West Virginia State Lawmakers Silent on Effort to Redefine Marriage

February 7, 2014

marriageby Nathan A. Cherry

Not surprisingly the battle to redefine marriage in West Virginia has been kept relatively quiet. Most people, I would venture, don’t even know there is a challenge to our state’s DOMA law currently pending in federal court. The ability to keep “we the people” out of the loop regarding these critical issues is a tactic liberals employ as often as possible.

Nonetheless the effort to redefine marriage for all Mountaineers is being waged by Lambda Legal, a LGBT rights organization, on behalf of three same-sex couples. A federal judge ruled last week that the lawsuit against West Virginia’s ban on homosexual “marriage” may proceed.

Remember, back in 2010 the Family Policy Council of West Virginia sought to get an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot for voters to approve that would have defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. A couple of our most liberal lawmakers blocked that effort. Lawmakers supporting traditional marriage didn’t believe marriage was in danger of being redefined but said they would be first in line to defend traditional marriage should it ever be challenged.

Has anyone heard from a single lawmaker regarding the issue of marriage?

The lawsuit being allowed to move forward also seeks to overturn a state law requiring all marriage license applications to have the full name of the male and the female getting married; as well as the statement “marriage is designed to be a loving and lifelong union between a woman and a man.”

If marriage is not the “loving and lifelong union between a woman and a man,” what is it? The answer to that question is at the heart of liberal social ideology. If marriage is inherently the union of a man and woman then it naturally and absolutely excludes anyone not submitting to that reality. That fact is driving the effort to redefine marriage. Homosexual activists, liberal lawmakers, and progressives are not merely attempting to alter the perception of who can get married or what marriage looks like; they are seeking to erase it altogether.

Some are suggesting the best strategy is to give up the effort to defend the definition of marriage and seek to ensure adequate protections and freedoms for people of faith. The basic thought is “if you can’t beat them, amend them.”

Legal experts are suggesting that if the laws are crafted with adequate protections for people and organizations holding religious convictions objecting to marriage redefinition, that it’s the best of both worlds and everyone wins. This might ensure a temporary peace as both sides celebrate, but the long-term viability of this strategy is, in my opinion, doubtful. There will come a time when a homosexual couple feels “discriminated” against because the religious baker won’t bake them a cake, or the Christian photographer won’t take their pictures. The legal battle that will ensue as a result will place protections in jeopardy and could see them struck down.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention doesn’t agree with this strategy:

“I think it would be a mistake to abandon the fight for the definition of marriage. I think we should do both. One needn’t choose one or the other. The historical parallel would be the prolife movement, which includes both a constant articulation of why we should protect unborn children and women harmed by abortion, while at the same time, working for conscience protection for prolife conviction. So while we’re fighting for religious liberty, we’re articulating why we believe marriage is significant and important. And while we’re fighting for marriage, we’re articulating why the religious liberty concerns that inevitably come from these discussions are significant.”

Ultimately this seems like a strategy to provide a false sense of security to those objecting to marriage redefinition in the hopes of legalizing same-sex “marriage.” Once that happens, all bets will be off and Christians and others objecting will once again be targets. In the long run, as has been noted before, Christians and those with religious objections will lose.

With that said, there can be no doubt that protections are needed for a person adhering to religious convictions that marriage is between a man and a woman. While I am not willing to concede that complete redefinition is inevitable, I am not naïve enough to believe it is not possible. For this reason states must begin taking measures to protect the religious freedoms of those that do not believe marriage can be redefined or altered because of their religious convictions.

An article in Christianity Today identifies at least four layers of protections needed in order to adequately protect religious freedom.

The layers of protections begin with making sure clergy are adequately protected from violating their religious convictions in their ministry. Clergy have built-in Constitutional protections that others do not, but added measures are helpful in further securing their religious freedoms. Additional layers of protection include religious facilities that might possibly be rented to non-members, religious social services and universities and marriage counseling services, and finally is people of faith in the public sector or workplace.

These layers of protection are common sense and stay consistent with the meaning of the protections outlined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Our Founding Fathers would never have imagined forcing anyone to violate his or her religious convictions. So it’s easy to support and advocate for these protections. But that does not mean, as Russell Moore stated, that we abandon the fight to defend the traditional definition of marriage. It is that definition that has created the foundation for our country and altering it will only be to the detriment of our society.

Our state lawmakers have continually assured us that traditional marriage is safe in the Mountaineer state. And yet they appear to be taking no action now that a lawsuit to strike down our DOMA law and redefine marriage has come. The silence is deafening and revealing of their true intentions. Apparently, from the lack of action or even comment, our lawmakers have no intention of defending marriage. Except for our Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, who has continually defended traditional marriage, neither Governor nor anyone in the legislature has lifted one finger to defend marriage.

I believe the original ballot measure was blocked because our lawmakers knew that West Virginians would overwhelmingly vote to defend traditional marriage. Our lawmakers held our state constitution hostage and refused to grant our right to define marriage for ourselves because they did not want to live under the will of the people. This contempt for the people of West Virginia should be alarming to all of us.

In light of this, what will our lawmakers do now that the effort to redefine marriage has come to West Virginia?

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