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Can Evangelical Christians Support Marriage Equality?

According to a recently launched group called Evangelicals for Marriage Equality the answer is “yes”. Their approach focuses on decoupling civil marriage from sacramental marriage, contending that one can be in favor of the former for gay couples, without changing his biblical beliefs about the latter. From the Washington Post:

A new group called Evangelicals for Marriage Equality launched Tuesday (Sept. 9) and is collecting signatures from evangelicals who support same-sex marriage. Its advisory board includes author and speaker Brian McLaren, former National Association of Evangelicals vice president Richard Cizik, and former USAID faith adviser Chris LaTondresse. Cizik resigned from his NAE position over his support for same-sex civil unions.

“Our organization is not taking a theological position on the issue of the sacrament of marriage,” said spokesman Brandan Robertson. “We just want evangelicals to see that it is possible to hold a plethora of beliefs about sexuality and marriage while affirming the rights of LGBTQ men and women to be civilly married under the law.”

The Family Research Council was quick to push-back:

To professing Evangelical advocates of same-sex “marriage:” Stop dissembling. Reject revealed truth concerning human sexual behavior if you will. Christ does not compel faithful discipleship at the point of a gun. Just don’t pretend the Bible doesn’t say what it says or that your personal experiences and/or longings must supersede the commands of the Creator and Redeemer of the universe.

It appears this new organization has its work cut out for it. Evangelicals, even young evangelicals, register some of lowest support for marriage equality:

Research on evangelicals suggest that younger evangelicals are more likely to support same-sex marriage than those of an older generation, though many still resist it.

In 2012, Pew found that 29 percent of young white evangelicals (age 18-29) expressed support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, higher than older evangelicals at 17 percent. That’s far below the level of support for same-sex marriage expressed by young adults as a whole (65 percent).

Godspeed, Evangelicals for Marriage Equality.

Voter ID Laws May Impact Transgender Voters at Midterms

By Alexis Hamilton

MSNBC reports the findings of a recent Williams Institute study, which suggests transgender voters may encounter difficulties at the polls during midterm elections because of some states’ strict voter identification laws. For the transgender individuals who live in those states, updating photo IDs may be “prohibitively difficult and costly.”

States with strict photo ID laws include: Kansas, Texas, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia. The Williams Institute study estimated that as many as 25,000 voters might have problems at the ballot box or be disenfranchised because of the voter ID laws.

Though the majority of Americans–about 78 percent according to a Rasmussen Reports Poll–support voter ID laws, it is possible to protect the voting rights of transgender Americans as well as safeguard the voting process from fraud. Alabama, for example, allows voters without a photo ID to cast a provisional ballot and bring an ID to the election office no later than the Friday after election day, or two election officials can give sworn statements affirming that they know the voter. Perhaps voter registration drives and LGBT organizations in states with strict laws should also increase their outreach to transgender voters, make them aware of the ID laws, and inform them about the process of obtaining new identification that will enable them to cast their ballots in November.

There is also at least one website, votingwhiletrans.org, which contains helpful information about required identification and the location of polling places.

Christianity and the unavoidable tide of gay rights

By Matt Barnum

Are Christians immune to the rising tide of LGBT acceptance? That’s the thesis of Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry’s piece for The Week from a couple weeks ago. In it, Gobry argues:

Christianity’s opposition to homosexuality is not the product of some dusty medieval exegete poring over obscure Old Testament verses. From the beginning, what set apart the new and strange sect called Christians from the rest of their culture was their strange sexual ethic.

Today, many gay-marriage proponents don’t just want a live-and-let-live relationship with Christianity — they want to force Christianity to affirm same-sex marriage. They do this, I think, because they believe very strongly in the rights of gays to marry, but also largely because they think that it will only take moderate prodding to get Christianity to cave in. History and Christianity’s own self-understanding suggest, however, that such an outcome is not in the cards.

Note Gobry’s reference to “Christianty,” as opposed to “Christians.” Christianity of course is not a thing that is any way independent of its adherents and leaders, so it’s unclear what Gobry means precisely when he says Christianity.

But let’s take Gobry’s theological explanation at face value; there’s a problem. The question of whether Christians will support homosexuality is an empirical question, rather than a theological one. Theology may of course drive the empirical reality, but it’s bizarre that Gobry’s piece is devoid of any empirical basis, particularly because his hypothesis can be tested so easily.

Check out this Pew survey trend data on religion (third figure down if you click through). As you’ll see, all Christian demographics have seen significant increases in their support for same-sex marriage in just over a decade.

  Support for SSM 2001 Support for SSM 2014
White Mainline Protestants 38% 62%
Catholics 40% 59%
Black Protestants 30% 43%
White Evangelical Protestants 13% 23%

Gee, it sure seems like Christians of all stripes are either changing their minds on same-sex marriage and/or being replaced by a younger, more tolerant generation of believers. Even (the still disturbingly low) support among Evangelical Christians is nearly twice what it was in 2001.

It’s possible that Gobry was referring not to Christians but leaders of Christianity who dictate church’s official policy. Fair enough — after all, most Catholics now support same-sex marriage equality, but church doctrine has yet to follow suit (though the church is making at least rhetorical shifts in a pro-gay direction).

Even if we look at official church doctrine though, Gobry’s thesis fails. A new study finds that more and more religious denominations are accepting gays and lesbians as members and leaders. The study is not all positive – there have been fits and starts – but it’s indicative of an indisputable trend.

And no amount of theology can stop it.

Primary Updates

By Matt Barnum

A couple quick updates from Tuesday’s primary that occurred in several Northeastern states:

-Dan Innis – who we’ve discussed several times on this blog – lost a tough primary 41–49 to former Representative Frank Guinta who will now vie to return to his old Congressional seat. Innis was always the underdog here, running against a former Congressman who had numerous built in advantages. But Innis made a competitive raise of it, and in his concession speech suggested that he may not have given up on politics. Let’s hope not.

-Richard Tisei found out that he will not face incumbent John Tierney again, as expected; Tierney lost his primary to newcomer Seth Moulton. This has upended the race, and unfortunately one poll suggests that Moulton’s victory may make Tisei’s campaign more challenging. We will keep watching this race closely.

Georgia GOP Political Spokesman “Outs” Himself

By Alexis Hamilton

Republican political adviser and Georgia resident James Richardson came out as gay in a personal letter published in the Washington Post on September 4. He writes:

It’s not always easy to love Georgia, or love in it. Our state constitution explicitly forbids same-sex unions, and the local economy remains defiantly sluggish. Yet in spite of its blemishes, my would-be groom and I are deeply committed to our community, one whose values of faith and family we share.

Richardson, who previously has worked for Jon Huntsman, Haley Barbour, and the Republican National Committee, hopes that sharing his story might personalize the issue of marriage equality for Georgians and prompt traditional marriage supporters to reconsider the issue.

You can read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s op-ed on Richardson’s letter here.

GOP Senate candidate runs ad SUPPORTING the freedom to marry

By Liz Mair

Monica Wehby, the GOP nominee to replace Sen. Jeff Merkely in the next Congress, is speaking out in a TV ad about same-sex marriage. But in a move that might surprise some folks who haven’t been paying attention to movement on the issue within the party, Wehby isn’t blasting same-sex marriage. She’s actually highlighting her support for it.

Wehby ad

The ad features Ben West, who successfully sued to overturn Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and was created by FP1 Strategies. The ad is the first of its kind from a Republican Senate nominee, though Republican Senators Rob Portman, Susan Collins, Mark Kirk, and Lisa Murkowski are on record supporting the freedom to marry, as are an array of Republican House members and, notably, Republican nominees for the governorships of Massachusetts and California.

The Real Clear Politics average gives Merkely a 14.5 percent lead, despite Oregon’s history of voting for Republicans statewide and delivering up close races. In 2010, Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley lost by just one point to Gov. John Kitzhaber. In 2008, incumbent Republican Senator Gordon Smith lost to Merkely by 3 points. Smith was a supporter of hate crimes legislation and extension of domestic partner benefits to federal employees while in the Senate, so pro-gay rights Republicans are not unfamiliar to the Oregon electorate.

“Children as Consumer Items”

By Katie Biber

I spotted this piece by Brandon McGinley in the National Review yesterday. Given that so much of the opposition to marriage equality is driven by the (flatly wrong and disproven) theory that gay parents are less adequate than straight parents, it was no surprise to see the author raise this argument again:

Same-sex marriage’s implication that the bearing and rearing of children can be neatly separated from the biology of children leaves us with no ground on which to object to any person’s or group’s satisfaction of the desire to have children of their own. [emphasis mine]

Yikes. Because our goal is to preserve our ability to “object” to a particular person’s qualifications to be a parent? With the obvious caveat for abuse and other situations where intervention is necessary to protect a child, this is a scary statement, especially coming from a conservative who understands the potential tyranny of the state.

If the government can decide who is worthy of marriage based on who is likely to be a “good” parent, this logic can be applied far more broadly. Natural births are dangerous, so let’s mandate C-sections. Babies are healthier if mothers eat fish instead of chicken, so let’s make them send their daily food logs to the FDA. Next, let’s start regulating how people take care of their children.  Let’s ban home schooling, since public schools are “better.”  Let’s let the government visit your home weekly to determine if you have appropriate smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, child-proofing, and other protections to deserve children. Let’s ban letting your children walk six blocks to school without a chaperone. Let’s make sure the government controls what food your third grader is allowed to eat on school grounds. It’s a nanny-state liberal’s dream come true.   Continue reading