On Monday, the Supreme Court essentially said yes to legal same-sex marriage in five states, and ultimately in all 50 states. Technically, of course, the court refused to hear cases from three courts of appeal that ruled in favor of same sex marriage. The Supreme Court let their rulings stand, and presto! Legal same-sex marriage expanded to five more states, for a total of 24 states plus the District of Columbia. It's just a matter of time before it is legal in all 50 states. Essentially, the court recognized reality: Same-sex marriage is here to stay.
What does this have to do with the Catholic church or the synod on the family? Well, both could learn from the Supreme Court. The court did not issue a formal opinion, but it did -- implicitly -- recognize that same-sex marriage has won the day when it comes to the law. It essentially recognized the principle underneath that reality: equality under the law.
Taking a leaf from the court, the hierarchy could, at the very least, recognize the same reality by changing the church's pastoral approach to same-sex couples and implementing policies of equality.
Where gay or lesbian couples are married -- and this will increasingly be the case -- parishes and church institutions need to respect them. That means welcoming such couples as full members of parishes, allowing them to serve as lectors or eucharistic ministers or members of the parish council.
And above all, it means stopping the unjust firings of gay teachers, choir directors or people in other parish positions.
Ultimately of course, the hierarchy needs to change its highly negative theology of same-sex relationships. But until that happens, the Supreme Court provides a key lesson: Recognize the growing sense of human equality and let it stand. And oh, yes: They might move toward implementing the sentiments of that famous Catholic who once said, "Who am I to judge?"