Four years ago yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, a decision that extended marriage equality nationwide. In the lead-up to the decision and after it, the leaders of America’s Religious Right went completely off the deep end and made a number of hysterical predictions about what would happen if marriage equality became the law in America.
Let’s revisit some of them. (Spoiler: They have not held up well.)
Americans will never accept this ruling: Most Americans are fine with the Obergefell decision and just don’t see allowing LGBTQ Americans to marry the people they love as a big deal. Even before the decision was handed down, a majority of Americans said they supported marriage equality. Although that figure, about 63 percent, hasn’t changed much since 2015, don’t expect it to drop. A staggering 83 percent of Americans aged 18 to 29 support the idea. This is not a recipe for Religious Right growth.
There will be massive disobedience to the decision: Didn’t happen, probably because, as noted above, most Americans support the ruling. Sure, there was some disobedience, but it was hardly massive. Among those who tried was Kim Davis, a government clerk in Rowan County, Ky., who said her personal, religious views against marriage equality made it impossible for her to do her job. But Davis didn’t stop there. She was so extreme she refused to allow any employee in her office to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Davis was successfully sued over her antics, and attempts by Religious Right groups to turn her into a folk hero fell flat. Last year, the voters of Rowan County put her out of a job.
Members of the clergy will be forced to preside at weddings for same-sex couples: Not only did this not happen, it can’t happen – not as long as we have the First Amendment. Under the separation of church and state, houses of worship have the right to offer their sacraments and services only to the people of their choice. Just as a straight non-Catholic couple could not compel a priest to marry them, a same-sex couple can’t force any member of the clergy to preside over their nuptials if he or she would rather not. This claim was always nothing more than fear-mongering.
The foundations of the American republic will collapse: Religious Right groups have been saying for years that any advance of LGBTQ rights will lead to the demise of the country, yet we continue to plug along. Admittedly, things are a little rocky right now, but that’s because of President Donald Trump’s disrespect for constitutional norms, not the Obergefell decision.
This decision will cause Americans to turn their backs on marriage: Plenty of people are still getting married. It is true that young people these days are staying single longer, the rates of cohabitation have inched up and the percentage of people who have never been married has risen. But all of this is likely due to socio-economic factors unrelated to the Obergefell ruling. The fact is, most Americans still aspire to marry. According to the Pew Research Center, 85 percent of people who have never been married either say they’d definitely like to get married someday or are open to the idea.
While all of these Religious Right predictions were wrong, one thing definitely did occur in the wake of the Obergefell ruling: Religious Right groups dramatically ramped up their arguments that “religious freedom” gives them the right to discriminate against LGBTQ people (and others) and to deny them access to services and health care. This is a perversion of the very concept of religious freedom, and AU is fighting it on several fronts, including Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser’s testimony in Congress earlier this week. We’d love to have your help.