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. pollyann

    Why would God suppress gay people?

    June 30, 2013 at 8:07 am |
  2. mike

    If it was intended for gay people to get married dont you think God would have gave 2 men or 2 women the ability to make a baby???? Your ability to make a baby is your clue from birth what you was put on earth to do... trans gender people.. well i guess they have thier choice..the rest of you that say you was born gay... no you wasnt because you have the ability to make a baby !! you think God gave you that ability in case someday you change yoru mind and decidee you want to be straight ? soo many simgle parent homes kids nowadays only being raised by one parent.. if i was raised by my mom and didnt have a manly dad to look up too im sure i would be a lil sensitive too...kids are confussed enough now..last thing they need is adopted by gay parents. theier not gonna know what the hell they are!!.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • MJ

      Some got sucked into being gay maybe?

      June 30, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • pollyann

      gay people can't have babbiies?

      June 30, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • bb

      Bad premise. Many straights get marriage, not intending or not being able, to conceive a child.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:11 am |
    • JR

      The "God" never said anything about marriage, one only has to think about how the population grew with only two people. So we have to think what the real purpose of marriage is about? In many places, it is not just one man and one woman, in our society it just happens to work out with the male / female ratio. Where the men get killed off by war, etc., societies tend to revert to multiple women to one man. There are societies where the women are so prized and needed that multiple men support one family and one woman. To think that "God" dictates a supreme decision of marriage is being short sighted. The story needs to evolve with the times, the gay marriage decision is just part of the changing story. Some will cling to the old stories (not able to accept change), while the majority will develop a new story. The Revolution is the acceptance of gay marriage and the changing story, not the actual gay marriage.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  3. Rainer Braendlein

    @One one

    You are not able to distinguish things. God basically loves everybody. This has the consequence that we should love each other. A few of us do this. At Jugdement Day all people who were not ready to participate in God's love will be condemned.

    Don't assume that God loves only you. God loves everybody with the same love, and that causes that we have to love each other even on the cost of our own well-being. We have to share all goods which exist on earth.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • rick

      there is no judgement. it is a bad joke

      June 30, 2013 at 8:38 am |
  4. Paul Costa

    If one had a business of selling hamburgers, but refused to sell to a gay person because the owner knew the burgers were for a gay party, then the business owner can refuse the sale?? Stutzman's logic, and that of her supporters, is pigeon-holed so badly that they think their sanctimonious religion allows them to treat people hurtfully. Very Christian-like or whatever she calls it.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:05 am |
  5. Daedsidog

    "go down for Christ " haha

    June 30, 2013 at 8:05 am |
  6. Reality

    Only for the new members of this blog:

    Yes indeed, rational thinking on the part of the majority of heterose-xuals won but:

    Revolution? The gay population in the USA is estimated to be 4%. As-suming 50% of these are in the unionization age, that is 2 % of the population. So "riddle me this" where is the revolution?

    And considering that many of these unions are already established, where is the revolution in weddings, markets etc.?

    ("The Williams Inst-itute at UCLA School of Law, a gay and lesbian think tank, released a study in April 2011[24] estimating based on its research that just 1.7 percent of Americans between 18 and 44 identify as gay or lesbian, while another 1.8 percent – predominantly women – identify as bise-xual. Far from underestimating the ranks of gay people because of h-om-ophobia, these figures included a substantial number of people who remained deeply closeted, such as a quarter of the bise-xuals. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of women between 22 and 44 that questioned more than 13,500 respondents between 2006 and 2008 found very similar numbers: Only 1 percent of the women identified themselves as gay, while 4 percent identified as bis[exual.)

    June 30, 2013 at 8:04 am |
  7. JR

    The story is changing. Before the Bible was written, the stories had a life, they changed and were updated to fit with the society they lived in. Once we wrote the stories down and put them into print, the stories started a slow death and this change in our society is one more death toll bell for the stories. We need to bring the stories back to life, glean the best from the stories, make them relative to today and move on. There is so much good in the Bible, and yet we hold onto all the bad, why? Perhaps because it all got written down and hence started to loose relevance to today's society.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • TA

      And among all the noise, there is a logical voice.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  8. frboothe

    Too frequently people mix their religion and their politics. I don't think it leads to wholesome religion or effective politics, witness Iran, witness Saudi Arabia. And yes, gay marriage is a civil rights issue because it is not a choice in life. It is biological. It is why discrimination based on color, age, etc is taboo. These things are part of the human condition. And for those skeptics out there about biology, do you really think someone would choose a lifestyle so outside the mainstream that it isolates them from their own families, from society? Oh, wait, you think it is because of immorality...riiiiight. Well be careful how you use the bible, use being the operative word there because we have too many people today "using" the bible to their own ends. Many of them are well known and in the media regularly. A slippery slope because I guarantee you will be found wanting.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Guest

      You either believe the Bible or you don't. The gays want Christians to go against their beliefs. The pro-gay marriage people are hypocrites.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • Damocles


      Stop for a moment and take a breath. And think. Nobody is forcing believers to do anything. If you are not gay, then don't partake in the gay lifestyle. Is someone forcing you to be gay? No. It's not rocket science.

      What they are asking for is to enjoy the same rights as any other married couple. Not more rights, the same rights.

      More loving couples who enjoy each others company and provide for their families is not a bad thing. Will all gay marriages work out? Of course not, no more than all hetero marriages work out. You are in no danger of waking up gay tomorrow simply because they can get married.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:14 am |
    • LK

      @guest – How are Christians being forced to go against their beliefs? No one is forcing them into gay marriage. Legally these Christians do not have any standing because they themselves have not experienced an injury.

      June 30, 2013 at 9:22 am |
  9. Lyn

    Can someone please explain to me "Why is it wrong (or illegal) for gays to get married"?

    June 30, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • Joe F.

      you have your head up you a_ss

      June 30, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Lyn

      Oh ok Joe, You pretty much just answered my question

      June 30, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • Roger that

      Because some old men that lived in the Middle East over 2,000 years ago said so. That's the word on the street.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:09 am |
    • bb

      Notice - they can't. So they just pretend insults does it for them....which it doesn't.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Lyn

      So our laws are governed on religion ?

      June 30, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • Roger that

      'So our laws are governed on religion ?'

      Religion has influenced some laws, but religion will continue to lose it's influence. Notice that you can no longer own a slave even though the Bible gives says it's ok.

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

      Go ask your parents or grandparents why. They will tell u. People in today's society say anything goes do what you want to do, it's ok. All I know for sure we will all pay for our decisions one day. Just imagine if 90 percent of people were gay then they would have to go to a center of some sort to pick up a kid or a lab specimen to have a kid and that kid would never have a real biological mother or father and the cycle continues. No-one would have a true family tree then. SO SAD.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  10. a dose of reality

    Top Ten Signs You're a Christian
    10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.
    9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.
    8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.
    7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!
    6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods sleeping with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.
    5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of Earth (few billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is a few generations old.
    4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering. And yet consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."
    3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor speaking in "tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" Christianity.
    2 – You define 0.01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers. You consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% FAILURE was simply the will of God.
    1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but still call yourself a Christian.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Buck

      Man, you are sick.

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

      This is the most beautiful thing I have read all year. I am sure most Christians will probably post a negative comment. Truth hurts, folks. The truth hurts.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  11. LK

    Religious conservatives in the U.S. want to have their cake and eat it too. That is, they want the advantages of living in a free, democratic society which emphasizes individualism, but at the same time want to impose their individual, christian bible based belief system on others.

    June 30, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Tangosang

      These conservative Christians mean well. They are just liberals who want to use Big Government to control people's lives and freedoms. The curse of liberalism is tempting for those who don't have more innovative tools.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • Skeptimist

      There are various definitions of freedom, one of which appears to be:

      Freedom is my right to be who I am and that includes your equal right to agree with me.
      If you do not agree with me you are violating my freedom.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:26 am |
  12. lol??

    Every president declares they want to be the education president. The Big O wants EVERY kid to be a scholar. How schmart and realistic is that?? There must be something else on the agenda. By golly Bloom's Taxonomy has its roots from the Frankfurt School. Little socie children, the only thing you have proven is yer brainwashing from washington worked. Doesn't make you schmart. Tons of laundering!!!

    June 30, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • frboothe

      I really hope you know what you are talking about...cuz no one else does...

      June 30, 2013 at 8:07 am |
    • ElmerGantry

      Where did you get your edjumakayshun?

      June 30, 2013 at 8:27 am |
  13. Elliott Carlin

    All the drama because Bruce bends Shawn over a coffee table.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • southflboy

      Same degree of concern that would happen if somebody made an issue of you bending over your wife or GF over the coffee table.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:08 am |
    • Daedsidog

      Out of touch much? Yes I daresay you are

      June 30, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  14. JesuswalkswithMe

    It will be important for conservative Christians to differentiate between what was written and voted upon in a compilation of texts that became the Bible long after Jesus lived and what Jesus actually taught. Two very different agendas, only one of which promotes slavery and a specific type of marriage (both in the New Testament).

    June 30, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Wrong on so many levels.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • JesuswalkswithMe

      Open your heart and move beyond your idolotry of a book rewritten and used to control people. You will know Jesus for the first time and you will understand.

      I will keep you in my prayers. It is a beautiful awakening if you just allow Christ truly in your heart after you close the Book.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • classybusiness

      Good point.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:02 am |
  15. gg

    Marriage is only between a man and a woman. Anything else is not marriage.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:58 am |
    • Elliott Carlin


      These clowns are trying to call a Honda Accord an SUV when it just isn't.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • Andy

      Didn't you read the story? Yes, it is a marriage.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:02 am |
    • Joe F.

      Exactly! Thank you! Don't know how they came up with Catholics who support gays. That obviously made that up...

      June 30, 2013 at 8:06 am |
    • Craig Chilton

      To gg - I invite you to come here to the FREE State of IOWA, where I can prove that statement of yours to be totally INCORRECT in a nanosecond!

      July 15, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  16. bart


    Those dirty conservatives!
    It's not like they oppose gay marriage because they believe the family structure is the most important thing for the nation's health.

    I suppose they'll just decide (or have already) that single parents and broken homes are the real drain on America.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:57 am |
    • EMcK

      If they really supported the family structure, they'd be more interested in ending divorce than in stopping gay marriage. When you have a bunch of people that have been married multiple times (which is adultery as defined by the Bible), complaining about someone else doing something that allegedly violates their scripture, I stop listening.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • frboothe

      Is someone preventing you from having a "traditional" marriage? The law doesn't say you have to marry someone gay if you are not gay yourself.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  17. Louie

    Now it's time to tax the churches if they continue to play politics. If a reverend stands up and starts advocating the far right agenda while wrapping it in the cloak of "protecting the faith" then tax the collection plates.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • gg

      The country will cease to exist if anything like you say is attempted.

      June 30, 2013 at 7:59 am |
    • Elliott Carlin

      Remember to include all of those black churches the Dims visit during election-time.

      Oops, didn't think about that.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:00 am |
    • Andy

      Louie, – an excellent point. Thank you for a sensible comment.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:04 am |
    • classybusiness

      I agree, Louie. Religion is about fear-mongering and manipulation and hatred toward others with a different belief system. So much death, misery, and despair because of religion. Why are tax-payers are forced to support every nut-group that claims to be a religion?

      June 30, 2013 at 8:14 am |
  18. Robert

    There has been no "marriage revolution." Most people will always view "gay marriage" as freakish.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:56 am |
    • Elliott Carlin


      June 30, 2013 at 8:01 am |
    • Saraswati

      Sure, just like they'll always view women marrying after 22 as freakish and interracial couples as freakish and people marrying outside their religion as freakish...Oh, wait...

      June 30, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  19. MJ

    The gay thing being force fed to the USA along with the amnesty for illegals, the out of control government and we will need marijuana legalization just to deal with the bizarreness.

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

      Yes because the government is out of control, we need to have control over the right of people to marry . . . . I mean if they're out of control, you should give them more right?

      June 30, 2013 at 8:06 am |
  20. Lee

    We are a country in moral decay/decline. I believe we are already under judgement. Don't think we are any more special than the people of Noah's day or the residents of Sodom.

    June 30, 2013 at 7:55 am |
    • midwest rail

      Nonsense. Gay marriage has been legal in other parts of the world for quite a while, and the sky hasn't fallen.

      June 30, 2013 at 8:08 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.