Calls for protecting “religious liberty” have expanded beyond school prayer and religious monuments on government property to become a rallying call for the Christian right in America following the U.S. Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage, the Obamacare contraception mandate, reports of anti-Christian activity in the military, and anti-discrimination ordinances protecting the LGBT community.
This is in response to what conservatives view as a “stampede of secularism” according to Buzzfeed writer McCay Coppins.
Many are concerned that the legalization of same-sex marriage is a serious threat to the free speech and free exercise of religion rights of those who support traditional marriage. For instance, in San Antonio, Texas, a proposed ordinance would prohibit the government appointment of any person who has shown a past bias against a gay person in “word or deed.” The current San Antonio ordinance Sec 2-9 states, “No person shall be appointed to a position if the council finds that such person has, prior to such proposed appointment, engaged in discrimination or demonstrated a bias, by word or deed, against any person, group or organization on the basis of race, religion, national origin, sex, age, or handicap.” The proposed change would add “sexual orientation” to this list.
According to Ryan Anderson, writing in the National Review, “Policy should prohibit the government or anyone who receives taxpayers’ dollars from discriminating in employment, licensing, accreditation, or contracting against those who believe marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has previously stressed that the Supreme Court made too strong a decision in Roe v. Wade and that this sparked the tremendous backlash that has existed to this day. Perhaps this is the reason for the Court’s reluctance to tackle same-sex marriage all at once, but rather to lay the groundwork for what will likely become the national legalization of same-sex marriage in incremental steps.
Without going into too much detail, here’s how I think that will happen. I don’t think the Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act is the final word because it fails to address what happens if one spouse in a same-sex marriage earns money in a state that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage – will they have to pay more in taxes by filing separately or can they file jointly? This would once again seem to threaten equality under the law. Secondly, on California’s Proposition 8, the Court punted the ball on a standing issue – already same-sex marriage supporters are already threatening lawsuits in states like Utah and Texas which will defend their state constitutional bans all the way to the Supreme Court forcing the Court to rule on the merits.
But unlike the abortion issue, which continues to divide the nation in lines that cut across religious belief or nonbelief, gender, and education, same-sex marriage is increasingly viewed as viable by Americans. If churches, institutions, and individuals that support traditional marriage wish to carve out niches for their teachings and activities, they should start to negotiate now before the cement is dry.
If you’re in favor of same-sex marriage, I think that the law will inevitably make room for you. But I would hope that as this happens, you will room for those who are deeply convicted, not out of a sense of discrimination or hatred but rather sincere religious devotion and a sense of traditional morality, to support marriage as only between a man and a woman and to promote this view in their teachings.
If you’re in favor of traditional marriage, I hope that you will model good marriages by example and do the hard work necessary to strengthen family bonds in your congregations and communities. I hope that you will realize that you cannot depend on public policy or law as a place in which to anchor your sense of morality and that you find your source of wisdom in that which far and above exceeds the best that humanity can muster. It for reasons like this that the founders of the United States recognized the value of keeping church and state separate.
There is no benefit in attempting to silence the speech of the other side, but one would hope they would speak constructively. It’s going to be a difficult compromise, but setting aside those things upon which neither side is willing to compromise, and recognizing and respecting the fact that those differences exist and will not change, while working together to find practical solutions that will diminish the effect of the culture wars will lead to far less cost, less national stress, and fewer casualties.
1. Identify the differences.
2. Identify the ideas that neither side will compromise.
3. Take stock of what is left over.
4. Develop provisional agreements for what is left over.
5. Test them with potential scenarios.
6. Repeat steps 4-5 until you have reached workable solutions.
The United States is one of the few nations that doesn’t disintegrate into civil war whenever we have a disagreement. The peaceful democracy backed up by the executive branch and judicial branch have worked to develop a climate of economic prosperity, and prosperity leads to peace. We all have to live together. Let’s figure out how to get past this.