I am in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. This morning I delivered a paper entitled, “Justificatory Liberalism and Same-Sex Marriage,” during one of the sessions of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.
I first began thinking about the paper’s main argument nearly three years ago when I wrote a piece for First Things‘ On the Square, “Same-Sex Marriage and the Failure of Justificatory Liberalism.” Here’s how it begins:
On November 4, 2008, the people of California—in a 52 to 48 percent vote—placed in the state’s constitution an amendment that reaffirmed that marriage consists of one man and one woman. The amendment, Proposition 8, overturned the California Supreme Court’s May 2008 ruling that invalidated a statute that was passed in 2000 in a statewide referendum by a 61 to 39 percent vote. That 2008 opinion held that limiting marriage to one man and one woman, as required in the 2000 statute, violated the equal protection rights of homosexuals under the California constitution.
Following the Proposition 8 victory, thousands of its opponents protested in a number of California venues including in front of the Mormon Temple in Los Angeles and Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Orange County. The rage and anger exhibited toward the Latter-day Saint and Evangelical believers who were present during the protests was palpable. The protesters were clearly blaming their loss on the effort and organizational and financial support of LDS citizens as well as Pastor Warren’s vocal backing for Proposition 8.
There is a certain irony in seeing those who speak so often of tolerance and understanding using the occasion of a political loss to unleash a torrid of vitriol that no one would ever confuse with tolerance and understanding if the perpetrators were burning crosses or Dixie Chick CDs. And yet the perpetrators in this instance, the losers in the Prop 8 election, do not see it that way. They see the absence of same-sex marriage from our legal regime as a grave injustice that must be remedied by any means necessary. For them, tolerance does not extend to injustice.