April 28th was an important day for the American LGBTQ equality movement. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on whether the Constitution requires state governments to recognize same-sex marriages, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Same-sex marriage bans in Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan, and Kentucky were upheld by a federal appeals court in November 2014, but those cases have now come before the Supreme Court, according to LGBTQ Nation. Countless pro-LGBTQ and anti-LGBTQ entities submitted amicus briefs in the weeks leading up to April 28th. The cases come before a Supreme Court whose judges are divided on the issuer of same-sex marriage, as the New York Times observes.
While LGBTQ equality advocates brought attention to the landmark cases, supporters held the Unite 4 Marriage rally in Washington D.C. on Tuesday morning. LGBTQ Nation reports that the atmosphere outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday was festive, with supporters of same-sex marriage wearing costumes, waving rainbow flags, and holding signs.
Anti-LGBTQ voices from the Religious Right were also on-hand, both inside and outside the Supreme Court. The Advocate states that a disruptive man was ejected from the Supreme Court building, reportedly shouting, "The nation will earn God's wrath!" Outside the building, same-sex marriage opponents took part in their own rally, featuring speakers such as the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins and Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas).
The Religious Right was active in the days leading up to April 28th as well, calling on the Supreme Court to reject same-sex marriage. Vision American president Rick Scarborough, Liberty Counsel founder Mat Staver, and Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson launched an online marriage pledge, which insists that marriage is between one man and one woman.
On April 24th, Vision America hosted a press conference at the National Press Club, where Religious Right leaders denounced same-sex marriage. James Dobson could not appear in person, and thus his associates played a pre-recorded video of Dobson's message. In the video, Dobson described heterosexual marriage and the "institution of the family" as gifts from God and bedrocks of culture throughout history. "God help us if we throw the divine plan for humankind on the ash heap of history," he told listeners. At the 4:02 mark, he mentioned that a handful of cultures that accepted LGBTQ people later perished, then claimed that same-sex marriage is a modern phenomenon.
"Admittedly, there have been periods in history where homosexuality has flourished, including the Biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, in ancient Greece, and during the Roman empire. None of these civilizations survived. Only in the last few years has what has been called gay marriage been given equal status with Biblical male-female unions."First, all civilizations fall or fade over time. For Dobson to attribute the end of civilizations to same-sex intimacy is patently ridiculous. Dobson's claim about long-faded societies was either an attempt at instilling fear of destruction in listeners, or a display of arrogant superiority over LGBTQ rights supporters. Second, same-sex marriage is not a modern invention, but rather a practice with a long history across the globe. Contrary to Dobson's claims, same-sex marriage has existed alongside heterosexual marriage for millennia.
At the 5:28 mark, Dobson claimed that the American people do not endorse same-sex marriage, a claim that evidence refutes. In doing so, Dobson tried to depict advances in LGBTQ equality as the will of a minority, rather than a reflecting of large-scale social change.
"The American people didn't demand the sea change that is occurring. In fact, the populations in 31 states voted one at a time on the definition of marriage, and every one of them affirmed it as being exclusively between one man and one woman."Vision America president Rick Scarborough blasted those who support LGBTQ equality, condemning them of debating a matter than has already been "settled in heaven". Scarborough accused them of defying God himself at the 12:48 mark.
"We've witnessed an attack on God and the veracity of his word unparalleled in American history. Judges, legislators, and citizens who voted for same-sex marriage have said, in effect, God and his word are incorrect on marriage. Perhaps unknowingly, they've chosen to deny God's word and observable nature and it created an illusion that most Americans approve of that which God forbids."At the 13:14 mark, Scarborough argued that the majority opinion on LGBTQ equality is not necessarily correct, just as the majority opinion on historic racism was wrong. In doing so, he likened those who see to grant equal rights to a groups of Americans with earlier generations that denied equal rights to their fellow citizens. The irony, I thought.
"I am not surprised that some recent polls have shown the majority of Americans now say they approve of same-sex marriage. We have heard a steady drumbeat for the past decade of a one-sided national discussion on the subject. But there was also a time when the majority of Americans in this country approved of separate restrooms and separate classrooms for black American citizens. The majority often gets it wrong. And who wants to be labeled a bigot for declaring what their heart truly believes about sodomy and alternative lifestyles?"I found it amusing that Scarborough spoke of LGBTQ rights as a movement supported by the majority of Americans, while Dobson rejected the very idea just a few minutes prior. The Religious Right is having trouble keeping all its myths and bad arguments straight, I realized.
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, told the audience that religious liberty was under attack in a "zero-sum game". Staver discussed racist and eugenicist Supreme Court decisions from the past, speaking of LGBTQ rights gains to historic racism in the same breath. At the 29:19 mark, he told the audience that if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, he and his kindred spirits would not respect the decision.
"If the supreme court can't get this issue right, whether or not there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in the United States Constitution, if they cross this line and somehow invent some purported right to same-sex marriage in the United States Constitution, I say that, and the leaders that have signed this, and many more that will sign this around this country, that we will consider and treat such a decision by the United States Supreme Court in the same way that we and history has viewed Dred Scott and Buck v. Bell ... That decision will be an unjust law, and we cannot and we will not give it the respect of the rule of law. That goes too far."Janet Boynes, founder of Janet Boynes Ministries, claimed that "ex-gays" like her can "debunk" calls for LGBTQ rights and "tear down their belief system" if given a national stage. She called homosexuality a "false identity" rooted in "sexual or emotional brokenness", arguing that since gays can supposedly become heterosexual, calls for LGBTQ rights are invalid. At the 38:46 mark, she claimed that LGBTQ equality is not a civil rights issue, since it can supposedly be changed, unlike skin color.
"We have tragically watched our nation cave in to homosexuality propaganda. More and more, people are falling for the lie that homosexuals are born that way, when we know that's a lie anyway. Homosexuals have successfully made inroads into Hollywood, television, our children's public schools, universities, our government, the president of the United States, and our churches. Homosexual marriage is growing in America. [A] reality which is currently being litigated in our nation's Supreme Court as a potential federal civil rights, when we know this is not a civil rights issue. See, the color of my skin is an immutable, unchangeable characteristic. I can't change from black to white, but I did live a homosexual life for 14 years, and I've been out 17, so we know change is possible through the power of Jesus Christ."Boynes depicted LGBTQ people as not only false, but ominous. "If same sex marriage becomes the law of the land, no one can even imagine or even predict the ramifications that this decision will have," she warned the audience. At the 41:30 mark, she insisted that advances in LGBTQ rights would lead to the shuttering of "ex-gay" ministries and "homosexual activists" indoctrinating children.
"Those who seek help to leave the life of homosexuality may soon discover that there is no longer any help out there. Homosexual activists and their homosexual attorneys are pushing to ban any type of ministries, such as Janet Boynes Ministries, which help people exit homosexuality. Their goal is to indoctrinate our kids. Their goal is to silence us. Their greatest fear is men and women like myself who have walked away from that life. Soon, it may become illegal to even have this kind of ministry. Who knows how much longer we will have to do what we are doing today, unless we act now."As I listened to the press conference, I was struck by how stale and overused all of the arguments were. Every single argument -- God hates same-sex marriage, the majority is wrong for supporting same-sex marriage, the majority doesn't want same-sex marriage, gays can change to straight and thus don't need equal rights, think of the children! -- have been thrown around for years by anti-LGBTQ activists and refuted by equality supporters. Sadly, this is all the Religious Right knows how to do. The Religious Right clings so tenaciously to its outmoded vision of marriage and family that it cannot adapt to a changing world.
The gig is up, fundies. You're losing the culture war. Society is growing more enlightened, rejecting the homophobia, misogyny, science denialism, and dominionism that defines your worldview. As the world leaves you behind, your desperation becomes evidence in your relentless activism and overheated rhetoric.