Having Lost the Same-Sex Marriage Fight, What Will Opponents Do Now?

Having Lost the Same-Sex Marriage Fight, What Will Opponents Do Now? October 27, 2014

homosexuality gay marriageReverend Francis Schaefer is no longer a reverend. (I’m talking about the former United Methodist minister, not the theologian Francis Schaeffer who died in 1984.) Schaefer was defrocked a year ago because he officiated at his gay son’s 2007 wedding. His Methodist denomination states that homosexuality is “incompatible with Christian teaching.”

Schaefer was recently reinstated. His case was heard last week by the church’s highest court, the Judicial Council. It is expected to rule on Schaefer’s fate any day now. [UPDATE 10/27/14: the Judicial Council decided in Schaefer’s favor, and he has been allowed to remain an ordained minister.]

Current state of the gay-marriage issue

Two years ago, in the weeks before the 2012 U.S. election, conservative pundits gloated about their 32 victories over the previous decade and a half, an unbroken record of rejection for same-sex marriage. Six states and Washington D.C. had legalized same-sex marriage at that point, but they had done so through the legislature or court decisions, not through voter initiatives.

What a difference two years make. Three same-sex marriage initiatives won in the 2012 election, including the one in my own state of Washington. More victories trickled in. Three weeks ago, the Supreme Court declined to review three appellate court rulings, which allowed a number of lower-court rulings to stand and put most Americans in states that allowed same-sex marriage.

The next day, Nevada and Idaho joined the list. Then West Virginia, and then North Carolina, and then Alaska. Ten days ago, Arizona and Wyoming. That makes 32 states in which same-sex marriage is legal.

(Look in the dictionary and you’ll see this turnaround as the top example for the word schadenfreude.)

The comic xkcd has an enlightening graph that contrasts acceptance through public opinion vs. state-by-state legality for two issues: mixed-race marriage and same-sex marriage. The two issues played out surprisingly differently. For mixed-race marriage, legality was out in front, and even after it was legal nationwide in 1967, public acceptance was a minority opinion.

With same-sex marriage, it was the other way around. Public opinion was the leader (56% approving vs. 37% disapproving at the moment), which supported the landslide of states approving it in the last two years.

Conservatives lost the gay marriage issue; what hijinks are next?

The gay marriage issue in the United States has been used by politicians as a vote getter. They play Chicken Little and insist that the sky is falling. They’ll cry that only by voting for them will the looming catastrophe be avoided. That this “catastrophe” doesn’t exist seems not to have hurt their cause.

Or, at least it hadn’t in the past. Many voters now find the anti-gay stance offensive, and it is turning many young people away from churches that embrace that message. Since Plan A has soured, what’s next?

Conservative politicians and Christians see the writing on the wall. Going forward, homosexuality will be to them as morally relevant as left-handedness, another inborn trait the church historically was on the wrong side of. We’ll be on the same page, at least on this moral issue.

Kidding! In fact, Mike Huckabee, perhaps to demonstrate his presidential timber, recently doubled down on the losing position. A GOP that went flaccid on same-sex marriage, Huckabee said, would lose members like himself. The conservative position may morph into a rear-guard action that does nothing useful as it simply tries to slow the inevitable. It may wane only as these conservatives they die off.

#AtheistVoter

The right to impose one’s will on others

We will have more of the Gay Cake Food Fight in our future. The obligation to treat homosexual customers equally seems to be the new battleground and “religious liberty” the new battle cry.

Elane Photography refused to provide services for a same-sex commitment ceremony in 2006 and lost in the New Mexico Supreme Court in 2013. One critique of that ruling:

The danger here is that the courts are now telling all of us that we must compartmentalize our religious beliefs. What we believe on a Sunday we cannot act upon on Monday or we will be in violation of the law.

Well, yeah. If what you believe on Sunday is morally indefensible, it won’t fly when you leave the church. You expect society to apologize for that?

Religious freedom exists in this country thanks to the U.S. Constitution and for no other reason. The Constitution calls the tune. Imagine that there’s a Law above the law if you like, but you’re bound first by the only law we can agree actually exists, the law of the land. When religious belief clashes with the law, guess which one wins?

If you need help answering that question, remember Davis v. Beason, the Supreme Court case that prohibited polygamy. From the unanimous decision:

However free the exercise of religion may be, it must be subordinate to the criminal laws of the country.

Discriminate against a gay couple? How about against a mixed-race couple?

Consider a parallel situation. Suppose someone had a deeply held Christian belief that mixed-race marriage was wrong. Would these Christians support denying mixed-race customers in that case?

There’s plenty of biblical support for this position.

Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons. (Deuteronomy 7:3)

Do not give your daughters in marriage to their sons or take their daughters for your sons (Ezra 9:12).

We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons (Nehemiah 10:30).

Is discriminating against a gay couple on religious grounds justified if discriminating against a mixed-race couple is not? Think about how Christians respond to this thought problem.

Concluded in Part 2.

We’ve got to stop being the stupid party.
— Bobby Jindal,
Republican governor of Louisiana

Photo credit: Patrick Giguère

"The universe pretty much ignores me, so I try to return the favor."

How Much Faith to Be an ..."
"Having said all this, I'll back track and say that I do see atheist bias ..."

How Much Faith to Be an ..."
"My samples were in stroganoff form; trying a minestrone next. Burger is a much better ..."

A Response to David Gelernter’s Attack ..."
"Big bang seems to suggest a small amount of space preceded matter."

How Much Faith to Be an ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Baby_Raptor

    You’ll have to get them to admit that they’ve lost first. The churches where I live are currently campaigning to “solve the problem” by making a Constitutional Amendment ‘protecting marriage’ and sentencing anyone caught in ‘homosexual activity’ to immediate death.

    I do so love the fact that my tax dollars are paying for these people to plot my death.

    • Granted. Some will proceed as if they still have a chance. But then there were holdouts within those who were on the wrong side of the Civil Rights movement as well.

      Are there articles about this initiative? They seriously want to put homosexuals to death? Do they want to stone them??

  • Michael Andrews

    Great article, Bob! The stupid runs pretty deep with these religion-istas!…◔_◔

  • Harmony

    I foresee the next arena of contention being with the process of adoption. The gay movement is ‘redefining’ the meaning of marriage, the next stage for conservatives is trying to defend the ‘family’- excluding all single parents. guardians, grandparents or relatives taking over caretaking, divorcees, abusive parents, and other dysfunctional nuclear families. Little pessimistic today.

    • I think you’re on target with your criticism. “Family” has a pretty narrow definition for them. They ignore the fact that there are more straight couples unable to get pregnant than all gay people, married or not.

      • Kodie

        The thing they have against gay marriage is really very obvious. Gay couples need at least one other person to conceive a child, and so there should be no obstacle to adoption once the marriage is legitimized by law. The religious oppose birth control, abortion, and public assistance, and have very little interest in stopping the birth rate, teen or otherwise, if you look at it. “Pregnancy crisis centers” are where young women are steered in hopes of finding an option other than abortion, and they are lulled into a false sense of capability to be able to keep their pregnancy and keep the child, but once it’s too late, the tune changes, and women are harassed and abused to give up their child for adoption. Christians want to monopolize voluntary as well as coerced, adoptions, and so oppose marriage equality for gay couples. They say it’s all about a covenant or sacred vows and all, but it’s especially about families!

        It’s superficially about controlling women’s sexuality, but they know they live in the real world and seek to exploit real women getting into dire circumstances by limiting their options. It’s superficially that gay couples are “icky” “unnatural” or “sinful” but it’s really about how it’s going to cut into their bottom line. Of course no Christian would reveal the truth, because they are kept in the dark and used like pawns and persuaded emotionally to vote and campaign and and protest against all the seemingly unrelated parts, using shame and disgust and judgment and a poor understanding of biological reality as their arguments.

        And that is why they do not have a friggin’ thing against straight married couples who are unable to conceive.

    • Machintelligence

      The problem is that they have already lost that fight. There have already been enough adoptions by single sex couples over the last few decades to provide sound evidence that it is not detrimental to the children involved.

  • TheUnknownPundit

    If the same sex marriage issue follows the same pattern as previous issues, in a few generations there will be Christians who will decry the stance of today’s Christian conservatives and claim that their religion supported it all along.During the era of civil rights legislation there were Christians on both sides of the issue and those that opposed civil rights legislation cited the Bible as their authority, referencing some of the verses Bob used in this post. And in the 19th Century, Christians split over the issue of slavery (Southern Baptists anyone?) with some supporting abolition and some opposing abolition and those that opposed abolition used Bible verses in support of their pro-slavery position. And now today, decades or a century and half later, most Christians would say that their religious forefathers who opposed civil rights or opposed the abolition of slavery were wrong.What this demonstrates is that a belief in God, contrary to the assertions of believers, doesn’t necessarily give the believer any superior moral insight on issues of the day. In fact, it is often the opposite because believers think Biblical moral proclamations come from God and therefore are sacrosanct. And by slavishly adhering to the Bible as the only true source of morality, they bring into the modern world a set of ideas on morality that aren’t based on any good reasons other than the fact they come from their holy book.And that is why Huckabee and his ilk can’t think anyway other than they do. They’ve made themselves slaves to the proclamations and ideas of primitive, barbaric and superstitious men who lived thousands of years ago.

    • Hope springs eternal. Christianity leads them astray and when they realize it … they double down on Christianity.

    • $28895381

      This is exactly right. Two generations from now Christians will claim that the vast majority of Christians were out front leading the fight for gay marriage and the Christians that fought against it were the exception, not the rule. Exactly opposite of how it actually is/was.

  • Without Malice

    It looks like the opponents of gay marriage may not have to do anything. Most of Americans are now for gay marriage, but they seem ready to give the senate to the republicans who will probably, as a first order of business, try to outlaw gay marriage. Probably just before they turn their attention to repealing Obama-care, destroying social security, and impeaching the president for . . . well, for anything they can think of.

    • busterggi

      And defunding ACORN, its still a right-wing boogyman.

  • Pofarmer

    “That this “catastrophe” doesn’t exist seems not to have hurt their cause.”

    Eh, conservatives and Christians are used to non existant catastrophes.

  • I’ve heard that in the civil rights era and afterward opponents indeed attempted to justify discriminating against black people (which included opposing interracial marriage) due to religious freedom. This didn’t work, of course-nor should it.

    • I’ve tried without much success to find articles in the 60s about pushback against interracial marriage. Let me know if you come across any. Microfilm archives somehow just don’t compare with the internet.

      (Of course, despite the fact that that would be a perfect parallel to idiotic pushback against same-sex marriage, I’m sure Christians still wouldn’t see the irony.)

      • Kodie

        Inter-racial marriage is still an issue in families and communities. Maybe it depends more on if you’re old or whatever. Think about it – if I am straight and I was in love with a man of a different race, it would probably be an issue, and why can’t I just go out and try for a white guy? If I were gay, race might still be an issue, but there’s nothing I could do about being in love with another woman. Both of these are likely issues in some homes, but sexuality and race are two very different things. Sexuality is (one aspect of) who YOU ARE. The person you choose to spend your life with depends on YOUR needs. Race is not like that, at least from a perspective. Race in this context is who YOU CHOOSE. It’s not you, it’s someone else’s trait. You can’t choose not to be gay like you can break up with someone and choose to be with someone of the same race instead.

        Many families still teach and understand sexuality to also be something you choose, and force you to see it their way and live a lie by making a more “appropriate” choice, but many families teach and understand sexuality to be something you don’t choose, love their gay kids, and still have an issue with their child entering a relationship with a person of another race. Maybe not kick-’em-out issue but it makes them uncomfortable and possibly vocal about it.

      • I only have hearsay, sorry. It would fit with their former views on slavery though, which were also justified with Christianity.

        • Was it just that last page or the whole article that you found interesting?

          BTW, that photo of Bob Jones U makes it look like a prison. Ironic.

        • Crap, I meant to link to the first page! Sorry!
          BJU does look rather bleak, doesn’t it? They probably keep the ovens in that building for the bad kids! As well the lobotomy scissors…

        • I’ll take a look. Thanks!

  • pianoman

    I tried to ask a politician who was against gay marriage if he’d consider that if LGBT people only have, say, 70% of the rights of straight citizens, that they should only pay 70% of their taxes each year. If the government doesn’t view them as equals, then they shouldn’t fund that unequal status with their money.

    Funny, he wouldn’t give me an answer.

  • RichardSRussell

    The gay marriage issue in the United States has been used by politicians as a vote getter. They play Chicken Little and insist that the sky is falling. They’ll cry that only by voting for them will the looming catastrophe be avoided. That this “catastrophe” doesn’t exist seems not to have hurt their cause.

    Another imaginary “catastrophe” is the insidious peril of voter fraud — somebody showing up at the polls and pretending to be someone else so as to cast an extra ballot for their preferred candidates. “What a terrible thing!” they exclaim. “Why would we let somebody cancel my vote!?”, they thunder in indignant outrage, simultaneously demonstrating their insecurity (any such fraudulent vote would cancel their own rather than doubling it) and their narcissism (of the million votes that might have been offset by the fraudulent one, it was theirs in particular that was targeted). The observable fact that voter fraud is almost as rare as unicorns fazes them not at all.

    Voter suppression, now, where a ton of hurdles is strewn in the path of perfectly eligible voters, that’s going on all the time and getting bigger every day.

    The conservative position may morph into a rear-guard action that does nothing useful as it simply tries to slow the inevitable. It may wane only as these conservatives die off.

    Actually, I hope the rear guard fights on for decades to come, because every time they open their mouths they drive more young people away from religion.

  • Deanjay1961

    I think that losing members like Huckabee is the best thing that could happen to the GOP. I recommend the Constitution Party. It failed to draw wnough wingnuts off the Libertarian Party, maybe it will do better with the Republicans.

  • Well, hatred and discrimination of transgender people is alive and well in all kinds of ways, and… despite some good fights happening… that’s a battle that the social conservatives are still kind of winning or at least doing well at, sadly…

    • Not to worry. 30 years from now, they’ll not only be on board; they’ll tell you how it was conservatives who led the parade.

  • nakedanthropologist

    Conservatives have lost the same sex marriage battle, this is true. But now the lgbtq+ community faces another (and very important) contentious issue: non-discrimination laws (such as ones concerning housing, employment, ect…). We need more than marriage. I currently live in Tennessee, and it’s perfectly legal here for me to be fired from my job just for being queer. I can be denied housing. And on top of all that, bigots Luke Turek and his ilk keep on trying to pass laws that would allow Christians to refuse me service in restaurants, bakeries…even emergency medical care. The sheer bigotry is mind-boggling, and frightening.