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. Alias

    One more point that christians need to geet in touch with is that gay people are already living as they see fit.
    It is a free country (sort of) and they have been exercising the rigt to live with whoever they want.
    They will not change the number of gay people in our society, or the way they have sex.
    This will not change their 'lifestyle', it will just give equql righths to all Americans.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  2. MagicPanties

    at the end of the article: "...If you have to go down for Christ..."

    Isn't that what gays are doing?
    Too funny.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  3. Kb

    Hooray for the gays!! And boo to the christians. You will be losing more and more battles and logic and reason overcome the kung-fu grip religion has had over society for ages. Poop on your face, god. we don't need you anymore.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  4. Sam

    Obama has been PROVEN by prophesy to be the ANTI CHRIST!!

    June 30, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      In your little fantasy world, but in reality he is just a regular human being.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • MagicPanties

      Sam has been PROVEN by my invisible pink unicorn to be gay.

      Sam, come out, come out wherever you are.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Marge Arnold

      So where's your proof?

      June 30, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • Kb

      To prove there is an antichrist one must first prove there is a christ. Or however you spell it haha i don't care because it isn't real!

      June 30, 2013 at 11:10 am |
  5. dutchtown

    I say if the gay's want a piece of paper that allows them the same rights as a straight couple, fine. Here is your piece of paper, but you will never be married in the eyes of God and any mention of God should be excluded from the ceremony.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Why? There are people who are gay that still believe in God. You can't tell them they cannot or cannot be married like any regular Christian marriage.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • Jim

      God doesn't have eyes. He/she/it is incorporeal.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • Candiano

      Most civil marriages, even if they're hetero, don't have the word "God" in the ceremony. And if a chruch wants to marry gay couples, what business is it of yours?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • Interesting

      That in some religious cults there are a substantial number of gay clergy. When the perform marriage ceremonies are they legit in the eyes of god? Are the priests, ministers, parsons, etc. that are gay even acceptable in the eyes of your mythical god?

      June 30, 2013 at 11:00 am |
    • Marge Arnold

      If God created men and women, and since gay people are either men or women, didn't God create them too?

      June 30, 2013 at 11:05 am |
    • Saraswati

      Should Catholics ask the same of all divorced people married in another church?

      June 30, 2013 at 11:32 am |
    • sam stone

      you have no authority to speak for god, dutchtown

      July 1, 2013 at 8:10 am |
    • tallulah13

      Actually, dutchie, there are churches willing to marry gay and lesbian couples in the name of god. It appears that some versions of god are more tolerant than others. I guess with 40,000 denominations of christianity, you're going to have some differing opinions.

      July 1, 2013 at 8:35 am |
    • Saraswati

      One of my straight friends belongs to an independent Baptist church with a lesbian minister. This is in the South.

      July 1, 2013 at 11:13 am |
  6. www.mauriziobattifora.com

    why do people insist on imposing their ideologies onto other?. if gays want to get marry, SO WHAT?... if you want to be a Christian, then be a christian, don't go around pushing your believes onto others... we are becoming a Country or crazy fanatics like SOME muslims in the Middle East. w are no different.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  7. Bill

    If Christians stopped making gay babies then there would be not issues

    June 30, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • MagicPanties

      if "gay" could be detected in utero, they would be _so_ pro-choice

      June 30, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • icarus

      It says something that there are a lot of posts on here where the satire is impossible to distinguish from the real statements.
      I do get a good laugh out of the naive genetics that gets touted a lot in conservative circles about the existence of the "gay gene" or how they will kill of the world by reproducing and then not reproducing more gay people.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:55 am |
  8. Jim

    Albert Einstein said, "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the first."

    June 30, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Kehlog Albran

      A young merchant pushed through the throng asking,
      What is Money?

      The Master spoke:
      Do not ply your wares beneath an avocado tree.
      Do what you must with forked pleasure but never encrust a seed that is destined to rule the forest of men's minds.

      But what has that to do with Money, Master? the young merchant asked.

      The elixir of life is like an earthworm's touch to a rose's sweetness or a length of thread as spurned by the very magnetism of Eartzil, the Master replied.

      I understand, the young merchant exclaimed.

      You do? the Master replied.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  9. Sam

    The sky will rain FIRE down upon you evil doers for this BLASPHEMY. Gays are the devils spawn and will lead to the destruction of our universe.

    In HIS name I pray,


    June 30, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      Well aren't you the little devil worshipper today. The only one spreading hatred and destroying this country are individuals like you.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • Jim

      How do you know your deity is a "he", or a "she."
      To imply gender suggests procreation, which suggests that your deity had "parents". Which suggests a beginning.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  10. icarus

    I think believing that the sky is falling and that doom is coming at least gives the kind of cold comfort that comes with "I told you so." The harder truth that Christians are going to have to face up to as a group is that they sold out their moral highground for political/electoral influence, and that it will take a lot of soul searching and a reengagement with values -real values-, to become relevant again.

    At the end of the day, one of the hardest truths any of us has to face is when we find out it wasn't ever really about us.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • Saraswati

      What's funny is that the southern baptists, who were a main driving force in conservative Christianity, were steering liberal until the early 70s. That decision now is likely to be the death of their church.

      July 1, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  11. Caihlyn

    It is sad to see Christians, or people of any faith, condemning love between human beings. Biology does not dictate who should be allowed to love whom. If you love someone in a spousal way, and wish to dedicate your time and energy to caring for and supporting them. Then I say God bless it!

    June 30, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • mike

      I see all the comments on here putting cristians down.Is'nt that bigotry also.Leave their faith alone.They are going to disagree with what gays do because of who they are.Leave them alone.Do your thing and leave the church alone.

      June 30, 2013 at 11:04 am |
    • Kb

      Oh mike but the church brings it on itself. Attempting to convert us all into sheep. I am not a sheep, mike. I have a brain mike. I know how to add spaces, mike! Go read your bible, mike.

      June 30, 2013 at 11:15 am |
    • Saraswati

      @mike, are you saying that no one should criticize the opinions or actions of another? Because that's a pretty big claim...

      July 1, 2013 at 11:16 am |
  12. BD70

    It is none of her business what the flowers are for and whom they are for. Just sell them the dang flowers. Separation of business and personal.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  13. Jim

    Sooner or later the Teavangelicals will realize that it's not the 15th Century any more.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Mixo Lydian

      Or the 2nd Century

      June 30, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • MagicPanties

      No, but they will die eventually.
      Notice how so few young people are teavanlgelicals?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  14. Mike

    I love it...Christians pondering what they are going to do...what a dilemma? My oh my, you mean no more self-righteous preaching about something that is none of your business? Move over hard-line Christians people are tired of your intolerance, prudishness, and outdated way of thinking.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • lol??

      No, I'm pondering how to ask the "big question" of my firstborn son.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Jim

      LOL?? – why does the "big question" matter, as long as your son is happy?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • lol??

      Well, he might chose a woman over me and skip the inheritance. All my work fer nuthin' and endin' up in the Beast's hands.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:51 am |
  15. Sam

    DEMONS will appear soon. OBAMA has wrought our destruction!!

    June 30, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • MaryM

      BeGone TROLL. I cast you out

      June 30, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM


      June 30, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Julie

      Have you been checked for psychosis? You're experiencing delusions.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Observer


      Demons? Do you mean HYPOCRITICAL believers?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:48 am |
  16. Daniel Mesohoni

    To Evangelicals: As someone who has actually read the Bible, Jesus never mentioned gays, so you're in the clear. If you follow the Old Testament, you by definition are not a Christian. so call yourself something else.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • lol??

      Jesus authored the entire Bible, silly.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • lol??

      In fact one of His many names is "Word of God", silly.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  17. Jim

    It is ironic that the "National Organization for Marriage" is AGAINST marriage.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:40 am |
    • icarus

      Right? It's sometimes astonishing the rhetorical backflips anti-gay people have to go through in order to make it seem like they are the real victim.

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

      Yeah, that one always gets a shaking of the head.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:42 am |
    • Mike

      Well said Icarus!

      June 30, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • lol??

      It's ironic that NOW is for THEN.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:48 am |
    • Mixo Lydian

      How Orwellian (i.e. Ministry of Truth).

      June 30, 2013 at 10:49 am |
    • reaper19

      So you will be supporting polygamy and intra-family marriage? Will it be so ironic then or maybe you are for any arrangement that can be constructed to be defined as marriage.

      June 30, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
  18. Observer

    Gays want to get married because the love each other.

    God doesn't care about couples loving each other. He believes that one person could HATE the other and still be FORCED into marriage.

    Christian HYPOCRITES should read a Bible someday.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • truth is

      Observer is wrong

      June 30, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  19. raynewman0025

    the court was dead wrong in its gay marriage decisions...not every issue comes within the purview and authority of the government...those who think otherwise do not know the source and scope of freedom...the court should have told the government "it's none of your damn business"...read my post of that name on thefrontiersmen.blogspot.com raynewman

    June 30, 2013 at 10:39 am |
    • What is going on? FREEDOM

      It is there business. It became their business when fools put DOMA in action within the government as well as states discriminating against gay couples looking to marry and have the same federal benefits as regular married couples.

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

      ray, you never considered that you could be dead wrong, sounds like you would make a great dictator/tyrant but you'll have to go somewhere without democracy, bye now.

      June 30, 2013 at 10:45 am |
    • C.M. Aaron

      I couldn't get your link to work. Could you elaborate here please? Are you saying that people should be free to marry without the government's permission?

      June 30, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  20. cjeddie8

    Once the majority of society realizes that you don't need religion at all to be moral and good, subjects such as this will fade into obsolescence.

    June 30, 2013 at 10:38 am |
    • reaper19

      LOL!! Once the society has completely shed religion in favor or self-worlship they will understand that there is no reason to be good or moral. Goodness and morality require self-restraint and sacrifice. Why would anyone make sacrifices or restrain themselves if this is all there is? With no standard for morality, who is going to define what is good? You are simply another indoctrinated lemming who wants what God has provided without acknowledging where it came from. All hail the advent of man worship. We'll see how that works out.

      June 30, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      You are really good at leaping to unjustifiable conclusions aren't you?
      We are a social animal, like other social animals. We work together, develop language and culture, share, assist each other. It is the same as other social animals. the other animals do not have any gods, and yet many are very peaceful and thrive, with no gods that we know of....so do humans, we do all of the same things without gods as well, but for some reason we like to create gods to fill in the blanks that is our ignorance. Why is it that you have focused on your god, Why do you not worship all the rest of them,why do you dismiss the other thousands of gods so easliy, yet you believe in your particular one (which the whole story of Jesus came from previous cultures so you aren't even worshipping him, you are worshipping a version of previous character(s)).
      There is absolutey no evidence to support the hypothesis that god exists, but there is a great deal of evidence that men define gods frequently, so the probabability that the hypothesis that any gods exist being correct is near nil.

      June 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
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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.