ANALYSIS: A Cultural Wave on Gay Marriage Reaches the Supreme Court

Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners

"Thank you" Paul and Jeff sign. DOMA and Prop 8 decisions at the Supreme Court. Photo by Katie Anderson/Sojourners.

Sometimes a court opinion is more than just a court opinion.

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s 26-page decision Wednesday striking down a federal ban on same-sex marriages offers a window into Americans’ rapidly shifting views of same-sex relationships — a shift that increasingly relies on matters of law and fairness, not moral or religious views.

At the same time, Justice Antonin Scalia’s biting 26-page dissent in United States v. Windsor reflects a set of cultural, religious, and social arguments that are losing ground in the court of public opinion and now, in the highest court of the land.

Exodus International’s Alan Chambers: Bending History’s Arc

Alan Chambers, photo via alanchambers.org

Alan Chambers, photo via alanchambers.org

For more than a generation, the gay conversion organization known as Exodus International has been one of the most prominent Christian symbols of LGBT intolerance. They have practiced what is commonly called “reparative therapy” to supposedly remove the urges of same-sex attraction from those who seek to become straight. I have personally written at great length about the damage done by such religiously fueled zealotry, but never in my lifetime did I anticipate that the leader of this infamous anti-gay organization would concede as much to the public in the form of a confession.

What’s more, at their 38th annual convention, Exodus International’s director, Alan Chambers, announced plans to close the organization and cease its mission for good. You can read Mr. Chambers’ full of apology HERE, as well as the formal closure announcement HERE.

I’m not prone to emotional hyperbole, but I read these announcements and confessions with a nearly overwhelming admixture of shock, disbelief, compassion, and hope.  I also try not to fill my blog posts with too much content from other sources, but this is one of those occasions when the original source material should be seen without adaptation. Following are several excerpts for Mr. Chambers’ open apology to the public, along with my thoughts:

Ex-Gay Group Exodus International Shuts Down, President Apologizes

Kevin Zolkiewicz / Flickr.com

Protestors gather outside the 2009 Exodus International convention at Wheaton College, Kevin Zolkiewicz / Flickr.com

Exodus International, a group that bills itself as “the oldest and largest Christian ministry dealing with faith and homosexuality,” announced late Wednesday that it’s shutting its doors.

Exodus’s board unanimously agreed to close the ministry and begin a separate one, though details about the new ministry were unavailable at the time of the organization’s press release.

The announcement came just after Exodus president Alan Chambers released a statement apologizing to the gay community for many actions, including the organization’s promotion of efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation.

Churches Move to Cut Ties to Scouts After Gay Policy Change

Boy Scouts of America uniform and flag. Photo courtesy RNS/Shutterstock.

For the Rev. Ernest Easley, the decision to cut ties with the Boy Scouts was simple.

The Bible says homosexuality is a sin. The Boy Scouts do not.

“We are not willing to compromise God’s word,” said Easley, pastor of the 2,300-member Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., which has sponsored Boy Scout Troop 204 since 1945.

Gay Catholic Priest Comes Out to an Uncertain Future

Rev. Gary Meier re-published his book on being gay in the Catholic church last week. Aleksey Klints/shutterstock.com

On the campus of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the Rev. Gary Meier addressed a congregation of sorts — people who wanted to hear what the Roman Catholic priest had been thinking since, nearly a year ago, he last stood before a flock.

That was last June, when Meier told his parishioners at Saints Teresa and Bridget Church in north St. Louis that he would take a leave of absence “to discern what ministry God was calling me to do.”

Meier, 49, had told his archbishop that he could no longer teach the Catholic church’s stance on homosexuality.

“I have tried over the years to reconcile my silence as a gay priest with that of the Church’s increasingly anti-gay stance. I have been unsuccessful,” Meier writes in his book “Hidden Voices: Reflections of a Gay, Catholic Priest.”

Gay Mormon Characters Step Out of the Shadows

Religion News Service graphic by Tiffany McCallen and Kellie Kotraba/Columbia FA

Religion News Service graphic by Tiffany McCallen and Kellie Kotraba/Columbia FAVS


Twenty years ago, a gay Mormon character stepped onstage for the first time. His name was Joe Pitt, and he was in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches.

Pitt lived in New York with a good reputation and a bad marriage to a woman addicted to Valium. As colleagues dealt with the devastation and uncertainty of AIDS — it was the 1980s — he grappled with openly acknowledging his sexuality. He was Mormon. And gay. And the two didn’t mix.

Before Pitt, there was a gay Mormon character in a novel: Brigham Anderson, in Allan Drury’s Advise and Consent, published in 1959. But words like “gay” and “homosexual” weren’t used; it was all innuendo.

Now, the scene has changed: Gay Mormon characters and themes have a growing role in theater and literature.

The End of Bully Christianity

by Eric Austin / Flickr.com

Protestors gather during Minnesota's Senate marriage equality vote, by Eric Austin / Flickr.com

A tipping point has been reached, not only on the issue of marriage equality, but on the broader political force of bully Christianity, a pernicious brand of the faith that tells people who don't have conservative social and political views that they "aren't Christian." That model has now failed where it used to work reliably; Waterloo has been reached.

To be clear, not all of those who sought to protect traditional man-woman marriage were bullies. Many acted out of a principled and consistent sense of their own faith, and stayed away from defining the faith identity of others. I am fortunate that the same-sex marriage opponents I know best avoided that tactic and amid our disagreement never suggested that I was no longer a part of the diverse and complex body of Christians. 

Still, it is undeniable that many advocates for traditional marriage actively used the bullying tactic of asserting that there was only one "Christian" position on this issue, and that the Christian viewpoint rejected marriage equality. Unfortunately, their voices have too often been the loudest, and the ones to which the press is most attracted.  That tactic has now been exposed as something worse than unprincipled, politically: It has been shown to be ineffective in the public arena. 

Some will see this tipping point as a huge loss for Christianity, but it might instead be the faith's salvation. Bullying was always a terrible form of evangelism. 

Church-Based Scouting Alternatives Attract Interest

Photo courtesy Calvinist Cadet Corps

Calvinist Cadet Corps participants from the Grand Rapids North Council. Photo courtesy Calvinist Cadet Corps

They have pledges. They have merit badges. And they may go camping.

But they’re not the Boy Scouts.

Across the country, there are decades-old religious alternatives with names like Pathfinders (Seventh-day Adventist), Royal Ambassadors (Southern Baptist), and Royal Rangers (Assemblies of God).

And as the Boy Scouts of America considers whether to change its membership policy to admit gay members (but continue its ban on gay leaders), some of these groups are fielding inquiries from people concerned about the action the BSA may take.

Top Mormon Leader Warns Against ‘Tolerance Trap’

Just because the nation may change its laws to “tolerate legalized acts of immorality” does not make those acts any less spiritually damaging, senior Mormon apostle Boyd K. Packer said on Saturday at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ 183rd Annual General Conference.

“The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate legalized acts of immorality,” Packer said, “does not reduce the serious spiritual consequences that result from the violation of God’s law of chastity.”

Packer, president of the Mormons’ Quorum of Twelve Apostles and next in line to take over the church’s reins, didn’t specifically mention gay marriage, but his comments came amid controversy on the issue nationwide and a significant swing in public and political opinion toward favoring such same-sex unions.

ANALYSIS: Supreme Court Searches for Way Around Gay Marriage

RNS photo by Kevin Eckstrom

Edie Windsor speaks after oral arguments in her challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act. RNS photo by Kevin Eckstrom

In nearly two hours of arguments on Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard many of the expected cases for and against recognizing gay marriage: that refusing to do so is blatant discrimination, that gay marriage is a social experiment that the court should not preempt, that Washington has no role in state marriage laws.

Yet it was arcane arguments over matters of legal standing that seemed to most animate the justices, reflecting what seemed to be a desire to find a way for the court to sidestep a definitive up-or-down ruling on one of the most divisive social issues.

In short, the court — particularly its conservative majority — seemed to ask why they should hear a second gay marriage case in as many days, particularly one in which the government supports the lower court’s ruling. And the answer to that question will go a long way toward determining the outcome of a spirited national debate.