Scalia's barbed defense of traditional marriage makes him a hero to many on the religious right. Three of his colleagues concurred with his position, of course, as the defense of the Defense of Marriage Act lost by the narrowest of margins down clearly partisan lines.
Wherever folks make a claim for America as a Christian nation, there is deep lament this morning. God will punish us for our iniquity, some claim. How can anyone possibly condone homosexual marriage when it's so clear in His Word that it's contrary to his will and his love?
What happened in the gay marriage debate is quite incredible really. A populace simply changed its mind and did so with blinding speed. In Minnesota, for instance, as late as 2006, 54% of the people opposed gay marriage. By last fall, 51% favored it. What brought about such a sea change will be analyzed for a long, long time. What's clear, however, is that we live in a new day and that yesterday religious conservatives lost.
Scalia's sharp criticism could well have been written about someone on the other side of the argument just a year or two ago, when the political tables were turned. In some places, anyone who dissented from the majority view--that gay marriage is an abomination--could well have been and probably was regaled similarly: "Hate your neighbor or come with us."
As of today, things have changed.
One of the new speakers the TED website featured lately is a man named Dan Pallotta, who talks about fund-raising for non-profits. His argument goes like this: we expect non-profits to act, well, differently; we love corporations who make big money, but we're uncomfortable when non-profits determine that their greatest success will come by way of marketing ventures that corporations routinely create and use. We want our non-profits to make money by selling pies, not mass marketing. That's dirty. That's crass.
I thought his presentation interesting. I rather disliked his blaming American Puritanism for the problems he locates in our minds and souls, but it was an interesting argument. At the beginning, he referred quite tangentially to the fact that he was gay and in a committed relationship; but his being gay had nothing to do with the problems he located, or the solutions he offered.
It's very difficult for me to argue that Mr. Pallotta and his companion should somehow be kept from the same legal arrangements and financial structures that any couple have or are promised. Quite frankly, I don't think the Bible counts on this one--sounds apostate, I know, but this isn't a theocracy and it hasn't been since 1630 or so, when the Puritan's attempt basically failed. Why shouldn't they be able to benefit, legally and financially, from their commitment to each other?
Slippery slope arguments are all slippery, but that doesn't mean they're wrong; and there is a slippery slope here. If marriage is defined primarily as a sexual union, then I, like many others, find it difficult to understand how we can continue to keep those radical Mormons from practicing polygamy, something their religion, they claim, clearly supports. I too wonder where we might be going.
But I also recognize the hate good people--good Christian people--have often harbored for gay and lesbian human beings. Everyone knows that thousands of people get married every day of the year with little thought for the Creator of heaven and earth, people with little or no faith whatsoever, people who believe basically in themselves. Can anyone really argue that marriage basically is a "Christian" institution?
I also know that divorce rates among Christian people aren't a whole lot different than they are in the public square, and that good Christian people quite regularly avoid Christ's own directive about marriage, especially about marrying again after divorce.
We pick and choose when it comes to the Holy Bible, and we always will because every last word of it requires our spin, our interpretation. Even the disciples--four of them--told slightly different stories.
This morning, the sun rose beautifully. I don't know if what Justice Kennedy said for the majority yesterday will set God's teeth on edge or lead him to hurl fiery bolts of lightning, but I think not. What happened yesterday forces Christian people to do what they always have done--to work hard at determining what it means to be obedient to God's call to love others in our time and place. There's nothing new about that.
The death of DOMA forces us--all of us--to accept each other, especially those too many good Christian people have often found unacceptable.