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. Citizen88

    My objection to "gay marriage" is not rooted in my faith/religion, but rather based on the value I hold as a positive affirmation of stability, idea of family, and the reproduction of humanity. The "gay lifestyle" is an abomination to the biological design of our species and our role in the ecological system. It seems like we're trying to squeeze a square into a round hole and its just not meant to fit no matter how much we may want it too.

    September 10, 2013 at 9:51 am |
    • Youtube - The Origin of Religion


      October 3, 2013 at 5:43 pm |
  2. alfred faulkner

    i like her standing for Jesus. People need to check Romans chapter 1 and Genesis 19 to get the truth about what had happened before and what the world would look like these days. The devil is taking over the minds of people by telling them they were born that way, well let me tell them if you have been stealing at home and think you could do the same in the street you will be put to jail. stop that habit before it destroys you.

    September 2, 2013 at 10:58 am |
  3. Family Background

    It is therefore not possible to try to "prove" the Bible by means of checking its historical or scientific accuracy.
    Family Background

    August 22, 2013 at 5:29 am |
  4. Salome Spilman

    Thanks for this glorious article. One other thing is that almost all digital cameras arrive equipped with the zoom lens so that more or less of a scene to become included by way of 'zooming' in and out. These kinds of changes in focus length tend to be reflected inside the viewfinder and on significant display screen right on the back of the specific camera.

    August 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm |
  5. Johnny

    Whenever I see a rainbow flag, it reminds me of the time my uncle touched giggle stick and made white stuff come out.

    August 7, 2013 at 9:01 pm |
  6. Dani3l

    Yes, she is free to follow her conscience, but yes, she is in fact a bigot and makes Christianity look narrow and judgemental.

    July 31, 2013 at 1:21 am |
    • showpie


      October 21, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
  7. theinexperiencedyouth

    Reblogged this on uggggh.

    July 28, 2013 at 6:54 pm |
  8. Pravda

    No actually conservatives will keep on keeping on and the church will continue to accept gay people as they do any other person caught in any other sin.

    July 27, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  9. Douglas

    Celibacy beckons like a beacon of hope for LGBTQ Christians
    weary of the sin of fornication.
    Support celibate LGBTQ Christians and let them know they are bound for
    glory when they reject sin and stay true to Biblical guidance.

    July 25, 2013 at 10:20 pm |
    • Observer


      Great job to make gays feel guilty for nothing. Talk to the pros since you apparently are clueless.

      July 25, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • AMY

      This woman on a local radio station had somehting to say about LGBT, check it out.. I'm sure you'll agree.

      August 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm |
  10. Liz the First

    True conservatives should welcome the influx of new business for the wedding industry and the affirmation of the personal liberty they are always touting. but these folks are not true conservatives, they're just a bunch of bigots who hate anyone different from themselves and don't really believe in freedom as long as someone wants to do something they don't like.

    July 21, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • mason

      im thinking nature intended for everything living to reproduce,so what was made keeps growing and living.men are ment to be with women so theay can breed and keep the human race alive. now im not saying a few gays will kill off all people ,im saying its wrong tho.any animale breeds with its own species and oposite gender its the way nature intended.keeps every race or species alive and well.

      July 25, 2013 at 8:32 am |
      • midwest rail

        Do you oppose marriage for infertile couples ? The elderly ? Those who simply choose not to have children ?

        July 25, 2013 at 8:34 am |
        • Jay

          No, I doubt he/she does. It is stupid when people try to compare apples to oranges. They decided not to. Gays and lesbians can not even if they wanted to. It's not possible and was not intended...even if you don't believe in a deity.

          July 31, 2013 at 6:36 pm |
        • Observer


          "Gays and lesbians can not even if they wanted to."

          Gays and lesbians can reproduce.

          Please take a beginner's class in biology or else read "Biology for Dummies".

          July 31, 2013 at 6:39 pm |
  11. navigate to this web-site

    I keep listening to the news update speak about receiving free online grant applications so I have been looking around for the best site to get one. Could you advise me please, where could i acquire some?

    July 20, 2013 at 6:18 am |
  12. Lola

    When will xtians get it through their thick heads that another person's MARRIAGE has no bearing on their own marriage whatsoever? That if two women or two men decide to get married, it doesn't lessen a straight partnership marriage in any way, form, shape or manner. Why do they even CARE who someone else marries? IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THEM. I wish they would all just shut up about it.

    July 19, 2013 at 2:57 pm |
    • Liz the First


      July 21, 2013 at 9:30 am |
    • FellowTraveler70

      Lola, the reason many people care is because of the tax issue. You see, we the people decide which individuals and groups should receive certain benefits. Foe example, we give married couples all kinds of tax benefits. These benefits are not free. If anyone wants to get "married" in a park somewhere without involving the government, then so be it. However, when they want government sanction and validation, then all of us tax payers over 18 have a say:) Just like when the polygamists push for their "rights", you will have a say in that too. peace to you.

      December 5, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
  13. I molina


    July 19, 2013 at 1:07 pm |
    • Pauline

      Posting in all caps defines you as a stupid loser.

      July 25, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • Patrick

      Also feel free to say what you want, that is your right. But if you're going to say bigoted things people are going to call you a bigot. Free speech works both ways say what you will but you aren't free from the consequences of what you say, or what other people have to say in response. Free speech doesn't apply to you only and we're free to make as much fun of your backward thinking beliefs as much as you're free to spout them.

      July 25, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  14. Ana

    The florist needs to take a good long look at herself....No one would suspect her of being straight.

    July 18, 2013 at 11:22 pm |
  15. Doug

    Why do people call other people hypocrites?
    Is it supposed to make them reverse their positions or something?
    What has exposing hypocrisy ever accomplished really?

    July 18, 2013 at 9:38 pm |
    • Sara Nara

      Wimp out like that often, Doug?

      July 18, 2013 at 9:41 pm |
  16. Daniel

    There's a lot of sophists for Satan on this blog, twisting words and using manipulative language, kind of like how Wormtongue manipulated King Theoden.

    July 18, 2013 at 8:56 pm |
    • Sara Nara

      Funny that you put 2 fictional stories side by side like that Dan.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:42 pm |
      • George Jetson

        Ha! LMAO

        August 5, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
    • sam stone

      wow, sophists for satan....pretty impressive, danny

      July 18, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
    • Liz the First

      So anyone who believes in equality for a persecuted minority you don't like is in league with Satan? wow! in the first place, Satan is a mythical being created by early priests to keep people in line through fear. in the second place, hating people who are different is much more satan-like than supporting people's right to love and marry the person they were born to love.

      July 21, 2013 at 9:34 am |
      • Satan

        That's what YOU think!


        July 21, 2013 at 6:27 pm |
        • Patrick

          GAH! Satan you're always so crafty!!!!! How do you feel about the fact that God has killed WAY more people than you have? I'm skeptical on how evil you really are... Poser!

          July 25, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  17. Daniel

    How do people know that they have the rights that they claim to have?
    What makes them so sure?

    July 18, 2013 at 8:39 pm |
  18. DAN


    July 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm |
    • Sara Nara

      Dan, sounds like your god is quite the vicious ass hole. No thanks.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • sam stone

      It appears that equal rights is a burden to bigots.

      gay marriage is going to be the law of the land, danny.

      choke on it

      July 18, 2013 at 11:19 pm |
  19. Marky Mark

    “Don’t give in. If you have to go down for Christ, what better person to go down for?” Funny, I don't remember Christ saying anything about gay people. Now, you can make arguments that anti-gay sentiment is expressed by God in the Old Testament, but Christians are part of the new covenant. Do the words of Jesus Christ nullify much of the Old Testament law? I think so.
    I don't get all of the anti-gay opposition coming from both my Catholic Church and my Christian brothers and sisters. We all need to chill out and realize that our marriages will be fine.

    July 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Thank you Mark

      Anti gay misery from the church really tears up a persons heart and mind. Saying it's unhelpful is an understatement.

      July 18, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
    • Sara Nara

      Otta make ya give your church gang membership a thunk, Mark.

      July 18, 2013 at 9:44 pm |
  20. Free market

    Her business loss can be my gain. If I'd known about it I could have opened my own flower shop and sold flowers and catering specifically catered to gay weddings. Now that I'm thinking about it $$$...hmmm.

    July 18, 2013 at 6:12 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.