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
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(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. brendan

    yes fight back show this gays who there messing with

    June 30, 2013 at 7:43 am |
    • ROGER

      We know who we are messing with .. people who can't write grammatically correct sentences like you.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:51 am |
  2. legumepod

    The owner of Arlene’s Flowers needs to check her own adherence to her faith; she wears earings and makeup (violation of violation of 1 Peter 3:3 , 1 Timothy 2:9 ), she cuts her hair (1 Corinthians 11:15), has she been married and remarried? (violation of 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 )

    Instead of "refusing to sell things" to those she feels have sinned perhaps she should check her own life, welcome the person with open arms (as a forgiving Christian would) and realize that we ALL fall short in the glory of God.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:41 am |
  3. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    It would be far better that all religions die completely than that religious persons continue to destroy the lives of gay men and lesbians.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:41 am |
    • Dan

      Really? Destroy their lives? Being a bit overdramatic?

      June 30, 2013 at 7:44 am |
  4. Myk

    As a gay man, I have no problem with her not doing a wedding for anybody, that is her right. My biggest problems with it, is the fact that she had taken money from this man for years as a customer and then to say "no." That is wrong he was gay before and he is gay now. Should she be sued, no I don't think so. But that is just my opinion

    My next problem is how all of you holy than thou people want to apparently believe that the LGBT community does not believe in God, this is just me but I am sure there are thousands more that feel the same way. God is a huge part of my life, he is my Lord and Savior, he created me and I am perfect the way I am. Now, do not misunderstand what I am saying, do I have flaws, yes, do I sin, yes, did God created, yes. As far as I know God does not make mistakes, please inform me if I am wrong about that last line. If you Bible toting people want to get on somebody about sinning and judging you might want to direct your anger towards Westboro Baptist. These people under the guise of "Christianity" say the children at the Amish school years ago deserved to die! Or maybe you should go after all of the clergy that prey on young kids, THEY represent a bigger harm to our society, than whom I choose to marry.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • ROGER

      Would it be ok for her to refuse to sell flowers to a bi-racial couple for their wedding?

      June 30, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Myk

      Roger, I think that she has the right to refuse service to anybody she wants, as long long as it is consistent. But understand, I do not think it is correct thing for her today do. Especially since she had served this person before, does that make her a hypocrite? Yes, but that is just in my eyes. I very sure that you and I agree after all is said and done, but what we have to do is not shove everything down everybody's throat, they need to learn for themselves sometimes. Here let me tells this to those that do not approve of the LGBT community. If a veteran coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan were to be refused service from this lady, based on her beliefs against the war, would she be wrong? Remember, she is living in a country that because of war gave her, her freedoms.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:21 am |
  5. Paul

    The only moral dilemma christians face is, are they going to live by the words of Jesus: "Love thy neighbor and do good to those that hate you." Doing that might lead to some interesting results.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  6. Two thumbs

    Somebody needs to go find a Jewish deli and order a nice Easter ham to be cooked and sliced...and then sue them when they refuse to do it.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  7. ankenyman

    Their motto is "All love is equal." Where do you draw the line on marriage? Why not polygamy, polymory, sister marrying brother, brother marrying brother, father marrying daughter, mother marrying son, man marrying 12 year old? Man marrying dog? Man marrying tree? Why not? All that matters is "love." All love is equal.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • Saraswati

      Are you arguing that unless you have the exact boundaries for marriage that we had in the year 2000 no boundaries can be drawn? Really? Did allowing people of different races to marry suddenly allow people to marry infants and their siblings? Hmmm...no, I think what happened was that since then laws have tightened...raising the age of marriage and tightening consent laws. This is one of the more embarrassingly ignorant arguments a fundamentalist can pull out. It shows both ignorance of law and history and a basic failure with simple logic.

      Lot's of countries have different marriage laws: in Europe people can almost always marry first cousins, which is restricted here, while American's in many states can marry at younger ages than in most of the developed world. In some countries you can have more than one spouse, in others some people are restricted from marrying. Yet everywhere there are boundaries and changing those boundaries does not eliminate the existence of boundaries. I really feel like I'm typing up an explanation of why one plus one equals two...one shouldn't have to explain things that are this simple.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:53 am |
    • Myk

      @Ankenyman, you sir are a moron and a monkey just following all the small minded people. I am so tired of that argument, I spent more than 20 years in the military serving my country and you want to say that I cannot marry the person that I choose. Here we, lets change this around for you, you cannot marry the person that you want to because we should get to decide that. If you are black man you have to marry a black woman, if you are a Jamaican man you have to marry a Jamaican woman, if you are a white Baptist man you can only marry a white Baptist woman. Where would you like it to stop? You should not be allowed to marry outside of your race, nationality, or religious believe, hell let's just increase it even more for you simple minded dipsticks. You cannot marry outside of your state, your county or your city! You want put limits on it marriage, there you go. You friggin' idiot.

      First I will apologize, I do not mean to call people names, that is very pitiful on my part. But for a person to say such ridiculous things is just as pitiful. I also apologize about becoming so irritated. But you people that think that way have got to realize we do want preferential treatment, we want equality. There is a huge difference in what ankenyman is saying and what is really common sense. We agree marriage should between two consenting adults, not all that other rubbish, some people like ankenyman says. If I have offended anyone, I apologize for that, but be clear I am not sorry for what I have said my words are mine and I am responsible for what I have said.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • Saraswati

      Myk, Well put. And the argument is infuriatingly stupid.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:59 am |
  8. a dose of reality

    A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.
    The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:
    (a) Astronomy;
    (b) Medicine;
    (c) Economics; or
    (d) Christianity
    You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:
    (a) historian;
    (b) geologist;
    (c) NASA astronomer; or
    (d) Christian
    I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am
    (a) A gifted psychologist
    (b) A well respected geneticist
    (c) A highly educated sociologist
    (d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.
    I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am
    (a) a delusional schizophrenic;
    (b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly
    (c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or
    (d) your average Christian
    Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:
    (a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;
    (b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;
    (c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or
    (d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.
    I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am
    (a) A victim of child molestation
    (b) A r.ape victim trying to recover
    (c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions
    (d) A Christian
    The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:
    (a) Architecture;
    (b) Philosophy;
    (c) Archeology; or
    (d) Religion
    What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:
    (a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they are morally obliged to believe on pain of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;
    (b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is a composite god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;
    (c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or
    (d) All of the above.
    If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:
    (a) a deep psychiatric issue;
    (b) an irrational fear or phobia;
    (c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or
    (d) my religious belief.
    Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am
    (a) A sleazy Wall Street banker
    (b) A mafia boss
    (c) A drug pusher; or
    (d) A Catholic Priest, Protestant Minister or Jewish Rabbi.
    What do the following authors all have in common – Jean Paul Sartre, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, and Blaise Pascal:
    (a) They are among the most gifted writers the World has known;
    (b) They concentrated on opposing dogma and opening the human mind and spirit to the wonders of free thought and intellectual freedom;
    (c) They were intimidated by the Catholic Church and put on the Church’s list of prohibited authors; or
    (d) All of the above.
    The AIDS epidemic will kill tens of millions in poor African and South American countries before we defeat it. Condoms are an effective way to curtail its spread. As the Pope still has significant influence over the less educated masses in these parts of the World, he has exercised this power by:
    (a) Using some of the Vatican’s incomprehensible wealth to educate these vulnerable people on health family planning and condom use;
    (b) Supporting government programs that distribute condoms to high risk groups;
    (c) Using its myriad of churches in these regions to distribute condoms; or
    (d) Scaring people into NOT using condoms, based upon his disdainful and aloof view that it is better that a person die than go against the Vatican’s position on contraceptive use.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:39 am |
    • ankenyman

      You have posted this copy and paste before. Atheists have to believe and have faith in a practically infinite number of logical and metaphysical absurdities and astronomical coincidences to think that there is no God. Something came from nothing. Inanimate objects arranged themselves in an orderly way conducive to life. Inanimate objects became living and moving beings. Inanimate objects became self-aware and capable of love and abstract thinking. Matter, space and dimensionality came from absolute nothingness. The greater comes from the less. All by itself by chance.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:48 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:55 am |
  9. Eddie Hurley

    i thought the people voted it down can the count over ride the people if they can we are in trouble

    June 30, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  10. Truth Today

    As a Christian, denying a patron the opportunity to buy your product which happens to be flowers is just wrong and should be a violation of the interstate commerce laws. The florist is waging her battle in the wrong arena and in the wrong way.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:38 am |
  11. sylvia

    Conscientious objection is just a way to impose your will over another. The woman who owns the flower shop is not brave or principled. She's just bigoted. I'm so tired of hearing how believing in god give you the right to be hateful.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • ROGER

      No difference than not serving blacks in your restaurant like they used to do in the South.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:45 am |
  12. Randyb12

    The reason the Southern Baptists and Evangelicals have to adapt is because they strayed from the message of Christ in the first place. The message was deny to sell flowers to sinners or to separate yourself from sinners...the message was to help and love the sinners and bring them the gospel through words and a demonstration of Christ's love in your own lives. "Do unto others", "Love they neighbor", "Cast the first stone", "Go the extra mile"...none of these are exclusion or denial of caring - they all say love and help and look at yourself before you judge.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:37 am |
    • infidel

      sin is SIN...........period..

      June 30, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Jesus fan

      Hooray! A Christian who has got it right!

      June 30, 2013 at 7:54 am |
  13. Stephen

    If you can't stone them anymore, I guess refusing to sell them stuff is all that's left.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:36 am |
    • Saraswati

      If you own a drug store and not a flower shop you can probably accomplish as much by refusing to sell them stuff as by stoning them.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  14. jnpa

    Marriage is not necessarily a religious event and, therefore, religion is not necessary for it to take place. It is secular in nature and does not need the approval of the religious community. Why don't people understand that? Stop trying to shove your views down everyone's throat. Gays are not trying to get religious organizations to accept their marriages. The Supreme Court did not rule that religious groups must marry gays and lesbians. Find something else to do with your miserable lives instead of interfering in the lives of others!

    June 30, 2013 at 7:34 am |
  15. a dose of reality

    The Bible:
    If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity,” then the young woman’s father and mother shall bring to the town elders at the gate proof that she was a virgin. Her father will say to the elders, “I gave my daughter in marriage to this man, but he dislikes her. Now he has slandered her and said, ‘I did not find your daughter to be a virgin.’ But here is the proof of my daughter’s virginity.” Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town, and the elders shall take the man and punish him. They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the young woman’s father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.
    If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the young woman’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. She has done an outrageous thing in Israel by being promiscuous while still in her father’s house. You must purge the evil from among you.
    ~ Deuteronomy 22:13-21

    June 30, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • Stephen

      You go, ancient Israelites! Who would have imagined, in their wildest dreams, that this kind of stupidity would live on for thousands of years. But it was okay to do it with sheep.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:40 am |
    • Robert

      That was a dose of reality? No, actually that was a quote from one of the biggest books of fiction of all time. And more reasons for you to look down your nose at everyone who doesn't believe in your mythology.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:42 am |
  16. Joey Isotta-Fraschini, D.D. ©™

    Christians, Jewish persons, and Muslims who oppose gay marriage rarely understand the massive scope of the damage they do to the lives of gay men and lesbians. The result of bigotry and hatred based on religion is unspeakable evil and mass devastation of human lives.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:33 am |
    • Saraswati

      Their behavior is based on cultural standards that tolerate ignorance. First instill a value for broad learning about culture and science, the rest will normally follow.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:38 am |
    • Eddie Hurley

      you that support gay marriage always say that anybody that doesn't agree with you are hater that is just a lie

      June 30, 2013 at 7:43 am |
  17. robert

    great now the divorce rate will go up

    June 30, 2013 at 7:31 am |
  18. Doug Lynn

    Check out Peter Hubbard's book – Live into the Light.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:30 am |
    • Science

      Read The Rulings: Inside The Same-Se-x Marriage Decisions


      take dash out out se-x for url to work

      June 30, 2013 at 7:37 am |
  19. Ryan

    "If you have to go down on Christ, what better person to go down on?

    June 30, 2013 at 7:27 am |
    • Annie

      You don't have to believe in God, but, being that crass, rude, and nasty is not appropriate.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:34 am |
    • chris

      I hope someone puts a bullet through your head.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:40 am |
  20. lol??

    "Gen 20:2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She [is] my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah."

    Ol' Abe wasn't lying!! It was the gubmint's problem!!! BBbbwwwaaahahahahaha

    June 30, 2013 at 7:25 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.