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Conservatives brace for `marriage revolution'
Conservative Christians say their churches have been unprepared for cultural shifts on same-sex marriage.
June 28th, 2013
06:19 PM ET

Conservatives brace for `marriage revolution'

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - With its ivy-covered entrance and Teddy Bear bouquets, Arlene’s Flowers seems an unlikely spot to trigger a culture-war skirmish.

Until recently, the Richland, Washington, shop was better known for its artistic arrangements than its stance on same-sex marriage.

But in March, Barronelle Stutzman, the shop’s 68-year-old proprietress, refused to provide wedding flowers for a longtime customer who was marrying his partner. Washington state legalized same-sex marriage in December.

An ardent evangelical, Stutzman said she agonized over the decision but couldn’t support a wedding that her faith forbids.

“I was not discriminating at all,” she said. “I never told him he couldn’t get married. I gave him recommendations for other flower shops.”

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson disagreed, and filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Arlene’s Flowers. The ACLU also sued on behalf of the customer, Robert Ingersoll, who has said Stutzman’s refusal “really hurt, because it was someone I knew.”

Among conservative Christians, Stutzman has become a byword - part cautionary tale and part cause celebre.

Websites call her a freedom fighter. Tributes fill Arlene’s Facebook page. Donations to her legal defense fund pour in from as far away as Texas and Arkansas.

“For some reason, her case has made a lot of people of faith worry,” said Stutzman’s lawyer, Dale Schowengerdt of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative legal group.

Those anxieties have only increased, conservative Christians say, since the Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and opened the door to gay marriage in California.

Taking a line from Justice Antonin Scalia's sharp dissent, Southern Baptist scholar Albert Mohler said it’s only a matter of time "before the other shoe drops" – and the high court legalizes same-sex marriage from coast to coast.

“Christians will have to think hard — and fast — about these issues and our proper response,” Mohler wrote on Wednesday.

“We will have to learn an entire new set of missional skills as we seek to remain faithful to Christ in this fast-changing culture.”

His fellow Southern Baptist Russell Moore put the matter more succinctly.

“Same-sex marriage is coming to your community.”

`The debate is over'

Well before the Supreme Court’s rulings, many conservative Christians said they saw the writing - or the poll numbers - on the wall.

Survey after survey shows increasing support for same-sex marriage, especially among young Americans. That includes many religious believers.

Most Catholics and mainline Protestants, not to mention many Jews, support same-sex relationships, according to surveys. The bells of Washington National Cathedral pealed in celebration on Thursday.

Even among those who oppose gay marriage, many think it’s a losing battle.

Seventy percent of white evangelicals believe that legal recognition for gay nuptials is inevitable, according to a June poll by the Pew Research Center, though just 22 percent favor it.

“The gay marriage debate is over,” said Jonathan Merritt, an evangelical writer on faith and culture. “Statistically, all the numbers move in one direction.”

Young Christians have grown up in a far more diverse culture than their forebears, Merritt noted, and many have befriended gays and lesbians.

Pew found that more than 90 percent of Americans overall personally know someone who is gay or lesbian, a 30 percent increase since 1993.

“It’s far easier to wage war against an agenda than it is to battle a friend,” Merritt said.

At the same time, many conservative young Christians say they’re weary of the culture wars, and of seeing their communities labeled “judgmental.”

When Christian researchers at the Barna Group asked Americans aged 16-29 what words best describe Christianity, the top response was “anti-homosexual.” That was true of more than 90 percent of non-Christians and 80 percent of churchgoers, according to Barna.

Tired of being told the country is slouching toward Gomorrah, many young Christians have simply tuned out the angry prophets of earlier generations, evangelical leaders say.

“The shrill angry voices of retrenchment are no longer getting a broad hearing either in the culture at large or in the evangelical community,” Merritt said.

But the battle over same-sex marriage is far from over, said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.

“I don’t believe most Christians are going to give up the fight,” said Brown, who is Catholic. He said his movement includes many young evangelical and Orthodox Christians.

“And they are more energized than ever.”

Love thy gay neighbors

Energized or not, conservative Christians must prepare for the moral dilemmas posed by the country’s growing acceptance of same-sex marriage, said Moore, the new president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

“Is Your Church Ready for the Marriage Revolution?” Moore asked, while promoting a special session on homosexuality at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting in Houston in June.

Many evangelical pastors have seen homosexuality as a distant culture-war battle that’s fought far from the doors of the churches, Moore said.

Now, it’s as close as their front pews.

“I think it’s not so much that churches haven’t wanted to talk about it,” he said, “but they haven’t recognized how much the culture has changed around them.”

The first step, said Moore, is learning to defend traditional marriage without demonizing gays and lesbians.

Walking through Washington’s Union Station last Thursday, Moore said he saw several lesbian couples kissing in celebration of the Supreme Court rulings.

“If we can’t empathize with what’s going on in their hearts and minds, we’re not going to be able to love and respect them.”

Then come a host of secondary questions: How should conservative pastors minister to same-sex couples? Should Christians attend same-sex weddings? Should florists like Barronelle Stutzman's agree to work with gay couples?

`Don't give in' 

Florist Barronelle Stutzman.

In the 17 years she’s owned Arlene’s Flowers, Stutzman said, she’s worked with a number of gay colleagues.

“It really didn’t matter if they were gay, or blue or green, if they were creative and could do the job,” she said.

Stutzman suspects that some of her eight children privately don’t agree with her on homosexuality, even as they publicly support her decision.

Online, Stutzman has been called a bigot, and worse.

She said she’s lost at least two weddings because of her refusal to provide services for the same-sex marriage.

Conservative activists say her case is the first of what will surely be many more, as gay marriage spreads across the country.

As she gets ready to face a judge, the silver-haired florist offered some advice for fellow evangelicals.

“Don’t give in. If you have to go down for Christ, what better person to go down for?”

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Christianity • Church • Culture wars • Discrimination • Faith • Gay marriage • Gay rights • Homosexuality • Politics • Religious liberty • Same-sex marriage

soundoff (5,210 Responses)
  1. nullhogarth

    “We will have to learn an entire new set of missional skills as we seek to remain faithful to Christ in this fast-changing culture.”
    That should be a snap, considering that Christ never said a word about gay marriage.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  2. Name*penguin

    Does she sell flowers for weddings to people who have divorced previous spouses? If she does, she's a hypocrit. If the marrying couple's parents disapprove of the marriage does she refuse to sell them flowers because they are not "honoring" there parents as dremanded by one of the 10 Commandments? If she does, she's a hypocrit.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • WeDontMatter

      Christians are as faithful to Christ as the the Romans that crucified him.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:49 am |
    • lol??

      Don'tcha know the gubmint is in charge of tellin' the little ladies to obey their hubbies?? They turned em into killers.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:57 am |
  3. justine

    I guess the bottom line is that the old intolerant dinosaurs will be gone in the next 30 years, and we can all look forward to a more tolerant brand of Christianity. In 20 years, people will be astounded that we ever didn't allow gay marriage, just as people today are horrified that the state used to prohibit black/white marriages in a number of states. Thank god for progress.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      God has nothing to do with progress.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • justine

      Jesus was all about progress. The bible says to stone an adulteress. He said NO. The teachings of the new testament are completely contrary to the old testament. Jesus was a radical, and that's why the conservatives killed him

      June 30, 2013 at 8:51 am |
    • Evil Church

      GOD has all to do with progress. Otherwise he would not have created it. The only one allowed to never change is him/her/it. All others must change and evolve. That is why conservatism is wrong at all levels.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:08 am |
  4. Buck

    You must be a Democrat cuz u are schtupid.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • blue

      you must be a republican, because you sound REALLY stupid..

      June 30, 2013 at 8:52 am |
  5. devin

    You can justify it, rationalize it, legislatively approve it, call it hip and en vogue, whatever. At the end of the day h o m o s e x u a l i t y remains the same: a perversion of human s e x u a l i t y.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      It is perversion if you are from the 17th century or before...otherwise, to people from our time, it is another normal facet of human, and many other animal's behavior. Welcome to the 21st century.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:48 am |
    • JesuswalkswithMe

      Please educate yourself about what the scientific proof that it is a natural variation. Once you understand the facts, you'll understand why it's so important to provide equal rights under the law for people born a certain way that has long been treated as second class.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • devin

      That statement is both silly and naive on so many levels. Forty years ago ( the 20th century) you would have been hard pressed to find an American citizen who didn't view it as s e x u a l perversion. But of course you already knew that.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:53 am |
    • devin

      Jesuswalks.

      I guess on some level this appeases your conscience.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • midwest rail

      devin – 40 years ago you would have been hard pressed to find an average American who didn't believe "separate but equal" was fine as well.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:58 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      devin
      You are wrong. H0m0$exuality has been around as long as men have. Many people throughout history were gay. You would be hard pressed to find any christian that would accept it, that is true, but then christians have shown themselves very often to be hypocritical and judgemental of many behaviors...as if allowing someone else to take your just pnishment is somehow moral...the entire religion is based on immorality. Once you get away from religion, you will find h0m0$exuality has been an accepted part of humanity for a very very long time. Read the works from the ancient greeks, the romans, and many of the authors throughout history. It is only religion that tries to claim a morality about it, which is immoral anyway.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:00 am |
    • JesuswalkswithMe

      You can look 40 years before sl aves were freed, women were given voting rights, minorities were granted civil rights, and interracial couples were allowed to wed, and you would find broad support for all those oppressive norms.

      Society evolves and you're on the wrong side of history. You're in my prayers, though. It's just going to take some education on your part about the facts.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • icarus

      I'm fine with people feeling as you do. I'm not fine with you, or anyone else, getting a veto on my marriage to the consenting adult I've chosen to spend the rest of my life with.

      Consider how profoundly insulting it would be if others got to vote on your romantic partnership.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:11 am |
  6. WeDontMatter

    “We will have to learn an entire new set of missional skills as we seek to remain faithful to Christ in this fast-changing culture.” I'm quite sure that the Christians ran across the same dilemma when they approved killing in the name of their religion, culture, freedoms and laws I'm sure they will survive this dilemma as well.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • JesuswalkswithMe

      Mark Twain frequently pointed out that the church pulpit had become the last bastion of pro-slavery sentiment. If the church can evolve beyond believing God wants slavery, they can evolve beyond opposing gay marriage.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:41 am |
    • Daedsidog

      still buying into partisan politics? Both parties are nearly the same and you fools are just the pawns in the great distraction.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • johnk

      That of course in your opinion, but the fact of the matter is humans disregard morality laws as given to man by God. Time and time again through our many civilizations, humans begin going against those laws only to finally collapse in their own civilizations. Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, Egyptians, and many more prove that fact. America is also going in that direction, now faster than ever toward a train wreck. It all comes down to free will, either follow those laws or defy them and collapse.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      johnk
      God never gave man any morality laws. Those laws were written into the bible along with this god. He is a made up character in a book. The same book teaches you that it is moral for someone else to take your just punishment. Do not look to the bible for marality, you will not find it.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:54 am |
    • JesuswalkswithMe

      @JohnK – The fundamental flaw in your argument is that hom o se xual ity has been proven to be a natural variation throughout all mammals and part of people's DNA. So, their behavior is not immoral; it is who they were made to be, just like people of different skin color or gender.

      Please correct your mistaken views on this subject. Thank you.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:56 am |
  7. SoonToBe Majority

    Hey, if you don't like it here, you're welcome to leave the country.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • lol??

      Ye ol' socie refugee solution.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:00 am |
  8. Evil Church

    Nothing says hatred like the evangelical conservative christian church of the USA. The issue here is way deeper than what they even suspect. Its really going to blow their minds. See, their religion is false and fake and not the true intent and teachings that Jesus Christ intended for humanity. See the more conservative they get the meaner and vile they get. The truth is that in the Bible Jesus, in his own words, never said a thing about gays. That was all made up by others, mainly Paul. That should be a strong clue and red flashing lights should be going off.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • sybaris

      spot on

      As these stupid conservative allegedly biblical social "norms" fall the GOP, conservitards and christians make themselves more irrelevant and silly.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:37 am |
    • voiceofreason6

      Just because they disagree, doesn't make it hate

      June 30, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Too bad

      Jesus didn't try to marry one of his favorite disciples he was hu.mping, problem solved. So many clergy in the closet or worse pedophiles or committing adultery even with ho.okers, pot call the kettle.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • lol??

      What??

      June 30, 2013 at 9:01 am |
  9. art

    Conservatives use Jesus Christ only when its in their best interest...they are indeed the Biggest hypocrites!

    June 30, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • M

      No, that's what republicans do.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  10. Jeremy

    I'm glad to see this woman stand up for her dearly-held principles and faith. It is an encouragement to other Christians and people at large.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Good to know who the hateful bigots are!

      June 30, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • M

      Just as they stood up for slavery?

      June 30, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • get over it

      No its not. It is a loosing battle and a lesson in how not to treat another human being.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Dave

      Jeremy why doesn't this woman refuse to provide flowers for marriages of people who have been divorced? Why only pick on gays?

      June 30, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Daedsidog

      I hope her business tanks

      June 30, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • JMEF

      Encourage hypocrisy, so Christian. She does trade with a person for years then denies service when the same person wants to engage in a legal ceremony, nothing but a bigot.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • frontgate

      Oh, Jeremy, don't forget bigots in your list

      June 30, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • Tingle

      "Go down for Christ" Whaaaaat?!

      June 30, 2013 at 8:44 am |
    • Evil Church

      Standing up for a lie, hatred, vileness and bigotry. Those are such nice conservative and evangelical traits.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • lol??

      Oh, ooooohh, not the Bi Got bigotcha thang again?? it's never far from an A&A's heart.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:03 am |
  11. fr114

    zzzz. seems to me that the best way for gay issue to be addressed is the old fasoned way: they should stay in the closet, thugs should beat them, parents should be ashamed of them, cults should try to convert them, etc. etc. – the religious way.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  12. anahadwolves

    I feel no empathy or sympathy for Stutzmann. She serves "THE PUBLIC" with her shop and services. Some members of "THE PUBLIC" are gay. They aren't asking her to attend their weddings or endorse their marriages; they are simply availing themselves of a service which she has offered to "THE PUBLIC".

    Can a racist refuse to serve a minority in his public restaurant because he doesn't want to? No! Can a hotel or motel not accommodate a traveler simply because they don't like the color of his skin? No! If you are offering goods or services to "THE PUBLIC", you must offer them equally to all who come to your shop or place of business.

    Otherwise, close your doors and go live in a cave.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • M

      Right (except for the part about "go live in your cave.") The Bible was also used to justify slavery.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  13. John

    “Don’t give in. If you have to go down for Christ, what better person to go down for?”

    Exactly...

    June 30, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Daedsidog

      go down for Christ, be on your knees when he comes

      June 30, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • sybaris

      Jesus.......an alleged spirit that rented a suit of flesh for a while then poofed itself back to where it came from.

      Some sacrifice.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  14. Truth Is Pain

    And, no, Jesus was not accepting of everyone and everything. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and told anyone who wanted to go with him preaching from door to door to – "Leave EVERYTHING behind and follow me."

    June 30, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • M

      As an atheist, the part of the story of Jesus overturning the tables of money changers certainly appeals to me!

      June 30, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • rdeleys

      Yes, but when Jesus got to Wall Street he invested in a hedge fund.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:41 am |
  15. TSB8C

    Suing a private business owner for exercising their own conscience is crazy. Gays don't want to be allowed to do their own thing. They want to force everyone else to also accept, support, subsidize, and like it – or else.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • Attack of the 50 Foot Magical Underwear

      Couldn't agree with you more! The other day, a family of "black" people wanted to stay my motel – can you imagine. Man, that "No Vacancy" sign went on as soon as I saw them walking toward the office door! And the week before, a woman tried to book a room – without her husband being there to approve!!!!! I told her a woman's place is in the home!

      And now I'm being sued! Can you imagine the nerve of some people! I'm just exercising my conscience in choosing who can use my business.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • Daedsidog

      It still called bigotry

      June 30, 2013 at 8:33 am |
    • anahadwolves

      It's a private business that serves THE PUBLIC! You don't get to pick and choose which customer you'll serve when you are open to THE PUBLIC.

      No one is asking her to attend their wedding nor approve of their marriage. They are simply asking her to do what she has a legal obligation to do: serve all customers equally. No more and no less.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Jim

      So segregated lunch counters for gays would be acceptable? What do you say we give them their own section of the beach? In my view it's a moral imperative that all people are given an equal place in society, including equal protection under the law.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Daedsidog

      It still called bigotry. time to start taxing churches

      June 30, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • webba

      As long as she's not accepting Federal funds for her privately owned business, I agree with her stance. It's her business and she can serve who she wants.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:46 am |
    • Jackttu

      What we want is the right to live our lives as we wish. While I certainly believe she has the right to believe anything she wishes, she does not have the right to judge the differences that is found all over this world.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  16. Bonnie

    Luke 21:28, "But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up because your deliverance is near." ~ Jesus Christ.
    Yes, even the most hardened unbelievers have to admit now that the ignorant and decadent world-wide society of mankind is falling into decay and death. Encouraging to those who eagerly await the presentation of the Kingdom of our Almighty God and the true freedom to be enjoyed. Glory and honor be to His name forever.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • Daedsidog

      Fool

      June 30, 2013 at 8:27 am |
    • get over it

      you really believe that garbage. Keep twisting it to support your hatred.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:34 am |
    • Damocles

      '... raise yourselves erect and lift your heads....'

      That could be a pro-gay statement, yeah?

      June 30, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  17. devin

    I will gladly reside on the minority side of truth, if the majority chooses to gleefully embrace s e x u a l p e r v e r s i o n, have at it.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:26 am |
    • midwest rail

      I know, don't all those adulterers and divorcee's just disgust you ?

      June 30, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Daedsidog

      live in your bubble of hate and resistance and be forever labeled a bigot. Blame Obama as want, your relevance is nearly over

      June 30, 2013 at 8:29 am |
    • Mike

      Completely agree...they can spread their diseases amongst each other but keep away from me with your abomination which they have chose to embrace.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • devin

      Daed

      Do you not understand? "Relevance" is meaningless.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:32 am |
    • Reality

      please come out of the closet already, hiding behind religion does not fool us.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Daedsidog

      devin, just watch, you will
      Start to see

      June 30, 2013 at 8:42 am |
    • icarus

      The problem with this is that my relationship with my partner is not just about what happens in the sheets. It's about picking out towels together and getting into stupid fights and thinking he's adorable when he looks at me sideways. It's about remembering each other's birthday and the anniversary when we met and a hundred other things.

      This is love. The bedroom part of it is important, but there's so much more to what makes that important for me.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:25 am |
  18. sammy750

    I like the way the Tea Party and Conservatives think, That will get them defeated in the next elections. There agenda is to take the people and nation back 50/60 years. They are against everything, esp rights of the people. They prefer having slaves. Not letting us vote, take away all health care and education. I hope they continue and speak out, It just makes the voters hate them more.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  19. !3Directors

    None of her christian friends are questioning the lack the lack of integrity missing in her relationships. She claims she's worked with many gay people and customers, but providing flowers for their wedding is quite another. I don't know anyone who acts like that toward people.

    Aside from her blind ignorance, she's a stupid businesswoman also.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:25 am |
  20. tepeters

    The social order changes and that is something conservatives, religious or otherwise, do not understand. Today's Libertarianism, in the days of the founding fathers,was called classical Liberalism; Liberal because the Conservatives of those days were defending the divine right of kings. Conservatives look back and say how things SHOULD be; Liberals look forward and say how things COULD be. Society changes, so adapt or be left behind, that is how the world really works. Because one calls it their religion does not change that because religions also change or they disappear. The Bible, when read without dogmatic piety, demonstrates in its narrative how religious ideas evolve and change.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:25 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.