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
[twitter-follow screen_name='BurkeCNN']

(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. AE

    @ Obsever
    – "It's unusual for a Christian to claim that "freewill" doesn't exist. None for all the children, babies and fetuses that God murdered.

    What? I didn't say "freeweill" doesn't exist.

    @ Cpt. Obvious
    "The story cannot be trusted because the event never occurred. "

    You can find justification on whatever stance you want to take on the flood.

    Some say it appears there wasn't a flood.

    Some say it appears there was.

    Geogrpahical data can be wrong.

    A lot of origin stories, from cultures that had no contact with each other, contain a story of a flood that almost destroyed the world.

    July 1, 2013 at 3:39 pm |
  2. Cpt. Obvious

    The story cannot be trusted because the event never occurred. (The geological data confirms that the flood never occurred). Because the event never happened, Jesus was not the messiah because he said the flood happened and the messiah would know better and not lie about it. So don't trust the story. That would be stupid.

    July 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  3. Observer


    It's unusual for a Christian to claim that "freewill" doesn't exist. None for all the children, babies and fetuses that God murdered. You are somewhat unique in your belief about that.

    July 1, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  4. AE

    I've been accussed of being Chad, Topher, Heaven Sent and now faith..ish...?

    We are discussing a story. Like I said earlier... I should've said "maybe". But if you trust the story, all were doomed. Even the babies.

    July 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm |

    Think about it, nothing makes daddy more angry than his daughter getting diked down by a black or brown man. They love it and it's hilarious.

    July 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm |
  6. Alias

    'lol' means Laughing Out Loud
    'lol??' means Lousifer Our Lord

    Don't you people spent any time on the internet?

    July 1, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
  7. Russell

    So that is what you conservatives are soo insucure about.
    Now it makes sense.

    July 1, 2013 at 3:14 pm |
  8. AverageJoe76

    Being agnostic is a luxury. It was truly a great day when I stopped concerning myself with the wishes of invisible beings. I just wished I would remember that actual day. Tsk.... oh well.

    July 1, 2013 at 2:58 pm |
    • derp

      The first time I had to do confession.

      I walked out of the church an atheist.

      July 1, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • AE

      It is easier for me to deny my sins, than deny my self.

      July 1, 2013 at 3:43 pm |
    • *


      It's, I wish I would remember (not wished... or wisht)

      July 1, 2013 at 4:28 pm |
    • Arthur Bryant

      I remember the day quite well when I stopped believing in the catholic church. I was 12 years old, went to confession and was called a hypocrite by the priest. I had no idea what the word meant; but when I looked it up....for some reason all the stupidity of what I'd been taught to believe hit me at once. A kind of epiphany. That was the last time I participated in any sort of catholic rite.
      Where the Judeo-Christian god is concerned I am an atheist. But I would have to characterize myself primarily as an agnostic. I simply don't know or pretend to know what might be "out there". I AM however 100% certain that the god of the bible is a fairy tale....and a horrible one at that.

      July 2, 2013 at 2:22 pm |
  9. Just the Facts Ma'am...


    "babies can't be wicked. don't be silly."

    The babies were dead. The people ate them all.

    And aborted the unborn ones.

    They were 100% wicked."

    That to me sounds like some pretty moronic rhetoric to me and not worthy of any rational discussion.

    Also, this habbit of giving spaces between each sentance.

    Feels very "faith"ish, you are sure you are not the same troll?

    July 1, 2013 at 2:46 pm |
  10. Richard Cranium

    There's lol complaining about the Aardvarks and Antelopes again.

    July 1, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  11. ME II

    To quote another dying man's words, "God, please don't let me die...."

    July 1, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  12. AE

    I'm trying to have a respectful discussion.

    July 1, 2013 at 2:29 pm |
  13. Akira

    To be fair, I've always known AE to be respectful. But then I haven't seen all of his posts.

    July 1, 2013 at 2:19 pm |
  14. Just the Facts Ma'am...

    Yes, he now understands that the Atheists and Agnostics are often the most respectful people on the boards and the vile hate speech and religious rhetoric coming from a few posters like lol??, faith, LL, AE, AH, HS and all the rest shows how out of touch with America and with humans the religious right has become.

    July 1, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  15. ReligionIsBS

    If your god and his rules can simply be legislated out of law, perhaps he isnt that powerful, or more likely, even real.

    July 1, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
    • { ! }

      Legislated out of law? Try legislating God's law out of human nature. But don't wear yourself out trying.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • ReligionIsBS

      If you think gods laws are a part of human nature, then he's even less powerful than I had described, as most people arent christians and the ones who are still keep failing his instructions.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
    • Observer

      { ! }

      "Legislated out of law? Try legislating God's law out of human nature."

      By "God's law" are you referring to his support for slavery, discrimination against women and discrimination against the handicapped?

      July 1, 2013 at 2:26 pm |
  16. Honey Badger Don't Care


    I post these things, as was pointed out, to bring to light the absurdity of the things in the bible. There are many people around here that use that same verse (Leviticus 20:13 and others) to justify their hatred for hom o se xuals and other people not like them.

    Without religion it is quite possible that the human race would be able to exist in harmony and finally be able to advance as a society.


    If you are saying that your god changed his mind then that isn’t a very powerful god. Just more reason not to believe in it.

    July 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • AE

      I'm not sure what you mean by changing his mind.

      God has never failed me. Do you have a belief in something that never fails?

      July 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” Gen 6:6,7

      I'd say feeling regret means he changed his mind, which for an infallible cosmic creator seem's pretty childish and fallible.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • AE

      That sounds like how we are, changing minds. Maybe that is part of how we are created in God's image.

      A big part of being a Christian is repenting. Which is basically changing your mind. Interesting...

      July 1, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • AE

      I think we lost something in translation:

      "We see that the Hebrew word for "repent, relent, change," etc. is nashash, which has a scope of meaning, which we see in other translations, that can infer God's change of direction and purpose towards a people."

      July 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Filthy Hind I love to Mithrism lick and talk Islam bunk

      No deary,
      Changing a mind means you're not omniscient.
      That's probably a big word for you.

      Just amazing how the indoctrinated will do or say anything to keep the cognitive dissonance at bay.

      You god failed the people she killed in Moore Oklahoma.
      Oh wait. There are no gods.
      Never mind.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • AE

      @ Filthy

      God has all the knowledge that it is possible to have.

      The future is not yet determined and God cannot definitively know how things will turn out.

      This is not a limitation on God's knowledge, it is a limitation as to what there is to be known.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Filthy Hind I love to Mithrism lick and talk Islam bunk

      No deary,
      That means your stupid god is not omniscient. If your god is subject to the constraints of "the future", that means she is not the creator of Reality, and all it's dimensions. Have you ever considered getting an education, or taking a Philosophy course.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Filthy Hind I love to Mithrism lick and talk Islam bunk

      Actually AE you just refuted your god there. If your god is subject to ANYTHING, ("possible to have"), that means she is SUBJECT to the constraints of reality, and not the creator of reality. Thanks for disproving your own god out of your own mouth.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
    • { ! }

      "Without religion it is quite possible that the human race would be able to exist in harmony and finally be able to advance as a society." Are you kidding? Left to his own devices, the human race has nearly brought itself to extinction. Look up "Doomsday CLock". Also, read about the twentieth century; the bloodiest and most godless century in human history.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
    • Observer

      { ! },

      Greatest slaughter in history:

      When God got done TORTUROUSLY KILLING people, there were only 8 left on the face of the earth.


      July 1, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • AE

      @ { ! }

      I agree. I try not to always look for a "scape goat".

      We also have examples of societies with no religion, that have been just as bad as the religious ones.

      It is a human being problem, not a religion problem.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "Left to his own devices, the human race has nearly brought itself to extinction. "

      What period of time has man been "left to his own devices" without religion there attempting to guide or goad humans into one behavior or another? And don't bother posting all the c r a p about socialist governments proclaiming war on religions and the people those dictators killed in the name of communism in the last hundred years, this is not equateable to atheism or any great length of time without religion.

      July 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      @AE – God not being able to know the future would be a serious limitation to a 'God'. A 'God' has no limitations. Nothing is impossible, and the paths of all things has been plotted already. Certainly, if man can make predictions, and be right, so can God...... right? Well.... I don't think God makes predicitons. God fulfills the plans God has made. IF there's a God, there is no limit to God's power. Nothing escapes God's eye. The ancients could not possibly understand the science behind a great number of things in our universe. Modern man, has aquired much more data, and COULD formulate a better God than the ones in ancient text, because those Gods are antiquated and lack imagination. The Bible 2.0 should be written for our times. I'm still not going to church.

      July 1, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • AE

      @ AverageJoe76

      An all-knowing and all-powerful God can limit His power.

      July 1, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • Which God?

      @AE. You said: "An all-knowing and all-powerful God can limit His power." Do you know how utterly ridiculous that sounds? Why would a god limit its power? They are already meglomaniacs, so limiting its own power would dimiinsh itself.

      July 1, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • AE

      Why did Jesus Christ, an innocent man, die on the cross, when he could of easily killed all the people against Him?

      Why did he limit His powers?

      What kind of God suffers?

      July 1, 2013 at 4:01 pm |
    • realbuckyball

      An ancient angry deity who requires his son to die before he can feel better is not worth the name "god".
      Obviously your Jesus was no god.

      July 1, 2013 at 4:39 pm |
  17. Rory

    How is refusing service to someone because you object to them in some way not discrimination? What if she had refused to provide flowers to a Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or biracial couple? Would it be be just "religious conviction" then?

    July 1, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • myweightinwords

      It is discrimination. It simply isn't illegal.

      She is a private owner of a private business. She has the right to refuse service to anyone.

      Doesn't make her right to do so. Doesn't make it not discrimination. Doesn't mean she isn't a bigot.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
    • Saraswati

      It is illegal. It violates Washington's Consumer Protection Act.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • Akira

      Beat me to it, Saraswati.
      MWIW, if she provides flowers to hetero weddings, she has to provide them to gay weddings.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      @Rory – If that's the case, then what was the use of the Civil Right's Movement? How big can a business get, and still deny service based on the owner's individual preference. How about this; don't want to serve everyone? Don't serve anyone.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
  18. Bob

    The writing is on the wall, so to speak. Religion is going down bigtime, especially the conservative evangelical Christian brand of it.

    I wonder how the evangies feel, as the world progressively leaves them behind, and if they even are aware of that. They are very much like the slave owners and slavery supporters of a previous time in US history, as others have noted. They are obsolete now, and never should have held any power.

    July 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      conservatives are always on the wrong side of social justice:

      pro slavery
      pro segregation
      anti women voting
      anti minorities voting
      anit whites marrying blacks
      anti civil rights
      anti g.ay marriage

      July 1, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Ken

      We feel great Bob. Our Savior is soon to come. The great "falling away" is happening right now.

      2 Thessalonians 2
      New King James Version (NKJV)
      The Great Apostasy

      2 Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, 2 not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ[a] had come. 3 Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin[b] is revealed, the son of perdition, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God[c] in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.

      5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He[d] who now restrains will do so until He[e] is taken out of the way. 8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      "I wonder how the evangies feel, as the world progressively leaves them behind, and if they even are aware of that."

      They are aware of it, that is why you see so much Christian panic in America today. They proclaim anything that doesn't have their Jesus sticker decals on them to be an attack against them. The war on Christimas, the war on Christians, the war on morality, all internalized persecution disorder. It's like they are religious schizophrenics.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Akira

      When's that thousand year reign of peace going to happen? C'mon, get on with it already.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • Lucifer's Evil Twin

      LET's Religiosity Law #1 – If Jesus came back today he would be shot in the head. That's what you do to put down zombies; otherwise they eat your brains.

      LET's Religiosity Law #2 – If you use words and phrases like: "Insert whatever whack-job, derived from a bible verse, comment they just made.” Then you are definitely mentally retarded.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Just the Facts Ma'am...

      If a day to God is a thousand years, wouldn't a thousand year reign be closer to 365,000 years? Just got to get all those biblical time lines straight since everything is up to interpretation...

      July 1, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Conservatives accurately predicted the housing-market-bubble burst.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Rory

      Stuff like this swings like a pendulum. Conservatives were only a fringe group 50 years ago, so the great-grandchildren of today's Conservatives will probably be just as bad as they are now.

      Something to look forward to in 2040.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • Filthy Hind I love to Mithrism lick and talk Islam bunk

      Yeah Kenny, that's what they all say.
      "soon to come"
      Even your Jebus said that the end was coming during his generation.
      He was just as wrong as you are.
      2000 years of "any day now", you"d think they'd learn a thing or two.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  19. Atheist Hunter

    HotAirAce........great input, abortion is a sin too! Many will come in my name.....I will say depart I never knew you.

    July 1, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      no such thing as sin. it's a terrible concept meant to control you through guilt, fear and ignorance - the pillars of christianity.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Akira

      Where is abortion spacifically prohibited in the Bible? I seem to remember where a potion is given to abort the fetus of a baby of an adulterous affair; wouldn't this be tacit approval FOR abortion?

      July 1, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      the bible never says abortion is a sin. in fact, there's an abortion recipe in the bible. so it seems the bible is pro-abortion, not anti.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Akira

      That's exactly what I thought, Booty. The Bible is pro-abortion.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Observer

      Atheist Hunter,

      Show us the word "abortion" in the Bible.

      lol. lol.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      But where are your outrage and derogatory comments for your cult's "baby killers"? You seem excessively fixated on gays while ignoring a much greater sin.

      July 1, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
  20. Bootyfunk

    marriage is a legal device and requires no religion at all. want proof?

    get married at a church, with church approval and with a religious leader of your choosing, but no gov't issued marriage license = not legally married

    get married at a courthouse, without church approval, without any religious leaders, but with a gov't issued marriage license = legally married

    you can add ceremony and ritual to marriage, but it is completely unnecessary.

    so christians, add christian ceremony and ritual to your marriage, but stop telling people who can and can't get married - you don't own marriage.

    July 1, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      You can get married without flowers too

      July 1, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Akira

      You sure can, Bill, although it wouldn't be nearly as festive.

      July 1, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Bootyfunk

      i'll take flowers over christians at my wedding any day.

      July 1, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • derp

      My atheist wife and I were married, had and raised children, without any influence or approval of religion.

      We could not be happier.

      July 1, 2013 at 3:33 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.