Federal Judge Hinckley of Tallahassee has declared the Florida ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional since it opposes the Fourteenth Amendment on equal protection and due process. The Fourteenth Amendment reads:
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
In order for this amendment to apply to marriage it was necessary for the courts to redefine marriage from its historic understanding based on moral law, to be primarily a “private, intimate, committed and exclusive union that is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition” as the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled.
As philosopher Roger Scruton commented,
Marriage has grown around the idea of sexual difference and all that sexual difference means. To make this feature accidental rather than essential is to change marriage beyond recognition.
Now that the courts have made this an issue of equal protection and due process there will pressure on all those who perform marriages to conform to this ruling. This means that every Judge or Notary Public, or whoever is licensed by the state to perform marriages, will be required not to discriminate against same-sex couples. If a Judge or Notary Public refuses to marry someone because they are Christians who do not believe in same-sex marriage, they will be charged with discrimination and violating a person’s civil rights. They will be told that if they cannot perform their civil duties they should resign from their positions or face law suits. If a person does not want to let out rooms, or rent property, or provide services for same-sex couples they will likewise be charged with unconstitutional behavior.
Clergy, although they may be protected by the separation of church and state, will come under increasing pressure to perform same-sex weddings. Same-sex couples will seek to have their weddings in churches and office staff and clergy will have to learn to know how to minister to them while at the same time refusing to change their stance on Christian marriage. The gap between what the state mandates as legal and a civil right and what the church believes as moral will increase.
While this concerns a minority (2%) of the population it has become a litmus test of political correctness in the media. It will be interesting to see how the overwhelming majority of the population which wants to be tolerant and non-judgmental copes with the application of the law in the community at large. The challenge to love our neighbor is complicated when our neighbor requires us to go against our conscience or else be sued.