Professor Reinbold Discusses Same-Sex Marriage Before the Supreme Court

Assistant Professor of Religion Jenna Reinbold gave a lecture Tuesday, September 22 on the importance of secular argumentation in the recent Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges.

In her lecture, Reinbold, whose book Seeing the Myth in Human Rights is slated to be released next year, argued that the case avoided using religious belief as a defense against the institution of same sex-marriage, and instead emphasized the biological and social repercussions of same-sex marriage.

Reinbold’s thesis was based on the notion that there are three distinct types of secular argumentation: “natural scientific,” which emphasizes biology and science; “social scientific,” which emphasizes social welfare; and “legal,” which emphasizes governmental and state rights. She noted that all of these are important alternatives to religious augmentation in a case such as this.

Reinbold highlighted three previous Supreme Court cases as important predecessors, which set the stage for Obergefell v. Hodges’ secular argumentation: Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971) determined that laws require secular purpose and effect, Lawrence v. Texas (2003) determined that “tradition” is not sufficient enough to justify law and Loving v. Virginia (1967) determined that “tradition” can be used to justify many “terrible” things. All of these cases indicated the importance of a secular argument for the defense in the case Reinbold spoke about.

In Obergefell v. Hodges, defense lawyer John J. Bursch argued that marriage is about filling a biological need, and that homosexual marriage would directly violate this need. However, the court concluded that the defense did not show a strong enough foundation for the conclusion that same-sex marriage violates biological rights. The court also concluded that the decision to allow same-sex marriage, a human right, supersedes the argument for states’ rights.

Students at the lecture expressed positive sentiment about the speaker and her discussion.

“I thought her argument was well substantiated and clearly showed how the language of both sides was used to argue both issues,” sophomore James Goldin said.

“Her secular argumentation points were fascinating and something I hadn’t necessarily considered before … I was surprised to see the attempted redirection of the anti-homosexual marriage argument from simply religious matters to scientific and social welfare justifications,” senior Catherine Matuska said.