Elections have consequences. So opponents of gay marriage worry that voter approval of the practice would encroach on religious liberties, undermine parental rights and devalue marriage as the founding block of society.
That’s why Cathi Herrod will be ready if a movement to allow gay marriage emerges. Already, the president of the Center for Arizona Policy is preparing for a possible campaign in 2016.
The center, the most influential religious lobby in the state, is ramping up its efforts to educate people about why traditional marriage matters. It led the charge to prohibit gay marriages in the state Constitution in 2008.
“We’re trying to restore marriage in society to where the public understands why marriage between a man and a woman matters. What’s the public good, the public purpose of marriage? So that’s our challenge (in an election),” Herrod said.
Gay marriage is about more than allowing people who love each other to say “I do,” she said. It represents a fundamental change in the founding block of society, and those changes will have sweeping implications.
“Redefining marriage to something other than a man and a woman does have significant consequences, significant changes to society, our culture, our system of laws,” she said.
Children and the institution of marriage
One of the chief arguments against same-sex marriage is that changing the definition would unfavorably alter the founding block of society — the nuclear family unit of a man, a woman and a child.
The Alliance Defending Freedom, a faith-based legal advocacy group, believes the institution of marriage exists — and is uniquely recognized by government apart from all other relationships — because it serves a public purpose.
Marriage between a man and a woman sends a message about the importance of both a dad and a mom in raising children, and if that institution is redefined, it would send a message that a mom and a dad are optional. The alliance argues in a video on its webpage that other options, such as polygamy and multiple partners, could be included in the definition of marriage.
Austin Nimocks, senior counsel for the alliance, said only a mother and father can come together to make and raise children, and each parent provides unique parenting gifts that a same-sex couple cannot provide.
However, Nimocks said that because gay marriage is such a new development, there’s no way to fully understand the consequences it has on children.
“Whenever you make dramatic changes in social policy, especially family policy, it’s going to take a generation or two to understand the full ramifications of that change. We’ve had same-sex marriage in the U.S. now for less than 10 years. We’re not even close to understanding how this social experiment is going to play out,” he said.
Nimocks pointed to a study showing poorer high school graduation rates for children being raised in same-sex houses in Canada, where couples have had governmental benefits since 1997, and gay marriage has been allowed since 2005. That study, conducted by Douglas W. Allen and published in the September edition of the journal Review of Economics of the Household, used 2006 Canadian census data and found that “children living with gay and lesbian families in 2006 were less likely to graduate (from high school) compared to children living in opposite sex marriage families.”
After reviewing decades of peer-reviewed research, however, the American Psychological Association wrote in a 2008 brief to the U.S. Supreme Court regarding California’s gay marriage ban, Proposition 8, that: “There is no scientific basis for concluding that gay and lesbian parents are any less fit or capable than heterosexual parents, or that their children are any less psychologically healthy and well adjusted.”
Herrod readily admits the issue is still up for debate.
“I know that is a point of contention, and the proponents of same-sex marriage will dispute that, but the data is still not there to show that a child flourishes (in gay houses),” she said.
Questioning the role of schools
Gay marriage opponents argue that schools in states with gay marriage are indoctrinating students to believe homosexuality is OK, even when it goes against the parents’ system of beliefs and takes away parental rights.
Opponents point to Massachusetts, where a kindergartener and a first-grader were given and read books depicting gay couples. The books were part of the Lexington school system’s effort to educate its students to understand and respect gays, lesbians, and the families they sometimes form in Massachusetts, which in 2004 was the first state to recognize same-sex marriages.
Two sets of parents with religious beliefs that homosexuality was immoral, and that marriage was necessarily only a holy union between a man and a woman, brought a federal lawsuit against the school in 2008. Claiming the school had violated their constitutional right to free exercise of their religion, the parents alleged it was attempting to “indoctrinate” their children with the belief that homosexuality and same-sex marriages are moral, and to “denigrate” the contrary view that they wish to instill in their children.
A district court dismissed the case, saying the school had a rational basis for teaching the students about gay marriage and did not violate parents’ rights to exercise their religion. The U.S. Court of Appeals dismissed the case and the Supreme Court refused to take up the issue.
Herrod warned if Arizona were to legalize gay marriage, seven-year-olds would be confronted in their schools with books about two moms and two dads. And parents won’t have any say in the issue.
“On some of these issues that are controversial, that go into a belief system, parents should deal with that issue at home, not have schools force it on them,” she said.
Intolerance and religious liberties
Often, arguments about gay marriage boil down to the religious belief that homosexuality is wrong and government shouldn’t encourage it.
Opponents of gay marriage look at states that have already redefined marriage to include same-sex marriages, and see religious liberties under attack and government punishing those who don’t believe gay people should be allowed to marry.
Herrod points to instances such as a photographer in New Mexico who refused to photograph a lesbian wedding due to her religious beliefs. The couple brought suit against the photographer for violating the New Mexico Human Rights Act, which prohibits businesses from discriminating against people based on their sexual orientation.
The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in the couple’s favor, stating that compelling a photographer to serve gay couples did not violate the photographer’s First Amendment right to free speech or free exercise of religion.
And that is just one example of many where refusing to provide services for a gay wedding has led to actions that opponents of gay marriage believe hurt businesses and deny them their religious freedom.
After Washington state began allowing same-sex marriages in 2012, a florist refused to do the floral arrangements for a gay couple, citing her religious beliefs. The couple brought a lawsuit, which is pending.
Other instances include the baker in Oregon who refused to bake a cake for a lesbian couple and was hounded out of business with harassing phone calls and calls for a boycott against the business.
The Alliance Defending Freedom represented the Washington florist and a similar baker’s case in Colorado this year. Nimocks, the senior counsel for the alliance, said in all cases, the couples got what they needed someplace else, and still decided to sue.
“One of the most disturbing trends is the lack of tolerance from those who promote same-sex marriage for those who don’t believe in it. We’re defending a lot of people who believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman but are being persecuted by folks who do not have tolerance for those beliefs,” he said.