Obama stands firm on 'gay rights' support
WASHINGTON (BP)--Any hope that an incoming Obama administration will dump some of its more controversial proposals concerning "gay rights" apparently ended in recent days, when the president-elect's team launched a page on the transition website devoted to homosexual causes.
The webpage at Change.gov boasts that a Barack Obama White House will bring "support for the LGBT Community" -- an acronym that stands for "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender" -- and will back a series of bills long championed by homosexual groups but opposed by the current Bush administration. The website quotes Obama as saying, "While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do."
Mat Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel, a religious liberty legal organization, told Baptist Press he believes religious freedoms could be impacted under Obama, especially if the bills he supports become law.
"I would consider him to be the biggest threat to religious liberty we've ever had [in the White House] because he will push the homosexual agenda," Staver said. "... I think churches and pastors will be very negatively affected by Obama's policies."
Specifically, the website says Obama favors:
-- overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 and gives states the option of not recognizing another state's "gay marriage" licenses. DOMA also prohibits the federal government from recognizing any state's "gay marriages."
-- granting civil unions to same-sex couples. Such unions provide the legal benefits of marriage minus the name.
-- overturning the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, which prevents homosexuals from serving openly. It was adopted early during President Clinton's administration as a compromise between both sides.
-- expanding adoption laws so that homosexuals can adopt. The website says Obama believes "a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not."
-- passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that religious leaders fear would force Christian business owners and Christian organizations to hire people opposed to their religious beliefs. ENDA would treat "sexual orientation" in similar fashion to other federally protected categories, such as race, gender, age and religion. It never made it to President Bush's desk, although his administration indicated he would have vetoed it.
-- expanding the hate crimes law to include "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" -- two terms that cover homosexuality and transgenderism.
"My biggest fear is that his agenda will not only advance the homosexual agenda but restrict freedom of speech and freedom of religion," Staver said.
Leading the concerns among social conservatives is Obama's desire to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act. The bill was passed in 1996 with broad bipartisan support when the Hawaii Supreme Court appeared on the verge of legalizing "gay marriage." DOMA's supporters said the bill would allow states to pass laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman -- thereby protecting those states from being forced to recognize Hawaii's "gay marriages." Since then, nearly 40 states have passed such laws, including 30 who have adopted constitutional marriage amendments. Included in that group is Hawaii, which passed a constitutional amendment making it clear the legislature -- and not the court -- has authority over the state's marriage laws.
"If the federal DOMA is overturned, then you unleash same-sex marriage like a flood through all 50 states," Staver said. "It is the dam that holds back same-sex marriage from going over the border of Massachusetts to overrun the other states. If you take federal DOMA away -- irrespective of the 30 states that passed constitutional amendments -- then the federal Constitution will force the states to recognize same-sex marriage. The federal DOMA is what gives the states autonomy to not have to recognize another state's same-sex marriage."
In an odd twist, Obama has claimed he favors repealing DOMA because he wants states to have authority over their marriage laws -- an argument that Staver calls "disingenuous."
"He opposed Florida and California publicly in their attempt to amend their own state constitutions," Staver said, referencing two marriage amendments passed on Election Day. "He's not a states' rights person on same-sex marriage."
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the House in 2007 but never made it through the Senate. The bill did have a religious exemption, but opponents said it wasn't broad enough.
"The religious exemption does not exempt all religiously affiliated educational organizations," Staver said. "It might -- under the current proposal -- protect Liberty University since it's associated with a church, but it wouldn't exempt Wheaton College, because it is not associated with a specific church. So, religiously based schools will be targeted unless they are specifically affiliated and operate in association with a church."
But a religious exemption should not be enough to gain conservatives' support, no matter its wording, Staver said.
"Once you have a religious exemption -- no matter how broad or narrow it is -- all it takes is one act of Congress to remove it or one court to find that it's an establishment of religion because it prefers religion over non-religion," he said.
Social conservatives and religious organizations, Staver said, could learn much from studying the case of Bob Jones University, which lost its tax-exempt status during the 1970s because it prohibited interracial dating and marriage -- a revocation upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the university reversed its policy in 2000 -- a reversal praised by Christian and conservative leaders -- Staver said the case nonetheless could be used in the future against churches and religious organizations viewed as discriminating on the basis of "sexual orientation," particularly if "sexual orientation" is placed alongside race as a protected class in federal law. The goal of homosexual activists, Staver said, is to transform society so much that it views opponents of "gay marriage" in the same light it views racists.
"What we've seen recently with the violence and the attempt to intimidate Christians into silence following the passage of Prop 8 by the homosexual activists ought to be a wake-up call for Christians," Staver said. "That's what's coming if we don't stand up and resist now these homosexual policies."
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. Obama's plan for the homosexual community can be read online at www.change.gov/agenda/civil_rights_agenda.