Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed into law Nov. 20 and Nov. 13, respectively, bills granting marriage rights, benefits and protections to people of the same sex. Gay marriage is now legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
In 2013, same-sex marriage has become legal in seven states, the most of any year so far, and the gay marriage movement could add another state before 2014. New Mexico's Supreme Court heard oral arguments Oct. 23 for the purpose of ruling whether judicial decisions legalizing gay marriage in two counties should be extended throughout the state.
The homosexual rights movement has "never come this far this fast," Fred Sainz said in a Nov. 18 email to supporters of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), according to ABC News. Sainz is vice president of communications and marketing for HRC, the country's largest political organization advocating for homosexual, bisexual and transgender rights.
"LGBT equality advanced more in 2013 than in any other year and at a pace never before seen," he said.
The gay marriage trend calls for faithful witness by Christians, said a Southern Baptist policy specialist.
"No one denies that the wind is to the backs of the marriage revisionist movement, and this will likely continue for some time," Andrew Walker said in a statement to Baptist Press. Walker is director of policy studies for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
"What matters now is that a critical mass of individuals, ideas and organizations join together to promote the true nature of marriage," Walker said. "On marriage, some knees may buckle if cultural fame is what you're striving after, but what matters right now -- as it has for all times -- is that Christians bear witness to the truth, despite uncomfortable circumstances."
Before Illinois and Hawaii, same-sex marriage also became legal in California, Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island during 2013.
The issue is in the courts in various states, and gay marriage advocates are seeking electoral or legislative victories in others. Through 2016, HRC has targeted Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio and Oregon at the ballot box or in the legislature.
Ahead, Walker told BP, "is an inevitable clash with the courts."
"Just about all the blue states that can pass same-sex marriage have already done so; so legislatively, same-sex marriage advocates will have to rely on the courts to peel back the constitutional amendments that exist in over 30 states that protect the natural definition of marriage," he said.
Victory for Christians may look different than successes in the states, Walker said.
"In the short term, it is likely that marriage advocates like myself will experience more losses," he said. "In the long run, though, I'm not scoring victory along the lines of wins and losses; what matters is that Christians are found to be faithful at a time when their views on marriage are being chastised in culture."
Quinn and Abercrombie, both Democrats, saw their endorsements of same-sex marriage as part of the American march against discrimination.
"This new law is an epic victory for equal rights in America," Quinn said of Illinois' measure. Abercrombie described the legalization of same-sex marriage in Hawaii as "part of the long history of civil rights movements" in this country.
Hawaii's new law will take effect Dec. 2, while Illinois' law will do so June 1 of next year.
In addition to the seven states that have legalized gay marriage this year, three states -- Maine, Maryland and Washington -- approved it in the November 2012 election.
The six states in which same-sex marriage was legalized before 2012 are Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont.
One of the by-products of the growing legalization of gay marriage is the loss of freedom to exercise religious beliefs by citizens who believe marriage is only between a man and a woman. Photographers, bakers and others who have refused to participate in same-sex ceremonies because of their Christian convictions have lost in court or suffered financially despite their appeals to the right to exercise their religion.
The ERLC has endorsed new federal legislation to address an aspect of this increasing problem. The Marriage and Religious Freedom Act, H.R. 3133, would prevent the federal government from denying tax exemption to, or withdrawing it from, individuals and institutions that define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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