A Day That Will Live in
Infamy--May 17 in Massachusetts
by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr.
May 17, 2004
mile-markers in time, certain calendar dates stand in memory as
not only historic, but momentous. Dates like December 7, 1941 and
September 11, 2001 represent far more than mere days on a calendar.
Now, May 17, 2004 must be added to that list.
Why? Because today--by the unilateral decision of
activist judges--the State of Massachusetts will legalize same-sex
marriages. This is a day that will live in moral infamy. Civilization
itself has been attacked by forces that would redefine marriage,
normalize homosexuality, and transform our understanding of family,
gender, parenthood, and human relationships.
According to press reports, homosexual couples began
lining up outside government offices as early as Saturday night.
Just as the clock struck 12:01 a.m. in Cambridge, city officials
began issuing same-sex marriage licenses. Though Massachusetts has
a three-day waiting period, judges were expected to issue waivers
to allow homosexual couples to marry on Monday.
Cambridge--a notoriously liberal community that
is home to Harvard University--was the only Massachusetts city to
open its offices Sunday night in order to issue marriage licenses
to same-sex couples. First in line were Susan Shepherd and Marcia
Hams, a lesbian couple who have lived together for 27 years. "It's
a little overwhelming to be the poster child for gay marriage,"
said Shepherd. In Boston, the first same-sex marriage licenses were
reserved for three of the plaintiff couples in the case that eventually
led to today's cultural watershed.
All this takes place after the Massachusetts General
Assembly had passed a proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting
same-sex marriages. When the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
handed down its infamous Goodridge decision last November mandating
same-sex marriages, public outcry forced the legislature to act.
Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney also opposes same-sex marriage,
and he sought an emergency stay from the Supreme Judicial Court
in order to allow the people of Massachusetts to make their will
known, rather than base such a momentous act on seven judges who
voted 4-3 in their decision. Even if passed by vote of the people,
a constitutional amendment cannot take effect until 2006.
Appeals to federal courts were unsuccessful, as
the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene on Friday. Another federal
appeals court is scheduled to rule on the issue in early June, but
few expect that court to stop the marriage licenses from being issued.
As expected, the religious enablers of the homosexual
movement were celebrating this "victory" and getting themselves
ready for a week of busy wedding schedules. In Cambridge, a multi-faith
service called "Blessings on the Eve of History" was held
at the historic Christ Church on Sunday night. According to The
Washington Post, the service featured ministers and rabbis fanning
out in the congregation to bless homosexual couples. In the sermon,
Rev. Steven Charleston acknowledged that opponents of same-sex marriage
believe such unions "will end civilization as they know it."
He continued: "Perhaps they are right." The Post reported
that the congregation greeted that line with "wild applause."
The Unitarian Universalist Association--the far-left
religious body headquartered in Boston--announced its intention
to make history by marrying large numbers of same-sex couples as
quickly as possible. Today, the group's president, Rev. William
G. Sinkford, is scheduled to officiate at the marriage of Hillary
and Julie Goodridge, the lead couple in the court decision that
now bears their name. The Unitarian Universalist congregation in
Littleton held a special "Freedom to Marry Sunday" on
May 16, opening the service with trumpet fanfares and testimonies
from gay couples.
The state's Episcopalians, on the other hand, should
not be performing same-sex marriages, at least if they obey their
three bishops. All three are supporters of homosexual marriage,
but they have forbidden their priests to marry gay couples out of
concern for the larger church. In response, Rev. Carter Heyward,
a professor at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, announced
plans to defy the bishops and perform same-sex marriages. She was
one of eleven women who were irregularly ordained in 1974, when
the Episcopal Church did not ordain women. She told The Boston Globe
that her rebellion against the bishops was a form of "constructive
What will all this mean for Massachusetts, for the
nation, and for marriage? The media will show the nation a mass
of smiling couples today--basking in their newly-declared "right"
to marry. Commentators will describe this historic day as a monument
on the road to the full liberation of homosexuals, the complete
normalization of homosexuality, and the total flexibility of marriage.
Where is the harm?, they will ask.
The harm is first to the institution of marriage
itself. Today, the State of Massachusetts joins the Netherlands,
Belgium, and three provinces of Canada as the only major jurisdictions
where homosexual couples can marry. If this decision stands, marriage
will never be the same again. Humanity's most venerable and cherished
institution has been redefined by a secular elite in the name of
liberation--and it will inevitably be destroyed in the process.
The Massachusetts court ruled that marriage should
be seen as a basically secular institution, and thus is open to
secular reinterpretation and redefinition. But this logic ignores
the fact that church and state have shared a common understanding
of marriage at the basic level--that it is the union of a man and
a woman. That stands no more. From this point onward, the believing
church must know that its definition of marriage is not shared by
the state. This will lead to truly tragic levels of confusion--and
perhaps even to coercion.
C. S. Lewis rightly described the Christian understanding
of marriage as "based on Christ's words that a man and his
wife are to be regarded as a single organism." As he continued,
"The male and the female were to be combined together in pairs,
not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined."
Marriage was given to humanity at creation, when
God instituted marriage as the most basic unit of human civilization--the
most fundamental building block of society. Marriage regulates sexuality,
provides the man and woman with protection and partnership, and
creates context for procreation and the successful raising of children.
Marriage creates the household and establishes the family unit.
Without marriage, social and sexual anarchy are set loose, and human
suffering will inevitably follow.
None of this will be obvious in the media coverage
today. Instead, reporters and analysts will tell the nation that
happy couples were joined in homosexual marriages--and that marriage
still stands. It will, of course--at least for a time. But, like
a crack that begins in the corner of a window and then slowly spreads
across the pane, marriage will suffer the slow death of a thousand
insults. Once marriage no longer means the union of a man and a
woman, it can and will mean anything. Once it means anything, it
means nothing. Only those who define marriage by a transcendent
standard will retain the cherished memory of what marriage once
was--and among biblical Christians, what marriage must always be.
A conservative, said Russell Kirk, "is a person
who sees human society as an immortal contract between God and man,
and between the generations that are dead, and the generation that
is living now, and the generations which are yet to be born."
We now witness the breaking of this immortal contract. The State
of Massachusetts--ruled by a tiny elite of activist judges and encouraged
by a brigade of renegade religious leaders--will now break the contract
that would receive marriage from our ancestors and pass it on intact
to our children and to our children's children.
This is a day that will live in moral infamy. The
attacks on Pearl Harbor, New York, and Washington awakened the nation
to peril and called citizens to action. That must happen once again,
as millions of Americans must now awaken to the fact that an out-of-control
judiciary and an army of social engineers are forcing their will
upon us. If the Massachusetts decision is allowed to stand, this
nation faces nothing less than moral disaster. America is now a
nation at war with itself, and with marriage.