How Will Religious Conservatives Follow Through on Marriage Bluster?

The predictable wailing and gnashing of teeth among religious conservatives is in full swing, ranging from the traumatized to the unhinged. Mike Huckabee tweeted that “Jesus wept,” though he did not reveal his sources on that scoop. The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins did see a “bright side” in that the Supreme Court did not make marriage equality a legal reality in all 50 states.

In the days leading up to the Supreme Court’s marriage rulings, conservative religious leaders promised defiance of a ruling that would result in the Court’s recognition of legally married same-sex couples.

A statement written by Liberty Counsel attracted a large number of signatures of right-wing religious leaders. It asserted, “The Supreme Court has no authority to redefine marriage.” It sounded a tone of resistance:

“As Christians united together in defense of marriage, we pray that this will not happen. But, make no mistake about our resolve. While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the true common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.”

That statement echoed the earlier pledge of civil disobedience included in the 2009 Manhattan Declaration, which has been promoted by conservative evangelical, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian leaders.  It declared, “No one has a civil right to have a non-marital relationship treated as a marriage.” And it vowed no compromise:

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

It is not yet clear whether and how groups will follow through on their defiant pre-ruling stance. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops statement calls the decisions “tragic” and said it was time to redouble efforts on behalf of “traditional” marriage. But they were a little vague on next steps:

“Now that the Supreme Court has issued its decisions, with renewed purpose we call upon all of our leaders and the people of this good nation to stand steadfastly together in promoting and defending the unique meaning of marriage: one man, one woman, for life. We also ask for prayers as the Court’s decisions are reviewed and their implications further clarified.”

Peter Montgomery, a Washington, DC-based writer, is an associate editor for Religion Dispatches and a Senior Fellow at People For the American Way. His work focuses on religion, politics, and LGBT issues. Follow him on twitter @petemont.