2015 witnessed a Supreme Court decision ruling there was a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, a federal judge jailing a county clerk for refusing to issue licenses to gay couples and the public explosion of the transgender movement, but one of the key figures in the culture wars says 2016 could well be a year of Americans pushing back against the liberal agenda.
In June, years worth of political and legal battles found their way to the Supreme Court. By a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court ruled that the equal protections offered in the Constitution ought to establish a right to same-sex marriage.
The decision was not surprising given previous rulings by the same justices, but Liberty Counsel Chairman Mathew Staver says it was disgraceful nonetheless.
“Frankly, I don’t think it deserves any respect as the rule of law. It’s just the opinion of five justices. However, some people are playing the games of masquerade and assuming this is what the Constitution says. That will have a culture-changing impact at every level,” said Staver.
Although he refuses to honor the court ruling, Staver knows it is a huge moment in the battle over American morality. He says we have arrived at a major cultural crossroads.
“This is a culture clash of unprecedented proportions that we’ve now entered into. This will continue as we move into the new year,” he said. “It’s going to come up in every conceivable context” private schools, churches, universities, colleges, you name it. Every institution, every person of faith will have to address this issue.”
Staver would know. Weeks after the Supreme Court decision, he became counsel for Kim Davis, the clerk for Rowan County, Kentucky. Davis, a born-again Christian refused to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples, citing her freedom of conscience and free religious expression. The federal courts disagreed.
“Two months after this 5-4 opinion, the first Christian went to jail for her sincerely held religious beliefs,” said Staver. “Although she was the first, she certainly won’t be the last. It will not involve only public employees or public elected officials but certainly the private sector as well.”
Staver says the entire Davis saga could easily have been avoided, but the Democratic governor refused to take action to protect the rights of conscience.
“There was no accommodation that was given by the former governor, Steven Beshear, who is no longer in office. He refused to accommodate her so she made her own accommodation. When she returned to work, she refused to violate her conscience, so she removed her name and title from the license,” said Staver.
Beshear was replaced by tea party Republican Matt Bevin, who scored a large upset victory over Democrat Jack Conway.
“He became elected in large part because of the marriage issue and Kim Davis. He took the side of natural marriage and supports Kim Davis. He’s now been sworn into office and he’s already [issued] an executive order to protect the religious freedom of Kim Davis and other clerks like her,” said Staver.
On Dec. 23, Bevin ordered the removal of clerks’ names from marriage licenses throughout the commonwealth, the very same decision Davis made unilaterally earlier in the year.
Staver says the story of Gov. Bevin ought to be a lesson to national candidates as well.
“The candidates will have to address this issue. The voters will require that they address this issue,” said Staver, who believes pushing back is a winning issue for the GOP.
“The more and more the issue of same-sex marriage and the radical, so-called LGBT agenda moves forward, the more people will see how intolerant it is, how coercive it is. Kim Davis is just Exhibit A in that situation. I think most people will say, ‘This is not the kind of America we want to live in. This is not what we bargained for,’ and they’re going to push back,” said Staver.
Staver also believes the reputation of the nation’s courts is in peril. He says an upcoming ruling in high-profile abortion cases will be critical to how Americans view the courts.
“I think it’s pushing itself into the realm of illegitimacy. I think the same-sex marriage case pushed it across the line. I think if it goes the wrong way on the abortion or the contraception and the abortion-inducing drug mandate, I think that will finish off this court and people will just simply say, ‘We’re not going to obey people who just invent the law as they go,'” said Staver.
As the gay marriage debate reached a critical moment at the Supreme Court, the transgender movement also emerged much more publicly in 2015, led by Olympic decathlon champion Bruce Jenner announcing he identified as a woman named Caitlyn. Multiple television programs emerged to highlight the stories of Jenner and others.
“It is part of their whole movement to bring out this bizarre ‘I think, therefore I am’ concept. We always saw that in philosophy but now they’re actually trying to make that a reality, that if you think you’re a woman then you ought to be legally recognized and treated as a woman? It’s absolutely absurd,” said Staver.
Staver says it doesn’t take a deep faith to understand the deep flaws in embracing the movement.
“You cannot get used to something that pushes in your face and is a direct collision with your sincerely held religious beliefs and, frankly, objective, observable reality,” said Staver.
Staver admits 2015 was a difficult year for cultural conservatives but he says there is much more reason for hope than despair.
“We haven’t even begun to see this battle. This battle is far from over and, for me, I ultimately believe we will win this battle going forward,” said Staver.