Gay marriage debate 'very much alive'

NASHVILLE (BP) -- The battle over gay marriage in the United States continues unabated, with activists on both sides engaging in the courts, media and government.

"The national marriage debate is very much alive," said Chris Plante, regional coordinator for the National Organization for Marriage, a group that opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Plante noted that while this summer's Supreme Court decision left states the right to choose whether to legalize gay marriage, activists in states such as Ohio and Oregon will attempt to overturn the states' bans on gay marriage at the ballot box.

Minnesota and Rhode Island became the latest two states to legalize gay marriage Aug. 1, increasing the total to 13 states and the District of Columbia.

"However, in the immediate future the battle will continue to be fought in the courts," Plante said. "At present there are lawsuits in approximately 15 states seeking to overturn state marriage laws or amendments defining marriage as one man and one woman."

Among the more recent national and international developments in the gay marriage debate:

-- A legal fight is brewing in Pennsylvania over a county official issuing gay marriage licenses despite a state ban on the practice.

Reuters reported that D. Bruce Hanes, Montgomery County register of wills, is processing marriage licenses for homosexual couples even though Pennsylvania's Defense of Marriage Act outlaws same-sex nuptials.

"I decided to come down on the right side of history and the law and was prepared to issue a license to the couple," Hanes said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Reuters reported that since Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane, a Democrat, announced several weeks ago she would not defend the state's ban on same-sex marriage, the state Health Department, which is part of the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, filed a lawsuit July 30 to stop Hanes.

"The clerk's actions are in direct defiance of the express policy of the commonwealth that marriage shall be between one man and one woman," the lawsuit said, according to Reuters.

But the county is refusing to budge, with Reuters reporting that Montgomery County Solicitor Ray McGarry asked the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court to dismiss the state's lawsuit, arguing the Health Department does not have jurisdiction to sue.

-- The international media's take on Pope Francis' comments regarding homosexuals may be mistaken, Rachel Aldrich writes in WORLD Magazine.

The pope created a buzz during an impromptu press conference when he answered a question about a supposed gay lobby in the Vatican by saying, "If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?"

Aldrich wrote that while reporters and commentators concluded Francis was condoning homosexual behavior, the truth is far different.

Citing Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York as an example of Catholic leaders who are placing the pope's statement in context, Aldrich relayed Dolan's comments to CBS News that "while certain acts may be wrong, we will always love and respect that person and treat the person with dignity."

"Dolan went on to compare the pope's comments to Jesus' teaching when He met the woman caught in adultery," Aldrich wrote. "While He told her He did not condemn her, He also told her to sin no more."

Aldrich wrote that Pope Francis was indirectly referring to the Catholic Catechism, which says homosexuals "must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity" and that "every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."

According the Catholic News Service, Aldrich wrote, the Catechism also says that both the inclination and act of homosexuality is "objectively disordered," and Francis was challenging none of those teachings.

Aldrich pointed to a statement written by Bishop Thomas J. Olmstead and released by the Diocese of Phoenix in which Olmstead writes that the pope's remarks "reiterate Catholic teaching that the Church is open to all people, including those with same-sex attractions, but homosexual activity is contrary to the Gospel of Christ -- just as all sexual activity outside of marriage would be. A priest must be able to live a healthy, celibate lifestyle, whether or not he has ever experienced same-sex attractions."

-- Since the state of Massachusetts legalized gay marriage in 2004, developments have occurred that many never imagined, says a pro-family activist.

Brian Camenker is executive director of the website MassResistance, which reports on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activism in Massachusetts. He spoke with WORLD News Service about developments in the state.

"In public schools, they started off with assemblies recognizing gay marriage, and now if you say anything against gay marriage it's considered bullying," he told WNS. "You not only have to recognize it, you have to affirm it."

Camenker added that the state issued a directive that schools should allow, for example, boys who self-identify as girls to use the girls' bathrooms and locker rooms and play on girls' sports teams.

"There seems to be no end to it," he told WNS. "It's madness that comes over people who should know better, imposing just insane things on society."

The pro-family movement is losing the battle, Camenker said, because it is not fighting against the idea that homosexuality is not unhealthy or destructive. This gives LGBT activists a "free pass" to propagandize, building a movement on "intimidation and force and lies."

"Every generation has to be forced to believe homosexuality is normal," he said. "When they stop doing the propaganda, people will stop believing it. That's why the gay movement is so focused on the public schools. And that's why we're focused on getting it out."

Plante said the way supporters of traditional marriage can be most effective is to pray, and people of faith need to defend God's design for marriage in the public arena.

"There are no 'safe' states anymore, no matter how 'red' they may be politically or how far below the Mason-Dixon Line they are located," Plante warned.

"People of faith need to take advantage of resources to educate themselves about the importance of God's design for marriage, speak boldly to their family and friends about their position, and continue to put political pressure on their elected officials to defend marriage and our religious liberties."


John Evans is a writer in Houston. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).