How Americans Said I Do to Gay “Marriage”

A small but ambitious group of activists committed to the “long game” changed the landscape of marriage.


John Stonestreet

In 2012, 31% of those who attended religious services weekly supported same-sex “marriage.” According to recent Gallup polling data, that number is now 41%. Across the general population, support sits at over 70%.  

In a WORLD News article earlier this month, Dr. Rosaria Butterfield described how “a moral revolution,” instigated by activists committed to playing the “long game,” was so effective. Specifically, Dr. Butterfield underscored the impact of a book published in 1989. In After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the ’90s, neuropsychologist Marshall Kirk and advertising executive Hunter Madsen outlined a game plan to change how homosexuality was viewed. Part of this plan was to normalize same-sex “marriage” for Americans, especially Christians.  

The game plan, as described by Dr. Butterfield, was simple and straight forward. First, Kirk and Madsen advised activists to be on their best behavior and to focus attention on the victimization of gays and lesbians: “The authors declared it in plain English: no public sex and no gay disturbances until gay marriage is the law, and Christians see us as victims.” To accomplish this, activists needed to identify “easy-to-manipulate churches” who would capitulate and “promote the idea that gays are victims.”  

Second, Kirk and Madsen directed activists to redirect the issue at hand from “gay rights” to “anti-discrimination.”   

Third, activists would also need to claim or invent a “noble history” for gays and lesbians. According to Dr. Butterfield, “Anyone single, over 40, and dead could be marshaled to the cause as a gay forbear.” 

Finally, Kirk and Madsen said, activists should “make victimizers look bad.” For example, “hysterical backwoods preachers” should be compared to Nazis and distinguished “from open-minded pluralists and liberal, loving pastors.” 

According to Dr. Butterfield, “Kirk and Madsen’s book was considered seminal reading for gay activists. It was the road map. The game plan.” In fact, Sean McDowell and I also described the importance of After the Ball in our book Same-Sex Marriage, which was published back in 2014. At the time, we were told that the notion that there was a plan was ridiculous, and that After the Ball was insignificant and largely unknown. 

However, within 30 years of the book’s publication, Kirk and Madsen’s vision has been largely fulfilled. The Supreme Court assisted with two landmark decisions. In Obergefell v. Hodges, same-sex “marriage” was mandated on the country and “the legal definition of harm (expanded) to now include failure to ‘affirm’ one’s LGBTQ identity.” In Bostock v. Clayton County, the Court expanded its interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights act to include LGBTQ identities.  

Despite these Supreme Court wins, however, the activism continues, and Dr. Butterfield explained why: This movement was never really about legalizing same-sex “marriage.” As she wrote, “the campaign for gay marriage was always a moral revolution, not a legal one.”  

Even so, this revolution can never (and will never) provide the liberation it promises. That’s because it does not align with reality. It is based on a lie about the world we live in and the kind of creature that humans are. As Dr. Butterfield put it, 

Activists thought the freedom to marry meant freedom from that quiet internal soul-whisper that something isn’t right. They were fooled into believing that contrary voices came from the outside, from Christians and rednecks, when in fact it was baked in at the Creation. 

Freedom cannot be found by calling evil good. It is found by living in the truth. So, if true liberation is to be had, it won’t be through a church that continues to morally devolve on these issues. It will be through a church committed to the biblical account of reality and the human person. 

We must not be distracted by the vitriol and danger of our day. We must bring the gospel to those people who have become casualties of the LGBTQ movement, including Christian parents whose adult children have cut them off. And we must labor as Christian statesmen, speaking truth to school boards and legislatures, actively speaking boldly in the public sphere, and trusting Christ with the consequences. Should the Lord bless our work, we will see reformation in our churches, revival in our land, and freedom through repentance and faith of those currently captive and enslaved to homosexuality. Even as the whole world rages, our labor is not in vain. 


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