As the nation waits for the U.S. Supreme Court’s highly anticipated marriage decision in Obergefell v. Hodges this month, one thing is clearly true: The proverbial cat has officially been let out of the bag in terms of what some people have in mind if the high court does not allow states to affirm the definitions of marriage they have always had.
Supporters of marriage have for years predicted that redefining the institution to encompass same-sex relationships would permanently alter its child-centered purpose and imperil religious liberty. Though born of historical knowledge, experience, and logic, these predictions have been met with derisive mockery by the purveyors of same-sex marriage. But after the recent oral arguments at the high court, we can finally put to rest the pretense that their project will have no harmful consequences in the real world.
Chief Justice John Roberts, very early on in the argument, noted that same-sex marriage advocates are not seeking merely to join an existing institution but rather to change its core definition. In response, an attorney representing petitioners in the case waxed eloquent about the 14th Amendment and its “enduring guarantees,” which are irrelevant to the question. The only honest answer would have been a simple “Yes, that is true. We are intentionally seeking to transform marriage forever, most notably its purpose and its effects. And it is our contention that the Constitution requires this.”
That such a frank admission was not forthcoming is understandable—it would have been politically unpalatable. But counsel’s silence on the matter still spoke volumes. Truth may make for poor press on the grandest litigation stage, but that does not mean that those with eyes to see and ears to hear cannot discover it.
Take for instance E.J. Graff, senior fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, who said that once “same-sex marriage becomes legal, that venerable institution will stand for sexual choice, for cutting the link between sex and diapers.” Or author and radio host Michelangelo Signorile, who suggested that same-sex couples should “demand the right to marry not as a way of adhering to society’s moral codes but rather to debunk a myth and radically alter an archaic institution” (“Bridal Wave,” OUT magazine, Dec.-Jan. 1994, p. 161). Or LGBT activist Masha Gessen, who admitted that “fighting for gay marriage generally involves lying about what we are going to do with marriage when we get there—because we lie that the institution of marriage is not going to change.” Or Boston College Professor of Law Kent Greenfield, who has written that supporters of marriage are right when they “argue that [redefining marriage] will lead to marriages among more than two people and between adults who are related.”
Same-sex marriage advocates do mean to change marriage—in fact, it is the movement’s very reason for being. But perhaps even more ominous than the confirmation of this long-obvious fact was the revelation that an invented constitutional right to same-sex marriage almost certainly would endanger the religious liberty of those who refuse to compromise their belief that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.
Justice Samuel Alito asked U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli whether a university or college that opposed same-sex marriage stood to lose its tax-exempt status as a result, and the federal government’s chief litigation officer quite candidly, perhaps even unwittingly, admitted that “it’s certainly going to be an issue.” The government’s confirmation that those who fail to celebrate same-sex marriage will be punished for their religious convictions might have been the biggest news of the day.
But to anyone who has been paying attention, this shouldn’t have been news at all. Alliance Defending Freedom, for example, has been predicting for more than a decade that the government would use tax exemptions as a sword to compel believers to compromise their faith on the issue of marriage. In fact, ADF argued that this development was not merely a possibility, but rather a logical necessity of the project to redefine marriage. And that is because this is a movement that seeks to challenge, marginalize, and ultimately punish traditional religious belief and its expression in the public square.
Take for instance Frank Bruni, op-ed columnist for The New York Times, who recently characterized Christian beliefs regarding homosexual behavior and marriage as “prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison … [by] … rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.” Apparently, so long as we can “shake … beliefs ossified over centuries,” it appears Bruni is content to grant us a warm welcome back into polite society. Others, however, do not appear eager to permit even that degree of rapprochement. Signorile recently declared that the “debate is over,” called on the media to stop “show[ing] ‘both sides’ of the gay issue,” and encouraged “confrontation” rather than magnanimity. To the question as to when the “fight will be over,” he pointedly stated that “I’m not sure it’s ever truly over … .”
Signorile’s admission confirms the suspicion that there really is no logical end to the same-sex marriage project, which has at its heart an essentially totalitarian impulse demanding complete obeisance and affirmative celebration. It is a project that has shown itself to be insatiable and ever-expanding. A look at its historical arc proves this.
Not too long ago, we were told that laws passed to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity were merely designed to ensure equality, inclusion, and tolerance—they were emphatically not surreptitious attempts to seek official government sanction for same-sex relationships. “We just want to be left alone!” was the mantra. Then we were told that the state must officially recognize same-sex couples in some manner, but only for the purpose of garnering the same rights and benefits as married couples. “Why would we want marriage?” was the query. Then we were surprised to learn that by withholding the official title of marriage, the state inflicted not only an epic dignitary harm to same-sex couples, but also an unconstitutional deprivation that demands an immediate judicial remedy.
Additionally, constitutional amendments that merely reaffirmed an understanding of marriage that had been universally accepted for millennia, long before sexual orientation was even a concept, have now been tagged as products of bigotry and animus against same-sex couples. “Excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage demeans the dignity of those couples,” Verrilli intoned at oral argument.
Throughout this deliberate progression, activists reassuringly promised us that no Americans would be forced to compromise their faith. Any such concerns were dismissed as completely unfounded—mere scare tactics floated by recalcitrant religious cranks. But now the mask has been removed. Now we know the truth. “It’s certainly going to be an issue.”
Any failure to accept this new vision of marriage—any failure to publicly bend the knee to this new orthodoxy—will result in very public and very damaging punishments, namely the loss of tax-exempt status for non-profit institutions. Can anyone claim with a straight face that once the government tries to strip schools of this status, attacks on churches and other religious ministries will not soon follow?
Of course, this is not so much a development as it is the official government announcement of what we have known for years—that the proponents of same-sex marriage are not really interested in compromise or peaceful co-existence. In fact, casualties are par for the course.
For example, after courts rewrote the marriage laws in the District of Columbia and Massachusetts, Catholic Charities, one of the world’s most effective and reliable adoption and foster-care placement agencies, was forced to stop doing what it does best simply because its religious precepts prevent it from placing children with same-sex couples. Driving Catholic Charities from this vital work deprives vulnerable children of a great resource for finding a permanent home with a mom and a dad. Apparently, same-sex marriage advocates trot out the “for the dignity of the children” rationale only when it suits their purposes.
When 70-year-old floral artist and grandmother Barronelle Stutzman politely declined to create floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding based on her religious conviction that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman, the state of Washington came calling. The state attorney general and the ACLU targeted her business, her home, and her retirement assets for destruction and repossession. Of course, it made no difference that she had openly served all customers, regardless of their sexual orientation, for almost four decades. No amount of good faith is sufficient to justify one’s failure to fully embrace same-sex marriage and all it demands.
When Aaron and Melissa Klein, a couple running a successful and popular bake shop, had the temerity to politely decline a request to bake a same-sex wedding cake based on their religious convictions about marriage, they too were targeted for their stubborn faith. For their trouble they suffered boycotts, vandalism, and death threats directed at their children and themselves, and they eventually lost their business. Now they have been saddled with a $135,000 fine for refusing to compromise their beliefs.
Perhaps most notable from this affair, however, was the fact that the crowdfunding account set up to help pay for, or at least defray, this massive penalty was suspended by GoFundMe, which determined after receiving complaints from LGBT activists that the Kleins’ religious decision amounted to a “heinous crime” in violation of the company’s Terms of Service. GoFundMe suspended an account developed for Barronelle Stutzman as well. These developments reveal once again that the imperative of same-sex marriage knows no limit. It is not enough to merely stifle dissent—even the attempt to survive unjust persecution must also be thwarted.
Before his recent death, Francis Cardinal George predicted the future in a world in which the state “go[es] bad, claiming an absolute power, deciding questions and making ‘laws’ beyond its competence.” He said, “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”
Nine judges should not determine the future of marriage in our nation. Nevertheless, it appears possible that the Supreme Court might attempt to redefine marriage for all of us. Although such a result would be disappointing, we can at least be thankful for the illumination that the recent oral arguments brought us.
No one can credibly doubt that the purveyors of same-sex marriage mean to redefine the institution once and for all. Nor can one doubt that such a change will gravely imperil religious liberty. Solicitor General Verrilli did us a great favor by telling the truth.
Another important truth is this: those who would redefine marriage seem willing to fight without end to achieve their vision. Religious believers and others who know marriage to be the foundation of a stable and healthy culture must now decide if they, like Cardinal George’s successors, are committed to resisting such a campaign with all the courage such a battle requires.
Ken Connelly is legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the marriage cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.