Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Tradition or Bigotry?

Post by Collin Hansen

Reading the results of a significant poll on religion and public life conducted by the Paul B. Henry Institute of Calvin College, I was a little bit surprised by what the poll reveals about evangelical attitudes regarding abortion and gay marriage. Significantly fewer evangelicals support same-sex marriage (21 percent) than who back legal abortions (35 percent). The results become more interesting when you analyze the so-called modernist evangelicals, who attend church less frequently and hold more liberal theological views than traditionalist evangelicals. Among these modernists, a whopping 62 percent believe abortion should be legal and solely up to the women to decide. But only 42 percent believe gays and lesbians should be permitted to marry legally. For all the talk about anti-abortion views among evangelicals, there is much more unified opposition to same-sex marriage.

I share this observation in the context of Senator Obama's recent letter to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club in California. Obama said he supports "extending fully equal rights and benefits to same-sex couples under both state and federal law. That is why I support repealing the Defense of Marriage Act [DOMA] and the 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' policy, and the passage of fully inclusive laws to protect LGBT Americans from hate crimes and employment discrimination. And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states."

The New Republic reports that these stands make Obama far more favorable to gay rights than were the Democratic running mates in 2004, Sen. John Kerry and Sen. John Edwards. Hugh Hewitt weights in with the doomsday scenario: "If Obama is elected and he leads majorities in the House and Senate to repeal DOMA, eight judges in two states--California and Massachusetts--will have reversed 3,000 years of law and culture in the West." Peter Wehner criticizes Obama for equating support for traditional marriage with bigotry. "He has now taken a position that strikes me as fairly extreme: same-sex marriages ought to be imposed by the courts, even if the citizens of that state object–thereby making an already-contentious social issue even more contentious."

Needless to say, Obama's policy positions complicate his well-publicized efforts to gain evangelical support. It can't help his campaign that this letter went public just as he announced a beefed-up faith-based initiative.