The Aftershocks of Gay Marriage

Journalists often talk about whether a story has “legs.”  Whether it has the ability to walk forward and affect events weeks or months into the future. 

Astonishingly, there’s been little talk about the long-term effects of the California Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage.  But, looking beyond the ruling’s most obvious implication, the redefinition of marriage, the decision foreshadows a nation in which all citizens will not only be asked to tolerate same-sex marriage, but be required to promote it. 

The find out where this fight may be headed, ask Crystal Dixon, a former Associate Vice President of Human Resources at the University of Toledo, who was fired for writing a letter to the editor expressing her belief as a black woman that it was inaccurate to compare the homosexual movement to the civil rights movement. Or ask Jon and Elaine Huguenin, who were fined $6,000 by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission for refusing to photograph a homosexual “commitment ceremony.”

Such cases are just the tip of the iceberg. 

Writing in the Los Angeles Daily News after the California decision, David Benkof, who is gay, asked:  “What happens if a traditionally religious business owner wants to extend his ‘marriage discount’ only to couples married in his eyes?”

After interviewing several gay-rights legal organizations, Benkof predicts that they will pursue any means necessary, even jail time, to force recognition of same-sex marriage in most areas of life. 

Benkof, who opposes gay marriage because it harms children and stifles religious liberty, continues: 

“Now, no lesbian in history has lost her assets, her job, or her freedom for writing, teaching and running her business guided by her belief that marriage is a union of any two individuals who love each other. So why do gay activists outside California support limitations on the freedom of speech, the press, and religious expression for anyone who disagrees with them?” 

To ask, of course, is to answer. 

Clearly, the imposition of same sex marriage will have repercussions that extend far beyond simply having the state calling committed gay couples “married” instead of “domestic partners.” 

Consider our schools.  If same-sex marriage is approved across America, schools would be required to teach that homosexual and heterosexual behavior are morally equivalent; references in school textbooks to “mom” and “dad” and “wife” and “husband” would have to be removed.  High schools would be prohibited from having prom kings and queens, and gender specific sports teams may even have to be eliminated. 

And don’t think that private Christian institutions would be immune.  As marriage expert Maggie Gallagher has written, “Precisely because support for marriage is public policy, once marriage includes gay couples, groups who oppose gay marriage are likely to be judged in violation of public policy, triggering a host of negative consequences, including loss of tax-exempt status.”  This reality would affect Christian schools on everything from student housing to admissions policies for openly homosexual students to the hiring of openly homosexual professors and employees. 

The next question is:  What about churches that preach against the homosexual lifestyle?  Could ministers be prosecuted and thrown in jail, as they have been in Europe, for preaching from the pulpit that homosexual acts are sinful?

Further, legal expert Robin Wilson told Gallagher in 2006 that “Given the status of most churches as state nonprofits and federally tax-exempt organizations, it is likely that public support arguments will be advanced to compel churches to participate in same-sex marriage.”

We have already seen a preview of things to come in Massachusetts, where Catholic Charities of Boston was forced to close its doors because the court-imposed same-sex marriage law required that all adoption agencies offer services to same-sex couples. Catholic Charities, Boston’s largest and most respected adoption organization, was forced out of business because it refused to violate its most fundamental beliefs about the meaning of human sexuality and its link to marriage and family. 

But even if Catholic Charities had stopped receiving tax exempt status, it still would not have been allowed to refuse adoption services to same-sex couples.  The result is that today fewer children in Massachusetts have loving homes with mothers and fathers. 

On June 17, thousands of gay couples will flood into California to marry.  Unlike Massachusetts, the Golden State has no law that prohibits citizens of other states from traveling to California to get married, then returning home.  This fact has caused many states to prepare.  Yesterday, New York Governor David Paterson directed all state agencies to revise their policies to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions.  This even though New York’s highest court has said same-sex marriage is a legislative decision.

The vast majority of states, however, have laws that protect traditional marriage.  The result will be disorder as thousands of same-sex couples with marriage licenses from California return to states that do not recognize gay marriage. 

Fortunately, this chaotic reality is not yet inevitable.  Traditional marriage groups including the Alliance Defense Fund have asked the California Supreme Court to delay until after the November elections its decision ordering same-sex marriages.  

On November 4th, Californians will likely decide on a proposed constitutional amendment to protect traditional marriage.  Pro-marriage groups in California are cautiously optimistic about the chances of the measure passing.  California’s Defense of Marriage Act passed in 2000 with 61 percent of the vote.  What’s more, a recent Los Angeles Times poll found that a majority of Californians opposed the Supreme Court’s decision, and that voters support the proposed marriage amendment, which would reverse the state Supreme Court’s decision and constitutionally protect the traditional meaning of marriage by nearly 20 points, 54%-to-35%.

I hope these numbers hold come November.  If they do not, the California Supreme Court same-sex marriage story will have legs that take it decades into the future.  Because if same-sex marriage is re-affirmed in California, it may soon become a reality nationwide, with aftershocks that will reverberate far deeper than we now realize.