Outside the Pulaski County Courthouse

Outside the Pulaski County Courthouse Fair Use

In Little Rock Monday my friend Bill Lindsey married his partner of 42 years, thanks to the Supreme Court push that is knocking down state DOMAs like a row of dominoes. Mazel tov, Bill and Steve!

Over on his blog Bilgrimage, Bill describes the joyous scene at the Pulaski County Courthouse that included Judge Chris Piazza, the popular former prosecutor whose ruling opened the doors to same-sex marriage in Arkansas. Piazza did not overlook the analogy to legalized racial discrimination, quoting from both Dred Scott (1858), in which the Supreme Court decided that African Americans could not be American citizens, and from Loving (1967), where the court declared anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional.

“It has been over forty years since Mildred Loving was given the right to marry the person of her choice,” wrote Piazza. “The hatred and fears have long since vanished and she and her husband lived full lives together; so it will be for the same-sex couples. It is time to let the beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.”

That analogy is very much to the point. Southern opposition to race-mixing used to be as religiously grounded (“the Curse of Ham”) as Southern opposition is to SSM is today. But religion cannot provide the rational basis for discrimination that our courts now require.

However long mopping-up operations take, this war is over. As Baylor historian Philip Jenkins gloomily noted the other day:

I would suggest that by 2020, or perhaps a little later, same sex unions will be so thoroughly accepted, so completely mainstream, that opponents of any kind – even those who base themselves in strong religious traditions – will be regarded pretty much as most of us today view critics of interracial marriage. By that point, churches publicly criticizing same-sex marriage, or even refusing to endorse it wholeheartedly, can expect to lose enormous numbers of their remaining young adult members, and frankly, much of their membership apart from the very old and the politically ultra-reactionary. That is a hideous prospect.

Is that hyperbolic? Perhaps. But if I belonged to such a church — or synagogue, or mosque — I’d be wondering whether the price is worth it.

Categories: Culture

Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. He is a Contributing Editor of the Religion News Service


  1. It is unfortunate that God’s design in creation can be so misunderstood and cast aside, especially in Christian churches. The theology of creation (purpose, specific design, intentions) and the implications of the fall (sin, corruption, deception) have either been lost, not adequately communicated, misunderstood to begin with or else the church has just flat out capitulated to the culture in an effort to be accepted by it. I agree with the quote in the article that this issue is over in the public arena, but there will be plenty of churches that will remain committed to a traditional interpretation. How sad to have another issue divide the church and for those who espouse one view to be vilified by the media and culture at large.

    • My feeling is that I care not one bit what one church says or another. Religious belief does not require debate or discussion. It is what it is. Religious freedom includes a freedom not to be concerned with the religious beliefs of others.

      Its when people try to legislate that belief that spurs action. Those who espouse a view, spend money lobbying political support for it, force everyone to care about such things. There is nothing sad about people being vilified for espousing discrimination and bigotry. Just pathetic. Nobody would care if not for the efforts to take their beliefs out of the church and into the congressional halls.

      • “My father (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) did not take a bullet for same-sex marriage.” — Bernice King.

        ”Today, we look back with scorn at those who twisted the law to make marriage serve a racist agenda, and I believe our descendants will look back the same way at us if we yield to the same kind of pressure a radical sexual agenda is placing on us today.
        Just as it’s distorting the equation of marriage if you press race into it, it’s also distorting if you subtract gender.”

        — Rev. Gilbert Thompson Sr, of the Black Ministerial Alliance of Boston.

        • The Great God Pan

          The list of things that Martin Luther King, Jr. did not take a bullet for is pretty long. Much longer than the list of things he did take a bullet for. Alongside gay marriage, the former list would have to include ice cream, puppies and handicapped parking spots.

          So what?

        • Its funny because every black civil rights organization has the opposite view, as well as Dr. King’s widow. Rev. Thompson is a right wing loudmouth with zero connection to civil rights.

          Mrs. King remained firmly convinced that her husband would have supported her campaign for gay rights. She frequently cited his claim that “justice is indivisible” and often noted that by fighting for gay rights she was simply helping to build the “beloved community of Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, where all people can live together in a spirit of trust and understanding, harmony, love, and peace.”

      • Religious belief usually does require debate or discussion because there is such a plethora of religions on this planet and they usually differ in many ways. Also, some depend on the Bible for their source, others on the Book of Mormon, and others on Buddha, and I am sure the list continues. But concerning the subject of homosexuality or same sex marriage, the fact remains that it is not approved by God. Unfortunately, many churches that cite the Bible as their source are still ignoring God’s position on this. It appears that something that has become “popular” in the world has taken its place. God himself instituted marriage with Adam and Eve: “That is why a man will leave his father and he must stick to his wife, and they must become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24). God also blessed them and said: “Become fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it….” (Genesis 1:28). Can this realistically be done if Bill and Steve are married? I think not. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 specifies those types of persons who will not inherit God’s kingdom, such as fornicators,adulterers, men kept for unnatural purposes, men who lie with men….” Yet verse 11 says: “and yet that us what some of your were.” So people can still repent and turn their lives around to gain God’s favor!! Finally, Romans 1:24-27 really brings out God’s view about this subject: “Therefore, God, in keeping with the desires of their hearts, gave them up to uncleanness, that their bodies might be dishonored among them, even those who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and venerated and rendered sacred service to the creation rather than the One who created, who is blessed forever. Amen. That is why God gave them up to disgraceful sexual appetites, for both their females changed the NATURAL use of themselves into one CONTRARY TO NATURE; and likewise, even the males left the NATURAL use of the female and became VIOLENTLY inflamed in their LUST toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene and receiving in themselves the full recompense, which was due for their error.” Unfortunately, many churches today who claim to represent God bless homosexual relationships and marriages which God does not approve of. Those churches will exact God’s judgment against them for their lies and misrepresentations of him (Revelation 18:1-10) and false religion will become a thing of the past. 😀

        • In other words, I never have to care about your reasons for opposing gay marriage and neither do our laws. They are entirely religious in nature and irrational. So they are really an irrelevance. This is called freedom of religion. The right never to have to be compelled to give a flying crap what you think God says.

          • Exactly, Larry.

            And if America could get a bit more secular we might see more participation and less of this incessant deferring of morality to the upper atmosphere.

    • You are correct when it comes to the church. I’m no conservative, but I see the same things you see. I don’t believe being gay is a sin, if one was born that way, and that isn’t something I can determine. It’s between an individual and God; if it is a sin, in a universal sense, and God has a problem with it, like ultra-traditionalists think God does, I accept that as God’s judgment but it isn’t mine. I haven’t been appointed anyone’s judge but my own. However, I’m pretty sure churches are responsible to God, not the culture. So, I take pause at churches capitulating, as you said. Of course, not all ministers who are liberal have capitulated to culture, they simply believe mercy triumphs over justice and are willing to reach past religiously-drawn boundaries to connect with more of God’s amazing grace, just like Jesus urged his disciples to do.

    • CarrotCakeMan

      Sorry, John, no matter how many words you use, your typical anti-gay meme that your intended LGBT victims are “vilifying” you is nonsense. Anti-gays instigated attacks against LGBT Americans with your dirty, unconstitutional anti-gay Hate Votes–not the other way around. What’s your problem, John, no one is trying to shut down your Westboro Baptist Church OR trying to deprive YOU of YOUR Constitutionally guaranteed right to marry the person YOU love.

      • Is it just me or does everyone see carrotmans posts as:


  2. So, if I keep my views to myself then all is well. But if I speak of them publically and stand for a standard culturally, then I am bigoted, discriminating and pathetic? Thus, its my freedom of speech that determines my character?

    • You may speak your views all you want. I don’t care. Knock yourself out.

      Even more important, having a viewpoint does not make you immune to criticism. Not every idea is worthy of respect. Some views are bigoted and discriminatory. Pointing out such things is just being open and honest. I can respect your right and ability to voice an opinion even if I don’t respect your opinion.

      Its when you want to give your ideas the color of law, that everyone has to take notice and put it under scrutiny.

    • The Great God Pan

      “But if I speak of them publically and stand for a standard culturally, then I am bigoted, discriminating and pathetic?”

      Well, why not? That’s essentially what gets anyone branded as bigoted and discriminatory. Klansmen are branded as bigots because they taking public stands for their culture and values, aren’t they? Why should you be exempt?

      “Bigot” is a word with a meaning. Just because it carries a negative connotation doesn’t mean that it can’t be applied to you. Nobody passed a law exempting you from having negative terms applied to you. If the shoe fits, wear it.

    • CarrotCakeMan

      You anti-gays did NOT just “speak publicly,” John, you also snuck around in hiding and committed criminal acts to throw those dirty anti-gay Hate Votes. The federal judge who revoked the 2008 California anti-gay H8te Vote had in his possession an email written by Catholic bishops to Mormon leaders in which they both agreed to violate California campaign finance laws to throw the H8te Vote by making secret, illegal cash and in-kind contributions to the H8te Vote. The email serves as proof positive they knew they were breaking the law; the email itself is an act of criminal collusion. Here is documentation about that email:

      That document is now in the possession of the United States Supreme Court.

  3. Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Just as with abortion gay “marriage” would be going nowhere if it weren’t for a corrupt judiciary- a corruption of power, not money.
    Our Founding Fathers never saw the courts they set up as being given the power to destroy the social fabric of our country. But, if the people wanted a revolution in society they put in procedures for amendments. But who needs an amendment process these days with the courts only too willing to usurp powers that rightly belong to the people.
    And, sadly, many Americans have been influenced (by a compliant media) to let court decisions, no matter how deadly, destructive, or perverse, be their moral compasses.

    • There is nothing corrupt about civil liberties and the need for a democratic nation to keep certain personal decisions out of the purview of public and legal scrutiny.

      The Supreme Court is the last line of defense for keeping people from voting away their freedoms or to use the apparatus of law to deny it to a minority.
      Our Founders envisioned that people would do stupid, hateful, discriminatory things using the power of majority vote. This is why they created limits such as the judiciary.

      The media is us. We show what we want to see and hear about. If you think it is reflecting viewpoints other than your own, then maybe you should re-evaluate how widely accepted those views really are.

      • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

        It is amazing how people on the left consider any strong disagreement with them on just about any issue as “hurtful” or–more commonly “hate speech.”
        Consequently they are behind just about every movement on campuses to control what can be said on campus and who can speak at graduations–even a woman whose main agenda is to protect women from degradation and mutilation is thrown out the door.

        • I just defended hate speech on another article. Nobody stops you from speaking your mind. Nothing stops you from being criticized about it either. Free speech is fun that way. :)

          As you conservatives always say, private businesses and institutions have a right to make their own decisions. Their school, their rules. Just like you guys say.

    • @Deacon,
      So, things in America are not going your way.
      Yet you prayed for it, I’m sure.

      “Whatever you ask in my name … I will do it” …Jesus (John 14:13)

      Don’t blame Jesus or be mad at God for not answering your prayers and helping you to turn America into a Christian Theocracy.

      Clearly if you had more faith , even as small as a mustard seed, Jesus would grant you your 3 wishes.
      Go back and rub the lamp again.
      Maybe it will work if you smoke a goat?
      (Exodus 29:18)

      • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

        Interesting that it is mostly Christians who are defending the atheist woman who was speaking out against the degradation and mutilation of women around large parts of the world. However, a narrow-minded liberal university (Brandeis U. ) decided to show her the door instead of giving her the honorary degree that had been planned for her.

        • It was a private institution exercising its rights to free speech. A perfect example of Libertarian conservatism. Their school, their degree, their choice as to who gets an honorary degree. They were able to make such a decision without any kind of government interference. :)

      • I have NEVER advocated censorship.
        Ayan Hirsi Ali should have spoken at Brandeis.
        Condoleeza Rice should have been able to speak at Rutgers.
        All this censorship is coming from people who don’t understand the constitution. Not from people who lack understanding of the Bible!

  4. In the future, the belief that heterosexual marriage is in the best interests of the family unit will return with a vengeance after this failed sociological experiment.

    Also the true churches of a Jesus Christ will stand firm in the Will of God for sexuality, romance and marriage no matter what culture dictates.

    And anyone who still continues to compare sexual preference with race only exposes their own ignorance.

  5. “no matter what culture dictates.”

    No Frank, the culture is not the dictatorship.
    This is: “will return with a vengeance…the Churches of Jesus Christ will stand firm”

  1. […] Writing about same-sex marriage coming to Arkansas last week, I quoted Judge Chris Piazza’s declaration, “It is time to let the beacon of freedom shine brighter on all our brothers and sisters. We will be stronger for it.” In overturning the bans on SSM in other states, other judges have also taken the opportunity to deliver some moral poetry along with the legal prose of the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection. Here a sampler. […]

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