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Religious Tolerance logo

The Obergefell v. Hodges case before the U.S. Supreme Court
involving appeals of 4 same-sex marriage cases, from Kentucky,
Michigan, Ohio, & Tennessee.

Part 27: 2013 to 2015-MAY:
Two more predictions of the backlash that may
come if the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes SSM.
Past changes that could have caused backlashes.
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We use the acronym "SSM" to represent "same-sex marriage."
"LGBT" refers to lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender persons
and transsexuals. "LGB" refers to lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay Here, Professor Klarman's
optimistic prediction is completed and two other predictions are discussed.

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thumbs up imageHarvard Law Professor Michael Klarman's prediction (Cont'd from the previous essay).

Writing for the Los Angeles Times in mid-2013, he noted that a few previous court decisions triggered major backlashes, but that a similar future reaction over same-sex marriage is unlikely. He gave two more reasons:

  • Geographical segmentation of opinion: Opposition to SSM remains high in the southern states in the U.S. But there are signs that the Republican Party is moderating its position.

  • Ease of circumvention/defiance: If the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage across the country, such marriages would be difficult for protestors to prevent. It is unlikely that opponents to marriage equality would block courthouse doors. It would be difficult for clerks to refuse to issue marriage licenses because that would expose them to personal lawsuits. Weddings can occur anywhere and would be difficult to individually protest in an effective manner.

Professor Klarman concludes:

"... can one really imagine the sort of pervasive violence directed against civil rights activists in the 1960s South being used against same-sex couples seeking marriage licenses in 2013? The country is different, the issue is different, and public officials would not slyly encourage violence in the way that Govs. Wallace [of Alabama] and Ross Barnett [of Mississippi] did after Brown.

Thus, while a broad marriage equality ruling would undoubtedly generate some backlash, its scope would be far less than that ignited by Brown [the ruling that started the school racial desegregation process] or Roe [the ruling that accelerated the pro-life movement].

A majority of Americans would immediately endorse such a [pro marriage equality] decision. ... Support would increase every year. Opposition would be far less intense than it was to school desegregation or abortion because the effect of same-sex marriage on other [people's] lives is so indirect. Some politicians would roundly condemn the ruling, though many Republicans and most Democrats would not. State officials would have no way to circumvent such a decision, nor would many same-sex couples be intimidated out of asserting their right to marry. Outright defiance is conceivable, though it seems unlikely that any state governor would be willing to go to jail for contempt of court." 4

More recently, during 2015-APR, he wrote on SCOTUSblog:

"... the factors that predict political backlash -- which include public opinion on the underlying issue, the relative intensity of preference on the two sides of the issue, and the ease with which a particular Court ruling can be circumvented or defied -- suggest that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of a constitutional right to same-sex marriage in 2015 will produce only minimal political backlash." 8

Between mid-2013 and 2015-APR, the number of states allow same-sex marriage has risen from 10 to 37. This left only 13 states and five territories in which marriage inequality has continued. Most of the 27 states that changed, attained marriage equality as a result of court decisions. This happened one or a few states at a time, starting in mid-2013. As of 2015-MAY, only in Alabama has there been a major backlash. That was largely prompted by one person: Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court. The public in the other states appear to have accepted the inevitability of change without much conflict.

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thumb down2015-APR-22: A Texas Republican leader predicts the toppling of the American culture if marriage equality arrives nationwide:

Cathie Adams was formerly the chairperson of the Texas Republican Party. She is the current president of the Texas Eagle Forum. The forum's mission:

"... is to enable conservative and pro-family men and women to participate in the process of self-government and public policy-making so that America will continue to be a land of individual liberty, respect for family integrity, public and private virtue, and private enterprise. 6

One might think that with their group's respect for individual liberty and family integrity that they would encourage allowing loving, committed same-sex couples to marry. However, in fact, the Forum is a main source of opposition to marriage equality in the state.

Speaking at a forum event in Dallas, Ms. Adams referred to the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court might extend marriage equality to Texas and to the remaining 13 states and five territories in the U.S. that still ban same-sex marriage. She said:

"I think that it means that the cornerstone of our culture, our society and the traditional family is at stake. That is how important I believe the family is. If we remove that cornerstone then we are causing the entire culture to topple. ... A small segment of society is forcing the rest of our culture to stop thinking independently and freely and is forcing churches to no longer teach a certain way. That is very substantial. To be pushing a radical agenda that goes against all of the thinking of our founders and millennia of history throughout the world is a very dangerous step." 7

By "traditional family" she is apparently referring to only those families led by opposite-sex couples.

It is unclear what she means by "forcing churches to" change their teachings." Certainly, the state and federal governments are not permitted to do this because of the "wall of separation" between church and state that is so clearly stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. She many be referring to the massive current exodus of older teens and young adults who are abandoning the conservative churches in which they were raised. Many are leaving because of the latter's teaching on human sexuality in general and the LGBT movement in particular. Their departure is a major concern to many denominations.

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poll symbol2015-MAY: Past decisions by courts or legislatures that had the potential to generate backlashes:

Sometimes, a conflict exists between public opinion and "democratic values like liberty and equality." 9 When this happens, many people oppose change, and want discrimination against a minority to be preserved. Meanwhile, that minority pushes back. They want to attain equal liberties and rights for themselves and their families. Such conflicts have happened many times during the past ten decades. A few examples were when:

  • Women were given the vote in the early 20th century throughout most of North America -- but not until 1944 in Quebec Canada due to resistance by the Roman Catholic Church for which they later apologized.

  • The process to end racial segregation in the public schools began in the mid-20th century.

  • Eligibility to marry was most recently redefined by the U.S. Supreme Court. It legalized interracial marriages across the U.S. during 1967 in the case Loving v. Virginia.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court decriminalized same-gender sexual behavior by adults in private throughout the U.S. during 2003 in the case Lawrence v. Texas.

  • The Massachusetts Supreme Court ordered that state's Legislature to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004 in the case Goodridge v. Dep't of Public Health.

In each case, a conflict existed between:

  • A substantial percentage of the public who felt that change should only occur if and when public opinion is shown to favor of it.

  • Others felt that the federal, state, and local governments should uphold individual freedom, liberty and equality even if substantial public resistance exists in favor of discrimination.

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This topic continues in the next essay.

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References used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. Bob Unruh, "Dobson: 'Fall of western civilization' at hand," WND Faith, 2015-MAY-03, at: http://www.wnd.com/
  2. Nichole Hemmer, "Marriage Equality Is (Nearly) Here to Stay," U.S. News, 2015-APR-21, at: http://www.usnews.com/

  3. book cover Michael Klarman, "From the Closet to the Altar: Courts, Backlash, and the Struggle for Same-Sex Marriage," Oxford University Press, (2014). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  4. Michael Klarman, "A gay marriage backlash? Not likely," Los Angeles Times, 2013-MAR-24, at: http://articles.latimes.com/
  5. Most same-sex couples are either composed of two gays or two lesbians, both with a homosexual orientation. However, we use the plural here because some couples include one gay or lesbian, with a partner who has a different orientation: bisexual.
  6. "About Texas Eagle Forum," Texas Eagle Forum, 2015, at: http://texaseagle.org/
  7. Dylan Baddour, "Same-sex marriage 'the end of America,' Texas GOP speaker says," Houston Chronicle, 2015-MAY-12, at: http://www.chron.com/
  8. Michael Klarman, "Commentary: The Supreme Court and marriage for same-sex couples — Part II," SCOTUSblog, 2015-APR-16, at: http://www.scotusblog.com/"
  9. Benjamin Bishin et al., "Opinion Backlash and Public Attitudes: Are Political Advances in Gay Rights Counterproductive," American Journal of Political Science, unknown edition, 2015, Pp. 1–24, at: http://scholar.princeton.edu/

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How you may have arrived here:

Copyright © 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2015-MAY-06
Latest update: 2015-MAY-13
Author: B.A. Robinson
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