Nationwide marriage equality is now inevitable — even some on the Religious Right seem to have realized that. So what should they do now that they’ve lost? The only thing there is left to do: move on and pretend that you weren’t that bothered about gay marriage anyway.
Take child actor and now poster boy for the modern Religious Right, Kirk Cameron. He once claimed that being gay is “unnatural” and “detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization,” and since 2012 has embarked on a national tour off the back of his religious film Fireproof, where he frequently decried same-sex marriage as an attack on the “traditional” family. He even joined up with the withering National Organization for Marriage’s incredibly unsuccessful spin-off, the Marriage Anti-Defamation Alliance in their thankless quest to oppose same-sex marriage rights.
Yet, in a recent interview, Cameron seems to be downplaying his opposition to same-sex marriage. Speaking to AL.com, Cameron implied that the Religious Right has got too hung up on the same-sex marriage issue, and instead it should concentrate on its own conduct:
“When people get too focused on redefining marriage, you’re distracted from the bigger problem — fornicators and adulterers,” Cameron is quoted as saying. “If the people sitting in the pews are fornicators and adulterers, the church will destroy marriages much more quickly than those outside the church. When God’s people mock marriage, God doesn’t take that lightly.”
While we might take objection to Cameron’s stance on “fornicators,” this moment of clarity from Kirk Cameron is quite astonishing. While a quick glance at his website reaffirms that opposing gay marriage is of course still part of his “traditional marriage” ethos, a shift in focus seems to have occurred where gay marriage isn’t the primary target. Interestingly, he’s not the only one.
One of Oprah’s favorite go-to religious talking heads is Joel Osteen, a Texas mega-church pastor who, like Rick Warren before him, has made religion his business. He has frequently and vividly decried same-sex marriage and said that acting on homosexual feelings is ungodly. He’s actually spent a great deal of time talking about this, perhaps never in one go, but add up the soundbites and there’s a certain degree of†monotony†to his anti-gay message.
Yet this month, Osteen appeared to want to de-emphasize his opinions about homosexuality. Asked by HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont Hill whether gay marriage is, as he put it, “against the rules” of Osteen’s faith, the Texas preacher answered in the affirmative, but then added an interesting comment:
“It would be Ö but I donít really focus on a lot of those things,” Osteen said. “I try to stay in my lane of what I feel called to do. [The topic] does come up in interviews and things Ö thatís not my core message.”
For anyone who has read or watched Osteen, he has consistently tried to downplay his thoughts about homosexuality while all the time using the “traditional family” meme that side-swipes same-sex couples and denies them their civil rights. Yet, even when it comes to that, now Osteen seems to want to focus on issues in a more general sense:
“Everybody’s welcome, but my take on it is it’s easy to make one issue — to become known for that or to let it sidetrack your message,” he said. “If you look at our congregation … including myself, we all have issues. Everybody’s on a journey.”
Perhaps there is a sincere wish here to correct what has been a rhetoric-filled, and often vile campaign against gay rights and marriage rights in particular, a culture war that has not reflected well on social or religious conservatives. Or, perhaps the “move on from gay marriage” messaging is an exercise in PR. It’s probably a little of both, but it certainly is one that puts dramatic distance between people like Osteen and the aforementioned National Organization for Marriage.
Lately, the group can’t catch a break. Fresh off of being slapped with a record fine for not disclosing its finance donors during its anti-gay marriage campaigns, and losing its case against the IRS, NOM has also just lost a bid to have†the Supreme Court of the United States overrule a district court judge and halt same-sex marriages in Oregon. NOM had sought to intervene when Oregon state officials refused to appeal the district court’s ruling, but in a similar vein to the Proposition 8 case, NOM of course didn’t have standing to appeal and so its emergency stay request was denied.
It seems that, despite NOM being in this fight to win it, the group is increasingly losing, and what’s worse, friends they once had among religious conservatives and the wider Republican Party appear to be deserting them. Senator Orrin Hatch for instance, a lawmaker who has voted against a number of gay rights measures, recently said gay marriage will become “law of the land” soon, and while disagreeing with it, he would have to accept it. That seems to be the emerging tone among most realistic conservatives.
So, religious and social conservatives might not be post gay marriage quite yet, but from recent statements it seems like their politics are already reshaping themselves for that coming reality. Those who aren’t willing to make that change will get left behind, something that should doom them to the obscurity they have always deserved.
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