On this week's "Hagee Hotline," Pastor John Hagee responded to a question from a viewer about whether God would hold this nation accountable if it ever legalized gay marriage by declaring that biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah was "God's pilot study for his response to the homosexual society," and warning that it was not a matter of the government approving it but rather "if the people accept it, and if the righteous accept it, judgment will come":
The ongoing campaign by the Religious Right and its conservative Catholic allies to redefine religious liberty in America – which has been covered extensively by PFAW and Right Wing Watch – is the focus of a new report released on Monday by Political Research Associates, a think tank that also monitors right-wing organizations. “Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights,” was written by Jay Michaelson, who published a condensed version in the Daily Beast.
Michaelson’s report reviews the organizational players and the strategies they employ, among them: mixing fact and fiction; claiming that there is a war on religious liberty; and reversing the roles of victim and oppressor to portray as religious liberty “victims” people who claim a right to discriminate against others. He notes that Religious Right disinformation has had some success in shaping public opinion: in Minnesota last year a large plurality of marriage equality opponents believed that if marriage equality became the law, churches would be forced to solemnize same-sex marriages, even though there is universal agreement that the First Amendment guarantees that churches are free to choose which relationships to bless or not to bless.
The PRA report includes the following recommendations for social justice advocates:
1. Define and publicize the campaign to redefine religious liberty
2. Organize a unified response
3. Counter misinformation
4. Reclaim the religious liberty frame
5. Develop academic responses
6. Leverage religious communities
7. Ongoing research and monitoring
Religious liberty was also the topic of a forum at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., cosponsored by the Newseum’s Religious Freedom Education Project, Moment Magazine, and the Committee on Religious Liberty of the National Council of Churches. Moment, an independent Jewish Magazine, has also published a special Religious Freedom issue for March/April 2013. At the conference, two large panels brought together a range of religious and secular voices to discuss and debate the meaning of religious liberty and the claims that liberty is under attack in the U.S. today.
Charles Haynes, the First Amendment expert who heads Newseum’s religious liberty committee, noted that the broad coalition that came together to back the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the 1990s is no longer. Michael Lieberman, director of the Civil Rights Policy Planning Center for the Anti-Defamation League, suggested a reason: that the coalition had intended RFRA to be a shield against government restrictions on the free exercise of religion, but that conservative groups had turned RFRA into a spear used to attack anti-discrimination laws.
One central principle of PFAW’s Twelve Rules for Mixing Religion and Politics became clear: while people can agree on the broad principle that religious liberty protects the freedom to live in accord with one’s religious beliefs, that consensus breaks down quickly when deciding how law and policy should react when religious liberty comes into tension with other constitutional principles like equality under the law. Indeed, panelists strongly (but civilly) disagreed on to what extent organizations – whether religiously affiliated institutions or business corporations – should be able to claim exemption from anti-discrimination laws or the HHS requirement for insurance coverage of contraception.
Richard Foltin of the American Jewish Committee argued for a shades-of-gray, rather than a black-and-white approach, saying organizations should be viewed on a spectrum, with churches and sectarian institutions on one end and corporations at the other. Foltin said the AJC has submitted amicus briefs in favor of marriage equality at the Supreme Court, but also believes that there are significant religious liberty questions that courts will have to deal with as marriage equality is implemented. (As noted at another point during the day, the states that now recognize marriage equality all have somewhat different religious exemptions.)
Michaelson proposes five tiers of organizations with differing levels of claims to religious liberty: churches/denominations; religious organizations; religiously affiliated organizations; religiously owned business, and religious individuals. The right-wing, he says, keeps trying to “move the sticks” from the first three groups to the latter two. He notes that the Mormon Church owns extensive business interests, including shopping malls, and says that if business owners are allowed to claim exemption from anti-discrimination laws and other regulations based on religious belief, many employees will have their rights and interests restricted.
Author Wendy Kaminer argued that the religious liberty of institutions is over-protected rather than threatened, saying that she believes some claims for religious liberty are actually demands for religious power to impose their beliefs on others. If business owners are allowed to claim a religious exemption from generally applicable civil rights laws, she asked, what would be the limiting principle to such claims? Could business owners cite religious beliefs to ignore child labor laws, or to refuse to hire married women? Kaminer challenged what she called an emerging legal double standard: when it comes to taking government funds, advocates say religious organizations need a level playing field and should be treated like every other organization. But when it comes to free exercise claims, and groups like Catholic Charities say they shouldn’t be subject to generally applicable laws, they don’t want a level playing field but special privileges.
Holly Hollman, general counsel of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, said that overblown rhetoric about threats to religious freedom is damaging to public understanding of religious liberty. She suggests that the first response to someone who talks about threats to religious liberty should be to ask them what specifically they are talking about. For example, while people may be concerned when they hear about “an assault on religious liberty,” most Americans do not see a problem with requiring religiously affiliated institutions to abide by anti-discrimination laws or meet contraception requirements.
Legal scholar Jeffrey Rosen suggested that on church-state issues, the Supreme Court justices could be divided into three camps: religious supremacists, advocates of “religious neutrality,” and strict church-state separationists. The separationists, he said, had their heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s, but that the courts have been moving more toward a “religious neutrality” approach, which he said in some cases is really a cover for the religious supremacists yearning for an openly religious state. He said a landmark of the triumph of “neutrality” over separation was the 1995 Rosenberger case, in which the court said a public university could not deny funding from a religious publication because of its religious nature. In the future, he said, Justices Breyer and Kagan may be willing to embrace a “religious neutrality” approach in hopes of winning votes to try to keep Robert and Kennedy from joining the Scalia-Thomas religious supremacists.
Mark Rienzi of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has filed lawsuits challenging the HHS mandate and which has urged the Supreme Court to uphold Prop 8 and DOMA, portrayed religious liberty issues not as part of a culture war but as the necessity in a pluralistic society of recognizing that differences exist and allowing everyone the maximum ability to live according to their beliefs. He suggested that most church-state conflicts are blown out of proportion and can be resolved relatively easy with a willingness to work around individual religious liberty claims. Kim Colby of the Christian Legal Society endorsed that view, and noted that the Supreme Court will likely be deciding cases in the near future about what constitutes a “substantial burden” on a person’s religious beliefs and what might qualify as a “compelling state interest” that would justify that burden.
Michaelson challenged Rienzi’s portrayal, saying that “religious liberty” itself has become a code word for a new tactic in the culture war against LGBT equality and reproductive rights, and that it was wrong to pretend there would be no victim if a business owner were granted the right, for example, to ignore laws against anti-gay discrimination. Pharmacies, he said, used to have lunch counters that were segregated. Would it have been OK to justify that discrimination by saying there was another lunch counter down the street, the argument used by advocates for allowing pharmacists to refuse to provide some drugs based on their religious beliefs?
The ADL’s Lieberman said that from his perspective as an advocate for minority religions these do not seem like small or easily resolved issues, and said there was a clear prospect that individual rights would not be safeguarded if, for example, majoritarian school prayer were permitted. Hoda Elshishtawy, legislative and policy analyst at the Muslim Public Affairs Council also noted the reality of a major power differential between members of majority and minority religions. Dan Mach, director of the ACLU’s Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief, noted that there are widespread abuses in public schools, citing an example of a South Carolina public school that set aside a day explicitly intended to try to convert as many students as possible to Christianity.
Welton Gaddy of the Interfaith Alliance, who moderated the first panel, noted that even on the day the First Amendment was passed, not everyone agreed with it or agreed with what it meant. We’ve been working it out ever since then and can’t quit, he said. Charles Haynes made a similar point in his closing remarks, noting that in spite of all the differences evident in how we apply First Amendment principles, the ability to continue having the conversation is a reminder of how well those principles have worked to protect religious liberty in an increasingly diverse nation.
A few weeks ago, Ralph Reed stopped by the offices of the Wall Street Journal to make "The Case Against Gay Marriage" which he did by declaring that "all the statistics and data that we have" prove that children of intact, loving families to better than children who do not grow up in such families.
Reed proceeded to cite some unnamed CEO who claimed to have studied the most productive staff in the company and discovered that "the number one determinant of how hard they worked and how dedicated they were" was coming from an intact, loving family.
Of course, that might lead one to ask how exactly that is supposed to be an argument against gay marriage, since gay marriage would only lead to the creation of more intact, loving families, but Reed wasn't buying it because "we have not tested that thesis on a national level."
Apparently the anecdotal evidence that Reed gleaned from some anonymous CEO was very convincing but the idea that gay families could also produce productive, hard working citizens was too untested and so it would be dangerous to "tinker" with the institution of marriage so "willy-nilly":
Thomas Peters of the National Organization for Marriage was the guest on today's episode of "WallBuilders Live" where he discussed the organization's efforts to spread its anti-marriage equality message to the next generation, saying that the key to their success will be finding a way to overcome the "intolerance and hatred" on campuses against those who promote this message.
Insisting that being anti-gay marriage does not make one anti-gay, Peters asserted that, despite all the "propaganda," the human heart simply knows that gay marriage is wrong and so this position will eventually win out, and it is imperative to work to prevent people from becoming confused and lost in the meantime:
I'd say that the two big steps to getting to that message, of course, are fighting against the intolerance and hatred that is directed against us, especially in schools. You have a lot of pro-marriage people my age and younger in schools right now and they don't feel safe right now in sharing their pro-marriage convictions on that vast majority of college and high school campuses. That is something that has got to end. We've got to figure out how to break down this ostracizing of pro-marriage viewpoints.
And second of all, we have to continually talk to people about how being pro-marriage is not anti-gay and that there is simply nothing discriminatory about seeing the love of a man and a woman as unique and special and worth protecting.
Marriage just speaks to the human heart and no matter how much propaganda you try to throw at that, the human heart always reestablishes what it knows to be true. And we just know it's true that there is a difference between two men coming together and a man and a woman coming together. And so I think that is the core message of marriage that eventually will overcome. The question is how many people in the meantime are confused, how many people lose out on that saving message.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was not officially welcomed at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, but he was invited to speak at Friday morning’s prayer breakfast hosted by Ralph Reed’s Faith & Freedom Coalition, along with a couple Members of Congress.
Not everybody was happy that McDonnell was on the premises: activists from the National Taxpayers Union and the insanely anti-gay Public Advocate USA gave out anti-McDonnell flyers and stickers to people entering the breakfast. McDonnell’s sin against CPAC orthodoxy was his support for a transportation plan in Virginia that activists say violates a campaign pledge against raising taxes. Public Advocate also complained that by praising the General Assembly’s approval of a gay district court nominee, McDonnell “BROKE HIS PLEDGE TO SUPPORT TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE.”
Inside the prayer breakfast, McDonnell (like the Coalition’s Executive Director Gary Marx an alum of Pat Robertson’s Regent University) was introduced by Rep. Randy Forbes and warmly received. McDonnell gave a talk that was light on conservative red meat and focused on themes of faith and service, urging activists to pray for humility and wisdom. He did say it is the job of public officials to get things done according to “Judeo-Christian principles.” And he cited George Washington saying that the nation could not expect “the smiles of heaven” if it abandoned “eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself have ordained.”
Forbes, a leader of the congressional prayer caucus, said our nation’s problem is that God belongs on the throne, we’ve taken Him off, and we need to put Him back up there. Forbes resorted to a caricature common among Religious Right leaders, complaining about people he said were trying to change the concept of church-state separation to mean that no one in government can speak about their faith and no one in church can talk about the government.
Also speaking was Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, who invoked a mural of the radical abolitionist John Brown that portrays him with a Bible in one hand, a rifle in the other, and the tornado of the civil war approaching. He called the HHS requirement for insurance coverage of contraception a “tremendous threat” and an attack of religious liberty. “What would John Brown be doing now?” he asked, suggesting that Brown would be on his knees in prayer but also on his feet demanding action from Congress. Huelskamp complained that his colleagues in Congress are not acting to protect religious liberty, and denounced their “deafening silence” on threats to marriage. Huelskamp has previously complained to Tony Perkins about “the folks on the left that would like to delete, exclude and repeal any religious liberties or any religious values throughout our entire government and our entire society.”
Rachel Campos-Duffy, a conservative activist, author, and Real World: San Francisco alum who is married to Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, talked about the dangers of churches and families having ceded territory to “an ever-expanding and insatiable government.” For example, Campos said, school breakfast programs for poor students give parents an excuse not to make breakfast for their own kids and just push them out the door rather than talking to them.
Ralph Reed didn’t make the breakfast, but Gary Marx delivered a version of Reed’s post-2012 “it’s not my fault” analysis. Marx ran through statistics on the millions of contacts the Faith & Freedom Coalition made with the 23.3 million evangelical and Catholic voters in its proprietary database, and he said five million more evangelicals voted in 2012 than in 2008, with 78 percent of them voting for Romney. He said the group is actively engaged in this year’s Virginia elections and pledged that 2014 will see the largest mid-term conservative turnout ever.
The breakfast opened with a prayer by Father John De Celles of St. Raymond Penafort Roman Catholic Church in Springfield, Virginia, and closed with a benediction from Rabbi Aryeh Spero of the Caucus for America, who called for a reaffirmation of our “national identity” as a “Judeo-Christian nation” and denounced those who threaten the country from within by trying to "dismantle" that heritage and usurp God’s will.
Footnote: Among the VIP attendees acknowledged from the podium was conservative mega-donor Foster Friess, who backed Rick Santorum’s presidential bid but who has more recently encouraged a more moderate approach to LGBT issues, which he has said is due to his familiarity with gay people, including his brother-in-law and his partner. There was no mention at the breakfast of news that broke last night about Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s about-face on marriage after his son came out to him.
This piece is the seventh in a series of guest blog posts on “Why It’s Time to Dump DOMA.” In the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court arguments on the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, we’re asking friends of PFAW to share why dumping DOMA matters to them. Be sure to check back soon for the latest post in the series.
Nine years ago, as I was preparing to leave Ohio University, I said goodbye to Adam, one of my best friends. I remember writing to him in a card that I hoped our husbands would someday get to meet. That November – November 3, 2004 to be precise – I was on the phone with him, and he was heartbroken at what for many was a difficult election (including Ohio passing a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to the union of one man and one woman).
Fast forward to 2011, and a visit with Adam and his partner of several years, Michael. Marriage equality came up in conversation. It seemed to us to be possible but still five or ten years away.
Then came 2012. In May, President Obama affirmed his support for the freedom to marry of same-sex couples. In December, the Supreme Court agreed to hear cases challenging California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
With oral arguments looming at the end of the month, Adam’s reaction to the President’s announcement rings ever more true:
THANK YOU President Obama! Those of you who know Michael and I: we have such an incredibly strong, stable, loving relationship. Opening our relationship up to marriage does nothing but STRENGTHEN the institution!
That’s exactly why we should dump DOMA.
Yes, dumping DOMA is just one step on the long road to marriage equality. But it’s an important step, and one that’s many years overdue. DOMA unconstitutionally defines marriage for all federal purpose as the union of one man and one woman. That means that legally married couples in nine states and the District of Columbia are denied the more than one thousand rights and benefits that the federal government ties to marriage. That means that these couples and families aren’t afforded the safety and security that comes along with many of those rights. That means that they are discriminated against based solely on their sexual orientation.
That means that if Adam and Michael were to legally marry, despite progress made under the Obama administration, the federal government – bound by the discrimination enshrined in law – would have no choice but to turn its back on them in most cases.
That is not right. Dump DOMA.
Jen Herrick, Senior Policy Analyst
People For the American Way
If the Family Research Council gets its way, evangelical Christians all across America will hear their pastor deliver a sermon written by an FRC official condemning homosexuality and the advance of marriage equality this weekend or next. On March 26 and 27 the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in cases involving California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and this week FRC emailed pastors urging them to hold a “Stand for Marriage Sunday” before then, providing links to a sermon and full-color bulletin insert recapping its main points.
The 4300-word suggested sermon and accompanying power point presentation start with the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and march through every Religious Right talking point on homosexuality, marriage equality, and the Satanic, anti-Christian, Nazi-like gay rights movement that is inviting the downfall of civilization. Here are the section heads and some highlights:
Section 1: The Divine Pattern
The sermon says God created men and women to complete each other, and actually includes, “Aren’t you glad God created Adam and Eve, and not just Adam and Steve?” It quotes James Dobson saying “More than ten thousand studies have concluded that kids do best when they are raised by mothers and fathers.” And it asserts that in both the Old and New Testaments, “one man and one woman in a marriage covenant relationship for life is the divine pattern.” (The sermon does not address the abundant inconvenient exceptions to one-man, one-woman marriage in the Bible.)
After reviewing all the ways marriage makes people, couples, and children happier, the section concludes:
God’s way works! Think about it. Every civilization in history is built upon the institution of marriage. It is the foundation. The happiness of couples, the welfare of children, the propagation of the faith, the wellbeing of society, and the orderliness of civilization are all dependent upon the stability of marriage according to the divine pattern. When this God-given pattern is undermined, the whole superstructure of society becomes unstable. Any deviation from the divine pattern invites disaster.
Section 2: The Deceptive Perversion
According to the sermon, homosexuality is a deceptive perversion, a sin that is “open rebellion against the divine pattern.” It cites the familiar “abomination” verses and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Section 3: The Definitive Problem
This section compares gay-rights advocates’ claims that people are born Gay or that “God made us gay” to Nazi propaganda. “They essentially practice Joseph Goebel’s Nazi philosophy of propaganda, which is basically this: Tell a lie long enough and loud enough and eventually most mindless Americans will believe it.” The sermon also compares homosexuality to other “sexual sins” such as promiscuity, adultery and pedophilia. “I do not believe,” it says, “that God would not place in your genetic code something that would damn your immortal soul.” [sic on the double negative]
Section 4: The Destructive Program
This section recounts the dangers of the “radical homosexual agenda,” its goal of “silencing critics in the clergy and Christian media,” and its conquest of the entertainment, educational, and legal arenas, citing a litany of familiar Religious Right horror stories about the alleged persecution of Christians who stand against the merciless gay rights steamroller. And it pushes one of the primary talking points of Religious Right leaders and their conservative Catholic allies: that equality and religious liberty are fundamentally incompatible:
Where homosexual activists win legal approval, whether by court action or legislation, they often deny our full rights as Christians because a homosexual’s so-called “civil rights” and a Christian’s freedom of conscience and speech opposing homosexuality are mutually exclusive.
“Listen,” the sermon warns, “homosexual activists won’t stop at recognition, their aim is domination. They will not stop until they win over our children and our convicting voice is silenced.”
Section 5: The Determined Plan
These are the action steps FRC wants people hearing the sermon to take:
Action Step 1: Pray
The sermon calls on people to pray for spiritual revival and for “God’s mercy on a nation that is speeding toward Sodom, and hurtling toward Gomorrah.”
Action Step 2: Practice
This section says Christians give up their credibility to challenge the culture when their divorce rate is the same as everyone else’s, and urges people to follow biblical instructions on marriage and home life.
Action Step 3: Participate
This section is a direct rebuke to people who think politics are of the world, something Christians should stay out of. “Since God created the institution of government, would He want His people to stay out of it? No. If Christians don’t ‘render to Caesar’ (Matt. 22:21) and don’t function as ‘salt’ and ‘light’ (Matt. 5:13-16) in the arena of government, then we disobey the commands of Christ and allow Satan to prevail by default.” The sermon urges people to write blog posts, use Facebook and Twitter, comment on news stories, knock on doors, contact elected officials, and join the March for Marriage being organized by the National Organization for Marriage and its allies in Washington DC on March 26.
Action Step 4: Proclaim
This section urges people to tell those in the “homosexual lifestyle” that they do not have to remain “slaves to sin” but can pray away the gay.
Let’s stand along these poor misguided and lost people trapped in Satan’s snare. Let’s love them out of that sinful and destructive lifestyle! ... But let’s also exercise our rights as Christian citizens! Listen, we can make the difference. Together, Christians all across America can protect and preserve marriage for our children and our children’s children. Let’s stand for God’s plan for marriage because our future depends on it. And all of God’s people said: Amen!
Bryan Fischer is a big fan of the line of argumentation that gays already have full marriage equality because they have the same right to marry someone of the opposite sex as anyone else.
He reiterated this argument on his radio program today, adding that gay marriage is really "inequality under the law" because it grants to gay couples "a special carve-out for themselves that is not available to pedophiles and polygamists" and others who "engage in sexually abnormal behavior":
Just last week, the New York Times ran a profile of a new 'kinder and gentler' Focus on the Family under current president Jim Daly who purports to be trying to change the tone of the debates over contentious issues like abortion and marriage equality while defending his conservative Christian positions on such issues.
Daly operates under the impression that so long as he approaches these debates in a gentle, thoughtful, and prayerful manner, he can open others up to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, make converts, and ultimately win people over to his side of the argument.
Today, on Focus on the Family's radio program, Daly and co-host John Fuller welcomed George Mason University Law School professor Helen Alvare onto the program to discuss "The Erosion of Marriage in America," which Alavre blamed on everything from no-fault divorce to the practice of in vitro fertilization.
And while Daly, Fuller, and Alvare were all very careful to continually insist that they were speaking out of love and respect, when it gets down to it, Alvare said, it is ridiculous to think that the Constitution contains any sort of right to marriage equality and so the state simply needs to tell gay couples that "marriage is not in the cards for you":
I don't think that the Supreme Court wants to live through another forty years of post-bad decision making like they did with Roe v. Wade. There is no question that Constitution does not textually have a right to same-sex marriage. There is no question that it has been banned - you know, we only have a few states allowing it now. To say that it's a constitutional right would be ridiculous and I don't think they want to be fighting over it for the next forty years.
There is a reason why, pre-Christianity as well as today, the community of citizens has always understood that there is something different about what a man and a woman do when they are romantically interested together and that naturally leads them to say I want you for my whole life. The fact that this natural connection, older than Christianity, leads to children; the fact that children seem to need, empirically speaking, a mother and a father is why whatever the state wants to say to gay and lesbian citizens - and hopefully they say we love you and we're not going to discriminate against you - they cannot say what you do and what opposite sex couples do has the same intrinsic outcomes and therefore interest of the state. It simply is not commensurate.
We can also say one final thing, which is when the state is tempted to say this, what you do, opposite sex couple, and what a same-sex couple does, which they can talk about a long-term emotional commitment that we have seen if we reduce marriage to people's emotional feelings, we get more divorce, we get less marriage, we get more children outside of marriage and the poor pay more. We don't have to speculate about this any more, we have seen it. There has been a horrid natural experiment in our country; we know what we are talking about.
We love you. We won't discriminate against you as gay and lesbian persons, God willing, in the future. But marriage is not in the cards for you.
This seems to pretty well sum up the new approach from Focus on the Family, which is to insist that gays are loved and respected and should not be discriminated against ... but that they just shouldn't ever be allowed to get married.
Often lost in the debate over marriage equality is the fact that many of its leading opponents aren’t just interested in keeping the status quo on marriage. Instead, they're seeking to reverse what they see as a decline that began with laws granting greater freedom to women within marriages – specifically, the right to no-fault divorce.
In a conversation with radio host Janet Mefferd Friday, anti-gay writer Frank Turek responded to marriage equality supporters who point to divorce rates among straight couples. “You don’t make the car better by slashing another tire on it,” he said. “ You go back and repair the first tire. And I’m the first one to say that the bigger problem right now is no-fault divorce.”
Turek: I would agree with them that heterosexuals have debased it, heterosexuals have slashed one of the tires of marriage. But that’s not an argument for slashing another tire.
Mefferd: Good point, good point.
Turek: You don’t make the car better by slashing another tire on it. You go back and repair the first tire. And I’m the first one to say that the bigger problem right now is no-fault divorce.
Mefferd: Ah, yes.
Turek: But that is not an argument for same-sex marriage, in fact it’s an argument against it. Why? Because it shows you that when you liberalize marriage laws, you actually have a negative effect on society, which is what the no-fault marriage laws have done. So if you’re going to make marriage even more liberal, if you’re going to even further tear down the definition of marriage and make it totally genderless now, you’re going to have even worse results. You’re going to have even more illegitimacy, more kids that aren’t taken care of.
Now, I know the same-sex marriage advocates are going to say, ‘What, so same-sex marriage is going to do to your marriage?’ Well, it’s not going to do anything to my personal marriage, but it’s going to debase the institution of marriage into the future, make it a genderless institution, and that will hurt children and hurt the whole country.
This piece is the sixth in a series of guest blog posts on “Why It’s Time to Dump DOMA.” In the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court arguments on the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, we’re asking friends of PFAW to share why dumping DOMA matters to them. Be sure to check back soon for the latest post in the series.
Growing up as a gay woman in a conservative Salvadoran household was like being the protagonist in one of the telenovelas that I used to watch with my Maminena, my grandma. Thankfully, here in Maryland, being gay is no longer an obstacle to marrying the love of my life.
After a hard-fought battle, my girlfriend and I now have the right to say, “I do.”
Unlike most economic development initiatives, tax increases, and transportation projects, our ability to marry was taken to the polls and put to a vote. Marriage for same-sex couples is still treated like an earned privilege rather than a given right. While we won the right to marry in Maryland, thanks to DOMA our marriage would not be recognized under federal law.
My relationship, under this law, does not count. DOMA is a vehicle for discrimination and it hurts our families.
When thinking about equality, whether it’s equal protection under federal law, marriage equality or equal protection for our transgender community, two words come to mind: unconditional love.
Unconditional love. That is what equality means to me: unconditional love for our community, constituents, neighbors, co-workers, schoolmates, friends, family members. Because when you truly love, you don’t let discrimination and injustice take place in your community – or in your country.
The Defense of Marriage Act is just as outdated as the concept of “traditional marriage” being restricted to heterosexuals only. It’s time to dump DOMA – let unconditional love take its place.
Alumna of affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Front Line Leaders Academy
Last week the Equal Justice Task Force of the African American Ministers Leadership Council, a program of People For the American Way Foundation, joined with a broad coalition of organizations in filing amicus briefs for the marriage equality cases being considered by the Supreme Court. These cases – Hollingsworth v. Perry, which challenges California’s Proposition 8, and Windsor v. U.S., which challenges Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) – represent landmark opportunities for our nation to move toward making marriage equality a reality for all Americans.
“As African American faith leaders, we feel it is our responsibility to question hatred and discrimination wherever it happens – and especially in our laws,” said Minister Leslie Watson Malachi, Director of the African American Ministers Leadership Council. “Laws singling out and preventing same-sex couples from getting married are blatantly discriminatory and they hurt our communities. These amicus briefs voice our support for equal rights and equal justice for all of God’s children.”
The amicus brief for the Hollingsworth case, a continuation of the 2010 brief PFAW Foundation submitted when the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the case, exposes the discriminatory nature of the supposedly “moral” rationales for Proposition 8:
This Court has refused for three-quarters of a century to uphold laws disfavoring minority groups based on religious or moral disapproval alone—with the one, now-discredited exception of Bowers v. Hardwick, 478 U.S. 186 (1986). And for good reason: Time and again throughout our nation’s history, laws that disadvantaged or degraded particular groups have been justified by resort to morality and religion. And time and again, our society has come to see those laws as repugnant, and the religious and moral disapproval justifying them as little more than a means to enshrine the status quo.
Likewise, the amicus brief for the Windsor case points out:
This Court has long implicitly acknowledged the connection between religious justifications and the Equal Protection guarantee. The Court’s decision overturning Virginia’s law forbidding marriage between persons of different races is illustrative. In Loving v. Virginia, the Court dismissed the Virginia trial judge’s proffered religious-based rationale, which cited God’s hand in creating different races, recognizing instead that “[t]here is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification.” 388 U.S. 1, 11 (1967). Ultimately, the Court recognized that the anti-miscegenation law served no secular purpose, and was based on nothing more than racial discrimination—even if disguised as a moral or religious belief.
As these briefs highlight, discrimination – even if cloaked in the language of religious or moral beliefs – is still discrimination.
This piece is the fifth in a series of guest blog posts on “Why It’s Time to Dump DOMA.” In the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court arguments on the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, we’re asking friends of PFAW to share why dumping DOMA matters to them. Be sure to check back soon for the latest post in the series.
Is it wrong for committed couples to share retirement and medical benefits? Is it wrong for Americans to expect to receive equal justice under the law?
No, but it is wrong for our government to dictate who we can love and who we cannot. It is wrong for our government to recognize some married couples and not others. But that is exactly what the Defense Of Marriage Act does.
Marriage equality doesn’t hurt anybody or take away anybody’s freedoms. But DOMA does both of those things. Supporters of DOMA sound dangerously like those who said we should outlaw interracial marriages in the previous century. It’s time for this country to say we are done with DOMA and dump it.
Reverend Charles Williams II
Member of People For the American Way’s African American Ministers In Action
This piece is the fourth in a series of guest blog posts on “Why It’s Time to Dump DOMA.” In the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court arguments on the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, we’re asking friends of PFAW to share why dumping DOMA matters to them. Be sure to check back soon for the latest post in the series.
Attending weddings is always an interesting phenomenon for queer Americans. We might celebrate in the festivities, box out our cousins for the bouquet or present a toast. Yet, for most queer people, myself included, there remains the thought in the back of our minds that -- try as we might -- a federally-recognized marriage is largely beyond our grasp. While I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever try to marry, I am committed to ensuring that American society treats all partnerships as equally valid under the law. Under the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 (DOMA), the federal government denies married same-sex couples every one of the 1,000+ federal legal protections that marriage affords and institutionalizes a negative stigma of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) people. For these reasons alone, DOMA is antithetical to a “free” America where all citizens are seen as equal under the law.
DOMA’s effects extend even further, however. For instance, the repeal of DOMA is also an issue of economic justice. Because DOMA prevents queer couples from filing their taxes together and sharing health benefits, these couples often pay more than heterosexual couples for the same services and opportunities. DOMA not only prevents same-sex couples from taking on the full benefits and responsibilities of marriage, it penalizes them financially.
The question of whether to “Dump DOMA” is clear for me. As more and more Americans favor marriage equality and as courts reject its reasoning, it’s only a matter of time before all Americans are afforded equal marriage rights under the law. I believe the “arc of history bends towards justice,” and I believe this is a time for all Americans to stand with their queer family, friends, and community members against injustice. DUMP DOMA TODAY!
Erik Lampmann, University of Richmond
Member of affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Young People For Program
The Family Research Council has launched what it is describing as “an ambitious, no-holds-barred campaign to keep marriage as between one man and one woman and preserve the American family.” FRC is worried about two cases before the Supreme Court that will have “a lasting impact on the very soul of our nation” -- one on California’s Prop 8 and one on the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
In a direct-mail piece dated on Valentine’s Day, FRC President Tony Perkins says it is important to get members of Congress “to pressure the Supreme Court to come down on the right side of marriage.” Recipients of the letter are encouraged to sign petitions to their representative and senators to urge them to “PRESSURE THE SUPREME COURT TO RULE IN FAVOR OF TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE!”
The text of the petition:
[Representative/Senator], as one of your constituents, I ask that you please use your influence to urge the Supreme Court to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act and state statutes banning same-sex “marriage.” The covenant marriage relationship between one man and one woman is a universally accepted social tradition that transcends all cultures and predates any religion. It is essential for procreation and the stability of society. I respectfully request that you do all in your power to urge the Court to uphold traditional marriage. Thank you for your service to our country.
The letter also recycles some of the same false claims that FRC and its allies made about federal hate crimes legislation, suggesting the advance of marriage equality will lead to the federal government dictating what pastors can preach about homosexuality or prosecuting those who preach against same-sex marriage. Perkins also claims – falsely – that the “vast majority of Americans do not want to see marriage redefined” and “the vast majority of voters are against the legitimization of same-sex ‘marriage.’” Actually, a majority of Americans supports marriage equality, according to recent polls by Gallup, Wall Street Journal/NBC, Washington Post/ABC, and CBS News.
But what difference do facts make to Tony Perkins? He says that if the Supreme Court were to support marriage equality, it would be “siding with an extreme minority and defying the will of the majority.” That’s why, he says, “the justices need to know up front that this majority will be anything but ‘silent.’”
FRC’s new “Marriage Preservation Initiative” is, of course, not the first effort to recognize, in Perkins’ words, that, “[d]espite the fact that Supreme Court justices have a reputation for being independent, they, too, are political and can be influenced by public pressure.” Back in 2010, after a district court ruling that Prop 8 was unconstitutional, the late Chuck Colson launched his own campaign to convince the justices that a pro-marriage-equality ruling would lead to “cultural Armageddon.”
DOMA’s Days Are Over
This piece is the third in a series of guest blog posts on “Why It’s Time to Dump DOMA.” In the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court arguments on the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act, we’re asking friends of PFAW to share why dumping DOMA matters to them. Be sure to check back soon for the latest post in the series.
All Americans deserve equal treatment under the law. The President has acknowledged that, as have the nine states (plus the District of Columbia) that allow gays and lesbians to marry. A number of other states offer some form of relationship recognition status. But thanks to DOMA, the federal government doesn’t recognize all legally married couples, and states can refuse to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. And in Montana, same-sex couples can’t get married to begin with. That's why I care about dumping DOMA.
I'm queer and would like the chance to marry the person I love someday. Heck, I've got a master's degree and was elected to the City Council at age 28, but I'm not to be trusted with a lifelong commitment? All loving couples should have access to the legal protections they need to take care of each other, and I don't feel like I should have to move to a city to be myself and have the kind of life I want.
I'm a fourth generation Idahoan and now a proud Montanan, and I want to raise my kid in a place where they can hike, climb, backpack, fish, and hunt just a few minutes from home. Most Montanans value fairness and dignity. They judge you more by how you treat your neighbor than what you do in the privacy of your own bedroom. They believe in following the law. I think my fellow Montanans will come around when they see the sky doesn't fall when committed same-sex couples tie the knot.
So let's do it. Let's dump DOMA, and allow all Americans to pursue happiness by marrying the person they love.
Caitlin Copple, Missoula, MT City Councilmember
Member of affiliate People For the American Way Foundation’s Young Elected Officials Network
Mat Staver and Matt Barber were discussing the two amicus briefs that Liberty Counsel has filed with the Supreme Court for the hearings on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, claiming that it is "absurd" to think that the Constitution guarantees any right to same-sex marriage because at the time the Constitution was written, homosexuality was widely considered to be a "crime against nature."
As Barber explained, "the aberrant sexual behavior, the twisting of normal human sexuality that would be involved in order to consummate a so-called same-sex marriage" carried a punishment of death at the time the Constitution was written, so "there is now way that they would have ever intended that they would twist and deconstruct the fundamental cornerstone institution of marriage in order to put the government's official stamp of approval on a crime against nature":