Recent Supreme Court Rulings and Family Restoration

       Summer for law professors and law students always brings so many events away from classes, from summer internships and clerkships, to conferences and presentations, to overseas opportunities, to special family time, to bar exam preparation, to invitations and plans for the upcoming academic year.  On top of all that, the Supreme Court generally hands down a few critical decisions at the end of June, and this year was no exception.  My excellent graduate assistant Elizabeth Oklevitch has been working in the U.S. Attorney's Office in New York and doing an excellent job of regularly handling our previously arranged posts to FamilyRestoration while I have been away from the office.  Indeed, when the three major family law cases were handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States last week I was on the other side of the world.  

            In general, while the mainstream media has reported on some aspects of these cases, they often fail to note the deeper substance of the matters involved.  More particularly, as the decisions in Hollingsworth v. Perry, (California's Proposition 8 Case on the voters' referendum defining marriage;), U.S. v. Windsor (the federal Defense of Marriage Act case challenging the definition of marriage), and Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (regarding the adoption of a Native American child under the Indian Child Welfare Act) were all highly charged socially, publicly, and emotionally and very rigorously litigated, it is critical to understand how each case relates to families and family law, and more particularly to family restoration. As I am finally having an opportunity to read each of these cases, our posts at FamilyRestoration over the next several days will attempt to clarify these cases, and help discern how they each relate to family restoration. 

            The results rendered in each case were partly expected, and partly unexpected, and each deserves deeper analysis in the family law and restoration context. In these posts we will summarize what happened, and lay out considerations for the short and long term effects of each case.  God has not abandoned marriage, children, or the family to whims of the High Court, or to the political leanings of just one member of the court (as each ruling was a 5-4 decision), but is already at work in the midst, as C.S. Lewis speaks through a dejected but ultimately royal Shasta in The Horse and His Boy that somehow "He is at the back of everything."  These posts will attempt to analyze these cases more substantively as they relate to you and your family.

            Today's post begins that analysis with some basic generalities that come out of these three cases as a whole.  Here is a brief Top 10 Overview: 

1.      The Supreme Court of the United States redefined marriage for federal purposes by changing one aspect of an important federal law, DOMA, to include marriage expansion for same-sex couples (more on this is the next post). 
2.      The marriage laws of all 50 states were not changed by any of the three cases.  The High Court did not strike down any state's marriage laws, and did not strike down DOMA's provision protecting State's laws on marriage.  Your State's laws on marriage remain intact.  Nothing will be different in your local family court. 38 States hold one view of marriage and 12 States hold another.
3.      California continues to face a conundrum within its own family laws as the state still has its domestic partnership laws, Proposition 8, and the holding of J. Vaughn Walker's District Court all sitting side by side on the books.  The Supreme Court of the United States settled nothing in regard to any of these laws either.  What has changed is that California's Governor has issued an order that marriage licenses be issued to same-sex couples.  See more.  It is not unlikely that a town clerk may refuse to obey that order in light of the legal conundrum that remains in the state, beginning litigation all over again (more on that in a future post).
4.      The Supreme Court of the United States did not find a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage.  Although oral arguments and briefs laid out the best point of view for redefining marriage before the Court, those claims did not persuade justices to strike down state marriage laws or create a new federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The Court did not declare same-sex marriage to be a federal civil right, and it did not rule to protect same-sex marriage as the Constitution protects race, nationality, religion, or ethnicity.
5.      Children and their best interests were not a factor in the recent decisions.  They can still be intentionally denied a father or a mother, or be removed from an otherwise stable environment.  The focus of each case was on the rights of adults.  
6.      The critical role of man-woman marriage is not diminished by these rulings. The essential need for children to have both a married mother and father is not lessened by the opinions.
7.      Religious freedom is still entangled and endangered in the battle to expand marriage and deconstruct the family.  Adoption agencies, churches, florists, bakers, photographers, and parents remain subject to state laws on marriage.
8.      American culture remains confused about marriage and family.  God's design for marriage, sexuality, the family, and parenting remains the moral compass for law and culture.  Your marriage and your family remain the most important component of a strong society.
9.      Adoption was protected as the legal formation of a family, particularly when that family was never formed, even though the federal code contains protections against the deconstruction of Native American families (more on this in a future post).
10.  The debate will continue over marriage expansion and family deconstruction.

            Family restoration remains a daunting task in light of each of these rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States.  That is why it is all the more true that you and I have a new opportunity to shine light on a confused culture.  Recommit your efforts to your own marriage, your own children, and your own family.  Damage may not be able to be undone, but you can begin anew by placing the interests of those you love above you own interests.  

            Our next posts will discuss the federal case, U.S. v. Windsor, more in detail; then the California case, Hollingsworth v. Perry; then Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl.  It is important to understand the rulings in each case, and how they affect your family, and family restoration.

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