Hard Decisions for the Church after Obergefell
Regis NicollRegis Nicoll's weblog
- 2015 Jul 11
If you were surprised at the Supreme Court ruling that redefined mankind’s most primal and essential institution, you shouldn’t have been. The Pandora’s box of state-sanctioned pseudotrimony was flung open in 2004, making the Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges inevitable.
After Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex “marriage,” it took a mere decade for 36 states to follow suit (although only three by popular vote) and for the Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).*
Although the 2013 DOMA ruling did not make SSM a constitutional right, the High Court tipped its hand on future decisions by casting the Act as demeaning, disparaging, and injurious to gay people and their families. (It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to presage a time when the same reasoning will be used to libel two-partner, genderless “marriage” as equally injurious to heterosexual, homosexual, and non-sexual throuples and other varieties of familial associations.)
Despite the Court’s sentiment, it limited the DOMA decision to the granting of federal benefits, leaving state law intact. States with traditional marriage laws could continue to refuse recognition of non-traditional marriages performed legally in other states. The effect was an incremental move toward nationalization that avoided getting too far in front of public opinion. At the time, public support for legal SSM was 50 percent (up from 32 percent just ten years prior).
A turning tide
In the last two years, the tide of popular opinion has caught up with the liberal leanings of the Court. Today, 57 percent of the general public and 73 percent of millennials favor SSM. What’s more, Fortune 500 companies like Walmart, Apple, Starbucks, and Target have been active advocates for “marriage equality” with no negative market impact.
Then there’s that fact that SSM was already legal in three fourths of the Union with over 200,000 legally married homosexual couples, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. But a marriage that isn’t transportable from Massachusetts to Texas isn’t a marriage; it is a social construction that promotes discrimination, inequality, and confusion—social injustices the Justices were compelled to correct with a wave of their Constitutional scepter.
And correct they did, by conjuring up a right for homosexual pseudotrimony from the “penumbras and emanations” of the Constitution. The result is a man-made civil right that will continue to trump human rights our nation’s founders deemed self-evident and inalienable: the freedoms of conscience, association, and religious expression.
Yes, continue, as the assault on these freedoms has been underway for some time: from court orders and civil suits brought against wedding service providers, faith-based charities, and parents wanting to exempt their children from indoctrination; to the loss of certification and employment by professional counselors, military chaplains, and company CEOs whose thoughts and beliefs run afoul of “marriage equality” dogma. All in lockstep with the rhetorical shift from “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship” by the political class.
About those exemptions
With genderless “marriage” nationalized and state marriage laws overturned, the assault will ramp up. And it won’t stop at the church door—for what Caesar has declared “holy,” no one, not even the Church, will be allowed to declare “unholy.”
Oh, but there’s the religious exemption, you say.
The state, having consecrated gay “marriage” as a civil right, will no more exempt a church from marrying same-sex couples or allowing non-celibate homosexuals as members, leaders, or staffers than it would for ethnic minorities. Oh, it may for a while, but only in the interests of incrementalization. (Over the weeks and months ahead, look for same-sex couples to press legal action against churches refusing to marry them.)
Churches that acquiesce and “come to terms” with genderless “marriage” will be legitimized by the state. For becoming part of the conforming church, the benevolent hand of the state will deign to continue granting them tax exemption.
Churches that refuse to genuflect before the rainbow banner, at minimum, will lose their tax-exempt status, causing many—perhaps, most—non-complying churches to become financially unsustainable, close their doors, and vanish or splinter into smaller congregations and home churches. Noncompliance may very well lead to lawsuits and criminalization, driving the confessing Church underground, much like in the first centuries of its existence. And, yet, that could be the best thing for Christianity since Pentecost. Find out why here.