How Episcopalians Embraced Gay Marriage – Daily Beast

Gene Robinson
AT LAST07.05.1512:01 AM ET
How Episcopalians Embraced Gay Marriage
Gene Robinson received death threats when he became the first openly gay Episcopalian bishop. Twelve years later, his church is performing gay weddings. That’s progress.
It’s hard to remember how difficult life in the Episcopal Church was for me a mere 12 years ago. In June of 2003, I had become the first openly gay priest to be elected a Bishop in historic Christianity. Not the first gay bishop, mind you, but the first one to openly say so. Today, it is difficult to believe how panicked everyone was.

The death threats against my partner and me commenced immediately. Many within The Episcopal Church thought that our beloved Church had come loose from its biblical and theological moorings. (It hadn’t.) This controversy was going to kill us. (It didn’t.) The Archbishop of Kenya said that when I was consecrated, the Devil entered the Church. (Hardly!) This would cause division and strife in the Episcopal Church. (True. And sadly, some 100,000 members—out of roughly 2 million—left over this and other changes in the Church.) The Church, some said, had gone too far in its efforts to be inclusive. (In fact, we hadn’t gone far enough.)

Fast-forward only 12 years to today, when the just-concluded General Convention of the Episcopal Church opened the sacrament of marriage to gay and lesbian couples, just days after the Supreme Court made marriage equality the law of the land. And the Church’s vote by bishops, clergy, and laity wasn’t even close. By a stunning majority, and with little rancor, the Church elected to open all the sacraments to all the baptized. We’d gone from panic over a gay bishop to affirming gay and lesbian relationships in marriage in only 12 years.

A similar rate of progress was happening in the society as well. Sodomy between consenting adults was illegal in many states until struck down as unconstitutional in 2003 (Laurence v. Texas). And a mere 12 years later, the Supreme Court would rule that bans on marriage for its gay/lesbian citizens were unconstitutional. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, offered an elegant, and sometimes poetic, vision of marriage to which every citizen would have access.

We gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians have been reading our Bibles too, and finding therein the seeds of our own liberation at the hands of a loving God.
How did we make such progress in 12 years—in the Church and in American society? Surely the major reason is that so many of us have come out, openly telling the truth of our lives. Whereas only a decade or two ago, most Americans would have told you they didn’t know anyone gay, now there is hardly an American left that doesn’t know some family member, co-worker or former classmate to be gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender. And as Harvey Milk, the slain gay rights advocate, predicted in the ’70s, coming out makes all the difference. When they know us, he argued, they will no longer fear and hate us. Indeed, they will want us treated fairly.

Many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are also people of faith, and we have been working in our faiths and denominations to change the traditional judgments against us. I am reminded that slave owners in the Old South gave Bibles to their slaves in order to keep them quiet, compliant, and resigned to their lot in life. The problem was, those slaves actually read the Bible, with its talk of God’s loving all of God’s children, and St. Paul’s assertion that in Christ, there is neither slave nor free. They learned from the Bible that in God’s eyes, they had a full and equal claim on God’s love, and deserved not only freedom but dignity.

We gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians have been reading our Bibles too, and finding therein the seeds of our own liberation at the hands of a loving God. We learned to read the scriptures used to condemn us in the context of the cultures within which they were written—and found them not to be saying what tradition told us they meant. More and more of us came out so that people in our churches and synagogues began to know that we were sitting in the pews next to them. We raised our children in the traditions of our faith and proved that we could be good parents. We contributed to the life and mission of our congregations. And finally, over time, it became unconscionable to treat us as anything less than full members of our faiths.

Some church people say to me that in offering the sacrament of marriage to gay couples, the Church is “giving in” to the culture, and not in a good way. But I would argue that God is going to do God’s justice work with or without the Church. For years, the Church resisted changing its mind about gay people and our relationships, so God looked for justice workers outside the Church. I believe that the changing attitudes of American culture toward LGBT people is the work of a loving God. By welcoming LGBT people into our faiths, we are only joining God’s efforts in the world.

Despite all of this progress, there is still much to do. The number of faiths and denominations that unreservedly welcome LGBT people as full and equal members is small compared to those who do not. But the naysayers’ days are numbered, and the arc of history continues to bend toward justice. The Episcopal Church’s full embrace of us will take a while longer to become a full reality, but we have declared ourselves, once and for all, to be an open and welcoming Church.

There’s no going back. And for that, I am truly grateful.

How Gay Marriage Became a Consitiutional Right

How Gay Marriage Became a Constitutional Right
The untold story of the improbable campaign that finally tipped the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bruno Domingos / Reuters

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On May 18, 1970, Jack Baker and Michael McConnell walked into a courthouse in Minneapolis, paid $10, and applied for a marriage license. The county clerk, Gerald Nelson, refused to give it to them. Obviously, he told them, marriage was for people of the opposite sex; it was silly to think otherwise.

Baker, a law student, didn’t agree. He and McConnell, a librarian, had met at a Halloween party in Oklahoma in 1966, shortly after Baker was pushed out of the Air Force for his sexuality. From the beginning, the men were committed to one another. In 1967, Baker proposed that they move in together. McConnell replied that he wanted to get married—really, legally married. The idea struck even Baker as odd at first, but he promised to find a way and decided to go to law school to figure it out.

When the clerk rejected Baker and McConnell’s application, they sued in state court. Nothing in the Minnesota marriage statute, Baker noted, mentioned gender. And even if it did, he argued, limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples would constitute unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of sex, violating both the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. He likened the situation to that of interracial marriage, which the Supreme Court had found unconstitutional in 1967, in Loving v. Virginia.
The trial court dismissed Baker’s claim. The Minnesota Supreme Court upheld that dismissal, in an opinion that cited the dictionary definition of marriage and contended, “The institution of marriage as a union of man and woman…is as old as the book of Genesis.” Finally, in 1972, Baker appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. It refused to hear the case, rejecting it with a single sentence: “The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.” The idea that people of the same sex might have a constitutional right to get married, the dismissal suggested, was too absurd even to consider.

Last week, the high court reversed itself and declared that gays could marry nationwide. “Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in his sweeping decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. “They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

A New Right Grounded in the Long History of Marriage

The plaintiffs’ arguments in Obergefell were strikingly similar to those Baker made back in the 1970s. And the Constitution has not changed since Baker made his challenge (save for the ratification of the Twenty-Seventh Amendment, on congressional salaries). But the high court’s view of the legitimacy and constitutionality of same-sex marriage changed radically: In the span of 43 years, the notion had gone from ridiculous to constitutionally mandated. How did that happen?

I put the question to Mary Bonauto, who argued Obergefell before the Supreme Court in April. A Boston-based staff lawyer for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, Bonauto won the Massachusetts case that made the state the first to allow gay couples to wed in 2004. In 1971, she noted, sodomy was a crime in nearly every state, gays were routinely persecuted and barred from public and private employment, and homosexuality was classified as a mental illness. “We were just as right then as we are now,” she said. “But there was a complete lack of understanding of the existence and common humanity of gay people.”
What changed, in other words, wasn’t the Constitution—it was the country. And what changed the country was a movement.

Friday’s decision wasn’t solely or even primarily the work of the lawyers and plaintiffs who brought the case. It was the product of the decades of activism that made the idea of gay marriage seem plausible, desirable, and right. By now, it has become a political cliché to wonder at how quickly public opinion has changed on gay marriage in recent years—support for “marriages between homosexuals,” measured at 60 percent this year, was just 27 percent when Gallup first asked the question in 1996. But that didn’t happen organically.
Supporters of gay marriage rally in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in the days before the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. (Joshua Roberts / Reuters)
The fight for gay marriage was, above all, a political campaign—a decades-long effort to win over the American public and, in turn, the court. It was a campaign with no fixed election day, focused on an electorate of nine people. But what it achieved was remarkable: not just a Supreme Court decision but a revolution in the way America sees its gay citizens. “It’s a virtuous cycle,” Andrew Sullivan, the author and blogger whose 1989 essay on gay marriage for The New Republic gave the idea political currency, told me. “The more we get married, the more normal we seem. And the more normal we seem, the more human we seem, the more our equality seems obviously important.”

Some gay activists harbor a certain amount of nostalgia for the days when their movement was seen as radical, deviant, extreme. Today, when many Americans think of gay people, they may think of that nice couple in the next apartment, or the family in the next pew at church, or their fellow parents in the PTA. (Baker and McConnell are still together, living a quiet life as retirees in Minneapolis.) This normalization will continue to reverberate as gays and lesbians push for more rights—the right not to be discriminated against, for example. The gay-marriage revolution didn’t end when the Supreme Court ruled.

GOPers Vow To Defy SCOTUS Over Gay Marriage

The New Nullification Crisis: GOPers Vow To Defy SCOTUS Over Gay Marriage

ByTIERNEY SNEEDPublishedJUNE 16, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT 19527 Views
Ahead of a potentially historic Supreme Court ruling, leading Republicans are vowing to defy any decision that sanctions same-sex marriage and are challenging the very legitimacy of the high court.

With a decision in Obergefell v. Hodges expected before the end of June, conservatives are confronted with what was only a few years ago a nearly unthinkable possibility: a Supreme Court decision that decisively makes same-sex marriage a constitutional right.

Fearing a huge setback to their cause, opponents of same-sex marriage, including some of the major contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination, are darkly warning that they will not “honor” an adverse Supreme Court decision. Some are calling for civil disobedience. Others are moving to strip the Supreme Court of its authority to decide whether gay couples should be allowed to marry, while others have questioned whether the court has that jurisdiction in the first place. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has said that such a decision would be “fundamentally illegitimate.”

Those who are merely calling for a new constitutional amendment to enshrine marriage as between one man and one woman now seem almost quaint in their desire to use the ordinary constitutional process to counter the Supreme Court.

Here are some of the leading proponents of the new nullification:

Rick Santorum
Former Sen. Rick Santorum, on NBC’s Meet the Press last month, vowed to fight a Supreme Court decision in favor of same-sex marriage: “We’re not bound by what nine people say in perpetuity.”

“I think it’s important to understand that the Supreme Court doesn’t have the final word,” Santorum told viewers. “It has its word. Its word has validity. But it’s important for Congress and the president, frankly, to push back when the Supreme Court gets it wrong.”

Santorum is among the signers of the anti-gay marriage pledge being circulated by a group associated with the website DefendMarriage.Org. The group recently placed a full-page ad in The Washington Post with an open letter to the Supreme Court promising civil disobedience if the court struck down bans on gay marriage.

“We will not honor any decision by the Supreme Court which will force us to violate a clear biblical understanding of marriage as solely the union of one man and one woman,” the letter said. Its originator, Baptist pastor Rick Scarborough, has promised his fellow signers — some 50,000 people by the website’s count — will “resist all government efforts to require them to accept gay marriage, and they will accept any fine and jail time to protect their religious freedom and the freedom of others.”

Mike Huckabee
The former Arkansas governor also signed the DefendMarriage.Org civil disobedience pledge, and suggested that if elected president, he would ignore a Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

“Presidents have understood that the Supreme Court cannot make a law, they cannot make it, the legislature has to make it, the executive branch has to sign it and enforce it,” Huckabee told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “And the notion that the Supreme Court comes up with the ruling and that automatically subjects the two other branches to following it defies everything there is about the three equal branches of government.”

Ted Cruz
In addition to proposing the more temperate course of a new constitutional amendment to limit marriage to straight couples, Cruz introduced a bill in the Senate that would bar federal courts from weighing in on marriage until that amendment was passed, Bloomberg reported in April.

“If the court tries to do this it will be rampant judicial activism. It will be lawlessness, it will be fundamentally illegitimate,” he said during an Iowa campaign stop earlier this spring.

Ben Carson
Ben Carson has expressed doubt that a Supreme Court decision favoring same-sex marriage would need to be enforced.

“First of all, we have to understand how the Constitution works. The president is required to carry out the laws of the land, the laws of the land come from the legislative branch,” Carson said in May. “So if the legislative branch creates a law or changes a law, the executive branch has a responsibly to carry it out. It doesn’t say they have the responsibility to carry out a judicial law. And that’s something we need to talk about.”

Steve King
Like Cruz, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) has also introduced legislation prohibiting courts — including the Supreme Court — from considering the question of same-sex marriage, by taking on Article III of the Constitution.

“We could pass this bill before the Supreme Court could even hear the oral arguments, let alone bring a decision down in June,” King said when introducing the bill in early April. “That would stop it right then, there would be no decision coming out of the Supreme Court. This is a brake, and whether we can get the brake on or not between now and June, that we don’t know.”

Tom DeLay
In addition to signing the civil disobedience pledge, the former GOP House majority leader has advocated for states to ignore a Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage.

“A ruling by the Supreme Court is nothing but an opinion if the legislative branch and the executive branch do not enforce it,” DeLay said on Newsmax TV’s The Steve Malzberg Show. “Not only that, if the states would just invoke the 10th Amendment and assert their sovereignty, they can defy a ruling by the Supreme Court. It’s in the Constitution. We can tell the court what cases they can hear.”

Texas State Rep. Cecil Bell
Texas Democrats thwarted a bill sponsored by Republican state Rep. Cecil Bell that would have prohibited state and local governments from recognizing, granting or enforcing same-sex marriage licenses. Nevertheless, when the statehouse was considering the bill, Bell was skeptical that a Supreme Court ruling would bring same-sex marriage to the state.

“If the Supreme Court sets a precedent that says same-sex marriage is a legal precedent that states should adhere, that states will suddenly flock to that precedent and begin to conform…the reality is that when the Supreme Court sets precedents, states don’t always adhere to them,” he told TPM at the time. “I am not predicting what Texas will do — but to assume that Texas will suddenly change how it does business is presumptuous.”

Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore
Alabama’s top judge can boast of the coveted accomplishment of having already defied the Supreme Court when it allowed same-sex marriage to become legal in his state. Right before a federal ruling striking down the state’s marriage ban was to take effect, state Chief Justice Roy Moore issued an order barring local probate judges from issuing same-sex marriage licenses.

“When federal courts start changing our Constitution by defining words that are not even there, like marriage, they’re going to do the same thing with family in the future,” he later said, doubling down on his order. “When a word’s not in the Constitution, clearly the powers of the Supreme Court do not allow them to redefine words and seize power.”

Justice Ginsburg Eviscerates The Case Against Marriage Equality In Just Five Sentences

Justice Ginsburg Eviscerates The Case Against Marriage Equality In Just Five Sentences
During Tuesday’s marriage equality arguments in the Supreme Court, several of the Court’s conservative members suggested that same-sex couples should not be given equal marriage rights because these couples have not enjoyed those rights for most of the past. As Justice Antonin Scalia summed up this argument, “for millennia, not a single society” supported marriage equality, and that somehow exempted same-sex couples from the Constitution’s promise of equal protection of the law.
Not long after her conservative colleagues raised this argument, however, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained exactly why marriage was long understood to be incompatible with homosexuality in just five sentences:
[Same-sex couples] wouldn’t be asking for this relief if the law of marriage was what it was a millennium ago. I mean, it wasn’t possible. Same-sex unions would not have opted into the pattern of marriage, which was a relationship, a dominant and a subordinate relationship. Yes, it was marriage between a man and a woman, but the man decided where the couple would be domiciled; it was her obligation to follow him.
There was a change in the institution of marriage to make it egalitarian when it wasn’t egalitarian. And same-sex unions wouldn’t — wouldn’t fit into what marriage was once.
Justice Ginsburg’s point was that, until surprisingly recently, the legal institution of marriage was defined in terms of gender roles. According to Sir William Blackstone, an eighteenth century English jurist whose works are still frequently cited today to explain the common law principles we inherited from our former colonial rulers, “[t]he very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything.” As late as 1887, fully one third of the states did not permit women to control their earnings. And married women could not even withhold consent to sex with their husband until shockingly recently.
Under the common law, “by their mutual matrimonial consent and contract the wife hath given herself up in this kind unto her husband,” and this consent was something “she cannot retract.” The first successful prosecution in the United States of a husband who raped his wife did not occur until the late 1970s.
So American marriage law, and the English law that it was derived from, presumed that the wife was both financially and sexual subservient to the husband. In a world where marriage is defined as a union between a dominant man and a submissive woman, each fulfilling unique gender roles, the case for marriage discrimination is clear. How can both the dominant male role and the submissive female role be carried out in a marital union if the union does not include one man and one woman? This, according to Justice Ginsburg, is why marriage was understood to exclude same-sex couples for so many centuries.
But marriage is no longer bound to antiquated gender roles. And when those gender roles are removed, the case for marriage discrimination breaks down.