Discrimination in Social Services

Five Years Later, Christian Nationalist Predictions About Marriage Equality Look Pretty Silly

  Rob Boston

Tomorrow marks the fifth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, a ruling that had the effect of extending marriage equality nationwide.

Prior to the decision and after it came down, Religious Right groups made a number of claims about marriage equality, predicting dire consequences from the ruling.

Five years have passed. How many of these predictions have come true? Let’s take a look:

Western civilization will collapse: In October 2014, Christian nationalist attorney Mat Staver told a right-wing radio show that if the Supreme Court were to uphold marriage equality, the consequences would be devastating.

“This is something that I believe is the beginning of the end of Western Civilization,” Staver said. “You can’t simply redefine and pretend that ontological differences between men and women do not exist. This will have consequences.”

Admittedly, Western Civilization has taken a bit of a hit lately – all civilization has. But that’s due to the coronavirus pandemic and a reckoning over systemic racism, not marriage equality. In the main, Western Civilization is still plugging along.

The American people will rebel: As states began legalizing same-sex marriage and courts started striking down bans on it in 2013, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, was certain the American people were going to rise up.

“If you get government out of whack with where the people are and it goes too far, you create revolution,” Perkins said while appearing on a right-wing radio show. “I think you could see a social and cultural revolution if the court goes too far on this. [It] could literally split this nation in two and create such political and cultural turmoil that I’m not sure we could ever recover. …”

Didn’t happen. Instead, the country underwent a fairly rapid shift in public opinion on the question of marriage equality. A number of polls now show support for it hitting the low to mid-60s. Among millennials, support for marriage equality is even higher at 70 percent. Stick a fork in this one; it’s done.

Houses of worship will be forced to perform marriage ceremonies for same-sex couples: When it became obvious that marriage equality was coming to Alabama, Eric Johnston, president of the right-wing Southeast Law Institute, hit the panic button.

“There will be a lot of lawsuits over whether ministers have to do it,” Johnston blathered. “It will be a clash between fundamental rights under the Constitution.”

What nonsense. The flood of lawsuits never materialized, in part because it’s obvious that houses of worship have an ironclad right to decide to whom they will extend their sacraments and religious services. Nothing about that has changed since June 26, 2015. The number of houses of worship that have been compelled to allow same-sex couples to marry stands at zero.

Religious conservatives will be imprisoned: James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, seriously argued that people would be sent to prison for refusing to accept marriage equality.

“Many of us will be dragged into court to be prosecuted or subjected to civil judgments,” Dobson groused in a column. “… Some may go to prison as the years unfold.”

Wrong again. No one is sitting behind bars for refusing to accept marriage equality. (Anti-LGBTQ Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis was briefly in jail, but that’s because she was found guilty of contempt of court. Davis, a government official, defied court orders and refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even after Obergefell had come down.)

Religious freedom will be obliterated: After Obergefell was handed down, Bryan Fischer, a radio talk show host affiliated with the American Family Association, tweeted: “Every advance of the gay agenda comes at the expense of religious liberty. As of today, free exercise is toast.”

But the free exercise of religion is not toast – it’s not even scorched. In the post-Obergefell world, people remained free to meet in houses of worship for prayer and fellowship. Pastors who disliked the ruling had the ability to criticize it from the pulpit. No church had to admit LGBTQ members. Nothing changed. It’s true that secular, for-profit businesses were expected to follow state and local anti-discrimination laws and serve everyone equally – but that doesn’t stop anyone from worshipping as they please. It’s a strange definition of “religious freedom” that allows one person to treat another like a second-class citizen.

People will start marrying animals, microwave ovens, lakes, etc.: U.S. Rep. Louis Gohmert (R-Texas) and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) were big fans of this insipid talking point. Some assertions are simply too stupid to merit a reply. This is one of them.

Even as these claims were being made, we at Americans United were debunking them. They just aren’t true. Will the Christian nationalist groups that spread them take an honest look back five years later and admit they were wrong?

Don’t hold your breath.

Congress needs to hear from you!

Urge your legislators to co-sponsor the Do No Harm Act today.

The Do No Harm Act will help ensure that our laws are a shield to protect religious freedom and not used as a sword to harm others by undermining civil rights laws and denying access to health care.

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