The fall of marriage equality bans in all 50 states following the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision was a disaster for the conservative movement, whose leaders have spent years demonizing same-sex couples and warning that the legal recognition of their marriages will unleash a wave of terror on the nation.
While Obergefell was a major setback for the Religious Right, the 2016 presidential campaign proves that the movement’s anti-gay crusade is far from over. Several GOP presidential candidates have vowed to enshrine anti-gay discrimination into law and to turn the government into an arm of the anti-gay movement. At the same time, more and more conservative leaders are insisting that government officials should simply ignore decisions they don’t like, such as Obergefell.
Even the not-exactly-pious GOP presidential frontrunner, Donald Trump, is actively courting the anti-gay Right, although he has trouble explaining why he should be seen as a strong defender of “traditional marriage.”
In the eyes of many conservative activists, Obergefell was the product of a culture that had been slipping away for years, bringing America into an apocalyptic period where growing acceptance for homosexuality is ushering in disastrous consequences.
Weeks before the Supreme Court handed down its ruling, WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah declared that if the court struck down state bans on same-sex marriage and conservative states didn’t seceded from the union in protest, anti-gay activists like himself would flee the country. “Are there any governors or legislatures out there among the 50 states willing to secede to offer a refuge for the God-fearing?” he asked, warning that if states were to stay in the U.S. following a pro-equality decision, the world should expect “a pilgrimage by millions of Americans.”
Farah was no outlier. In the days and weeks leading up to the decision, Religious Right pundits roundly declared that nationwide marriage equality would lead to the widespread persecution of Christians and America’s destruction at the hands of God.
End Times radio host Rick Wiles told his listeners that the country would “be brought to its knees” if the Supreme Court were to rule in favor of marriage equality and that there would be “pain and suffering at a level we’ve never seen in this country,” caused by “riots or looting or war on American soil or a fireball from space.”
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay warned the Supreme Court that “all hell is going to break loose” if it “rules against marriage,” predicting widespread civil disobedience as a result of the decision. Republican presidential candidate and former governor Mike Huckabee said the ruling would effectively “criminalize Christianity” and lead to the criminal prosecution of pastors who don’t perform weddings for same-sex couples.
Other Religious Right leaders like Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver confidentially predicted that a gay marriage ruling would spark a second Civil War or a second American Revolution.
Alan Keyes called such a ruling a “just cause for war,” insisting that it would “produce the separation and dissolution of the United States” and usher in “the murder of the masses.” “We’ve got to fight to our deaths to save this great country,” Accuracy In Media’s Cliff Kincaid said of gay marriage, which he called “the planned destruction of our country.”
Texas pastors Robert Jeffress and Rick Scarborough also got in the mix. Jeffress said the ruling could pave the way for the Antichrist while Scarborough said conservatives must “fight until we die” and “push back with all our might” against a ruling in favor of gay marriage, which he said would “unleash the spirit of hell on the nation.” Scarborough even boasted that he was ready to go to jail and face death: “We are not going to bow, we are not going to bend, and if necessary, we will burn.”
As one might expect, the responses to the ruling were not much different from the predictions.
The day after the ruling, Wiles declared that he received a message from God, who asked him to tell the people to “flee” the country before God destroys it through economic ruin, food shortages, terrorism, disease and slavery. “America is over,” he declared. Later, Wiles predicted that America is “going to see gunfire” from people resisting the government over gay marriage. “Somebody’s going to jail, somebody’s going to die, somebody’s going to suffer,” he said.
One Kentucky clerk (not Kim Davis!) even said he would die before issuing a marriage license to a same-sex couple. Roy Moore, the chief justice of the Alabama state supreme court, wondered if gay marriage would lead to oppression rivaling the Holocaust.
Staver, the Religious Right attorney who went on to represent rogue Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, said that the ruling transformed America into Nazi Germany and that the Department of Education will now make schools tell kindergarteners to “go out and have same-sex relationships.” (He had previously warned of the prospect of “forced homosexuality.”) One pastor made the case that gays would now try to force straight people to have gay sex with them. DeLay, the former House GOP leader, insisted that he had uncovered a secret Department of Justice memo legalizing “12 new perversions, things like bestiality, polygamy, having sex with little boys and making that legal.”
Michael Bresciani of the Christian Post said Obergefell would lead to “an economic crash much more serious than the stock market crash of 29,” while WND’s Farah envisioned “more civil and racial strife” or “an attack on our country from foreign power or terrorist group.”
Fox News pundit Todd Starnes said that “pastors who refuse to perform gay marriage and preach from the Bible should prepare for hate crime charges,” while Illinois pastor Erwin Lutzer told religious parents to prepare to “be diagnosed as culturally intolerant and personality intolerant,” as a result of which “their children will be taken away from them.” Perkins of the FRC claimed that the Supreme Court’s decision would threaten the freedom of speech and gun rights.
At least one pastor, Kevin Swanson, said that conservatives should attend a gay loved one’s wedding, but only if they show up with cow manure smeared all over their bodies:
Blame for disasters
American Family Radio host Sandy Rios, who also serves as the American Family Association’s governmental affairs director, said that homosexuality may have been “a factor” in the deadly Amtrak crash in May. She suggested that the engineer, who is gay, may have been having a breakdown as he experienced “some confusion” related to homosexuality.
Rios also claimed that “the terror threat against this nation has gone up exponentially” due to celebrations of LGBT rights, as they caused God to turn away from the U.S. and now “we’ve lost protections of God for this country.” Perkins, who also has a show on AFR, said the Obergefell ruling makes America more “vulnerable” to attacks as God will no longer protect the U.S. He also warned that an increase in the number kids raised by same-sex parents will lead to a surge in the prison population.
Fellow AFR host Bryan Fischer specifically blamed flooding in Texas on God’s judgment for homosexuality, saying that “you can make a geographical connection” between flooding and homosexuality. (We wonder what that means for American Family Radio’s home town of Tupelo, Mississippi, which was hit by a tornado last year).
Evangelist Jonathan Cahn said that the terrorist attacks in Paris were a sign that God stopped protecting France as punishment for legalizing same-sex marriage and warned that Hurricane Joaquin might hit Washington, D.C., to punish elected officials who celebrated gay rights. (It didn’t.)
Huckabee also suggested that America is in “a dangerous place” because “if man believes that he can redefine marriage, it’s apparent that man believes he has become his own god,” and God will not protect such a nation.
Wiles, the host of the End Time program “Trunews,” suggested that homosexuality played a role in California’s drought, alleging that news of the state’s “spiritual rebellion” had “reached heaven and God has no other choice but to cut off the rain.” However, Starnes of Fox News repeatedly claimed that a rainstorm in Washington, D.C., following the ruling was actually a sign of God’s displeasure.
Swanson, who advocated for the death penalty for unrepentant gays at a summit attended by several GOP presidential candidates, said at the same conference that gay couples kissing could trigger flooding and wildfires and that a gay character in “Harry Potter” will lead to divine punishment.
Christian Persecution Complex
The Religious Right has a long history of absurdly claiming that evangelical Christians are facing persecution in America, and the Obergefell ruling only amped up such rhetoric.
Huckabee warned that the gay rights movement “won’t stop until there are no more churches, until there are no more people who are spreading the Gospel,” lamenting that too many Christians don’t realize “how close they are to losing all of their freedoms.” Huckabee’s fellow GOP presidential candidate, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, also got in on the action, warning that a gay “jihad” is “going after people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
Wiles, the End Times radio host, alleged that gay marriage would lead to the imposition of martial law, while Personhood USA cofounder Cal Zastrow predicted that one day “the sodomite police” will take women’s husbands away from them.
Glenn Beck predicted that Obergefell would result in serious repercussions for the media, claiming that “anybody on this show [who] says they’re for traditional marriage” will have their airtime in jeopardy as the ruling “could mean the end of radio broadcasts like mine.”
Nothing set off more persecution rhetoric than the Kim Davis saga, in which the Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk blocked her office from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of a court order, citing “God’s authority.” She was temporarily placed in the custody of U.S. Marshals after she said she would continue to flout the courts and was only released after deputy clerks started to issue the licenses.
The case allowed right-wing activists to claim that their fears of the mass imprisonment of Christians following the Obergefell ruling were coming true. Davis’ lawyers at the virulently anti-gay and far-right legal group Liberty Counsel went so far as to compare her to a Jew living in Nazi Germany facing the gas chambers.
Ignore the courts
Even before the Davis case, many Republicans had been insisting that government officials may not have to treat court rulings on marriage as authoritative after all, and can simply flout the process of judicial review. Obergefell gave them the perfect opportunity to put these arguments into action.
Cruz declared that the government could ignore Obergefell, which he called a “fundamentally illegitimate” decision akin to “Nazi decrees,” and promised that in a Cruz administration “we will not use the federal government to enforce this lawless decision.”
Before quitting the presidential race, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal lambasted the decision, explaining that “no earthly court can change the definition of marriage.” Huckabee said that if elected president, he would tell the Supreme Court: “Thank you for your opinion, but we shall ignore it.” “It’s a matter of saving our republic to say that, as president, we’re not going to accept this decision, we will ignore it and we will not enforce it,” he said.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida also claimed that when civil law conflicts with “God’s rules,” then government officials must choose the latter because “God’s rules always win.” Rubio, along with his fellow GOP presidential candidates Cruz, Huckabee, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina, also pledged to sign legislation confronting the supposed discrimination faced by gay marriage opponents.
Such talking points show the success of the Religious Right in claiming that laws inconsistent with the Bible, or more specifically, Religious Right activists’ view of the Bible, should be treated as illegitimate.
Pat Robertson Bonus
While it was hard for Pat Robertson to top his previous claims about gay people causing terrorism, tornados, earthquakes and meteor strikes and using special rings to deliberately transmit HIV/AIDS to people who shake hands with them, he tried his best in 2015.
The “700 Club” host worried in September that gay marriage would trigger a perilous financial crisis, warning that “the rupture of the entire financial framework of our world” could occur because of the Obergefell ruling. He again alleged in November that “the wrath of God” is headed to America now that “it’s a constitutional right for sodomites to marry each other,” possibly in the form of “a massive financial collapse.”
“They’re going to make you conform to them,” he said of gay rights advocates. “You are going to say you like anal sex, you like oral sex, you like bestiality, you like anything you can think of, whatever it is.”
Robertson praised countries in Africa like Kenya that criminalize homosexuality, urging Obama to “listen to some of his fellow Africans” on the matter, while at the same time warning that gays are bent on outlawing religious liberty and having all Christians “put in jail” as part of their “vendetta to destroy everyone who disagrees with them.”
“Christianity, the founding principle of this nation, is criminalized,” he said in response to the Davis controversy. “You go to jail if you believe in God and stand fast for your beliefs against the onslaught of secular humanism and the flood that comes about with it.” (Robertson, of course, has not been jailed).
He also predicted that gay marriage will legalize pedophilia, polygamy and “love affairs between men and animals.”
Warning viewers that “the homosexuals don’t just want to be left alone, now they want to come out and stick it to the Christians,” Robertson said that gay rights laws are creating “absolute tyranny” and “it's high time we call it what it is and we stand up for freedom.”
The televangelist also offered his patented advice to people with gay children.
He told one mother to send her daughter, who is dating another woman, to a Christian summer camp and “pray that God will straighten her out.” He said that the girl was probably “pressured” into embracing a lesbian identity because “there’s so much lesbian stuff, I mean, lesbian this, lesbian the other, so much homosexual — the media is pushing this as hard as they can possibly push it.” He told another viewer who has a gay son to treat him like a drug addict, and advised yet another parent that God could change his gay son if only the son were to start “acting like a man.”