NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Christian Examiner) -- As the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments next week regarding the legality of same-sex marriage, pollsters are busy gauging public opinion on the issue.
USA Today released poll results Sunday indicating the majority of those surveyed believe, by a 16 percent margin, it would be impractical for the nine justices to ban same-sex marriage due to the number of states (37) where it already is legal. While USA Today acknowledged that the majority of those states (26) were forced to change their practices due to federal courts overturning voter-initiated referendums, the newspaper also observed there has been a "tidal change" in public opinion on the issue.
USA Today's results were not broken out by state.
Regardless, David L. Allen, dean of the school of theology and professor of preaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, says opinion polls and the supposed "inevitability" of nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage do not matter when it comes to the correct Christian response to the issue.
"God's view of marriage in Scripture is clear and inviolable, regardless of what states or courts determine about gay marriage," Allen told Christian Examiner. His views also were carried in his blog.
"Since the gay lifestyle is condemned in Scripture, there can never be any situation where gay marriage should be considered biblically or morally correct." To claim otherwise, he added, is a "blatant denial" of the authority of Scripture.
USA Today's findings are consistent with poll results released last week by LifeWay Research.
The Southern Baptist entity found the proportion of U.S. adults who believe homosexual behavior "is a sin" dropped from 44 percent to 30 percent between 2011 and 2014.
Both polls identified knowing a gay or lesbian person as a major factor as to whether a person believes same-sex couples should be allowed to legally marry.
"When it comes to support for gay marriage, a lot of it depends on who you know," said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, via a press release. "Those who say they have gay or lesbian friends are the most open to gay marriage."
About 60 percent of this group said same-sex marriage should be legal. Among those who said they do not have a homosexual friend, only 33 percent of respondents approved.
The size effect of the "familiarity" factor is remarkable.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data in 2014 indicating only about 1.6 percent of the population called themselves homosexuals and another 0.7 percent self-identified as bisexual. Others chose "something else" or "I don't know the answer," and some simply declined to answer the question.
Overall, 96.6 percent claimed to be "straight."
EVANGELICALS AT ODDS
Stetzer noted that evangelicals are especially at odds with American public opinion.
"Culture is dramatically shifting on the issue," he said. "Yet, evangelicals are the most resistant group to that change."
Lifeway defines evangelicals as people who self-identify as born again, evangelical, or fundamentalist Christian. Only 30 percent of evangelicals who participated in their survey approve of legalizing same-sex marriage, although the number rises slightly to 38 percent among evangelicals who have gay and lesbian friends.
Allen said the research points to "a developing demarcation between those Christians and churches that are willing to stand for the truth and those who are willing to compromise the truth for the sake of expediency." The consequence for a church with an "undefined theology or an unwillingness to stand by biblical theology," he pointed out, is the loss of ability "to speak prophetically to culture."
Unfortunately, in order to increase marketing appeal "too many Christians and churches are more concerned about what the world thinks than what God thinks," he added.
In a previous LifeWay Research poll of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors, few indicated they would be willing to officiate same-sex ceremonies even if it becomes legal nationwide.
Allen said breaking from public opinion on this matter was a good thing.
"Actually, the more evangelicals are at odds with the culture over the issue of same-sex marriage," he said, "the better for evangelicals. Hopefully the world will learn what we stand for and why we stand for it. We are not homophobic but we are Christocentric.
"As the culture shifts in a more anti-Christian direction," he concluded, "Christians will have more opportunities to be the salt and light that Jesus intended for us to be."
JUDICIAL ACTIVISM AT PLAY
There are 22 states fighting for the right to define marriage as between one man and one woman.
-- Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia joined in signing on to the legal briefs for Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee in the cases now before the Supreme Court.
-- Two other states are engaged in defending voter-approved marriage amendments, just lower on the federal level: Nebraska has filed an appeal with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Florida's appeal is on hold with the 11th Circuit Court until the present Supreme Court case is concluded.
Same-sex marriage is legal now in 37 states plus the nation's capital, largely because of judicial activism:
-- 26 have had voter-approved amendments overturned by courts.
-- 13 still only allow marriage between one man and one woman. But among these, 10 have had a judge overturn the ballot measures and appeals are in progress.
-- 8 state legislatures passed laws making same-sex marriages legal (Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont).
-- Voters in Maine, Maryland and Washington approved measures to legalize gay unions, as did the electorate in the District of Columbia.
Alabama's traditional definition of marriage also was voided but the state's highest court has intervened to stop gay marriages.
Not surprisingly, court partisanship has been evident in the multiple federal court rulings that overturned voter approved amendments to define marriage in traditional terms. The trend of dramatic judicial support for homosexual marriage coincides with changes President Obama has been able to effect in the makeup of the courts, in particular the U.S. Courts of Appeals.
The New York Times reported Sept. 13, 2014, that for the first time in a decade "judges appointed by Democratic presidents considerably outnumber judges appointed by Republican presidents" and that Democratic appointees who hear full cases "now hold a majority of seats on nine of the 13 United States Courts of Appeals." Eight of those nine, now liberal courts, were reshaped by the president during his six years in office. Only the 9th Circuit in San Francisco was predominately liberal when he won election.
Four remain solidly conservative, including the 5th (New Orleans, Louisiana), 6th (Cincinnati, Ohio), 7th (Chicago, Illinois) and 8th (St. Louis, Missouri).