A small town near Chattanooga recently became the first Tennessee city to grant employee benefits to same-sex couples. The family members of a woman who helped lead the fight were given an ultimatum by a local Church of Christ: “They could repent for their sins and ask forgiveness in front of the congregation. Or leave the church.” Read the full Chattanooga Times Free Press article here.

By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

For most gay Americans in the 20th century, the church was a place of pain. It cast them out and called them evil. It cleaved them from their families. It condemned their love and denied their souls. In 2004, a president was elected when religious voters surged from their pews to vote against the legal recognition of gay relationships. When it came to gay rights, religion was the enemy.

A decade later, the story is very different. Congregations across the country increasingly accept, nurture, and even marry their gay brethren. Polls show majorities of major Christian denominations — including American Catholics, despite their church’s staunch opposition — support legal gay marriage. Read the full article here.

By Rachel Zoll, Associated Press

Evangelicals are being challenged to change their views of gays and lesbians, and the pressure isn’t coming from the gay rights movement or watershed court rulings. Once silent for fear of being shunned, more gay and lesbian evangelicals are speaking out about how they’ve struggled to reconcile their beliefs and sexual orientation. Read the full article here.

by ReligionLink

The U.S. Supreme Court has dealt two major setbacks to gay-marriage opponents and has given a further boost to those who support legal recognition of same-sex unions. The verdicts are drawing quick responses from religious voices on both sides and they have reignited the debate over morality and same-sex marriage.

In the June 26 rulings, a divided court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act and said those who challenged a ruling overturning California’s gay marriage ban, known as Prop 8, had no standing to appeal. That effectively opened the door to allowing gay marriage in California, though it would have no immediate effect in states that have not legalized same-sex marriage.

At this point, same-sex marriage seems increasingly ascendant in the court of public opinion, with polls showing a rapid rise in acceptance and particularly strong support among younger generations. Indeed, in recent months, as the Supreme Court justices have been deliberating, three more states have legalized gay marriage.

The public is even more accepting of gays and lesbians beyond the issue of civil rights. In May, NBA player Jason Collinsbecame the first male athlete in a major professional sport to come out as gay and he was widely embraced for his openness. Similarly, the Boys Scouts of America in May changed their long-standing policy to allow boys who are gay to be Scouts, though the organization stopped short of allowing gay Scout leaders.

In another development, Lutherans in California in May elected the first openly gay bishop in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

ReligionLink provides resources for reporters covering the court cases and their implications for both the civil and religious realms of society.