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (Cliff Owen, Associated Press)

“No religion has the right to dictate its beliefs to the entire body politic, and we do not expect that secular law will always align with our viewpoint,” the Orthodox Union statement concluded. “Ultimately, decisions on social policy remain with the democratic process, and today the process has spoken and we accord the process and its result the utmost respect.”

Other religious leaders, however, applauded the Supreme Court decision.

“As the Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Utah, I am joyful that the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act and its discrimination against same-sex marriage is unconstitutional,” said the Right Reverend Scott B. Hayashi, Episcopal Bishop of Utah. “Gay and lesbian people are members of our families, congregations and communities. They raise children, celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. They rent apartments, own homes and pay taxes. They contribute and support the well-being of our state and country. They are people who are made in the image of God. I will continue to welcome them into The Episcopal Church.

Gay rights advocate Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag in front of the Supreme Court at sun up in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Justices are expected to hand down major rulings on two gay marriage cases that could impact same-sex couples across the country. One is a challenge to California's voter-enacted ban on same-sex marriage. The other is a challenge to a provision of federal law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and pension benefits.  (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press) Gay rights advocate Vin Testa waves a rainbow flag in front of the Supreme Court at sun up in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Justices are expected to hand down major rulings on two gay marriage cases that could impact same-sex couples across the country. One is a challenge to California's voter-enacted ban on same-sex marriage. The other is a challenge to a provision of federal law that prevents legally married gay couples from receiving a range of tax, health and pension benefits. (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

“I am well aware that others believe that the action of the Supreme Court is wrong,” Bishop Hayashi continued. “For these people these decisions are a cause for upset, unhappiness and frustration. My happiness is tempered with this knowledge. Understanding, compassion and prayer for people who deplore this decision is important. They are also made in the image of God. I will be offering my prayers for them and I will continue to welcome them into The Episcopal Church.”

Bishop Hayashi concluded that “all of us can work to make the state of Utah into the place where all people are brought together, where each person is treated with dignity and respect, and where God is seen in the face of each and every person.”

Similarly, Presiding Bishop Peter E. Hickman of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion of Orange, Calif., said that while he views Wednesday’s rulings as “positive steps forward, they are only two steps in the process of establishing equal rights and protections for all.” He called upon “religious leaders from every perspective to embrace these decisions, to see in them the expansion of the boundaries of justice for our citizens and an opportunity for our society to move in the direction of increased tolerance and respect for the natural diversity in all of God’s creation.”

Gay rights activist Bryce Romero, who works for the Human Rights Campaign, offers an enthusiastic high-five to visitors getting in line to enter the Supreme Court on a day when justices are expected to hand down major rulings on two gay marriage cases that could impact same-sex couples across the country, in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press) Gay rights activist Bryce Romero, who works for the Human Rights Campaign, offers an enthusiastic high-five to visitors getting in line to enter the Supreme Court on a day when justices are expected to hand down major rulings on two gay marriage cases that could impact same-sex couples across the country, in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

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