One hint at changing attitudes, even among those who continue to believe strongly that marriage must be exclusively between one man and one woman: The Mormon Church (which provided much if not most of the financing and grass-roots support for Prop. 8 in California) just launched a new website “aimed at providing ‘greater sensitivity and better understanding’ among Latter-day Saints with regards to same-sex attraction,” reports the church-owned Deseret News in Salt Lake City.
“The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people,” the church’s position reads. “The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.”
While rejecting the notion that homosexual relations are a sin, Valerie Larabee, executive director of the Utah Pride Center, says this move by the church gives gay Mormons hope “through knowing that their families and church leaders are committed to reducing judgment, rejection, and isolation.”
The 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA, bars federal recognition of gay unions. Several pending cases challenge the provision of DOMA which effectively bars same-sex spouses from receiving federal benefits such as Social Security survivor payments.
A separate appeal asks the justices to decide whether federal courts were correct in striking down California's Proposition 8, the amendment that outlawed gay marriage after it had been approved by state courts.
While nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage – most recently Maine, Maryland, and Washington in ballot measures last month – 37 states have upheld the traditional definition of marriage as a union between one man and one woman, either through constitutional amendments or state statutes.