Gay Marriage: Religious Right Cranks Up the Fear

It’s the dog days of August, yet the campaign over Proposition 8 in California, which, If approved by voters, would overturn the 4-3 May decision of the California Supreme Court allowing same sex marriages, is reaching epic proportions. During a late-July phone call to pastors gathered at more than 200 sites in California, Arizona and Florida— three states with anti-same-sex marriage initiatives on their ballots in November—a handful of nationally known conservative evangelical Christian leaders were tossing around terms like Armageddon and a “blitzkrieg moment.” Pastors in San Diego, the city that has been dubbed “the ground zero of the Christian marriage movement,” in a Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) report, are organizing a massive get-out-the-vote campaign in support of the initiative.

Charles Colson, former Watergate felon and current head of Prison Fellowship said that the battle over Proposition 8 was “the Armageddon of the culture war.”

Proponents of Proposition 8 are also cranking up the fear by claiming that if its initiative loses, children as young as kindergarten age will be taught about the differences between homosexual and heterosexual marriage.

Bitter battle heats up

“Many speakers [at the July 30 gathering] invoked the language of warfare, raising up an army of believers, putting soldiers in the streets, being on the front lines of a battle,” a report prepared by People for the American Way titled “The Right’s Campaign Against Marriage Equality in California,” pointed out. According to the report, Lou Engle, the co-founder of TheCall solemn assemblies, a movement of prayer gathering young adults to pray and fast for breakthrough and revival, “actually described a massive rally planned in [San Diego’s] Qualcomm stadium on November 1 as a ‘blitzkrieg moment.'”

The PfAW report also points out that “while complaining about opponents of the proposition ‘raising millions of dollars from wealthy gay Americans,’ campaign organizers said they have already raised $15 million of their minimum $23 million [including a reported $500,000 gift from Wildmon’s American family Association and $400,000 from James Dobson’s Focus on the Family] budget and have plans for special offerings to be taken in churches around the country.” The Yes on Prop 8 campaign plans “precinct-by-precinct organizing and deploying thousands of volunteers to identifying and turn out voters [and it] … includes rallies, a ‘Stand for Marriage Sunday’ on September 21 and a ‘family voting weekend’ on October 18 and 19, when people will be encourage to vote by absentee ballot.”

According to the report, Ron Luce from Teen Mania Ministries and others “talked about plans to organize 300,000 youth and their families for an October 1 simulcast, and using them to reach 2.4 million. A representative of the Church Communication Network, a satellite network that has downlink equipment in 500 churches in California, 95 in Arizona, and 321 in Florida, said it would simulcast the youth event free of charge, and would make a satellite dish available ‘at cost’ to churches who don’t yet have one.”

Initiative wording changes

Supporters of Prop 8 are also incensed by the decision of the office of California Attorney General Jerry Brown’s to change the wording of the ballot initiative. Proposition 8—the California Marriage Protection Act—was originally titled “LIMIT ON MARRIAGE. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT” and read:

Amends the California Constitution to provide that only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: The measure would have no fiscal effect on state or local governments. This is because there would be no change to the manner in which marriages are currently recognized by the state.

Recently, Brown’s office changed the language to say that Proposition 8 seeks to “eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry.” The title of the initiative is now: “ELIMINATES RIGHT OF SAME- SEX COUPLES TO MARRY. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT” and it reads:

Changes California Constitution to eliminate right of same-sex couples to marry. Provides that only a marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

Fiscal Impact: Over the next few years, potential revenue loss, mainly sales taxes, totaling in the several tens of millions of dollars, to state and local governments. In the long run, likely little fiscal impact to state and local governments.”

While it isn’t always clear as to how many people actually read the language of a ballot initiative, the change allows supporters of same-sex marriage to frame the battle over the initiative as an attempt to take away an already court-granted right.

On August 8,, the organization that successfully got the initiative qualified for the ballot and is spearheading the campaign, announced that it was appealing a Sacramento’s Superior Court decision that found that the law gives the Attorney General discretion to rewrite ballot titles and summaries.

“The language in the Ballot Title & Summary for Proposition 8 is argumentative and seeks to negatively affect voters,” said Andrew Pugno, legal counsel for Proposition 8. “Since the Superior Court would not exercise its authority to protect voters against misleading language, we will ask the Appellate Court to do so.”

Pugno added that his organization “believe[s] the Attorney General has attempted to influence voters against this measure. It is our goal to ensure that voters have a fair opportunity to decide this measure for themselves on Election Day.”

A $250,000 donation to the NO on 8-Equality for All campaign by Pacific Gas and Electric has also angered supporters of the initiative.

Save the children!

Proponents of Proposition 8 are also maintaining that “State education laws require teachers to instruct children as young as kindergarteners about marriage,” the pro-Proposition 8 ballot argument reads. “If the gay marriage ruling is not overturned, then teachers will be required to teach young children that there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage….That is an issue for parents to discuss with their children according to their own values and beliefs. It should not be forced on us against our will.”

According to Edge Boston, “Marriage equality proponents have pointed out that, contrary to the claims made by opponents of gay families, nothing in the text of the state law would require students at any age to learn about same-sex marriage or family structures that include two parents of the same gender.”

Earlier this month, the California Catholic Conference issued a statement strongly encouraging parishioners “to provide both the financial support and the volunteer efforts needed for the passage of Proposition 8.”

“Same-sex unions are not the same as opposite-sex unions,” reads the statement. “The marriage of a man and a woman embraces not only their sexual complementarity as designed by nature but includes their ability to procreate. The ideal for the well being of children is to be born into a traditional marriage and to be raised by both a mother and a father. We recognize that there are parents who are single and we laud them for the great sacrifices they make in raising their children.”

In a February sermon, Miles McPherson, a former player with the San Diego Chargers and Senior Pastor at San Diego’s Rock Church, said that fighting homosexual marriage was “not a civil government issue, but a spiritual issue. The attack is not from the gay lobby. Here’s who the enemy is: it’s the devil. He’s trying to normalize homosexuality. He’s trying to criminalize preaching the Word of God. In Canada, if you preach Romans 1 — that talks about homosexuality being an abomination — you will lose your license. You will go to jail.”

McPherson pointed out that if the Bible is taken out of society “you have complete anarchy. If you take God and the Bible out, then murder is no longer right or wrong because God is the one who said that murder is wrong.” He said that when man and woman join in marriage, “that’s the fullness of [God’s] image. You’re back the way [God] originally had you,” after He had “made man in His image” but before He made Eve from Adam’s rib. “Here is Satan’s intent: ‘How do I destroy the ultimate image of God? I’ll destroy marriage.'”

Back at “ground zero,” McPherson, who also has a ministry called Miles Ahead which seeks to share the gospel with youth all over the country, has set his sights on the youth vote: “Right now they’re driven by the wrong info and a lot of emotion,” McPherson told CBN. “I don’t want to be a bigot. I don’t want to discriminate. We should be fair.’ But they don’t understand the facts, the dangers of homosexuality — but also, what loving somebody means. You love somebody by helping them obey God.”