When will conservative outrage over same-sex marriage subside?

It’s early to say whether or when the outcry over the Supreme Court’s June 26 decision legalizing same-sex marriage will quiet down, but last week popular Christian writer Jonathan Merritt made an interesting point (link) about the “cultural amnesia” of some same-sex marriage opponents. When he recently joked on Twitter that millions of conservative Christians were shocked to discover their traditional marriages had not been harmed by the Supreme Court’s ruling, he got a number of responses insisting nobody had expected any such harm, even though it’s easy to show otherwise.

For example, the Family Research Council predicted that legal same-sex marriage would lead to adultery, divorce, and a falling birth rate, and others said same-sex marriage “reduces the worth” of traditional marriage and mysteriously “could hurt straight marriage in ways that people never anticipated.” Merritt predicts that there will be similar forgetfulness about wild claims currently being made. To supplement the ones Merritt mentions, here are a handful of others:

  • Representative Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) issued a predictably excited statement declaring that the Supreme Court decision “blatantly violates the law in order to destroy the foundational building block for society provided by Nature and Nature’s God.” He added that “God’s hand of protection will be withdrawn as future actions from external and internal forces will soon make clear.”
  • Fox News’s Todd Starnes warned churchgoers (video) that the Court’s ruling put Christians “on the verge of having our faith criminalized.” A bit later (2:40 into the video) he added (apparently referring to the ongoing debate over the Confederate battle flag and related matters), “If you think the cultural purging of the southern states in recent days has been breathtaking, wait until you see what they are about to unleash on the people like here gathered at the First Baptist Church in Texarkana.” He warned, “All dissent will be silenced by the government and by the activists.”
  • A week ago, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Mordor) told Newsmax (video) he’d seen a “secret memo” from the Justice Department that reveals plans to legalize beastiality, pedophilia, and more. “They’re coming down with twelve new perversions,” he said, chuckling for some reason. “LGBT is only the beginning. They’re going to start expanding it to the other perversions.”
  • Bryan Fischer, former Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association, warned on his radio program July 2 (video) that unless preventive action is taken, “The day is coming when it will be against the law for Christians to hold public office. … I say that because of what the Supreme Court did on Friday” (i.e., legalize same-sex marriage).

One might hope that when these horrors don’t materialize a lot of those who believed them will either admit the warnings were bogus or at least exhibit the “social amnesia” Merritt writes of and forget they ever said or heard such things.

(Something along those lines happened when it became clear that the Affordable Care Act had significantly reduced the number of people without health insurance — contrary to forecasts of prominent opponents — and many of those opponents started denying they’d ever predicted what they’d predicted.)

It’s also possible, I’d say likely, that the great majority of people will simply forget about the subject in fairly short order, either ignoring or being annoyed by any continuing outcry. This seems to have been the reaction in North Carolina after federal courts overturned the state’s constitutional amendment barring same-sex marriage and civil unions in late 2014. That amendment had been passed less than three years previously, in May 2012, by a margin of 61 to 39 percent. But once same-sex marriages started taking place without anything bad or even particularly noticeable happening, it appears that most people just moved on.

In fact, at least one of the main politicians behind the amendment acknowledged even before it was passed that its future was doubtful, simply given the obvious trends in public opinion. I’m speaking of Thom Tillis, who was Republican speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives when the amendment was passed and ratified (and is now in the U.S. Senate). Just a few weeks before the ratification vote Tillis told students at North Carolina State University, “If it passes, I think it will be repealed within 20 years.”

When the subject returned to news in advance of the federal Supreme Court ruling, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a law permitting county employees with any religious objections to a particular marriage — whether to a same-sex marriage, a mixed-race marriage, or anything else — to opt out of issuing such a marriage license or performing such a civil wedding, provided they do so for all weddings of any sort for a period of at least six months. But the law also requires that marriage-related services remain available in every county for a minimum of 10 hours per week and at least three business days per week.

Republican Governor Pat McCrory vetoed the bill when it was first passed, saying the officials in question had sworn to carry out their duties impartially regardless of personal views, but the even-more-Republican legislature quickly overrode his veto after a fair amount of arm twisting and parliamentary maneuvering, no advance notice of the vote, and no debate allowed in the state House of Representatives. Details about the law and the politics surrounding its passage can be found at this link and this one.

In practice, however, so few clerks and magistrates have taken advantage of the law that the practical effect has been almost completely negligible.

(Interestingly, in Alabama, where Chief Justice Roy Moore ordered state employees to ignore the U.S. Supreme Court, only some counties are failing to issue marriage licenses, but even in those counties there is no discrimination against same-sex couples. Counties either issue licenses to same-sex couples or they issue them to nobody. Even the notorious Kentucky clerk had stopped issuing license entirely, not merely to same-sex couples as many news reports erroneously stated.)

If the topic doesn’t fade away, it might encourage more conservatives to turn out to vote, as social issues have done in the past. It might also hurt the Republican brand among swing voters, especially given how quickly support has grown among the public for same-sex marriage. But despite lip-service paid by some Republican candidates to the idea of rolling back the decision, conservative focus now seems to be on protecting florists, bakers, and wedding planners in states and localities where civil rights laws extend to sexual orientation. (Contrary to popular believe, no such laws exist in much of the U.S.) Even there, however, the number of businesses willing to turn away customers seems fairly limited. Here in North Carolina, which lacks legal protections for discrimination against gays and lesbians, there have been wedding shows specifically aimed at marketing wedding services to same-sex couples.

(Updated 2016 March 7.)

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When will conservative outrage over same-sex marriage subside? — 1 Comment

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