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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. Hillcrester

    I strongly support GLBT equality and SSM and have for many years. Yet my instinctive opinion is that the florist should be allowed to decide for herself whether to privide/sell those flowers. I think she is foolish to refuse, but that shoukd be her choice. OTOH it bothers me that anyone engaged in commerce could discriminate in a variety of ways: no Var Mirzvah catering; no diapers for an unwed mother; no xar rental to a divorced person. Where does it end.

    Personal services would be different. A cleaning woman could choose not to work for single men, for example. But for non-personal sales? I just don't know. Infers ill should find a new florist and a new friend..

    June 30, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Roger that

      Ok. What about race? Is it ok for her to not sell to African Americans? How about handicapped individuals?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Edweird69

      @Hillcrester – when you apply for a business license, you agree to sell to the general public. Gay tax dollars pay for the roads that go to her business, gay tax dollars support our military, that protects her and her business. She is not allowed, and it is illegal, to create separate drinking fountains, for those you don't approve of.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  2. Mixo Lydian

    "His Southern Baptist brethren Russell Moore..." Trying to sound like King James English? OK, but please use brethren for the plural only. Same goes for the archaic form sistren. (I wish we atheists had our own grammatical forms, but I guess we'll have to stick with standard contemporary English.)

    June 30, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • Edweird69

      Christian's invented their own lingo. Just like they invented their deity. Notice when they speak to him, they use words like "thy", "thine"...etc. As if their deity couldn't understand modern English.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:41 am |
  3. David

    When Sarah Palin is elected in 2016 she will lead us to our destiny as a Christian Nation. All Gay activity will be banned and punishable by death.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Jeff1951

      When Sarah Palin is elected that shall be the real end of civilization.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Glauber

      If you want to see someone who actually portrayed her better than Tina Fey, check out Lisa Ann's Oscar-worthy performance.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:32 am |
    • Dorian

      Whoa, really? C'mon, I know you're joking. Nobody could actually believe that. Unless you spend your life watching Faux News.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:41 am |
    • omeany

      Sarah Palin is a Muslum?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:42 am |
  4. C.M. Aaron

    Christianity will adapt to gay marriage. In the old South, Christian churches supported and justified slavery. Then the Civil War happened and southern churches adapted to the new reality. Christianity will adapt to gay marriage. It's not the end of the world.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:09 am |
    • RJ

      It will also eventually adapt to polygamy.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • C.M. Aaron

      Ha Ha. Tried that once with the Mormons but rejected it.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • omeany

      I agree but we're going to have to listen to their inane ramblings until they finally listen to reason.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:34 am |
  5. Tony

    This reminds me of the chick-fil-a CEO posting and deleting a tweet against gay marriage. However, I have to applaud this woman for sticking to her guns. It's admirable, even if I don't agree to her decision. I also don't think that people should be as nasty towards her as they have been. Go get your damn flowers somewhere else

    June 30, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • icarus

      I disagree about it being brave because she isn't sticking up for any of the values marriage should represent- only that she disagrees with a broader definition than what her tradition dictates. Honestly it reads more as a publicity stunt than anything else.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:11 am |
    • Marc

      Good point. Chick-fil-A did not and will not have me as a customer. There are plenty of other fast food restaurants.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • Edweird69

      Tony – gays pay tax dollars, just like everyone else. The same tax dollars pay for the roads to her business, etc. When you own a business, you agree to service everyone. You can't turn someone away because you're opposed to their "interracial marriage, their religion, etc.".. you cannot open a business, and create "separate drinking fountains".

      June 30, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • omeany

      What if her argument had been about keeping black children from going to school with white children? There were a lot of folks that stuck to their guns about that but it didn't make it right.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:31 am |
  6. Tigrr

    All Churches, Religious and Politcal groups, who actively try to force their micro-minded beliefs onto non-members MUST IMMEDIATELY LOOSE THEIR TAX EXEMPT STATUS. Their arrogance is without conscience.

    Likely they are the ones who voted for Bush/ Cheney boys.... And yeah, they did 9/11 No Iraqies were ever involved. CIA confirms. All of Congress knows. See: "CIA Asset Susan Lindauer" on youtube or veterans today site.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • jared

      went a little heavy on the crazy this morning huh?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  7. Larry

    If evangelicals were serious, wouldn't they ban divorce? Of course they wont as they're hypocritical fools.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Rayn

      Thank you!!!

      June 30, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Marc

      True. LOL!

      June 30, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • omeany

      Is't it funny when ones own life is out of control the more it makes some want to control the lives of others.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:28 am |
  8. Twist

    Attention ss couples living in states that have banned your chance for getting married: you may obtain a marriage certificate in a state that issues them, return to your home state, and the federal government will grant you your rights. Your state, however, will not. It's better than nothing!

    June 30, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  9. FloydZepp

    Traditional marriage was destroyed long ago when evangelicals decided to spit in Jesus face with multiple divorces.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  10. colleenbrickman@att.net

    For all the non bible scholars posting here Romans 2 God says DO NO JUDGE. it is not for man to judge ANYONE. The bible says ALL men have sinned. And the best thing as Christians we can do is LEAVE THIS ALONE.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  11. jonat

    Nothing to see here folks

    June 30, 2013 at 10:04 am |
  12. Observer

    Christians need to actually READ a Bible.

    God's idea of marriage was that love didn't have to have anything to do with it. Marriage should be FORCED onto some people.

    Oooops!

    June 30, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Bilbo

      You're ignorant

      June 30, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • Observer

      Bilbo,

      Speaking of IGNORANT, read a Bible someday so you won't look so foolish and HYPOCRITICAL.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  13. Deez

    The problem with religion? He says, "looking to remain faithful to Christ" instead of "looking to remain faithful to my fellow human". That says it all right there.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:03 am |
  14. Zion

    Obama uses Americans money to support antiChrist countries and you still support him as your president.Ao does your bank. Is your home mortgage owned by antichristian investors? Do you support the antichrist with paying mortgage, taxes and gas? How about food? Cars? Do you have the right to know? Do you have the right to choose or is it forced upon you to pay and give your faith and money to satan?

    June 30, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Deez

      Support your fellow human. Your religion, by your words, promotes division and hatred. It doesn't sound like something anyone should be involved in.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Thomas

      #Zion: Let's see. People have been turning over stones looking for this "Antichrist" now for, oh, about 2000 years. Good to know you have finally it all figured out for us. Wonder who will become the next "Antichrist" after this one fades from the public eye following the 2016 election. You all never quit. Everyone with whom you have the slightest, or greatest, disagreement is immediately branded the dreaded "Antichrist". Must be tiring to be always on the lookout for such a huge boogeyman.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • Hope

      Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17 and Luke 20:25. "....Then he said to them, "So give back to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." At the time, Cesar's picture was on the coins. Christ taught that you should pay your taxes (without grumbling) and to follow your nation's rules because the governments were there to keep law and order however, he also taught not to concern yourself with these worldly affairs but to concentrate on yourself and what you were doing.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  15. Tony

    This nation is no longer under God, the highest court played God and gave these retarded people the same right as man and woman marriage. I fear what is about to happen and very soon to this country for allowing this to happen, these leaders should be casted out and replaced with people that believe in the Bible. I pray that we get a president that will reverse this nightmare. God help us all

    June 30, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • midwest rail

      Nonsense. The sky is not falling.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Deez

      Don't turn your back on your fellow man.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:05 am |
    • Edweird69

      Tony – sorry you lost your false sense of superiority. Maybe your god can spend less time now, wondering what people are doing behind closed doors, and whom they love...and focus on starving babies, abortions, divorce, war...etc. You both have a twisted sense of priorities.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:12 am |
    • kellybiggs

      Tony, you use of the word "retarded" actually is proof of how "christian" you are, you my friend are a bigot. Take your opinions
      and go live with them quietly in your on small, small world.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • JimmyAlex777

      The trouble is that "Christian"people don't know the true supreme being. They follow man's interpretation in their bible books but fail to realize our supreme consciousness is superior to even that. Love one another and do not judge, no matter what. It's not up to any man to decide if another is unfit. This florist is trying to play "God" in her decision to judge. SHE is being the sinful one.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:17 am |
    • Downbytheriver

      Yes, because that was the command of Jesus: dominate the politics of your land, force them to follow my Word, then and only then will I have mercy... Oh yeah and that whole 'love thy neighbor' thing if you can squeeze it in.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • omeany

      Judge not lest ye be judged.

      Love thy neighbor as thyself.

      Jesus said I come so you can have life and have it more abundantly.

      Any of this getting through to you?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  16. RJ

    The Supreme Court's decision reminds me of Ephesians chapter 6, verses 11-12: "Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

    June 30, 2013 at 10:02 am |
    • Edweird69

      Your post reminds me of the old scripture... edward69 Chapter 1, verse 2: Thou shalt mind thine own effen business, and take the plank out of your own eye, before removing the splinter from someone elses".

      June 30, 2013 at 10:14 am |
    • RJ

      I just find it ironic that the very government which violently persecuted the Mormons for polygamy (to the point that the Mormons stopped practicing it), is now paving the way for a different group to re-define marriage. How can we allow gay marriage but not polygamy (or any other arbitrary definition of marriage)?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • Edweird69

      @RJ – they went after Mormons because they were marrying children. Marriage is redefined all the time. Those who want polygamist marriage can take the same route as gays... countless dollars for lawyers, parades, unity, etc. Most gays I know would support Polygamist marriages.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  17. No to Gay Marriage

    I pray for those who despise God and have strayed away to follow their own self-destructive wisdom. I am against gay marriage, divorce, fornication, adultery, etc., etc. I am against people taking advantage of the welfare system and shouldn't have an easy pass to obtain it. I am against religion, especially the religion of Atheism. No one is perfect, that's why we need Christ in our lives like never before, just like I need Him. God bless.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • midwest rail

      If you are against fornication, how did you get here ??

      June 30, 2013 at 10:04 am |
    • colleenbrickman@att.net

      Hey I am with you totally, again the best thing we can do is allow God to be God. It just stirs up a bad image of God. He will judge all men. And we know that all sin is seen in His eyes as the same. Pray for America that is the best we can do.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • icarus

      I'm curious what you would say to the gay Christians I know.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • midtx71

      I think it is you who despises God; scripture states love one another and judge not. From your post it is apparent you have neither faith nor love. You mention a lot of specific sins but what about the sins YOU commit daily? When YOU can control yourself to the point you have ceased your own sinning then you can be concerned about the sins of others. But we know from scripture you can't do this so why prey tell do you think other people can?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Thomas

      Good to know you are against all those things, especially the welfare system, but somehow quiet about all the corporate greed in this country. I think you just tipped your very right wing, conservative hand.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:20 am |
    • Edweird69

      ATHEISM is NOT a religion, dimbulb. It's like saying bald is a hair style. You are brainless. Atheism is a "null stance". It says I'll believe there are gods (god), if you prove it. The burden of proof is on the claimant, not on the person expected to believe a baseless claim.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  18. CaptainDorkOfTheWeeniePatrol

    How is the flower shop owner any different from a restaurant owner, back in the 1950s who would not server blacks?

    June 30, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • ESG

      What an insult to compare the struggle Blacks have endured to a group of people who can/do decide if they are not gay anymore. I wish the gay movement would stop this awful comparison. It is disrespectful to those who paid with blood, sweat and tears for freedom from oppression.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Edweird69

      @ESG – Gays have been brutalized, and paid with blood, sweat and tears. Ask Matthew Shepard, who was murdered by 3 thugs. Ask numerous gays I know who have been beaten, and I had one friend who was murdered. Last time I checked, civil rights = civil rights.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  19. JasonYGuy

    “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.”
    So, as a Christian myself, are they still practicing all those new sets of skill when interracial marriage was allowed and wasn't accepted in the church? How about a divorce being remarried in a church, are they still practicing those skills.

    Christ, Himself already knows the hearts of the individuals and not the hearts of a unified church trying to represent what He is not. That's why I'm non denominational and depend on my person
    al relationship with Him and not the man made doctrines of the man made Church.. In my opinion.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • Hope

      Very well said Jason.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  20. Penny

    What I find so ironic is how so called "Christians" ignore the message of Jesus in their hateful, judgmental ways. Jesus loved and accepted everyone. He didn't condemn, reject or hate anyone. If you look at actions alone atheist are more "Christian" like than those who call themselves Christian and throw stones.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:00 am |
    • RJ

      Christ did not condemn the sinner, but he did condemn the sin. It's possibly to love someone and simultaneously not condone or support their sinful actions.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:07 am |
    • Edweird69

      @RJ – do you feel the same way about divorcees? About people who eat shrimp? Wear mixed fabrics?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:32 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.