Maggie Gallagher

Last week the Iowa Supreme Court found a constitutional right to gay marriage, rejecting the arguments for marriage accepted by the state supreme courts of New York, Maryland and Washington.

Thus did the Iowa court -- as my colleague at the National Organization for Marriage, Brian Brown, said -- "misuse the law to impose an untruth on unwilling Iowans. Same-sex unions are not marriages, and Iowans should not be forced to treat them as such by law."

This week, by one vote, the Vermont Legislature overrode the governor's veto to impose same-sex marriage on that state. It's a breakthrough of sorts for the gay marriage movement: the first state to impose gay marriage through the legislature, rather than the courts. Expect Vermont to figure prominently in President Obama's crusade to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act later this year. The Democratic Party has now thrown its lot against the principles and priorities of the majority of Americans in favor of its richly endowed base of gay supporters. Democrats are the party of gay marriage -- a position opposed by 55 percent of the American people in the latest polls.

But the Vermont same-sex marriage bill was a breakthrough in another way which has received zero attention in the press. For the very first time, a legislature has formally acknowledged that gay marriage poses a serious threat to the religious liberties of Vermonters who disagree with the government's new definition of marriage. And the gay marriage movement has permitted -- if not exactly trumpeted -- that legislature to enact some imperfect yet substantive religious liberty protections, instead of the fake religious liberty protections generally offered to deflect voters' attention from the real issues at stake.

Same-sex marriage is quite different from bans on interracial marriage in one powerful respect: It asks religious Americans to surrender a core belief -- no, not Leviticus (disapproval of gay sexual acts), but Genesis -- the idea that God himself made man male and female and commanded men and women to come together in a special way to image the fruitfulness of God.

Many religious people and groups will bow to, if not exactly endorse, the power of gay activists. Witness Rev. Rick Warren, who on "Larry King Live" this week came very close to recanting his support for Proposition 8. Rick did not quite do so. What he did, instead, is what many good people will do in the face of the massive campaign of intimidation and harassment designed to silence Christians and others of good will who support marriage: He dodged. Rick said, more or less: I am not now and never have been an anti-gay marriage "activist."

Let me be clear. I have enormous respect for Rick Warren. What has happened to Rick, who did nothing more than speak from his pulpit to the members of his own church on Proposition 8, is what lies in store for many good men and women. The deal they will be offered by the government and the culture dominated by same-sex marriage is: Mute your views on marriage so you may continue your other good works. Many good and brave people, to preserve their ability to save lives in Africa or to protect the poor in this country, will take that deal.

I'm not here to criticize him or them -- merely to point out the underlying power of the movement that can get a Baptist minister to recant about marriage on national television.

Take it seriously. On a religion and the law list-serve, the widely respected UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh, who favors same-sex marriage, took time out to acknowledge that the religious liberty implications of same-sex marriage are not "scaremongering."

"It seems to me plausible that judicial decisions banning opposite-sex-only marriage rules would likewise come to be extended -- by legislatures or by courts -- to go beyond their literal boundaries (a decision about government discrimination) and instead to justify bans on private discrimination," Volokh wrote. "It seems quite likely that they will spill over into diminishing any constitutional (or Religious Freedom Restoration Act-statutory) claims to engage in such discrimination by private entities, including Boy-Scout-like organizations, churches, religious universities and other institutions."

Is Vermont the beginning of a new willingness on the part of the powerful gay-marriage movement to let Christians be Christians? Or is Rick Warren the future of Christians in America?

Time will tell.


Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.

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