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A massive victory for the moral revolutionaries

Yesterday, the United States Senate surrendered marriage


The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Associated Press/Photo by J. David Ake

A massive victory for the moral revolutionaries

Yesterday was not just another day in the life of the United States Senate. It was not just another bad day in Senate history. What happened yesterday represents an abject failure to uphold the most basic institution of human civilization. The Senate voted to redefine marriage. Sixty-one senators voted for what they dared to call the Respect for Marriage Act, as if subverting marriage is an act of respect.

Most of the senators who voted for the legislation are Democrats, but 12 Republicans made passage of the bill possible. They argued that the bill was a successful compromise and that it protected both LGBTQ rights and religious freedom, as well as interracial marriage. But interracial marriage has been legal for decades and is not even debated. This was all about same-sex marriage. In reality, those senators voted to redefine marriage, weaken society’s fundamental covenant, and threaten the religious freedom of Americans who, by religious conviction, cannot join in the legislation’s revolt against marriage and family, morality and creation order.

Put this in perspective. In 1996, driven by concern that the legalization of same-sex marriage by liberal states would require other states and the federal government to recognize those marriages, Congress overwhelmingly voted to approve the Defense of Marriage Act. DOMA, as it became known, passed with supermajorities in both the House and the Senate. President Bill Clinton then signed the legislation into law. That was just 26 years ago. Yesterday, the Senate joined the House to reverse course. This came only after the Supreme Court struck down DOMA (2013) and then declared a right of same-sex couples to marry (2015). Yesterday’s vote was claimed as an act of courage. It was not courage, for no courage was needed. It was merely betrayal, and that betrayal must be long remembered.

Some LGBTQ activists and their allies made clear that the Respect for Marriage Act did not go far enough. Anyone who thinks the LGBTQ movement will be satisfied with forcing states to recognize same-sex marriages is delusional. Anyone who thinks the religious freedom “protections” in the bill will be respected by the left is dishonest.

“It would be great if the bill went further,” said Hawaii’s Sen. Brian Schatz, “but we don’t have the votes to go further.” Not yet, but probably soon. Topping Schatz in candor was Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren: “I want to see the day when we have 100 votes in favor of no discrimination, not just for who we love, but also in any activity.” There seem to be no boundaries on her enthusiasm.

Once you agree that the crucial issue is striking the right balance between “LGBTQ rights” and religious freedom, nothing will stop the advance of LGBTQ rights and the retreat of religious liberty.

President Joe Biden celebrated the bill’s passage by declaring that “love is love, and Americans should have the right to marry the person they love.” Oh, by the way, as a senator Biden voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Apparently he did not believe then that “love is love.” That is how a revolution in morality works. If you agree to join the revolution, the activists will find a way to forgive your previous transgressions. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois also voted for DOMA as a member of Congress. Yesterday he celebrated his vote for the new bill by asserting: “We need to protect LGBTQ families and ensure that same-sex marriages offer the same stability and dignity that all marriages are entitled to.” All marriages, Sen. Durbin? Moral dignity, by the way, is beyond the power of the United States Senate to confer.

The amended bill offered a fig leaf of protection for religious freedom and risks are clear. Also clear was the refusal of the Senate to adopt any of the three more strenuous amendments defending religious freedom put forth by Sens. James Lankford, R-Okla., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Mike Lee, R-Utah. Sen. Durbin made his position on concerns about religious freedom clear in these words: “But we must remember this critical First Amendment freedom is a shield, not a sword. It cannot and must not be wielded to discriminate against any individuals solely based on who they love.” In other words, we got our bill. Good luck on religious freedom.

History will record that it was not only 12 Republican senators who joined with the Democrats to make this possible. Groups like the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and the National Associational of Evangelicals offered statements of political support. Those acts need to be long remembered, too. Shirley V. Hoogstra of the CCCU said the bill shows that “LGBTQ rights can co-exist with religious freedom protections, and that the rights of both groups can be advanced in a way that is prudent and practical.” So this is what “prudent and practical” looks like? Forgive me, but I see it as a sell-out. Once you agree that the crucial issue is striking the right balance between “LGBTQ rights” and religious freedom, nothing will stop the advance of LGBTQ rights and the retreat of religious liberty.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was gleeful in advance of the Senate vote, tweeting both his excitement and his fashion statement: “This is personal to me, and today I’m wearing the tie I wore at my daughter’s wedding to her wife.”

No civilization stands still. This kind of legislation is not neutral. The so-called “Respect for Marriage Act” is either the sign of a civilization advancing or a civilization crumbling. If you believe that marriage is a structure of creation order that is necessary for humanity to thrive, you cannot celebrate this bill. If you believe that marriage is just whatever the culture wants it to be at any time, you can go ahead and celebrate. You might even ask Sen. Schumer if you can borrow his tie for the occasion.


R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Albert Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College and editor of WORLD Opinions. He is also president of the Evangelical Theological Society and host of The Briefing and Thinking in Public. He is the author of several books, including The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. He is the seminary’s Centennial Professor of Christian Thought and a minister, having served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches.


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