While each of the same-sex marriages cases before the High Court involve different questions on the constitutionality of limiting legal definitions of marriage to one man and one woman, it was clear at the end of the second day of arguments that there is a majority of the justices ready to grant some form of federal accommodation to it.
The first question on Tuesday was whether states have the right to define marriage for themselves, as occurred in California with the Proposition 8 amendment to the state constitution limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples. The second question on Wednesday was whether the federal government can similarly limit legal marriage to a man and woman, as it did in the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA.
Indications of the High Court's answers to these questions came in the tone and nature of the questions they posed to lawyers for both sides. After listening and watching the behavior of the justices over the course of the two days, I believe the first question will be answered as yes, states retain the right to define marriage, but only for now. The answer to the second question will be no, the federal government cannot limit the definition of marriage to a man and a woman because it's obligated to defer in that matter to the respective states. I predict Justice Kennedy will be the decisive vote in that majority.
Again, based on what I saw and heard, together with other information I've gathered from very good sources here in Washington, I predict the Court will not find a sweeping, across-the-board right to same-sex marriage, but it will provide another impetus toward its full acceptance by striking down DOMA and removing all federal impediments toward it.
This will bring about a whole rack of new challenges for Christians of every tradition, but especially for members of the clergy. It will most immediately affect military and other federal institutional chaplains, such as prison and V.A. chaplains, but it will eventually reach every pastor that must be authorized by a court to preside at weddings. These are challenges we must meet prayerfully and carefully, and we must begin doing so now.
The Rev. Rob Schenck is president and lead missionary of Faith and Action, the only Christian outreach to top elected and appointed officials on Capitol Hill. He also serves as chairman of the Evangelical Church Alliance, one of America's oldest associations of independent evangelical clergy and an endorser of more than 300 military chaplains.