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. Scratchnsniff

    Seriously, wake up! You claim exposing children to violence (IE:Video Games), makes them act out, if so then why expose our children to gay propaganda, because it seems as though their going to act this culture out later in life as well.
    I say, ban gay propaganda as the ruskies did last month!!!!!!!!

    June 30, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Gay propaganda? So you are saying if my son or daughter were looking at gay (videos we will say) they will act out on it? If we look at that logic wouldn't they be doing the same thing if they were looking at regular male and female interaction videos?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  2. ally buster

    “And they are more energized than ever.”

    Doesn't matter.

    Our government is 100% SECULAR by definition. That means that any establishment of religion is thus invalid as the basis of a law or ordinance in this country. The Supreme Court simply affirmed that fact the other day when it struck down DOMA. Thus, the LAW OF THE LAND is that marriage equality has to exist. So the zealots and jump up and down, yell, scream, litigate, et cetera, but it is all just pounding sand because the court has SPOKEN and gay marriage is a FACT that cannot be taken away.

    Deal with it conservatives-

    June 30, 2013 at 10:21 am |
  3. Cody

    You anti-gay people are crazy. Anyway, I'm off to marry my partner! Happy Gay Pride! #equalitywins

    June 30, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • ally buster


      June 30, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • CNN70535

      Romans 1:18–32 (NASB95)
      18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
      22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. 24Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. 28And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:30 am |
  4. C1977

    My issue with this is more about Christians having a selective issue with serving gay customers/clients who are marrying. There are other "sins" in the Christian faith... just as examples – does this shop owner refuse to serve couples who are marrying but have children out of wedlock? Are currently pregnant before marriage? Does she screen clients who are having 2nd marriages to see if the reason for the original divorce was acceptable within God's law and then refuse to serve clients based on that? I support legal/civil marriage for all and really don't see it as a religious thing vs. ensuring legal rights. I think I could even support a Christian business owner who was ALL IN and did not serve customers based on all of the religious standards of their faith... but to single out gay couples who are marrying ONLY just seems like discrimination.

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

      Agree 100%.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  5. Robert

    Liberals simply will not tolerate freedom of religion or freedom of conscience.

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

      No one is taking away your freedom of conscience or religion. The decisions have to do with secular law. Churches can do what they want. You can believe what you want. You can marry who you want.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • midwest rail


      June 30, 2013 at 10:22 am |
    • ally buster

      Are you a fundamentalist christian?

      And if so......do you eat shrimp?

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

      We'll see how far your appreciation of freedom goes when a businesses start refusing to serve Christians.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:25 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Robert stop being a spambot.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • thaddius

      Ah yes more conservative B.S. Keep it coming by all means.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:37 am |
  6. Jason

    This is ridiculous. The whole thing is a big cluster and the "Christians" are fueling the fire. Who cares if they are gay or not. They don't hurt you. Their not breaking into your house or
    Any harmful things. The country was never founded on Christianity. Look it up and you'll see. Thinking our government should be ran by Christians are ridiculous. Look how horrible bush was he couldn't tell the difference between Shia and sunni's. that's
    A big fat racist right there. Sure if a president,congressman,senator etc. Fine he is, but to just vote him in for that reason an no other is pathetic. God should be a personal belief not something to ram down people's throat.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • ally buster

      You are now attempting to debate logically with zealots.

      That does not work.

      Zealots don't understand logic. That is why they are zealots to begin with!

      June 30, 2013 at 10:24 am |
  7. E

    While I believe that the church's views on gay people is morally repugnant. This is an example of how we all need to tread carefully. This woman is simply following her faith, whether the rest of us believe she is wrong or right, none of us have the right to begrudge her that. Would you force your own beliefs on her? Isn't that just as bad?

    Then to take it so far as to sue her? Doesn't any shop owner have the right to "Reserve the right to refuse service to anyone"? Regardless of any moral implications? Things like this will set back the adoption of gay rights with conservatives pointing "See? They are forcing their beliefs on us!"

    I think both sides need to step back and come to a mutual understanding instead of both sides resorting to draconian tactics to force their own views on each other. Marriage equality and gay rights is coming, it is a forgone conclusion, one that I am happy about. BUT people also have to realize that not everyone will be happy about it and they HAVE THE RIGHT not to be happy about it. The knife cuts both ways.

    So let's not go to extremes and all just try to get along in this changing world.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • HZ

      The problem is, what if her fait said that black people are inferior and she then chose not to sell flowers to black people? The state gives her a business license and allows her to run her shop in an area zoned for that type of business so it absolutely does have a say in how she treats her customers. If she doesn't like it she's free to move to the middle of nowhere or another country.

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

      if she read Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill.. she would know her so called faith is a sham... created by the Roman Flavian family as a political tool... as it is still used today...

      June 30, 2013 at 10:33 am |
    • E

      HZ, she never said anyone was inferior. Just that she had a difficult time with the decision because of her faith. And now you are saying that she needs to move to another country because she followed her faith?

      I don't agree with her decision myself, but I understand that she has the right to follow her own faith and convictions. So to have others force her to conform to their views is exactly the same as forcing LGBT individuals to conform to the churches views.

      So rather than everyone trying to force everyone else to conform, why cant everyone co-exist? Her own actions will bear their own repercussions as anyone who doesn't share her views will no longer shop at her business.

      June 30, 2013 at 11:42 am |
  8. Observer


    More bad news for you. Education is continuing to reduce bigotry.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:19 am |
  9. RayJacksonMS2

    All they have to learn is what they should have known already. How to mind their own da mn business.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:18 am |
  10. Citizenkk

    First...man love women...then it's man loves man and woman loves woman...then its man loves little boys...then finally man loves the animal...when will liberal progressives ever stop......

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

      Nor will the delusional slippery slope bigots

      June 30, 2013 at 10:18 am |
    • midwest rail

      Nice strawman you've built there.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      I guess you don't believe in consensual interaction do you troll?

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

      Religous right wing idiot!

      June 30, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • eddie B

      Its not only a liberal thing it is a world thing why get up set this is what the Lord said would happen in the last days,, so it was in the days of Noah it will be in the last days. behold he comes shining like a star and on His vesture will be written Lord of Lords a King of Kings.

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

      Maybe when they legalize all of the above...and some! I mean, hey, LGBTs fight for equal love for all, don't they? Might as well throw everyone in the mix!

      June 30, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  11. lol??

    Again, you get what they make you pay for.

    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 10:17 am |
    • icarus

      This feels like a string of inside jokes that I'm on the outside of. Do people really say "socie"? Is this a thing?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • midwest rail

      icarus – regulars here have been trying to decipher lol??'s inane ramblings for months, with little success.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:23 am |
    • lol??

      No, thang.

      Any other questions should be asked of yer schoolmarm. She might not understand it but should be capable of explaining it. They can teach to the test.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:27 am |
    • eddie B

      Both Dems and rep. are wicked I serve only the kingdom of God and what is happening now would be happening no matter who was in office, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess He is the KING

      June 30, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  12. mike

    Oh boohoo, poor christians. I long for the day when religion is but a footnote to human history.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  13. bruce t

    Infra-red Bedroom Police can correct these people. I thought that's why we just got all these drones.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:16 am |
  14. bobbie

    Praise God the Father this morning. Praying all of our lives be unchanged, that we stay on the battlefield for our Lord and for the souls of men/women. Outside my window life seems the same. A nice wind lightly swaying the top of the trees. But i know it is as it was in the days of Noah...people were doing their things while Noah was builiding his ship, getting ready to escape the imminent flood.

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


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

      If God has such a problem with gays, then why did He create them? Obviously, you're confused (as well as a few other things CNN won't let me say).

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

      Absolutely! As a Muslim, we see this as the signs of the time. Lets hold strong and pass on the little faith left in this world. Maybe there is still some hope left.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:31 am |
    • Ted

      Ah, you site the time the Christian GOD murdered nearly every one on the planet accept for those few on the boat, and then he was nice enough to say he was sorry about it and that he would never do it again by sending a nice rainbow! We now know that this story of the flood (borrowed from past religions before Christianity) is not true do to genetic research. And this lady with the flower shop is a bigot and as a society we no longer accept that answer of, I am a Bigot, but I am a Bigot for Christ, or Odin, or the Giant Spagetti Monster. No she is a Bigot, and delusional, but a Bigot none the less!

      June 30, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  15. GOD

    You think i am going to bless America for what they done to me? Yeah right.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Calvin


      June 30, 2013 at 10:30 am |
    • Hear This

      Hey, "GOD",

      This "God" character brought this on himself, the petulant, whiny little freak, and 'he' could gently remedy it with the wrinkle of 'his' nose, and then 'his' poor widdle feewings would not be hurt. Sounds like a passive-aggressive jerk. Good thing it doesn't exist.

      June 30, 2013 at 11:52 am |
    • G to the T

      For a god that believes so higthly in personal responsibility, it's odd that he should bless/condemn at the "nation" level...

      July 2, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Good. The South has been "on your side" since before the Civil War, and look how much your "blessings' have fvcked them up.

      July 2, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
  16. bellenoitr

    Keep religion out of government. The government should not be interfering in who their citizens choose to love. That's the job of religion, not government [federal or local].

    June 30, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Ally

      So when DO we bring in religion? If we can start following the commandments of God and not the commandments of Man, we will be much better off.

      God created us and therefore He knows whats best for us. We should not bend or oust religion to suit ourselves. Rather, we should change ourselves to please the Lord–and that goes for LGBTs and all other sins.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Ally, unless you can demonstrate some evidence and proof for your supernatural buddy, I have to conclude your are delusional and full of sh!t.

      July 2, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
  17. S Dabby

    My grandson and a pervious girlfirend have a lovely daughter - my great granddaughter. Neither of them would consider marriage. That is the problem that I am facing - not the gay couple down the street who want to get married.

    The serious issue facing marriage today is the increasing number of children born ouside of marriage. The conservatives should focus on convincing young people of the importance of mnarrige, particularly couples with children - rather than campaigning to block gay marraige.

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

      The government should stay out of it! It's not a government issue. It's a personal issue.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Too bad

      Civil unions/common law have the same legal status as marriage. I think your problem is you want your grandchild brainwashed into the faith, tough.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Hello

      welfare is anti marriage... you can't get the freebies if your married...

      June 30, 2013 at 10:26 am |
  18. Brian Hartman

    The article is interesting, but it makes a very basic error: Conservative != Christian, necessarily. Conservatism, in the earlier sense (say, pre-2000) was about the relationship of the people to the government. Christianity has nothing to do with that. You can believe in limited government and have atheistic beliefs.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:13 am |
  19. Tony

    Some will believe and others won't but I have seen Christ standing before me not facing me but facing my child to heal him where doctors would not give him 5% of living. The only thing I did see was his hand to touch his head and all the children that were in the hospital that were about to die that night lived, my son is now going to be 38 years old and I kept my promise to God for the rest of my life.
    Because the highest court has decided to give these animals the same rights we will all pay for their sins of what they have done. Lord Jesus Christ, forgiven them for they don't know what they have done.

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

      The sentiment you express in your first paragraph about your faith is, I think, a genuinely beautiful one.
      So...what happened in that second paragraph? It is possible to believe both that gay marriage defies your Biblical principles and that Caesar gets to play by a slightly set of rules of necessity.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:16 am |
    • Jeff1951

      I am glad that your son lived. However, you my friend are a fool.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:21 am |
    • Thecatwoman

      "Animals"? Nice Christian viewpoint there Tony. Where is the whole "Love thy neighbor" in that statement?

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

      Some Christian you are....calling other human beings "animals."

      June 30, 2013 at 10:24 am |
    • Jeff1951

      This bulletin just in:
      Christmas has been cancelled!

      June 30, 2013 at 10:26 am |
    • Glauber

      I'm very sorry, but no, you most assuredly did not see Christ, let alone see Christ touch anyone or anything. Your child was healed. There simply is absolutely no reason to believe that any supernatural force had anything to do with it other than your sheer will to believe that.

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

      then why waste your time, money and effort to take your kid to a doc.. just do the god thing and call it good. Then do the same for yourself... when you get sick forget the doc.... do the pray thing... and die.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:28 am |
    • Edweird69

      Why doesn't your god heal amputees? Why does he care more about your kids, than starving babies in other nations? You must really think you are superior to others.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • emintey

      God doesnt like people calling his children 'animals", i think you have some forgivness to be asking for, not that you will.

      June 30, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  20. mark

    We are slowly losing are religious freedom

    June 30, 2013 at 10:13 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Mark stop listening to that propaganda. You aren't losing your religious freedom, unless you are talking about losing your religious influence on the government (which I would say woohoo).

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

      you define religious freedom as the ability to deny others their rights?

      if so, you should lose it

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

      Making sure that government laws are WHOLLY SEPARATE from religious laws is a protection of religious freedom. If laws are based on any one religion, it threatens the freedom of all religions.

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

      Tragic situation. You've already lost the ability to distinguish between "our" and "are".

      June 30, 2013 at 10:19 am |
    • Glauber

      What can YOU not do that you were able to do before this ruling? Explain PRECISELY what part of your religion you're now unable to exercise thanks to this ruling? You're not losing a single thing. You can keep reciting that line, but it doesn't make it any more true.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:29 am |
    • Calvin


      June 30, 2013 at 10:34 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.