Mark A. Smith is professor of Political Science and an adjunct professor of Comparative Religion and Communication at the University of Washington. His research focuses on economic and religious groups, ideas, and influences in American politics. In his new book, Secular Faith: How Culture Has Trumped Religion in American Politics, Dr. Smith argues that religion is not nearly the unchanging conservative influence in American politics that we have come to think it is and is best understood as responding to changing political and cultural values rather than shaping them.
Later this month, the Supreme Court will take up two important cases related to same-sex marriage. One, Hollingsworth v. Perry, will deal with the constitutionality of the state of California’s ban on gay marriage. The other, United States v. Windsor, tackles the constitutionality of the federal government’s Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The oral arguments in both cases will highlight the increasingly politically important issue of same-sex marriage, on which Americans are divided overall. As this week’s graphic shows, there are religious groups on both sides of the same-sex marriage debate.