Monday, September 12, 2022
It's Monday, September 12th, 2022.
I'm Albert Mohler, and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
Senate Soon to Vote on ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ — A Twisted Label that Might Shock Even Orwell
It was the novelist George Orwell, who earlier in the 20th century pointed out that one of the ways government will lie is to offer the big lie, the giant lie. And furthermore, to use language in such a way or to misuse language, that you adopt a policy that actually represents the opposite of what you entitle it.
Now, keep that in mind when you remember that back in the month of July, the United States House of Representatives under democratic leadership voted to approve what was known as the Respect for Marriage Act. Now, that sounds good, right? Respect for Marriage Act, who wouldn't want to respect marriage? But the Orwellian twist in all of this of course, is that the legislation, most importantly, legalizes same-sex marriage or to put it another way, it says that whatever definition of marriage a state may choose, the other states must also recognize.
There is no question whatsoever as to the purpose of this bill. The purpose of this bill is twofold. Number one, to redefine marriage, the most basic institution of human existence and then furthermore, to misname it the Respect for Marriage Act. The ultimate insult here is to redefine, or at least legislatively, to attempt to redefine the most basic institution of human existence, a creation order institution made by God himself in which God declared it to be a man and a woman united in holy matrimony and to convert it into something else that marriage has never been throughout millennia of human history and then to have the audacity as to entitle your legislation, the Respect for Marriage Act.
It's a profound act of disrespect, an act of disrespect that's almost gargantuan and its reach but nonetheless, that tells you where we are. But let me also tell you the situation's worse. Because when in July the House of Representatives took that vote, 47 Republicans joined with almost all of the Democrats indeed all the Democratic votes in the House at the time, and voted for the so-called Respect for Marriage Act, thus seeking to redefine marriage and to get away with it legislatively. Let me remind you of the number again, 47 Republicans.
Now, in the House of Representatives, there are a few Republicans who are in so-called swing seats, and particularly with the congressional midterm elections coming up, some of them must think it is in their political advantage in those swing seats to vote for the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Now, we're also going to talk about the fact there is no obvious need for this, given the Obergefell decision handed down by the Supreme Court in 2015. This is basically a way of political showboating and the Democrats know exactly what they're doing. There is no current threat. There is no current case that might work its way to the federal courts, to the Supreme Court to reverse the Obergefell decision.
But in the aftermath of the reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision this summer, and the fact that yes, you have someone like Associate Justice Clarence Thomas on the court who says that Obergefell should be reversed as well, the fact is there is no case this is a matter of political grandstanding on the part of the Democratic majority in the House and of course, they're playing to one of the most vocal and powerful constituencies in the Democratic Party, the LGBTQ activists community.
But it's the fact that 47 Republicans voted with the Democrats that made the big news. Frankly, it surprised the Democrats. Furthermore, it surprised the other Republicans, but the sufficient number of Republicans voting for the bill in addition to the Democrats, meant that the bill was now ricocheting to the United States Senate.
Now remember, a little math here. The Senate is divided 50/50. It takes 60 votes to reach what is known as cloture under the Senate rules, which would mean a super majority to agree to bring an issue to the floor. So legislation can pass without 60 votes, but not in actuality because it takes 60 votes to end the discussion to bring a matter to a vote.
Well, as you know our constitutional system of government, once the House of Representatives passes this kind of legislation, then it is passed on to the Senate. It can work the other way as well, but this bill originated in the House, so it now goes to the Senate. And all of a sudden the Democrats realized even with the 50/50 Senate, if 47 Republicans in the House voted for the bill, maybe they've got a shot at getting enough Republicans in the Senate to vote for the bill, or at least to vote to end debate on the bill so that the bill could pass with say, a majority vote or it might actually get the 60 votes needed. But here's where the situation gets really, really interesting and urgent.
Senate Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, he's a senator from New York, an avidly pro-LGBTQ on these issues. He has recently assured constituencies that he will bring before the Senate, a Senate version of the so-called Respect for Marriage Act and he pledged to get it through the Senate, send it back to the House for what's called reconciliation, the two forms of the bill reconciled and then onto the desk of President Joe Biden, and you understand exactly the politics here.
The Democratic leadership in the House that is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who after all represents a district in San Francisco, one of the most pro-LGBTQ districts anywhere imaginable in our nation. And Chuck Schumer from New York similarly situated, they intend for the Democratic Party to have at least the opportunity to score big on this issue as voters get ready to go into the midterm elections.
And the way they see it, they win either way this goes, because either they win by being able to claim that they were able to get the respect for marriage act, as they call it passed, or they blamed the Republicans as obstructionist and enemies of human flourishing who are driven by something like homophobia, they will say.
Now, here's the big moral insight we need to keep in mind. That vote back in July was an eye-opener. Now, we've been warning for some time that even as you had Republicans line up supposedly to oppose same-sex marriage and stand up for marriage as the union of a man and a woman, they are doing the math and the math tells them that increasing majorities in America have decided to simply go along with the issue of legalizing same-sex marriage. And so you have a good number of Republicans who think that it is now in their political interest, at least not to obstruct this kind of legislation, if not to come right out and vote for it.
Now, with the Senate hanging so much in the balance in the November midterm elections, you can understand why the Senate Democratic majority leader thinks it will be to the benefit of his party to bring this up as soon as possible, assuredly before the November midterm election date.
The Associated Press reporting on this particular issue used a very interesting argument, and I, quote, "The Senate push for the historic vote and the openness by some Republicans to back it in an election year reflects a seismic shift on the issue since the Supreme Court's 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide." The AP story also went on to claim that 70% of US adults in a Gallup poll from June 2021 said same-sex unions "should be valid under the law."
So here's how you see moral change take place in the culture, and here's where you see the role of the court in basically changing the mind of Americans on an issue. Now, just a little footnote, this is exactly what the progressives expected to happen on the issue of abortion, and abortion at this point is an outlier because this pattern didn't hold. The pattern is that the Supreme Court hands down a decision and Americans basically say, well, we're offended by it but nonetheless, we're going to have to go along with it.
In a short amount of time the society begins to conform to this new moral judgment, and before you know it, especially as you go younger, you go more urban in the population. People say, "No, this is the way it ought to be. A same-sex couple ought to have the right to get married." Now, if the number 70% holds, and again this is dated June 2021 in that survey, there's no reason to believe actually that, that's not true.
The reality is that, that doesn't tell us a thing about the morality of same-sex marriage. It doesn't tell us anything about the definition of marriage, either what it is or what it should be. It tells us about the rather fickle moral choices or preferences indicated by Americans particularly to pollsters. But politicians watch the polls, politicians and pollsters well, they're locked in a very romantic embrace when it comes to looking at that data because the politicians, after all want to get reelected.
Now, another sign that this kind of vote is getting closer is the fact that the Washington Post featured a joint opinion piece written by two United States Senators. They're co-sponsoring the legislation and the Senate. The first is Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin. She, by the way, was the first openly LGBTQ member of the Senate and the second is Senator Susan Collins, a Republican of Maine. So here you have two women and you have the fact that both of them are co-sponsoring this legislation. One, a Democrat, one a Republican and the two of them together wrote this opinion piece in the Washington Post in order to support the piece.
They went on to say, "Millions of American families had come to rely on the promise of marriage equality and the freedoms, rights and responsibilities that come with making the commitment of marrying the one you love." Now, there is so much embedded in that single sentence, which is the lead in this article. It really does represent how a moral revolution works and then how you see the evidence of it.
For instance, look at the change in language. There's nothing here about same-sex marriage, instead it's presented as the promise of marriage equality. And then you see the rights and freedom language, the freedom, rights and responsibilities and here's how marriage is redefined, with making the commitment of marrying the one you love. So again, there's no man and no woman here. It's just the one you love.
The other interesting thing is that there is a huge constitutional argument embedded in that sentence, and most people would probably miss it. That is that the two senators say that American families, "Have come to rely on the promise of marriage equality." Now, this is the constitutional issue or the argument about reliance.
The argument is a significant portion of the population has come to rely upon the legal availability in recognition of same-sex marriage. And so since they are relying upon it, then there is a responsibility of government to perpetuate what they are relying on. But then there's a shift that's noted in the article, "Over the past 30 years, Americans have grown more supportive of marriage equality." They go on to say, "In 1996, less than one third of Americans, a mere 27% supported same-sex marriages. A quarter century later in 2022, more than 70% of Americans support marriage equality, including a majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents."
Now, as you look at those numbers, you do see one of the most stunning moral transformations in any single human lifetime. These two senators actually acknowledge that just a matter of going back to 1996. So someone born in 1996 isn't 30 years old yet.
In their lifetime, you've had this massive swing from the vast majority of Americans, about 70% against it, to a matter of, again, the poll taken last year in which supposedly 70% or more are for it. And you're just looking at a shift in human moral judgment that's unprecedented in this scale of time, but they clearly feel the wind at their back.
Now, here's what you need to note. The Republican co-sponsor here, Susan Collins, well, she's in a bit of a political quandary. She was reelected just a matter of a couple of years ago in 2020 and in a very tight race by the way, and she is a liberal Republican in the Senate, one of the very last liberal Republican still in existence.
And she is holding to this position because, well, just to put it bluntly, she was absolutely humiliated when the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade and the Dobbs decision because well, she had supported the Trump nominees to the Supreme Court and had said that she did not believe they would move in that direction. So again, a bit of embarrassment here, but she is very clearly co-sponsoring this legislation, at least in part in order to get her more liberal bona fides back.
A Direct Assault on Religious Liberty: The Respect for Marriage Act — It’s Time to Take Names and Recognize Which Senate Republicans Suddenly Support Same-Sex Marriage
But we need to look more closely at the argument made by these two senators, and I'm going to quote from it here, "The Respect for Marriage Act is a simple, straightforward measure, only four pages in length." They say, "It is shorter than this op-ed. The bipartisan legislation would repeal the Defensive Marriage Act, a 1996 law that allowed states and the federal government to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages validly performed in other states. The Respect for Marriage Act," they write, "would simply require the federal government to recognize a marriage if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed."
Now, the use of the word simply there tells you we're looking at something is not simple at all. If you say, it would simply require, well you better look at what follows. Again the words, "The federal government to recognize a marriage if the marriage was valid in the state where it was performed."
Now, maybe you have just jumped to the realization that there's a huge problem here. The barn door is hanging absolutely wide because the issue here is not just same-sex marriage. How long will it be before some state Supreme Court or some state legislature, somewhere decides that it's no longer just two people who can be in a marriage, but perhaps three or four or who knows?
The movement of polyamory, polygamy, all of this is actually gaining ground and don't be shocked. Gaining ground for example, even in a state like Massachusetts, which was let's just remind ourselves the first state to legalize same-sex marriage. This particular legislation, which is presented as just a way of so-called respecting marriage, it actually says that the federal government will have to recognize, and 49 states would also have to recognize any marriage in any state where the state legislature declares any relationship to be marriage.
The two senators seem to recognize there's a problem and so in their opinion piece, they write this, quote, "Despite being fewer than 500 words, the Respect for Marriage Act has been misunderstood, leading to false assertions and mischaracterizations of its scope. The legislation," they write, "would not in fact, legalize or recognize polygamous relationships or marriages." They end to that paragraph by writing, "Polygamous marriages are already illegal in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and this bill would not authorize or recognize them."
Well, this is what happens when you accuse someone else of telling a mistruth and you come back and state a mistruth. These two senators are stating a mistruth. The fact is, that the original legislation says that the federal government and the other states would recognize any legally valid marriage in any state. So if any state did legalize polyamory or polygamy, it would then be binding on the rest of the country. And so, it's intellectual dishonesty to come back and say, "Well, right now all 50 states have laws against polygamy." Well, if you go back just a few years, and I do mean a few years, all 50 states had laws that would not allow same-sex marriage as well.
One other big issue here is something that should have a lot of Christian attention, and that is the fact that this bill represents a direct assault upon religious liberty. It's a direct assault upon marriage in the family, but also upon religious liberty and that's also something that's recognized.
The House version, just about everyone recognizes it would eviscerate religious liberty in many ways. The Senate now pledges it's going to come back what they fix but I simply want you to understand, that fix is going to be in some limited sense for religious churches, congregations and denominations, and perhaps for some religious institutions such as schools. It will not be for individual believers.
And so if you're a wedding photographer, if you're a cake baker, if you're... Well, any number of these professions or perhaps in a medical profession, then you're not going to get any religious liberty protection from this bill. And furthermore, there's something even worse. This bill right out front, states that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act cannot be the basis of any legal appeal to this bill. That tells you the real agenda, right up front.
Now, before leaving this issue, I just want to remind Christians that there are times when we simply are just going to have to take names, and when it comes to this vote in the Senate, we're going to have to take names. One of the first names that comes to my mind is North Carolina Republican Senator Thom Tillis, who seems to be downright excited about this so-called Marriage Equality bill passing in the Senate, describing the moral change as progress.
I wanted to deal with this issue at length today because there are simply no telling how quickly this will leap into the public conversation when you have the Senate majority leader saying that this will be scheduled for an upcoming vote. Well, you see the process is already in motion, but I also want us to recognize that you're going to be hearing some very interesting arguments coming from United States Senators in particular over this issue.
And I'm just going to suggest that you need to pay the closest attention to those who are most likely to make a change of position on this issue. And we're going to have to watch very closely to see what the math turns out to be in the United States Senate, but recognize that if some version of this legislation does somehow get through the Senate with Republican support, joined with the action by the House, once the bills are reconciled, it will go to the president of the United States Joe Biden, who just can't wait to be the president, who signs this kind of legislation.
‘When Did Religious Belief Become an Excuse to Discriminate?’: ACLU Officer Argues for the Undermining of Religious Liberty in the Name of ‘Equality’
In this context, we now shift to an argument also made in the Washington Post in an opinion piece, in this case by Louise Melling, identified as Deputy Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union. And you'll recall that the ACLU takes extremely progressivist positions on these issues.
But the reason I'm looking to this one with you is because the title of the opinion piece ask a question, "When did religious belief become an excuse to discriminate?" Now, let me just take that apart for a moment. First of all, you understand what religious belief is, but she then goes on to say, "When did it become an excuse to discriminate?" Now, that of course, is a voted word because it immediately brings a negative connotation. It's wrong to discriminate.
But let me just point out, that the very fact that you have a religious denomination is to discriminate, to say there's a distinction between Lutherans and Presbyterians and Methodists and Baptists, and it's discrimination to understand the difference. There's a reason why there are Lutheran and Presbyterian and Methodist and Baptist churches, and there's a reason why Baptists have a right to Baptist churches and to found Baptist institutions, so do the Methodists, the Presbyterians, and Lutherans. You get the point.
The point is that if you have denominations denominated, that is to say named and designated by particular beliefs, they either do have religious freedom where they don't, and if they do, then the very essence of the existence of this group is to discriminate, just to say, "We're Baptist, and so we're a part of a Baptist convention, and the members of our churches are to be Baptist themselves." I have to return to the logical point that every sane human being discriminates all day long. Making discriminations is making choices and you can discriminate rightly or wrongly, but you're discriminating all the time.
You're making discriminations when you decide with whom you're going to do business. You're discriminating for someone and for someone else when you decide who you're going to hire for this particular responsibility or for some other. You make discriminations on moral terms all the time.
Just imagine living in a world in which you're supposed to hire a babysitter without making any moral discrimination. Now, that would be a world of insanity, but hey, welcome to the world of the progressives, or at least I should say to their logic because I guarantee you they also discriminate when it comes to hiring a babysitter.
Now, the reason that term has a negative connotation is because there are a lot of illegitimate discriminations that are made, but the point is the word discrimination is simply the word to choose to prefer one rather than another. That kind of choosing is absolutely necessary in an ice cream shop. When it comes to bigger moral issues, that discrimination might be morally right or morally wrong, but to use the word discriminate in a headline like this as if it's supposed to make sense, well, I hope you're discriminating enough to understand, that's nonsense, but it's loaded nonsense.
Later in the article, Melling writes, "These efforts," meaning to press religious liberty for people in their businesses or professions, et cetera, they are, "simply incompatible with a pluralistic constitutional democracy that values both equality and religious freedom. Religious freedom," she says, "after all, doesn't mean a right to hurt others."
But hurt others in this case means telling them to hire someone else to be their cake baker or their wedding photographer, or in a different context, someone saying, "I'm not going to be the pharmacist that's going to pass out in a board of fashion drug." The point I want to make here is that you see the claim by the ACLU officer here that we are a society, "That values both equality and religious freedom."
Now, when you see someone say, "I believe in X, Y, or Z, and religious freedom." Understand that religious freedom is almost assuredly about to get the short end of the stick, but there's another argument that's coming. You probably feel it coming and this writer with the ACLU assured, this is the absolute argument that trumps all others.
She compares someone in the workplace who has concerns about LGBTQ issues and is not by conviction able to bless LGBTQ behaviors, lifestyles, and relationships. Well, the argument here is that that is tantamount to racial discrimination and racial supremacy. And clearly this ACLU official sees a dystopian future for the United States if the current Supreme Court hold sway.
She ends one paragraph by writing this, quote, "The United States could soon see bakeries with wedding cakes for heterosexuals only signs next door to shuttered abortion clinics." End quote. Well, that's actually very helpful if you think about it, because here you have this ACLU figure tying all these issues together saying, "They're all the same! They're all the same! Take my word for it. They're all the same." But Christians understand. "No, they're not all the same."
Racial discrimination is not the same thing as holding to a Christian conviction that wouldn't allow you to bless a same-sex union, but in the minds of the left increasingly, it's all the same thing. Oh, and by the way, you'll notice she threw in abortion too.
The bottom line that we need to note in her argument is that religious liberty is all good and well until it gets in the way of the liberal goal.
And at that point, hey, no question, it's got to go.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing.
For more information go to my website at albertmohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.com/albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College, just go to boycecollege.com.
I'll meet you again tomorrow for The Briefing.