In the November 2012 elections, voters in the four states where marriage equality was on the ballot all voted either to legalize marriage equality or overturn bans on same-sex marriage. For the first time in American history, a majority of Americans have indicated that they support same-sex marriage, and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Prop. 8 further suggest that the opposition to marriage equality may be a losing battle. Yet a new article by PRA Senior Fellow Frederick Clarkson asserts that these recent gains have not led the Christian Right to retreat from this issue.
Instead, the Christian Right has recommitted itself—not only to fighting marriage equality, but also to advancing antichoice measures and “defending religious liberty.” Critical to this renewed fight is an emerging alliance between Christian evangelicals and Catholics.
More than 250 Christian Right leaders have vowed that they will not back down in the face of what they view as defeats of “traditional marriage,” saying, “While there are many things we can endure, redefining marriage is so fundamental to the natural order and the true common good that this is the line we must draw and one we cannot and will not cross.”
The recent cooperation between Catholics and evangelicals in the United States challenges centuries of historical precedent, from the Protestant Reformation in Europe to JFK’s 1960 presidential campaign. This bridge-building is perhaps best encapsulated in the 2009 Manhattan Declaration, which further formalized the alliance between Roman Catholics and right-wing evangelical Protestants and outlined priorities around three primary areas: abortion, same-sex marriage, and religious liberty.
The document originally had 150 signatories, most of whom were men, and the style of the Declaration mimics the Declaration of Independence. Many of the original signers are affiliated with major right-wing think tanks, foundations, and/or other Christian Right institutions. For example, Robert P. George, who originated the document, has ties to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the Witherspoon Institute, the American Principles Project, and America Principles Action. Other signers are among the most prominent Christian Right leaders, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, James Dobson, Brian Brown, and the Rev. Harry Jackson Jr. Since its initial publication in 2009, more than half a million people have added their own signatures.
The popularity of the Manhattan Declaration and the growing strength of the Catholic-evangelical alliance provides a strong word of caution against arguments for a victory on gay rights. Eric Teetsel, the 29-year-old executive director of The Manhattan Declaration organization, claims, “[I] can’t help but think that the uniqueness of man-woman marriage will be adjudicated over time.” Christian Right evangelist Rick Warren also predicts that “the battle to preserve religious liberty for all, in all areas of life, will likely become the civil rights movement of this decade.” It is clear that Catholics and evangelicals are finding common ground on issues related to religious liberty, abortion, and same-sex marriage. As Clarkson notes in the conclusion of his article, “The movement is mobilizing its resources, forging new alliances, and girding itself to engage its enemies. It is also giving fair warning about its intentions. It may lose the long-term war, but whatever happens, one thing is certain: It won’t go down without a fight.”