On Tuesday the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments against the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative that banned gay marriage in the Golden State.
Observers and reporters in the courtroom doubted the Court would issue a sweeping decision, but instead might uphold appeals court rulings overturning Proposition 8 while leaving other aspects of gay marriage to the states.
The cases come at a time when public opinion is shifting dramatically. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll found 58% of the public now supports gay marriage. Some 66% of young people support the rights of gay and lesbians to marry, according to a Pew Research poll, and even 40% of young Republicans do.
The problem, though, as David Weigel pointed out in Slate, is that “59 percent of Republicans still opposed it. Republicans over 65, the party’s most reliable voters, opposed gay marriage by a 68-25 margin.”
And that, as Weigel wrote, could be a problem for a party in desperate need of a makeover:
“Committed Christians make up a huge voting bloc within the GOP,” said A.J. Spiker, the 32-year-old chairman of the Iowa Republican Party. .. “We can’t win elections without committed Christians staying engaged.”
“Committed Christians,” especially Evangelicals, comprise half of Republican primary voters and have a disproportionate impact on the awful, undemocratic Iowa caucuses. They strongly oppose gay marriage, and their belief is based on the Bible itself, which many of them view as the unerring Word of God.
So, let’s revisit what the Bible said on this subject.
Two of the most notorious passages are from Leviticus, the middle book in the Torah, the Five Books of Moses that are the heart of the Hebrew Bible or, as Christians call it, the Old Testament:
“Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (Leviticus 18:22).
“If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them” (Leviticus 20:13).
Even earlier, in Genesis, there was the account of Sodom and Gomorrah, which God destroyed in part because the residents engaged in homosexual practices (although from the text, it sounded more like rape).
And in the New Testament, Paul declared that homosexuals, along with adulterers, “fornicators,” idolators, and others “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (I Corinthians 6:9; 10).
These words are unambiguous. If you believe the Bible is God’s literal truth, you mustn’t shrink from these stark proscriptions, even if you don’t literally “put [them] to death.” If you start picking and choosing, you might as well throw the whole thing out.
And that’s the problem with the fundamentalist outlook on everything from evolution to climate change. Anything that challenges the “literal truth” of the Bible must be rejected, no matter how strong the evidence for it is. (Orthodox Jews and the Roman Catholic Church also reject gay marriage.)
That’s a heavy burden for people who already are frightened by the big changes in our society and struggle with modernity in general. While the rest of us evolve, they stand still.
They certainly have a right to their moral and religious principles, and churches and synagogues have the right to refuse to marry gays and lesbians.
But the rest of us have a right to our principles, too. And since there now appear to be more of us than there are of them, Republicans’ dependence on religious fundamentalists could keep their party stuck in this rut for years to come.