Roe v. Wade created social upheaval of historic proportions. The five justices who just ruled in favor of same-sex marriage show the Supreme Court has learned nothing in the intervening 42 years.
Who was impacted by Roe? The abortionist whose trade was now legal. The pregnant woman in crisis, who was abandoned and pushed toward the clinic door. Most of all the child whose life was now deemed unworthy of legal protection, who could not dissent or fight back. And our culture has been wounded by the millions of private acts that caused the loss of tens of millions of children – our heritage, our hope, and our future.
But what the Court has done this time is overtly public and requires public participation in a significant way. So much of life involves marriage. Everyone, whether married or not, “participates” in the social institution of marriage.
With Roe, you could continue vehemently to disagree with the legalized killing of unborn children – in a very public way. You could teach your children about the dignity and worth of every human life and form societies to do the same. You could protest outside abortion clinics and statehouses. You could pass state laws to help women know the truth about what they were about to do and to make ruthless abortionists more accountable.
But after today’s ruling, if you don’t approve of same-sex marriage and you are a legislator, your voice has been silenced. If you don’t accept it and you’re a court clerk, you must perform the ceremony or resign your position. If you don’t like it and you’re a public schoolteacher, must you promote it or be fired?
These can be thought of as the secondary effects of today’s ruling, and it is impossible to predict their full reach – particularly because so much depends on who occupies the positions of governmental power that could bring them to bear on the rest of us.
If your sincere beliefs prevent you from bending the knee, what recourse will you have to publicly speak out in defense of yourself, your family, your beliefs? Will your public protests come to be viewed as hate speech?
If you are a Christian baker, florist, banquet hall owner, printer – can you decline to participate in a same-sex wedding? If you are a Christian psychologist, is your license yanked if you help a client suffering because of unwanted same-sex attraction?
If you are a religious school, may you decline to house same-sex couples in your married student housing and keep your tax exempt status?
If you are a church which declines to perform same-sex marriages, will your property taxes remain exempt? Will the contributions on which you depend diminish because they are no longer deemed charitable contributions?
If the power to tax is the power to destroy, the Supreme Court has just given President Obama the power to destroy churches and institutions that do not support his “evolved” position on marriage.
All the ways in which the government provides benefits to citizens and institutions are now potentially subject to forced participation in the Court’s same-sex marriage edict. Every tax exemption, every license, everything “granted” by the government can be made conditional on embracing same-sex marriage. After all, it can be said that a professional or institution with beliefs that run contrary to this new constitutional right is un-American, a bad public actor, acting against the public interest.
The secondary effects of the Court’s ruling depend on who holds the power. Particularly, who sits in the White House. The president appoints the heads of agencies; these men and women will either respect or attack Americans who want to live and work according to their beliefs in marriage.
At the same time, a new president might appoint justices who could return this profound social issue to the hands of the people, where it belongs.
Until then, conservatives will not accept this ruling any more than we have accepted Roe. The future of our country, of marriage, and of our children demands no less.
Cathy Ruse, J.D., former chief counsel of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, is Senior Fellow for Legal Studies at the Family Research Council.