More on Religious Freedom and Same Sex Marriage

| Mon May 4, 2009 4:00 PM EDT

A la Kevin's earlier post, we really do have lots to think about in terms of the fall out from same-sex marriage. I'm a supporter, but I have to admit, I'm having a hard time thinking through the externalities. Which is exactly what we must all do. From the op-ed at issue:

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Wedding advisors, photographers, bakers, caterers and other service providers who prefer to step aside from same-sex ceremonies for religious reasons also need explicit protection.
Some have argued that gay-marriage laws do not need such guarantees because they don't require religious objectors to do any particular thing. But new laws are interpreted in light of existing statutes, and Vermont and Connecticut—as well as all six states still considering same-sex marriage—have laws on the books prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Because of those laws, many people could have to choose between conscience and livelihood.

As for the last paragraph, cry me a river: The religious are always demanding that others 'respect' them. The sneer quotes are because what they're often demanding is deference, not respect. But I digress. If you can't choose between your Catholic et al conscience and a fewjobs lost from your livelihood, you damn sure better stop asking for my respect. One of the many reasons I don't go near the Southern Baptist church I was raised so deeply in is its unavoidable homophobia and racism. I do miss the music though and the community; I would go, with my kids, but for the bigotry. But either conscience trumps personal convenience or it doesn't.

Non-religiously, I had my resignation written within minutes when it looked like a commander was going to force my Air Force unit to listen to some Civil War reenacting Confederate give a talk (he not only didn't force us, he apologized. I skipped it, but did not protest the non-mandatoryevent and didn't ask which of my comrades went). I would have walked away from a then eleven year career without a backward glance when I was planning to stay to retirement. If Jesus doesn't mean more to you than my Captain's bars did to me, why are we even having this conversation?

But Andrew Sullivan, to whom Drum links, has nailed the issue: Should religious liberty trump non-discrimination laws? It's all I can do not to yell, "Hell yeah!" But it's important that we tread slowly in this area. It's a no-brainer that churches shouldn't have to officiate at same-sex marriages, but caterers, wedding singers and reception hall owners? Hmm. That's a hard one. (Civil registrars? No brainer. Do it 'civilly' or get fired.)

So far, I lean libertarian on this one, with Sullivan: I don't want some caterer making the sign of the evil eye in all my wedding photos, nor do I want to force someone to work for me (read: pay) who doesn't want to. This seems different from the lunch counters and department stores that wouldn't serve blacks but would sell them their goods to slink away with through the 'blacks only' back door. The hypocrisy and greed of that always galled me as much as the discrimination: if we're so heinous, why even take our money?

But remember the context: Our skin color marked us. Then racism segregated blacks and black businesses into specific, rigidly controlled zones. You had to go downtown, and take the segregated bus to get there, for many things. Segregation was unavoidable and racism widely accepted. I would argue that those things are much less true today viz homosexuals. Note also that this discussion is only about the wedding industry; pre- and post-nuptuals, the black-gay analogy mostly breaks down.

In 2009, caterers et al would suffer for their discrimination and gay/gay supporting customers flock to the non-discriminators. It might be better for gay 'testers' to set up websites and hold press conferences outing businesses that discriminate than sue to enforce the discrimination laws.

So, for now, I seem to think that religious liberty shouldn't trump anti-discrim laws but that the better strategy is to let them starve themselves out of business. Also known as reaping what you sow. Til now, these folks have socialized the cost of their discrimination; let's privatize it.

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