County clerks in Southern states that had struck a defiant tone on same-sex marriage began issuing marriage licenses to gay couples Monday, with state leaders pledging to protect the religious liberties of county workers who oppose such unions…

But many counties across the region said they were not ready to comply with the Supreme Court ruling that declared marriage a constitutional right for all Americans, with at least some waiting for firmer guidance from their state attorneys general. And some state leaders advised county officials that they may opt out of their duties if they have a religious objection to same-sex marriage…

“I’m aware of no general legal doctrine or precedent holding that county or other public officials are exempt from abiding by rights articulated by the Supreme Court in the event the religious beliefs of those public employees are in conflict with the federal right,” said Daniel Pinello, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York…

“If we come to the point where you can’t run for public office [because] you have to do something that goes against your convictions, what that’s saying is that Christians no longer have a right to serve in public office, and I think that’s wrong,” said Joe Godfrey, executive director of the Alabama Citizens Action Program.

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Polling generally suggests that same-sex marriage is not a top issue for most voters. A February CNN/ORC survey found that just 17 percent of Americans said the issue of gay marriage would be “extremely important” in choosing a candidate to support for president — the lowest of any of nine issues tested.

But digging deeper provides a different perspective. Beyond the importance voters place upon it directly, gay marriage may have symbolic power because of the messages it sends to voters about the parties…

In the Republican column, the coefficient for gay marriage is large and negative, meaning that supporting it substantially reduces the likelihood that someone will identify as Republican. In fact, based on the regressions, the only variable more predictive of Republican identification is whether a person believes health care coverage is the government’s responsibility. Gay marriage is more important than classic “wedge issues” like guns or abortion in predicting whether someone identifies as a Republican…

That suggests that there are voters Republicans aren’t getting because of gay marriage, and it’s why Republicans who have their eye on the general election, like Bush, want to move on from the subject.

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From income-tax breaks to estate planning benefits to Social Security and insurance benefits to the right to make medical decisions for one’s spouse, there are all kinds of carrots dangled in front of Americans as rewards for getting hitched. Instead of putting unmarried individuals on equal footing with married people, the government has chosen to appease the masses by blessing another category of monogamous couples with the privileges of marriage—those of the same sex.

This is discrimination, plain and simple. It discriminates against single people who have no formal romantic relationships and a growing number of people who identify as polyamorous, who maintain multiple romantic relationships at once. The government has no business incentivizing any type of romantic or non-romantic behavior. It has no business rewarding us or penalizing us based on our relationship status…

Since we’ve discovered polyamory, we don’t care about new houses or new cars or vacations. What really makes us tick is the idea of falling in love, over and over and over again. Now, we have the best of both worlds: the security of a steady, stable partner, to have and to hold, and the sense of adventure and excitement at the thought of the unknown, the possibility of new romance around every corner, the butterflies in our stomachs we never thought we’d get the chance to feel again.

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Some have also suggested that polygamous marriage should have a greater claim to legitimacy than same-sex marriage since it is far more rooted in history. But that argument misses a key factor in the cultural shift on same-sex marriage: gender equality as a central value of modern society. Historical polygamy is strongly linked to male dominance and female subjection—while monogamy arguably formed the basis of the transition from patriarchal authority to companionate partnership that eventually paved the way for same-sex unions.

Despite the dire warnings of gay marriage critics and the pleadings of polygamy supporters, the logic of same-sex marriage does not inevitably lead to multi-partner marriage. Slate columnist William Saletan has argued that the key number is not two but one: “You commit to one person, and that person commits wholly to you.” (The word “monogamy” is derived from the word root for “one,” not “two.”)

Logic aside, the prospective success of multi-partner marriage depends on whether the public mood will shift to support it, the way it has for same-sex marriage. Will such an evolution happen? It would likely a much tougher uphill battle, not least because “I want to make a full commitment to the person I love” is a far more sympathetic claim than “my needs are unfulfilled in a sexually exclusive relationship.” If social liberals in the academy and the media decide to champion non-monogamy as the next frontier of liberation and equality, they could make some headway in promoting acceptance of such lifestyle choices. But the likely result would be a new conflagration in the culture wars—particularly since, this time around, these choices do affect other people’s marriages.

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I actually thought it was a virtue that I couldn’t get married, and I still do. Because the state and society wouldn’t accept gay couples, the gay community had to come up with their own ways of codifying their existence. Wedding announcements for same sex couples ran in gay papers, some gay couples adopted each other so that there would be some official recognition of their union, and enterprising couples looking for a big party founded the “commitment ceremony” (which sounded like it would be held for someone involuntarily entering an asylum). More important, not having a standard set of behaviors to pattern ourselves after, gay relationships became more varied. Each couple had to talk about what they expected of each other, who was able to have sex with whom, and just what the boundaries and expectations were for this union.

That’s what I loved about being gay. We didn’t need the state, the church, our parents, or Emily Post telling us how we should live our wedded lives; we were making it up as we went along and finding new configurations and arrangements that worked for each individual couple rather than a one-size-fits-all approach to marriage that is so stifling it has lead to the skyrocketing divorce rate.

Now that is all gone, or at least on its way out.

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I’ve supported same-sex marriage ever since I first heard the idea. And when I became a political columnist in the early 2000s—despite being the “conservative” at a good-sized newspaper—I was the only one at the paper (as far as I can recall) who unequivocally backed gay marriage publicly. Though I wasn’t gullible enough to believe I’d be persuading many readers, I was gullible enough to believe that my allies in the cause were merely concerned with “equality.”

As we dig out from the avalanche of half-baked platitudes about “love being love” and watch alleged news organizations and the White House adorn themselves in cheerful rainbows, we can look forward to the self-righteous mobs that will be defaming anyone who is reluctant to embrace the state’s new definition of marriage. Love is love, except when a person loves their God and follows the principles of their faith, evidently…

How many backers of theoretical gay marriage will regret the reality of gay marriage? As a matter of policy, it doesn’t matter much anymore. And I have no moral qualms about same-sex marriage itself. I don’t believe it destabilizes the institution or ruins the lives of children. Then again, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum, either. If same-sex marriage isn’t just a pathway to happiness, freedom, and equality for gay citizens, but a way to pummel religious Americans into submission, it will be a disaster.

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In short, there is nothing live-and-let-live about the way this movement has operated the past few years, and to pretend otherwise requires a willful blindness. Now, with Obergefell, the full furies have been released.

As Justice Samuel Alito suggested in his dissent, thousands of Americans who never dreamed that the issue would affect them will soon get highly personal lessons in how the legalization of same-sex marriage by judicial fiat threatens their schools, their institutions and even their livelihoods. This is not your father’s culture war.

A century ago, another Supreme Court justice famously wrote that the Constitution “is made for people of fundamentally differing views.” How far we have traveled since.

Those seeking to crush all dissent from the new judicial orthodoxy on marriage will not always win, not least because the right to the free exercise of religion—in bald contrast to Mr. Kennedy’s right to dignity—is in fact in the Constitution. Still, however individual cases may turn out, by foreclosing the option for democratic debate and compromise the Supreme Court has ensured a bitter national harvest.

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[T]he civility of our society may now depend on the willingness of the winners to lay down their arms by not engaging in the use of government force against those that disagree with them. After so many years of enduring the brunt of vicious attacks by anti-gay activists, this may seem like a lot to ask. “An eye for an eye” may be the justification for advocating laws that penalize those with anti-gay views. Such an approach is wrong and shortsighted. The war to end discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens wasn’t won with laws, it was won with love.

This is a pivotal moment. The end of hundreds of years of brutality and discrimination against gay and lesbian people is within sight. A bright future is possible where people of differing sexual orientations can live as equals and friends. That future can be achieved most quickly if gay equality advocates resist the temptation to use laws and coercion against those who disagree with them. In other words, treat opponents exactly the opposite of how gay and lesbian citizens were treated for hundreds of years: by treating them as you, yourself, would like to be treated. By being loving and compassionate.

By setting an example of tolerance and civility. It is this weapon, the golden rule, that brought down government discrimination. And it can further advance a more civil and just society.

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I am to the left of the people I have been describing on almost all of these social issues. But I hope they regard me as a friend and admirer. And from that vantage point, I would just ask them to consider a change in course…

Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.
Consider a different culture war, one just as central to your faith and far more powerful in its persuasive witness…

The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

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I actually think the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday hurts the Republicans in 2016. I think a lot of people whose votes they need will throw up their hands and walk away. They see a lot of Republican politicians declaring it time to move on. They see 300 Republicans, a lot of them from George W. Bush’s administration, supporting the decision. These cultural conservatives think it is time to get out of Dodge while the getting is good.

The 300 Republicans who wanted this case to go away as a political issue, might find that the base they have relied on goes away with it. They will not expand their base with black and hispanic voters as small government, cultural liberals. They will lose more of their base as they move away from cultural conservatism altogether.

Here is what I would say, though, to the conservatives thinking of departing for broad fields, no neighbors, and a life of small town values. The wildfire is burning. But, whether you think it nature or God, nature has a way of exerting itself and wildfires eventually run out of fuel or get rained on

American society has lost its mind. It has come unmoored. Deviant is normal and celebrated. Right is ridiculed. Evil is good and good is evil. These things sort themselves out over time.

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All of this is worrisome, and all of it should be resisted, but none of it represents an existential threat to the church. The only real threat is surrender — caving to the cultural, legal, and political forces demanding conformity. The church can and will survive persecution. It will not survive faithlessness. This is both a theological and historical truth…

Defiance, however, means more than merely ensuring that your church or your Christian school doesn’t change its policies. It means more than still donating to your church even if the day comes when you can’t deduct the contribution. It means a willingness to lose your job, your prosperity, and the respect of your peers. It means saying no every time you are compelled to applaud or participate in the sexual revolution. It means standing beside fellow Christians who face persecution or job loss — not just shaking your head and thinking, “There, but for the grace of God . . . ” It means having the courage to proclaim an opposing message — even during mandatory diversity training, even when you fear you might lose your job, and even when you’re terrified about making your mortgage payment. And through it all, it means being kind to your enemies — blessing those who persecute you…

Even in the U.S., Christians who’ve not yet faced these tests likely will, and soon. When they do, it is the church’s responsibility to ensure that they not do so alone. As the church stands, it must remember that our present troubles are meaningless compared to the deadly challenges facing the church in the Middle East. And, always, we must remember who controls our destiny…

God will always preserve his people. All we have to fear are our own buckling knees.

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