New Mexico has now become the 17th state to recognize same-sex “marriage.” The dominoes are falling. Most of us knew this would happen, but many people did not recognize the other unintended doors of social change that might open as well.
Several months ago I wrote an article on “serial marriage” after seeing a program about a man living with two women. Only one was his legal wife, but he considered the other woman his “wife” as well. I had asked on what basis our society could deny the right of this man to marry both women if it has already crossed the line of redefining marriage. I suggested that there will be other attempts to press for individual rights in this area now that marriage has fallen from its created design between a man and a woman (see the words of Jesus in Matt 19:4, 5).
Yesterday, in the Chicago Tribune, there was an article titled Utah ‘plural marriage’ wins round in court. “Advocates for so-called plural marriages are applauding a ruling by a US District Court judge (who else?) that struck down key segments of Utah’s (where else?) anti-polygamy law, saying they violated constitutional rights to privacy and religious freedom.” The headline is a little misleading and we have to dig deeper to understand the significance of this decision. The ruling preserved the law against bigamy—being officially married to more than one spouse at the same time. However, the ruling claimed that the presence of additional “unofficial wives” in the same family should be recognized as “religious cohabitation.”
“Proponents say that polygamist cohabitation among fundamentalist Mormons traditionally involves one marriage certificate; and additional wives represent religion-based relationships that are protected under the Constitution. They say the judge’s ruling has preserved laws against bigamy, which involves more than one marriage license.” Essentially the judge ruled against the language of the Utah law that says, “or cohabits with another person.” Advocates have also said that “the judge’s ruling grants polygamists the same legal standing as same-sex couples.”
What we see here is a road to social and moral change that has been traveled before. A movement starts small merely advocating to be recognized; it appeals to legal and constitutional rights; it cries out for respect and dignity; it argues that the government should stay out of the business of defining “family”; it presents its case in the media (the TV reality series on TLC “Sister Wives”; and generally there will be some type of persecution of the movement that becomes a rallying-point (the Mormons have plenty of examples from the assassination of Joseph Smith to the “banishment” of Brigham Young); it appeals to the “civil rights” given to other minorities; and the movement usually finds its initial success in the courts, not with the electorate (e.g. Massachusetts became the first state to recognize gay marriage because of a 5-4 decision of the State Supreme Court).
There is one more ingredient for social change; an idea must have time to develop and trickle down to a new and more tolerant generation. (It should be noted that there are Christian polygamist groups who base their beliefs on the Bible, but they will always remain on the fringe and will never travel “the road” of social change.)
“He who stands for nothing will fall for everything.” The quote is attributed to GK Chesterton from a line in one of his Father Brown Mysteries. In a culture where truth is redefined as “truthiness” and conviction is regarded as bigotry, this quote sounds terribly intolerant. Nonetheless, mark my word; the dominoes will keep falling as our society continues to implode. The late Francis Schaeffer said that he no longer prayed for God to bless America, but for God to have mercy upon America. “Let your steadfast love be upon us, O Lord, even as we hope in you” (Ps 33:22).