Saturday, November 8, 2014

Catching up with the news: Republican judges throw a curve



Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton was nominated to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush in 2001. At a time when the Democrats held the majority on the Judiciary Committee of the Senate, most of Bush’s nominees sailed through confirmation with little dissent. Sutton’s nomination was not approved by the Senate until 2003 and then on a vote of 52-41.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has a majority of conservative Republicans. In a December 2008 article — "The Politics of the Federal Bench: GOP-Appointed Majorities Winning Ideological Battles at Appellate Level" — the Washington Post described Judge Sutton’s role in that Court as "the intellectual engine behind some of the majority's more controversial rulings."

The centerpiece of Judge Sutton’s opinion upholding state bans on gay marriage is this: "For better, for worse, or for more of the same, marriage has long been a social institution defined by relationships between men and women. So long defined, the tradition is measured in millennia, not centuries or decades. So widely shared, the tradition until recently had been adopted by all governments and major religions of the world."

Except that it isn’t true. does a decent job of explaining the history of hetero-normative marriage and the recent appearance of marriage as a love story.

Judge Sutton and his conservative colleagues are also apparently ignorant of certain facts in church history, such as the fact that the early Christian church had ceremonies blessing the union of two people of the same sex. Ancient prayer books of both Western and Eastern rites contain blessing ceremonies, with at least eight identified before the 12th century and seventeen thereafter. In fact, same sex couples were married as recently as 1578 in the basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome, seat of the Pope as bishop of Rome. It was only in the 14th century that the church developed what has been called a "rabid and obsessive negative preoccupation with homosexuality as the most horrible disease."

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