Religious and political leaders reflect on shifts in marriage law this week

Yesterday the Maryland Senate voted to allow same-sex marriages. The Governor of Hawaii signed legislation making it legal in Hawaii. And this week the Obama administration announced that it would change course and no longer defend the Defense of Marriage act passed under previous administrations.


It’s been a whirlwind week of good news for people in the religious community who have been fighting to make same-sex marriage legal in the United States. Episcopal priest Canon Susan Russell was on NPR yesterday along with Southern Baptist Convention leader Richard Land and host Barbara Bradley Hagerty, among others, to talk about what is happening.

“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.”

Audio and transcript of the full interview is here.

Meanwhile the New York Times has coverage of the reactions in the political realm:

In the hours that followed, Sarah Palin’s Facebook site was silent. Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, was close-mouthed. Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, released a Web video — on the labor union protests in Wisconsin — and waited a day before issuing a marriage statement saying he was “disappointed.”

Others, like Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, and Haley Barbour, the governor of Mississippi, took their time weighing in, and then did so only in the most tepid terms. “The Justice Department is supposed to defend our laws,” Mr. Barbour said.

Asked if Mitch Daniels, the Republican governor of Indiana and a possible presidential candidate, had commented on the marriage decision, a spokeswoman said that he “hasn’t, and with other things we have going on here right now, he has no plans.”

The sharpest reaction came from Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, in an interview here during a stop to promote his new book, who called the administration’s decision “utterly inexplicable.”

Getting back to Maryland, the Washington Post points out,

The presence of three Catholics at the helm in Annapolis hasn’t stopped a same-sex marriage bill from wending its way through the legislature, triggering deep disappointment among church leaders as it suggests a waning of Catholic influence in this heavily Catholic state.

One of the key thing that seems to be happening politically at the moment is that following the political high water mark of Prop 8 in 2008, same-sex marriage seems to be losing its efficacy as a wedge issue. Perhaps it’s because there are other economic matters that are the focus of American debate right now, or perhaps it’s because as Canon Russell points out, the sky has not fallen where same-sex marriage is now legal. Either way, there does appear to be a broad cultural swell of support in favor.

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2 Comments
  1. tgflux

    Yesterday the Maryland Senate voted to allow same-sex marriages. The Governor of Hawaii signed legislation making it legal in Hawaii.

    Correction: the Hawaii Governor signed civil unions into law for same-sex couples, not marriage.

    I believe civil unions may (depending on the state) be an appropriate step forward. But the GOAL should always be full marriage equality.

    JC Fisher

  2. tgflux

    The presence of three Catholics at the helm in Annapolis hasn’t stopped a same-sex marriage bill from wending its way through the legislature, triggering deep disappointment among church leaders as it suggests a waning of Catholic influence in this heavily Catholic state.

    A waning of Catholic influence? Or waning Vatican influence? There are many faithful Roman Catholics who don’t believe they’re the same thing—and I’m with them!

    following the political high water mark of Prop 8 in 2008, same-sex marriage seems to be losing its efficacy as a wedge issue.

    Just a disagreement on the analysis: as a “wedge issue”, I think SSM bans reached their high water mark in 2004. In that year, the presence of so many SSM bans tracked closely w/ the re-election of Bush 43 (indeed, Karl Rove engineered them, for exactly that purpose).

    Prop 8 gathered so much attention because it was in the largest (population) State (and took away an existing right)—but it wasn’t a “wedge issue”: the social conservatives who pushed it, did not also get their Presidential candidate elected (in California, or nationally).

    JC Fisher

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