EDITORS' NOTE: This is the eighth story in a series examining the national debate over same-sex "marriage." The series appears in Baptist Press each Friday.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--It was a star-studded wedding few will soon forget. Al Gore was there. So was his wife Tipper. Producer Steven Spielberg made an appearance, as did actor Tom Hanks and actress Jennifer Aniston.
The bride wore white. The other bride did, too.
Viewers of ABC's "In Style Celebrity Weddings" Jan. 19 witnessed a slew of traditional weddings -- as well as one not so traditional. The final "wedding" of the night was one between two women, singer Melissa Etheridge and actress Tammy Lynn Michaels. They kissed. They cut the cake. Everyone applauded.
Of course, same-sex "marriage" isn't legal in California -- where the event took place -- or in any of the other 49 states.
Details, though, didn't matter.
"I think it shows how far we've come when we can put a wedding like theirs on a prime-time show," In Style's Cortney Lumpkin told KSAT-TV in Los Angeles. "It shows how much more open we are as individuals."
It's not the first time prime time television has sided with homosexual activists.
Last year CBS's "Amazing Race" reality program featured two men -- Reichen and Chip -- who were touted as "married." They weren't, but viewers weren't told. (Incidentally, they broke up shortly after winning the contest.)
Conservatives say such programs contribute to what they call the "normalization" of homosexuality. As the theory goes, an objectionable behavior tends to lose its offensiveness through constant exposure. Over time, people become numb.
Conservatives wonder: If same-sex "marriage" is legalized, how much worse can it get?
In 1982 Gallup found that only 34 percent of people said that homosexuality should be considered "an acceptable alternative lifestyle." Last July, it had jumped to 46 percent.
Peter Sprigg, director of the Family Research Council's Center for Marriage and Family Studies, said legalization of same-sex "marriage" would be homosexual activists' biggest victory yet.
"[M]ost of the homosexual agenda to this point has been about gaining special protections, but marriage is really about gaining official affirmation and celebration and subsidization of their relationships," he told Baptist Press.
Sprigg believes Americans who have an "it's not going to bother me" attitude are in for a rude awakening. Those with no opinion on same-sex "marriage" -- a Gallup poll showed that 23 percent of Americans were in that category -- also might be surprised.
The legalization of same-sex "marriage" would affect everything from what is taught in public schools to what is required from businesses both big and small.
Small-town newspapers could be sued if they refuse to run a same-sex wedding announcement. Small-town public schools could be pressured to hold "diversity day" education programs.
Schoolchildren nationally would be told that traditional households are no different from same-sex households. Businesses giving benefits to their married employees would be required to extend those benefits to same-sex couples -- perhaps even if they have a religious objection.
Bridal magazines, Oprah-type television programs and newspaper advice columns would cater to same-sex couples.
Same-sex "marriage," Sprigg said, would impact every aspect of society.
"I think a lot of people have not thought through the implications of this all the way," he said.
Randy Thomasson, founder and executive director of the Campaign for California Families, has been battling homosexual activists on the West Coast for years, trying to curtail their victories however he can.
It's been a tough fight. Today in California it's against the law to discriminate against "transsexual" employees -- for example, male employees who dress like women.
"People shake their heads at California," he told BP. "I as a Californian shake my head at people in other states who think that it can't happen where they live."
Several years ago a film company released "It's Elementary" a high-quality video documentary -- friendly to the same-sex cause -- showing how the homosexual agenda can be introduced into public schools. In one scene a girl stands up before her third-grade class and reads an essay, saying: "Although having two mothers is a problem to others, I respect that that's the way they think and I can't do anything about it. I still think that those people think stupidly." She concludes: "I am proud of my moms and enjoy marching in the gay pride march every single year with my moms."
The teacher and students applaud.
Christians and traditionalists fear that similar scenes will become the norm across America if same-sex "marriage" is legalized.
"If the full rights of civil marriage are given to homosexual couples, then they will have to be treated the same way in every aspect of society that deals with marriage," Sprigg said. "That means that school curriculum that deals with marriage and family life will have to include same-sex 'marriage' as an alternative fully as valid as opposite-sex marriage. And I think that would be troubling to most Americans."
If that happens, Thomasson said, then the battle for the future will be in jeopardy.
Already, young adults and teenagers view same-sex "marriage" more favorably than the general population. A Gallup poll last October found that 53 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds support same-sex "marriage." For the general population, polls show that around 60 percent oppose it.
"The homosexual activists know that whoever captures the kids owns the future," Thomasson said. "We need parental choice in education to recapture the children from the liberal education establishment that promotes homosexual behavior more than [it promotes] reading, writing and arithmetic."
But legalization would affect more than the school system. It would affect businesses, too, as thousands of employers would be forced to extend legal benefits to same-sex couples. For some businesses, that would not be a big deal. But for others, it would be.
"If you are a small business owner who has traditional values and would prefer to limit your benefits to opposite-sex couples, you probably won't have that option anymore," Sprigg said. "When we talk about rights for homosexuals, most of the rights that they are demanding are things that come into conflict with other peoples' rights."
It could even impact a large religious business such as a Christian publishing house.
"It's possible that they might have homosexual employees," he said. "They function as a for-profit organization -- not strictly as a ministry, and yet they may want to reflect their religious views in some ways. It could conceivably influence an organization like that."
In arguing for same-sex "marriage," the Human Rights Campaign and other homosexual activists draw a distinction between "secular" and "religious" marriage, saying that government-sanctioned marriage wouldn't interfere with religious institutions.
But that is not true, Sprigg and Thomasson noted. If same-sex "marriage" is legalized, they said, its impact will be far-reaching.
"When homosexuals win the right to marriage, they are going to interfere with the rights of anybody else to disapprove of their behavior," Sprigg said.
"Up until now, the homosexual activists have been re-defining rights one by one," he said. "So-called gay marriage would be like reaching the summit of Mount Everest for them. Getting what they want after that is a lot easier."
Full acceptance, and not simply tolerance, is the goal of homosexual activists, Sprigg said.
"When they talk about the financial benefits and the legal benefits, I think for the most part that's just a smokescreen," he said. "The real reason why this is a big issue for them is because they want the official and formal affirmation.
"That's what marriage is -- it's the ultimate affirmation of a sexual relationship. Marriage is the institution in which we not only tolerate people having sex and having children, but we encourage it and celebrate it as a society. And that's what they want for themselves."
For more information on the battle over same-sex "marriage," visit BP's story collection at:http://www.bpnews.net/bpcollectionnews.asp?ID=39