In 1996, Tennessee U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp voted for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Although he still believes in the traditional definition of marriage, he says he would vote differently today. The congressman, long known for his social conservatism, went as far as to praise the Supreme Court for striking down the law in United States v. Windsor. If you’re wondering how someone can both endorse marriage and, seemingly, not endorse it, let me explain.
Immediately after the High Court ruling, many social conservatives reasoned that it could have been a lot worse. Granted, the decision wasn’t the desired outcome but, at least, our robed masters didn’t nationalize gay “marriage” a la Roe v. Wade. For now, federalism was preserved and the business of defining “marriage” was left up to each state through the democratic process. For now.
Live and let live
Rep. Wamp, noting how “the whole issue of same-sex marriage has evolved” (a popular meme imparting a sense of manifest destiny), says he now sees this as a matter of states’ rights. "Let them live how they want to live in New York," he said. "I'll choose to live this way in Tennessee."
Whether Wamp’s “evolution” reflects conviction or capitulation to the sea change in public attitudes, it is wholly unrealistic. Federalism applied to marriage is social and legal chaos. A marriage that isn’t transportable from state to state isn’t marriage at all. It is a social construction that leads to discrimination, inequality, and confusion.
DOMA, in defining “marriage” only for federal purposes, did nothing to prevent those consequences, but, in fact, promoted them by allowing states to refuse to recognize marriages legally performed in other states. So, while the Court’s decision is not surprising, its rationale for it is quite telling.
Demeaning and disparaging
In the majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy cited DOMA’s infringement upon the constitutional provisions of due process and equal protection. Some of the more choice things he had to say about the law were that it “demeans” same-sex couples; “diminish[es] the stability and predictability of basic personal relations”; “humiliates tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples”; and serves to “disparage and to injure” homosexual couples and their families.
Lost upon Justice Kennedy is how those statements demean and disparage the bipartisan Congress that passed DOMA, the president (Bill Clinton) who signed it into law, and every civilization up until the present time. They even disparage Jesus Christ who, when the topic of marriage came up and despite the prevalence of homosexuality in His day, didn't revise the institution according to the “evolved” thinking of the culture, but reaffirmed it as originally established.
Lost upon Representative Wamp is what the Court’s rationale says about his gentlemanly hope in “live and let live” provincialism.
None of this has been lost upon columnist Charles Krauthammer.
Considering the Court’s central argument of “equal protection,” Krauthammer asks why it “should apply only in states recognizing gay marriage? Why doesn’t it apply–indeed even perhaps more forcefully–to gays who want to marry in states that refuse to marry them?”
More to the point, if it is unconstitutional to discriminate (concerning federal benefits) in a state were homosexuals can be legally married, Krauthammer asks, “By what logic is discrimination permitted in Texas, where a gay couple is prevented from marrying in the first place?” None, because as the Court so indelicately suggests, only animus, bigotry, and hate motivate the opposition to same-sex “marriage.”
It doesn’t take an expert in jurisprudence to see that this ruling provides the legal grist to file suit (and prevail!) in every state with DOMA-like laws. Indeed, as Krauthammer sharply observes, the “DOMA opinion has planted the seed for [the High Court] going Roe next time.”
For socially red states that insist on dragging their feet to the gay “marriage” altar, resistance, as they say, is futile.
In a column I wrote a short while back, I asked, “Is Gay ‘Marriage’ Inevitable?” In light of recent events there can be little doubt about the answer. Having crossed the gay “marriage” Rubicon, the question now becomes, what should Christians do? The answer is, doing what we should have been doing all along: making “disciples of all nations.”
The word “nations” signifies that our duty is more than proclaiming the good news of the kingdom to individuals; it includes applying kingdom principles in every dimension of human interest–arts, literature, government, science, marketplace, education–to redeem nations through the institutions and artifacts that make them and shape them.
And that starts with Christians modeling the sacramental essence of marriage and living lives of sexual purity. The failure of Christians to do so, while holding others to standards they don’t keep, is largely responsible for the loss of the Church’s moral authority and the growing acceptance of homosexualism.
Nothing in the past 2000 years, including the repeal of DOMA, changes our call to be light in darkness and salt in a decaying culture. Whatever cultural conditions exist, whatever hostility we experience, we are to be martyrs (from the Greek word for “witnesses”) by profession and practice. We may not face lions in a state coliseum or fire in a village square (though their modern versions can’t be ruled out), but we must prepare for increased discrimination, marginalization, and persecution.
Yes, increased, as these types of injustices have been going on for some time now. Ryan T. Anderson lists a few such instances:
“Catholic Charities of Boston was forced to discontinue its adoption services rather than place children with same-sex couples against its principles.”
“A Massachusetts appellate court ruled that parents have no right to exempt their children from these classes [promoting same-sex marriage].”
“The New Mexico Human Rights Commission prosecuted a photographer for declining to photograph a same-sex ‘commitment ceremony.’”
“Doctors in California were successfully sued for declining to perform an artificial insemination on a woman in a same-sex relationship.”
“Owners of a bed and breakfast in Illinois who declined to rent their facility for a same-sex civil union ceremony and reception were sued for violating the state nondiscrimination law.”
“A Georgia counselor was fired after she referred someone in a same-sex relationship to another counselor.”
As an added note, earlier this year a church in New Jersey lost part of its tax-exempt status for refusing to allow same-sex ceremonies on its property.
As state marriage laws are overturned and homosexual pseudotrimony becomes nationalized, we should expect more of this, not less. And that presents us with another question, a soul-searching question beyond what should we do. It is the question posed in The Untouchables (1987) by Jim Malone after Eliot Ness tells him he wants to bring down Al Capone: “What are you prepared to do?”
Yes, whatare we prepared to do? Are we prepared to be “witnesses” to God’s truth by our lips and our lives at the cost of social shunning, unemployment, lawsuits, criminalization, or worse?
Is the church prepared to forsake property, buildings, and professional staffs to remain faithful to its mission if tax exemptions are threatened, adversely impacting already low giving levels?
If the answer is no, depends, or we’re not sure, one thing we can be sure of, is the continued shrinking domain of religious liberty: from the public square, to the house of worship, to the family circle, to the temporal lobe, to the incredibly vanishing “God spot.”
Image copyright Jeff Kubina.
Regis Nicoll is a freelance writer and a BreakPoint Centurion. Serving as a men’s ministry leader and worldview teacher in his community, Regis publishes a free weekly commentary to stimulate thought on current issues from a Christian perspective. To be placed on this free e-mail distribution list, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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