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DOMA Decision Spells Doom for Old Time Religion

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Defenders of Old Time Religion, take heed. Justice Antonin Scalia gives you fair warning. In a DOMA dissent steeped in wormwood and gall, he makes this prediction:

As far as this Court is
concerned, no one should be fooled; it is just a matter of
listening and waiting for the other shoe.
By formally declaring anyone opposed to same-sex
marriage an enemy of human decency, the majority arms
well every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to
its traditional definition. Henceforth those challengers
will lead with this Court's declaration that there is "no
legitimate purpose" served by such a law, and will claim
that the traditional definition has "the purpose and effect
to disparage and to injure" the "personhood and dignity"
of same-sex couples.

Those scare quotes are meant to remind the reader that so far as Hizonner is concerned, same-sex couples are altogether unfit to associate with the straight race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they have no rights a straight man is bound to respect.

Scalia is right -- not about the inferiority of same-sex couples, of course, but about the inevitability of equal rights. The other shoe will drop, and it will squash Old Time Religion.

Having bound themselves so tightly to rightwing politics, fundamentalists, evangelicals, and the Catholic hierarchy are doomed to lose and lose big.

The rise of the Nones is by now a well-worn story. Less well understood is how hard this is hitting Old Time Religion. One Back-to-the-Bible thumper claims that 70 percent of kids raised in evangelical churches drop out after graduating from high school. He figures the churches are being too soft on the kids.

Well, evangelicals can crank up the fire and brimstone all they want, but it's not going to work. Young people know lesbians and gays. They know that the anti-gay propaganda videos -- "Homosexuality is more dangerous than smoking!" -- are biblical baloney, they know that "gay cures" are bunk, and most important they know that LGBT people are just like them, differing only in sexual orientation. They can't believe a just God would arbitrarily condemn his own creatures to eternal torture just for loving someone of their own sex.

The Catholic Church can still save itself. The new Pope has shown some ambivalence about the Vatican's ultraconservative stances. But despite his exalted title, he's just one man, and the hierarchy appears more likely rely on its growing base in among the poor, uneducated masses of Africa and other impoverished portions of the world than to live up to the hopes of its enlightened laity.

What of the rest of religion? This is surely a moment of opportunity for a Good Faith Alliance. At a celebration of the Supreme Court's repudiation of DOMA, I stood on the steps of the Capitol in Lincoln, Nebraska, shoulder to shoulder with Steve Griffith, a minister of the United Methodist Church, in celebration of the DOMA decision. Steve and his church have been pivotal players in the effort to pass and sustain a Fairness Ordinance in Lincoln. The author of the ordinance, City Councilman Carl Eskridge, is also a minister. He too was there, pledging a fresh campaign to reinstate the ordinance. As one of many nonreligious people present, I was only too pleased to pledge my support.

To New Yorkers, San Franciscans, and other metropolitanos, these may just appear to be small-city politics. But the story will be writ large across the nation. In decades past, "defense of marriage" ballot initiatives brought out religious primitives in droves. Now, propelled by this DOMA decision, equal rights initiatives at state and local levels will bring a whole new generation of fair-minded voters to the polls. It might even lead to a new and more enlightened resurgence of faith.