Lent Week Becomes Bent Week: Uncovering the Sudden Shift on Equal Rights and the Growing Silence of the Conservative

Posted March 29, 2013 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

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As the nine justices hear oral arguments on Prop 8 and DOMA this week, a startling increase of public support for same-sex marriage climbs to record-breaking heights, while conservatives adapt to a new and eerie silence

If you’re a frequent user of Facebook or Instagram and you haven’t seen that white equals sign designed by the Human Rights Campaign used in some form or fashion, then your friends list may need to extend beyond the number 10. Or maybe you probably have a trove of friends who aren’t taking a sensible stand for equal rights. No need to worry – if you’re in the magazine aisle at your local Walgreens or Walmart, the two covers upon this week’s issue of TIME Magazine will bring you up to speed. One of the covers will feature two women locking jaws and the other will showcase two men doing the same, with big bold yellow letters broadcasting, ‘Gay Marriage Already Won.’’ And if you stopped in your nearby Starbucks today for a cup of joe, you might have heard some conversation brewing about the company’s CEO Howard Schultz echoing his support for same-sex marriage at a shareholder meeting.

“If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country,” he said. “You can sell your shares of Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.” That very room of shareholders erupted with applause. And even though Starbucks has suffered from a bite of backlash from conservative investors willing to pull their stocks, Schultz mentioned that the decision to support gay rights was not an economic one, but “right for its people. We want to embrace diversity.”

It seems like the subject of gay marriage pops up every other political cycle, as does abortion, immigration reform and gun control. But this week – of all weeks, Lent Week – the controversial debate of gay marriage rung heavy from the top of Washington, D.C. as oral arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 are being questioned in the Supreme Court this week.

Ironically there’s very little being said out of the mouths of conservatives. Even political TV correspondent Bill O’ Reilly, a staunch opponent on gay marriage, has recently settled into a quieter place on this subject. In 2005, the FOX conservative host told his radio show that “in ten years, this is gonna be a totally different country than it is now. Laws that you think are in stone, they’re going to evaporate. You’ll be able to marry a goat.” This week (Mar. 26), O’Reilly said the compelling argument is on the side of homosexuals….The gay marriage thing….I don’t feel that strongly about it one way or another.”

O’Reily even reduced the argument that Bible toters have so duly amplified for decades to ineffective rubbish on his late show, by saying that the opponents of same-sex marriage have been unable to do anything but “thump the Bible” in their arguments.

In the last four years, the tone in America has changed regarding equal rights, particularly on the subject of gay marriage. Back in 2002, right after Barack Obama became the first sitting president to announce his shift of opinion on same-sex marriage due to “evolving,” conservative Christian magazine Christianity Today reported that evangelicals remain the most opposes to same-sex marriage, but the same polls  also show that opposition has diminished over the past two decades. Fast forward today and you’re getting an even different response from practicing Christians and other faiths. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll revealed that 58 percent of Americans feel gay marriage should be legal, with 36 percent citing it should be illegal. A more focused Pew poll from March this year reveals even more compelling evidence of the public’s shifts. In the Millennial generation, the latest class of young adults, they are more accepting of gay rights than previous generations. 70 percent of youngsters – born since 1980 – are in favor of same-sex marriage, according to their data. Support for gay marriage has grown substantially over the past decade, from 51 percent in 2003 to 70 percent today. Not a big deal, you say. Well, Millennials made up just 9 percent of the American population in 2003. Today, that number has multiplied to 27 percent. Older generations are also catching on. From the same Pew poll, which surveyed 1,501 adults nationwide, 17 percent with the 50-and-up crowd favored same-sex marriage. Today, that number has climbed to 31 percent.

In that same Pew poll, the question was raised to participants on why they have changed their minds on same-sex marriage. 32 percent mentioned that it was because they knew someone who is homosexual; 25 percent was because they are more open and thought about it more. One of the popular replies was, “Old fashioned ignorance, I grew up a little bit.”

The same probably could be said about Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who announced weeks ago that he was in support of gay marriage. The senator, who was once on the short list of candidates for former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s veep job, cited his evolving opinion had everything to do with his son. In his op-ed for The Columbus Dispatch, he wrote “as a congressman, and more recently as a senator, I opposed marriage for same-sex couples. Then something happened that led me to think through my position in a much deeper way. Two years ago, my son Will, then a college freshman, told my wife, Jane, and me that he is gay.” MSNBC contributor and WaPo columnist Jonathan Capehart expressed that even though he was moved about Portman’s “evolving” views on same-sex marriage, he felt it was a bit strange that it took an experience to change that point-of-view. “The reaction to Sen. Portman’s coming out for gay marriage has been interesting,” he says. “On my Twitter feed, there are a lot of progressives out there that’s saying, ‘Yeah, it’s great that he’s done this, but why does it take someone in his own family to get him to show some empathy.”

Strange enough just weeks before the Supreme Court heard the first statements on DOMA and California’s Prop 8, many of the keynote speakers at CPAC took aim at gay marriage supporters and vowed not to bow down from their religious beliefs. “We cannot hope to limit government if we do not stand up for the core civil society institutions, beginning with marriage,” former South Carolina senator Jim Demint proclaimed. Even the latest GOP savior Marco Rubio chimed in on the same-sex banter: “Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a tradition way does not make me a bigot.” Sound bytes like that have been very few and far in between this week as the Supreme Court listens to arguments on both sides of the aisle, and as the majority of Americans proclaim their support of equal rights, particularly for gay marriage.

Even at the late Jerry Falwell’s school of thought, Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, many of their staffers and students are remaining tight lipped about their position or opposition on the fiery, yet popular subject. One story for The New Yorker, penned by Kevin Roose, exposed the alarming trend to bunker down their loud and proud homophobic rhetoric. “This week, curious to see how my friends from Liberty were reacting to the Supreme Court’s deliberation, I logged on to social-media sites to see what I assumed would be mass concern,” he writes. “But I found almost nothing. No long, rambling stemwinders about “Adam and Steve.” No Twitter quotes from Leviticus or C.S. Lewis. I looked on the personal Facebook pages of campus pastors, faculty members, and even Jerry Falwell Jr. — the college’s chancellor and heir to Falwell Sr.’s political legacy — and found almost no evidence that one of Liberty’s core political values was being debated on a national stage. Liberty’s media spokesman, who usually writes back to me with lightning speed, gave no reply to my query about the Supreme Court’s agenda.”

Certainly there has been a major shift on American’s dialogue on the subject. Former gay-marriage opponents in the Democratic party, including former U.S. president Bill Clinton and sitting president Mr. Obama himself, have echoed their shifts. And in a matter of weeks leading to the Supreme Court’s big week, over twenty Democrats in the Senate and House have also changed their opinion.

In the court of public opinion, things have most certainly changed. A slew of Hollywood stars have echoed their support towards gay marriage including TV actor Stephen Arnell (from CW’s hit show, Arrow), country legend Willie Nelson, rock god Bruce Springsteen, Idol alums Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, Glee’s Matthew Morrison, Smash actress Debra Messing, Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and Hollywood stud Brad Pitt, Even Clint Eastwood, who made headlines for giving Obama the empty chair at last year’s RNC, spoke in favor for gay rights.

And just this week, Beyonce’ (aka Sasha Fierce) joined the growing choir singing the praises of same-sex marriage. On her Instagram account baddiebey, she referenced her popular club anthem “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” as her sign-off for gay rights.















So where are the Hollywood A-listers and superstars who vehemently oppose gay marriage? Look no further than some of the super stars inside some of the most segregated, most class-driven worship centers upon American soil.

This week, most of the quietness from yappy conservatives has a lot to do with the unequipped and ill-prepared attorneys who are falling apart at the seams during opening arguments this week. Still, it seems as if the dialogue on the inside of America’s supreme courtroom has hardly quickened the bite of a few traditionalists. Rev. Marlon Ellington, a Birmingham, Ala. Baptist preacher – nestled in one of the bedrocks of American civil rights, posted a message to his followers on Facebook, stating: “President Obama and Supreme Court Justices you do not have the authority to redefine what God, the Creator, defined!! Marriage is the institution that God created to be between one man & one woman.”







Gospel recording act Rufus Troutman, son of the late funk legend Roger Troutman, recently barked at gays using cryptic X-rated tomfoolery. With poor English on deck, he wrote this on his Facebook Wall:










Disturbingly enough, The musician’s most recent activity on his Twitter account (@rufustroutman)  featured this tweet: “Vote for Romney. The only choice for your future.”

As Kevin Roose reported on the alarming quietness on the subject of gay marriage at Liberty University, the same can be applied for most with “evolving” views in search of anti-gay rhetoric. It’s been very difficult to find tweets and Facebook posts from conservatives on this very issue. The rhetoric simply is very hard to come by. That’s not to say the anti-gay chatter isn’t being pronounced. There have been large demonstrations on both sides of the aisle in front of the Supreme Court and in corners on Capitol Hill. But it seems like the last word from traditionalists will be made from God’s pulpits come this Sunday, which is recognized as Easter Sunday across the world. There is no doubt that Sunday morning sermons in some of the religious centers across America will stoke the fires of homophobic weaponry. And that tends to be the most alarming and disturbing message that one will probably inherit during Lent Week; knowing that Jesus Christ – the glorified ambassador of the Christian faith and who died for the sins of humankind while preaching love and not hate – will probably be armed with words that he himself did not preach or advocate. His message of love towards mankind will undoubtedly be drowned with silly selfish propaganda that has nothing to do with the theological symbolism of the Cross. As Easter weekend arrives, with Catholics and Protestants alike, some preachers will be preparing their celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, while also planning a bloody crucifixion against gays and lesbians, just because they are on their quest to share in some of the same liberties their straight brothers and sisters have.

J Matthew Cobb is the managing editor of HiFi Magazine.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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