A group of prominent Christians has published a letter indicating their intention to defy any decision by the Supreme Court that legalizes gay marriage or overturns the Defense of Marriage Act. Without bothering to wait for the decisions in gay marriage cases before the court, they have argued that natural law supersedes the Constitution.

You can read their argument here:

http://www.lc.org/media/9980/attachments/pr_ltr_marriage_solidarity...

Natural Law is a concept from Catholic theology that has been used to provide a basis for both morality and legality. A general discussion of its history and substance may be found here:

http://www.iep.utm.edu/natlaw/

In a nutshell, natural law is a claim that there are objective moral (or legal) standards which can be discovered by human reason. As such it is not a part of revealed religion, but might be considered as part of natural religion. Of course in the present instance the claim is that marriage is between one man and one woman is an objective moral law.

The unanswered question is what form their defiance can take. Mere refusal to recognize gay marriages is a weak kind of defiance if it can be called defiance at all. Another question is the degree to which Americans are prepared to recognize natural law as an objective basis for actual law. I would bet that the notion of natural law is not widely understood. Its purported independence of religious claims is also open to question.

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It's an old point, made many times here ... but if they want to deal with natural law, they can deal with the fact that homosexuality occurs in hundreds of species on this planet, Homo sapiens included.  Still, I expect them to cherry-pick their concept of natural law about the same way as they cherry-pick their bible.

At least in that regard, they display one virtue - consistency!

Exactly. Natural law is supposed to be discoverable through reason and that should include scientific observation of the sexual habits of many species.

The timing of their announcement is puzzling. I'm sure the decisions of the court have been made already and could not be influenced at this late stage. So why not wait for the decisions and respond to what they say? They are preparing the ground for defeat and trying to start a riot against a decision they haven't heard.

The assertion that natural law supersedes the Constitution may not sit well with many who agree with their opposition to gay marriage since it leaves open many other issues.

The problem with the catholic concept of "natural law" is that it is what THEY want natural law to be.  Now, if they wanted to talk about the laws of physics and of the observable world, that would be one thing.  What they want, of course, is THEIR VERSION of natural law, which is more observable in the bible than it is in nature.

As for SCOTUS, there are any one of three or four ways they could rule, for what I've seen, and the fallout from that ruling goes way beyond a few religious idiot-children, especially if The Nine rule IN FAVOR of Prop 8 and/or DoMA.  Unfortunately, it is very likely that they will either rule narrowly or dismiss the case on "standing" grounds.  Fact is, such a ruling could be even worse, since it would indicate that SCOTUS hasn't the cojones to face this issue, particularly when more and more states are facing it, and when more public votes on the gay marriage issue are now going FOR GLBT rights when they had been overwhelmingly going against them in the past.

That ruling may also bring to light the issue of religious affiliation and the Supreme Court, as I believe there are three catholics on the Court, Scalia being the most notable of them.  For once, maybe the question can be begged as to just how well these men and women remove their personal beliefs from their judicial rulings.

I believe there are three catholics on the Court

You're quite wrong about that: there are six Catholics on the current Supreme Court. They are by name: Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Roberts, Alito, and Sotomayor.

The three other justices, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan, are Jewish.

In two words: Bloody Hell...

Loren, since we are dealing with legal principles, cajones may the wrong expression.  I believe the  latin term is testiculus.  :)

Latin seems to have two words: testis, meaning testicle, and testiculus, which ought to be a diminutive of the first. Do you or anyone else have the cajones to try to explain this?

When it comes to the supreme court, the diminutive would be appropriate.  It's best to start with low expectations.

Indeed, but I'm OK with their making decisions solely on the basis of the law and avoiding political or philosophical questions.

The claim for natural law is that it is inscribed in the human heart, so observations of other species means nothing to its adherents.  Apparently, though, it is not inscribed on all human hearts, only the hearts of the true believers.

It is a myth that "homosexuality" is omnipresent in the non-human animal kingdom. It is in fact extremely rare and usually the result of societal duress, such as overpopulation. Also "homosexuality" in the animal kingdom is penis play, whereas for humans we attribute heterosexual lifestyle characteristics to homosexuals (such as parenting, life sharing) which are pretty much non-existent in the non-human animal kingdom. It is fine for a community of citizens to enshrine gay rights in our social structure, but let's not distort the biological sciences in order to serve our agenda. It is below us.

Morality is messy stuff, driven by deep psychological urges, but only certain parts of it can be justified rationally. Most of it is profoundly subjective and somewhat irrational (Sam Harris notwithstanding).

A 'natural law' advocate fully accepts that homosexuality occurs in nature and will argue that blindness also occurs in nature but is not necessarily good. What they are doing is working from a series of principles (which happen to align with their religion) and constructing a model of ideal human behavior that supports those conclusions. To some degree, some humanists do the same thing.

Our internal models of morality are partly genetic and partly molded by our environment, but normally the moral basis we 'discover' just happens to align with the moral construct we already hold.

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