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Religious Groups React To New View Of Marriage Law

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Religious Groups React To New View Of Marriage Law


Religious Groups React To New View Of Marriage Law

Religious Groups React To New View Of Marriage Law

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Religious groups are howling or celebrating the White House decision to view the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. The move reinvigorates the culture wars, with liberals saying every committed relationship deserves God's — and the government's — blessing; and the conservatives saying the "elites" are defying the will of the people.


And that announcement could also reinvigorate a culture war. NPR's Barbara Bradley Hagerty reports that religious groups, some for, some against gay marriage, see this as a watershed moment.

BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY: When Susan Russell heard that the Obama Administration now believes the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, she let loose a whoop of joy for theological and personal reasons. She's a liberal Episcopal priest, and she's in a committed gay relationship.

Ms. SUSAN RUSSELL (Episcopal Priest): God does not discriminate against same-sex couples, and we don't believe the federal government should, either. And this is an important step toward making that goal a reality.

HAGERTY: Russell, a minister at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, says this is the latest victory in a long but increasingly successful campaign.

Ms. RUSSELL: The momentum seems undeniable.

HAGERTY: Six states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex marriage. Maryland is expected to join them soon. Several courts have ruled in favor of gay marriage, and with the rise of civil unions and the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" in the military, Russell says public opinion seems to be heading her direction.

Ms. RUSSELL: We're getting past the point that those who claimed that the sky would fall, the world would end and the sanctity of marriage would be ended forever, we can look around and say that isn't happening.

HAGERTY: Not so fast, says Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. Witness the fact that two-thirds of the states have passed laws or constitutional amendments prohibiting same-sex marriage.

Mr. RICHARD LAND (Southern Baptist Convention): Every time the people have had an opportunity to vote on it, they have voted to defend marriage as between a man and a woman. And so they have had victories among the elites in the court system, but they have not had any victory with the people.

HAGERTY: Land believes the White House move will galvanize religious conservatives.

Mr. LAND: The president and the attorney general have reintroduced what has been a wedge issue into the campaign.

HAGERTY: And Land notes the last time marriage was a major election issue, in 2004, conservatives came out to vote in droves. John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron, says both sides can claim victories, and he says...

Mr. JOHN GREEN (Political Scientist, University of Akron): I suspect that we'll see that see-saw battle continue in the short term.

HAGERTY: After all, Green says, according to the Pew Forum, more than half of all Americans oppose redefining marriage.

Mr. GREEN: But in long run, some indication that the battle may gradually shift in favor of same-sex marriage, and that is because the youngest voters are the most supportive of same-sex marriage.

HAGERTY: Fifty-five percent of people under 30 approve of it, while only 30 percent of people their grandparents age do.

Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, says he's resigned to what he calls an overwhelming wave in favor of homosexuality. It's become normal, he says, in movies and sitcoms, in academia, in political and judicial circles. So how will the conservative believers respond?

Mr. ALBERT MOHLER (President, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary): I hope what Christian conservatives do to respond to this is to remember that we know what marriage is and what our accountability is and that we raise our children to understand what marriage is, and we understand that in doing so, we may be doing this against the larger cultural tide.

HAGERTY: One, he believes, that is becoming harder and harder to resist.

Barbara Bradley Hagerty, NPR News.

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