If the Supreme Court rules in June that so-called gay marriage is a “civil right” protected by the U.S. Constitution, then Christian pastors who refuse to perform same-sex marriages “will be breaking the law” dependent upon how that law is written, said former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who is also an ordained Southern Baptist minister.
Huckabee’s view on the issue was raised during the oral arguments at the Supreme Court last week, on April 28, by Justice Antonin Scalia, who asked, “is it conceivable that a minister who is authorized by the State to conduct marriage can decline to marry two men if indeed this Court holds that they have a constitutional right to marry?”
If gay marriage were just a state-level law, you could make exceptions for ministers of different faiths, said Scalia, “but if it’s a constitutional requirement, I don’t see how you can.”
On an April 23 conference call with conservative pastors arranged by the Family Research Council (FRC), the group’s president, Tony Perkins, commented to Governor Huckabee, “What we’re finding in the wake of this redefinition of marriage is a direct assault on religious freedom. That very ability to preach the gospel is at stake in this debate.”
In response, Huckabee said, “It very much is. And let me be very practical in how this plays out if something doesn’t change. If the courts rule that people have a civil right -- not only to be a homosexual but a civil right to have a homosexual marriage -- then a homosexual couple coming to a pastor, who believes in Biblical marriage, who says, ‘I can’t perform that wedding,’ will now be breaking the law.”
“Let me make clear,” he said, “it’s not just saying, well, I’m sorry, you just have a different preference. No, you will be breaking the law, subject to civil and possibly criminal penalties, for violating the law depending on how that law is written in communities, states, and in the nation.”
“That is more than a direct assault just on religious liberty,” said the governor. “It doesn’t just say, you can’t do something. It says that if you do practice Biblical convictions and you carry them out, and you do what you’ve been led by the spirit of God to do, your behavior will be criminal.”
He continued, “That is a frightening place for a pastor to be. So, when I hear pastors say, ‘I don’t want to get involved,’ my response is, ‘Brother, you’re already involved. You just don’t realize it yet. You’re involved.’ And you’re going to be involved in a bigger way if something doesn’t happen to guarantee religious liberty for this and other issues.”
“Once the courts have been allowed to run over us, and nobody stands up to them, and [including] the other two branches of government, then God help us all,” said Huckabee.
In his questioning of the pro-gay-marriage attorney at the Supreme Court, Justice Scalia noted that “right to this day, we have never held that there is a constitutional right for these two [gay] people to marry, and the minister is to the extent he’s conducting a civil marriage, he’s an instrument of the State.”
“I don’t see how you could possibly allow that minister to say, I will only marry a man and a woman,” said Scalia, who distinguished between state-level laws on marriage, which provide exceptions for ministers, and “constitutional requirements.”
“If it’s a State law, you can make those exceptions,” said Scalia. “But if it’s a constitutional requirement, I don’t see how you can. And every State allows ministers to marry people, and their marriages are effective under State law. That will not be the case if, indeed, we hold, as a constitutional matter, that the State must marry two men.”
Michael Dale “Mike” Huckabee, 59, is married and has four children. In addition to his political career and work as a Christian minister, Huckabee has written several books, including the 2008 New York Times best seller Do The Right Thing: Inside The Movement That’s Bringing Common Sense Back to America. His latest book is God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.