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Gay Marriage Decision May Not Hurt Obama or Help the Religious Right

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When the Obama administration announced that it would adopt a matador defense on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the reaction from conservative Christian activists alternated between rage and celebration that the president had basically allowed the political right a slam dunk for the 2012 campaign.

The Justice Department declared that it would no longer argue in court on behalf of a key restriction against gay marriage contained in the law, which effectively gives gay marriage a pass from the executive branch -- and gives the religious right a debating point.

But social conservatives may want to hold off on the high fives. Unlike abortion, gay marriage is not the automatic winner for the right that it was as recently as the 1990s when Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman.

Even among evangelicals and other conservatives, opposition is eroding, especially among a younger generation that doesn't see anything all that wrong with gay and lesbian couples.

Mike Huckabee, a possible 2012 presidential candidate who is far and away the front runner among Republican voters when it comes to social issues and moral values, this week conceded that reality. The former Baptist pastor noted that younger evangelicals have shown an "alarming" trend toward acceptance of homosexual relationships that could complicate political prospects for a candidate like himself who sees gay marriage as a moral threat on par with abortion.

The numbers certainly give Huckabee and his fellow opponents of gay marriage reason to worry.

Surveys in the last year show that for the first time more Americans are accepting than disapproving of "homosexual relations" (52-43 percent in a Gallup poll). Both Gallup and Pew Forum surveys last fall showed the gap is narrowing between those who disapprove of gay marriage itself and those who accept, suggesting acceptance will soon win out.

White evangelicals who form the core of the Republican right (and the tea party movement) remain the most opposed to gay marriage. However, even that opposition is easing, and it is significantly weaker among younger Christians, as Huckabee lamented. Not even a majority (just 48 percent) of white evangelicals said they opposed gays serving openly in the military, in a poll taken just before Congress voted to repeal the "Don't ask, Don't tell" (DADT) law last December. Even most Republicans under age 45 said same-sex couples should have the same benefits as opposite-sex couples, according to an Associated Press-National Constitution Center poll last summer.

As authors Robert Putnam and David Campbell write in their sweeping new study of faith in the United States, "American Grace," given these trends "homosexuality will become less attractive as a wedge issue in politics and will likely cease to be a potent issue at all." If anything, homosexuality is becoming a dividing line within the Republican Party rather than between Republicans and Democrats, as shown by the boycott of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference by some groups of social conservatives (and not others) over the presence of the conservative gay organization, GOProud.

These attitudinal shifts, along with the overriding concern about jobs and the economy, may help explain the decidedly low-key response this week from Republican leaders to Obama's DOMA decision.

Sarah Palin was quiet, and old bulls like Newt Gingrich largely confined their protests to the constitutionality of Obama's move rather than the impact on America's moral life. Tim Pawlenty said only that he was "disappointed," and a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner had an equally mild response: "While Americans want Washington to focus on creating jobs and cutting spending, the president will have to explain why he thinks now is the appropriate time to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation."

As Mark McKinnon, a Republican strategist who worked for President George W. Bush during his 2004 campaign, told The New York Times, "The wedge has lost its edge."

Indeed, marriage traditionalists like New York Times' columnist Ross Douthat has suggested gay marriage is no longer worth fighting, and in the wake of the 2009 California court ruling overturning Proposition 8, a number of leading evangelicals also said the battle wasn't justified.

There are several reasons why the Christian right is yielding this front in the culture war.

One is the disparity between what Christian conservatives preach about the sanctity of marriage and how some Christian conservatives and their leaders behave, as they seem to divorce and cheat at much the same rate as other Americans.

"In short, we have been perfect hypocrites on this issue," Christianity Today Editor Mark Galli wrote in 2009. "Until we admit that, and take steps to amend our ways, our cries of alarm about gay marriage will echo off into oblivion."

Another factor may be related, paradoxically, to the success of the pro-life movement.

America's continuing unease with abortion -- in contrast with a growing comfort level about homosexuality -- means that conservative jeremiads against allowing gay couples to adopt babies who might otherwise have been orphaned or aborted just doesn't make sense, emotionally or morally, to many traditional Christians.

"I find myself convinced of the truth of the Church's teaching, but also without a good argument for why orphans are better off languishing without loving parents than they are being in a nurturing home with a same-sex couple," blogger Rod Dreher has written.

A chief reason for the evolution among religious conservatives is one that is driving acceptance of gays among the wider public as well: familiarity.

Huckabee said this week that the change is "not surprising because every movie, every television show, every novel that many young people are exposed to is an affirmation of the rightness of gay marriage and the idiocy, if not the antiquity, of views of people like me who think some social institutions matter for a reason."

But homosexuals are emerging not just in popular culture but in the conservative world, too.

In the 2004 presidential race, gay marriage ballot measures in a dozen states (for and against) helped rally conservative voters. The head of George W. Bush's campaign at that time -- and subsequently GOP chairman -- was Ken Mehlman, who last August came out publicly as gay. A few months before that, Bush's wife, Laura, wrote in her memoir that she supports the right of gays to marry, and Cindy McCain, wife of 2008 presidential runner-up and gay marriage opponent Sen. John McCain, last year posed for an ad campaign in support of gay rights.

In April 2010, Christian music star Jennifer Knapp returned to performing after a seven-year absence, and announced that she had been in an eight-year relationship with another woman -- and was still a Christian. Gospel star Tonex came out as gay in 2009 as did Christian singer/songwriter Ray Boltz in 2008.

After this week's DOMA decision, some Republicans and their allies are making noises about passing a resolution in the House to fill the legal void left by the Obama administration's defection.

But when popular Christian singers and well-known Republicans are out of the closet or supporting their gay friends, it begins to look as though Obama has handed the GOP the one issue it doesn't need.

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Bruce - everything you've said here has been stated over the years and it hasn't helped you. So just admit you DON'T have a justifiable reason to be against this and learn to accept it. You are on the wrong side of history.

March 01 2011 at 12:23 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

>> If the church were truly separate from the state, then they should not be entitled to tax exempt status. << >> I find your logic a bit muddled (if they are separate, the state would have no authority by which to tax the church), but strangely, I agree with you that the church should not be tax exempt. Fear of losing their tax exempt status had muzzled many a modern pastor from speaking out on the myriads of immoralities committed by our modern executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government. Removal of the tax exempt status would also remove the muzzle from the pulpit of the modern church.

March 01 2011 at 3:15 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

>> You are free to practice your religious beliefs and hold on to whatever your religion of choice tells you to believe within your churches and homes, but that's where it ends...<< >> So, what if I should reverse your argument. You are free to believe whatever you want in your own home, but that's where it ends -- you cannot advocate for your belief in homosexual marriage in the public arena. It is irrational for you to tell me I must confine my beliefs to my home, while you remain free to advocate for yours in public.

March 01 2011 at 3:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

>> Bruce - please give us examples of how someone else's marriage will affect your day-to-day life. << >> O. K. When I was in school, 95 and up was the standard to earn the grade of "A." Then, the standard was lowered to 90 for an A. This "cheapened" the value of the grade because there was now no distinction between those who studied very hard and made (say) a 98, and those who studied less and managed to eek out a 90. Grade inflation has now eroded the value of looking at a person's GPA as an accurate measure of accomplishment. In the same way, when a lifestyle that God's Word soundly condemns as an "abomination" (in half a dozen places -- some, long narritaves) is given the "status" of marriage, it erodes the value of all true marriages. And so, degrades/erodes all of society -- which has effects upon everyone living it that society. History has shown that all great civilizations that cast off moral restraint, eventually die out (witness the Roman, Greek, and more recently the British empire). Yes, these nations are still around "in name," but their greatness has faded away -- they are merely shadows of what they once were. Furthermore, the institution of marriage is sacred, and was ordained by God as Male and Female (and affirmed as such by Christ Himself). To call something "marriage" that is NOT marriage is to profane God, which brings judgement upon the nation that does so -- and that affects all people (the legalization of abortion is another example of a society in decline). Now you may likely reject all of this, but that (your rejection) does not prove it false. And I repeat: the Left and irreligious, want Christians to keep Biblical ideas of morality to themselves, but (irrationally) the Left and irreligious want free rein to advocate for their ideas of "morality" in the public square. Certainly it is unreasonable for you to want Christians to keep silent regarding their beliefs while you are free to advocate for your beliefs. I point to the Bible and 5,000 years of history (that has rejected homosexually as normal) while you have only the modern "culture" of the last couple of decades.

March 01 2011 at 2:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Bruce - please give us examples of how someone else's marriage will affect your day-to-day life.

February 28 2011 at 6:16 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I have always found it strangely amusing that the Left, and irreligious, advocate for all sorts of Biblically immoral behaviors and lifestyles, while -- at the same time -- they condemn Christians for advocating for the type of country in which *they* would like to live. Jesus said: "This is the verdict: the light [speaking of Himself] has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light and do not come to the light because their deeds are evil" (John 3:19-20). So, according to Jesus, true "hate" comes from those who love the darkness [evil] rather than from the children of the light (true Christians). Nevertheless, the children of darkness are fond of calling Believers -- "haters," because Belivers reject the normalization of what the Bible calls: immorality. But Jesus says it is only natural -- a part of their nature -- that those who live in darkness do so. So, I pray for all who live in darkness.

February 28 2011 at 5:24 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to brucecc820's comment

You are free to practice your religious beliefs and hold on to whatever your religion of choice tells you to believe within your churches and homes, but that's where it ends and it is under no threat. If you want to believe that something you fear and have no experience with is evil or dark or unnatural, that is your right. But what you DON'T have the right to do is reach beyond your religion and make laws about how those that are different than you and not harming anyone should live.

February 28 2011 at 6:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

>> Why don't all the religious right hetrosexual [sic] haters take their sacred marriages and move to Alaska. << >> It is a common ploy to label those who take a stand for Biblical moral principles -- as haters. This is simply a tactic to stop the conversation. It has been my experience that the irreligious Left foments far more actual "hate" than true Christians. But at least you got the part about "sacred marriages" correct. Marriage *is* a sacred institution ordained by God between male and female (and affirmed as such by Jesus). And although it is true that the institution of marriage does get abused because of divorce, a divorce is one "act" is sin while homosexuality is a "lifestyle" of sin (according to many places in the Bible). Although the Bible refers to both as sin, there is a vast difference between committing "a sin," and living in a "lifestyle" of sin. Do I hate homosexuals? No. But neither should a sinful lifestyle be promoted/advocated as normal.

February 28 2011 at 4:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to brucecc820's comment

Just because you may not have it in your nature to feel attraction or even love for someone of the same gender doesn't mean it's not normal. What's normal or natural for you is not the same for everybody.

February 28 2011 at 6:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

>> I am not a religious zealot, however, I can foresee the end of TAX-FREE Churches in America if the Supreme court votes to allow Gay marriage throughout the U.S.A. << >> My question is: if the Left truly believes in the so-called "separation of church and state" (not found anywhere in the Constitution), then were does the Left get the authority to give churches tax exempt status to begin with? If they are truly separate, then the government would have no right to tax churches in the first place. The reason I attribute the enacting of "tax exempt status" for churches to the Left is, it was a concept and advocacy of Lyndon B. Johnson to silence Texas churches after they began to speak out about the massive fraud committed in the election that first sent him to Congress. (You can google: Lyndon Johnson election fraud, and read all about it.)

February 28 2011 at 4:33 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to brucecc820's comment

First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." This implies that religion is "separate" from Congress, i.e., the state. Any questions? Refer to the Constitution of the United States. It further says that Congress is prohibited from stopping the free exercise of religion; which is not a civil matter, but a religious matter.

It is up to religion to keep their freedom-of-worship separated from the state.

February 28 2011 at 10:10 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

If the church were truly separate from the state, then they should not be entitled to tax exempt status. The churches ought to be grateful to the state for the windfall that they reap from tax exemptions. Instead many churches want to run the government and impose their religion on everyone. It is that kind of pomposity that could lead to their loss of exemption.

February 28 2011 at 10:23 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

>> I'll be happy when the Rick Santorums and the Pat Robertsons of this country wake up and realize they've been preaching the opposite of what Jesus would do... << >> While I don't care for Pat Robertson at all;I think he's a nut, Jesus Himself said marriage was to be between "Male and Female": (Matthew 19:4-6 NIV -- pointing back to Genesis 1:27 and 2:24). So before you begin enlisting Jesus to support homosexual marriage, you might check what He *actually* said. (The Greek word translated "female" -- when Jesus said "Male and Female" -- means adult woman, not two men).

February 28 2011 at 4:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am not a religious zealot, however, I can foresee the end of TAX-FREE Churches in America if the Supreme court votes to allow Gay marriage throughout the U.S.A.. All a gay couple has to do is to go to any Church that believes it is a sin for Gays to Marry and demand to be Married in that Church. If the Church denies them because of their beliefs then that Church could lose it's TAX EXEMPT status and have to pay Property Tax as well as Income Tax on all Monies and goods received as donations. That would most certainly BANKRUPT most Churches and they would have to CLOSE Their Doors. Since a lot of Churches cover City blocks their Property Taxes would be astrnomical if they had to pay them. I really think that this is the real insidious goal of the GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT. To End ORGANIZED Relgion and Churches in the Entire U.S.A. You probably won't post this becauuse it is so TRUE and you don't want it to get out.

February 27 2011 at 4:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to talksoup18's comment

That's probably the most paranoid thing I've heard about the supposed "Gay Agenda". C'mon, really? Since most gays were kicked out of churches to begin with, I doubt they'd have any interest in doing even a third of what you've described here. They just want to be free to marry who they love. It's really just that simple.

February 27 2011 at 4:29 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Talksoup18 is right. If churches want to break the law, then they shouldn't be allowed tax-exempt status. As Christians, shouldn't the obey the law? It isn't as if the law is requiring them to denounce Christ. They still have religious freedom to worship any way they want. What is civil is civil and what is worship is worship. God knows the difference.

They should be thankful that they even have a tax-exempt option; the rest of the world can only dream about the money that flows through American churches.

February 28 2011 at 6:28 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

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