Sister Wives Case Cited In Supreme Court’s Historic Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

240px-sister_wives_tv_series_logo220px-File-Official_roberts_CJ_croppedI am still doing commentary on today’s history ruling in favor of same-sex marriage. It was a remarkable day for all of us outside of the Court. As many of us quickly read through the opinions, hundreds of people broke out into song: singing our national anthem. It never sounded so beautiful or so meaningful. As I went live with Jake Tapper on CNN, I noticed a familiar reference however. The Chief Justice cited to the Sister Wives litigation now pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. I am lead counsel for the Brown family, which prevailed in striking down the criminalization of cohabitation in Utah. The Wall Street Journal and other media outlets also discussed our case.


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First we should start with a quote from the majority opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy:

“Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.”

“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.”

Here is the portion of Chief Roberts’ decision that cites to the Brown case:

One immediate question invited by the majority’s posi- tion is whether States may retain the definition of marriage as a union of two people. Cf. Brown v. Buhman, 947 F. Supp. 2d 1170 (Utah 2013), appeal pending, No. 14- 4117 (CA10). Although the majority randomly inserts the adjective “two” in various places, it offers no reason at all why the two-person element of the core definition of marriage may be preserved while the man-woman element may not. Indeed, from the standpoint of history and tradi- tion, a leap from opposite-sex marriage to same-sex marriage is much greater than one from a two-person union to plural unions, which have deep roots in some cultures around the world. If the majority is willing to take the big leap, it is hard to see how it can say no to the shorter one.

It is important to note that our case is about the criminalization of cohabitation and not the recognition of plural marriage. In that sense, Brown is closer to the ruling over ten years ago in Lawrence v. Texas. Nevertheless, there is language and analysis in the opinion that certainly amplifies our arguments on challenging the criminalization of these relationships. I expect that the case will be cited in our upcoming argument in Denver.

I have long support same-sex marriage and I was honored to be there at that historic moment. After I had finished with coverage in front of the Court, I was going to a car to go to the studio when I passed a choir singing our anthem (which was sung repeatedly today). It was as moving as the first time and beautifully sung by this choir. This was a truly transcendent moment for our country. I tried to point out on the air that those opposing this decision have some valid arguments about the Court’s role in our society and should not be dismissed as bigots or intolerant. While I disagree with the dissenters, there are valid concerns when the Court steps into an issue with such great political and social and religious divisions. Nevertheless, this was a moment when the Court truly rendered a transformative decision that I believe makes this country a better place.

204 thoughts on “Sister Wives Case Cited In Supreme Court’s Historic Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

  1. Prof: Would appreciate your analysis of Justice Thomas’ dissent.
    Have heard some conservatives contend that the references to slavery and internment were inappropriate.
    Indeed, because of your influence in media, your analysis if critical could destroy him

  2. Oh Dear doctor oui oui . . . here are Obama’s quotes on Islam v his quotes on Christians.

    1. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”

    2. “The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer”

    3. “We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country.”

    4. “As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.”

    5. “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.”

    6. “Islam has always been part of America”

    7. “we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities”

    8. “These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.”

    9. “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

    10. “I made it clear that America is not – and will never be – at war with Islam.”

    11. “Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.”

    12. “So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed”

    13. “In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.”

    14. “Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”

    15. “Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality”

    16. “The Holy Koran tells us, ‘O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’”

    17. “I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month.”

    18. “We’ve seen those results in generations of Muslim immigrants – farmers and factory workers, helping to lay the railroads and build our cities, the Muslim innovators who helped build some of our highest skyscrapers and who helped unlock the secrets of our universe.”

    19. “That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

    20. “I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story.”

    Now, let’s compare those quotes to what Obama has said about Christianity:

    1. “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation”

    2. “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”

    3. “Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?”

    4. “Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrant make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.”

    5. “The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.”

    6. From Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope: “I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights on such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simply because the people they love are of the same sex—nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.”

    7. Obama’s response when asked what his definition of sin is: “Being out of alignment with my values.”

    8. “If all it took was someone proclaiming I believe Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and that was all there was to it, people wouldn’t have to keep coming to church, would they.”

    9. “This is something that I’m sure I’d have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell.”

    10. “I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That’s just not part of my religious makeup.”

    11. “I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.”

    12. “I’ve said this before, and I know this raises questions in the minds of some evangelicals. I do not believe that my mother, who never formally embraced Christianity as far as I know … I do not believe she went to hell.”

    13. “Those opposed to abortion cannot simply invoke God’s will–they have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths.”

    14. On his support for civil unions for gay couples: “If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount.”

    15. “You got into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

    16. “In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology”

    17. “On Easter or Christmas Day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.”

    18. “We have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own”

    19. “All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra— (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)”

    20. “I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”

    I don’t think that Obama is a closet Muslim, although he could be. He simply espouses theological universal-ism, or the idea that all religions have truth in them and somehow all end up in the same place when it comes to eternity.

    The problem is that truth, by its very nature, is exclusive. All religions make exclusive claims, that’s not something that’s unique to Christianity. As Tim Keller put it, “All claims are exclusive. The Gospel is an exclusive truth but it’s the most inclusive exclusive truth in the world.”

    Obama’s idea of pluralism is an interesting one. He praises Islam for being so “tolerant” and criticizes Christianity for not being accommodating enough to Muslims. He also says that we must not “slander the prophet of Islam.” Yet there is no mention of violent, oppressive shariah law, nor is there any mention of the slaughter of Christians in the Middle East at the hands of Muslims. (crickets. . . crickets)

    Obama lauds Islam’s great history yet goes after conservative Christians who want to practice their faith in the public square. Whether it’s Hobby Lobby or Catholic organizations and charities being discriminated against by Obamacare, Obama has shown little tolerance for those groups when it comes to their free exercise of religion or even freedom of speech. This isn’t true pluralism, it’s pluralism on his terms, and it’s disgusting and hypocritical.

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