By Aaron Earls
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down decisions on two high profile cases concerning same-sex marriage. The first ruling struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in a 5-4 decision. The second 5-4 opinion held that supporters of California’s Proposition 8 (Prop 8), which banned gay marriage in that state, had no standing to appeal the lower court ruling that overturned the law.
The ruling on the United States v. Winsor stated, “DOMA is unconstitutional as a deprivation of the equal liberty of persons that is protected by the Fifth Amendment.” In terms of immediate consequences, the DOMA opinion means couples in states where same-sex marriage is legal will receive federal marriage benefits.
In Hollingsworth v. Perry, the ramifications are much less clear. The court made no statement on the constitutionality of state same-sex marriage bans, which, by default, allows all of those current laws to continue. The direct results appear limited to clearing the way for same-sex marriage in California alone.
With today’s rulings along with other societal trends, Evangelical Christians need to be prepared to live outside of accepted cultural values in regards to biblical views on the morality of homosexuality and the legitimacy of same-sex marriage. Research indicates that public opinion has turned the corner and is quickly moving in the opposite direction.
In 2001, Gallup found that 40 percent of Americans believed gay or lesbian relations were morally acceptable. This year that number climbed to 59 percent—a jump of 19 percent, which was the largest increase for any moral issue polled.
Specifically on same-sex marriage, Pew has tracked support and opposition to allowing gay and lesbians to marry legally since 2001. Then, 57 percent of Americans were opposed, with only 35 percent favoring same-sex marriage. Those numbers actually widen in opposition to same-sex marriage with a peak in 2004 when 60 percent opposed and 31 percent supported it.
The numbers began to converge until 2011 when gay marriage was supported by a plurality of Americans—46 to 45 percent. The gap widened with same-sex marriage reaching a support level of 50 percent this year and opposition dropping to 43 percent.
In a study released earlier this year, LifeWay Research found that 64 percent of Americans believe same-sex marriage will become legal in the United States. A majority of Americans (58 percent) also think homosexuality, like age, race, and gender, is a civil rights issue.
Americans are equally divided over whether a conflict exists between their religious beliefs and homosexuality (48-48 percent), according to Pew. For those who attend religious services weekly, 66 percent say there is conflict. Fifty-nine percent of those who say religion is very important in their life agree.
The divisions over the issue stretch far beyond the U.S. borders. Along with America, the Pew study found that the majority of adults in Canada, most of Europe and Latin America say society should accept homosexuality. By contrast, majorities in Africa, the Middle East, Russia and much of Asia disagree. The U.S. and Canada were among the three nations that have seen support for homosexuality grow by double digits since 2007.
Despite shifting cultural opinions, Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, insists the responsibility of the American Christian remains the same. “We should not panic. We should not revolt against the government or the media. The sky is not falling,” he wrote.
“We should cling to the cross and the hope found in Christ. For we alone have that hope. And it is that hope which we are commanded to share with the world whether Christianity is the cultural norm or not.”
Aaron Earls is online editor for Facts & Trends.photo credit: Caucas’ via photopin cc