A huge part of my frustration comes from the fact that they were voted out because of a homophobic reaction to one decision they made during the course of their tenures. In a unanimous ruling by the court, a law that limited marriage between a man and a woman was deemed unconstitutional. The decision itself can be read here. It is extremely well written, and worth the read. One of the first responses our bishop, Bishop Julius C. Trimble, made was that in no way does that decision impact what we do or do not have to do as clergy. We are not being forced to marry those whom our Discipline says we are not allowed to marry. But as far as the state is concerned, as far as the institution that the state is concerned with, the rights should be granted to all.
I realize that folks are of all sorts of different opinion about the issue of same-sex marriage. I respect your beliefs. I hope you will respect mine.
My frustration is with the precedent that this particular retention vote sets for the future of our judiciary. In conversations that I have had with others in the past week, I have become ever more aware of two things.
1) Folks don't understand the role of the judicial system. There are all sorts of arguments going on saying that a court shouldn't be making law and shouldn't be accepting cases of such a highly volitile nature and I have even heard more than once that the courts don't get to interpret the law - they just need to enforce it. Basic civics lesson - the courts job IS to interpret the law. It is to recieve cases, brought by the people or the state, that bring forth questions of constitutionality. Is a particular law constitutional? The congress can't decide that, the people can't decide that, the executive branch can't decide that... it is the court's role to interpret the law and hold it against the constitution to deem its worthiness. AND - they issue opinions. That is their role. Their rulings are deemed opinions because they are interpretations in particular times and places. The executive branch enforces the law, the congressional branch makes the law, but the judicial branch interprets. It always has been and always will be its role. The congressional branch is absolutely free to make amendments to the constititution that will then change what that opinion might be in the future... that's part of the checks and balances system. Instead of being upset with the unanimous decision of the justices, the anger in this case should have been directed towards those who refused to bring an amendment to the table.
Which means... any United Methodist Church belongs to the Church and not the people. Any pastor who serves in said church is accountable to the Church and not the people. That may be a slight oversimplification... but I hope you get the point.
I am lucky enough to be a part of a system that allows me to make tough decisions and I get to keep my job. My heart goes out to those not only for whom that was not the case here in Iowa, but for those across the world who take tough stands every single day and are punished for it, who are ridiculed, who are persecuted, and who die for those decisions. I am more lucky that I realize. And I pray that I might use this gift for good and not squander it.