Same-Sex Marriage Does Not Impact Religious Liberty

Becky & Kori, married. Love is love.

On Election Day 2012, four states, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington will all have marriage equality on their ballots. Maryland, Maine and Washington would be the first states to enact marriage equality through voter referendums. In Minnesota, the issue on the ballot is an anti-gay marriage equality constitutional amendment.

Many of the “religious liberty” or “religious freedom” arguments against same-sex marriage equality depict scenarios using threatening language:

“Homosexual couples will be banging down the doors of your local church demanding to be married in your sanctuaries if this legislation passes.”

This is just not true.

What is up for vote in states is civil marriage. A civil marriage is a legal contract within a state; it is not a religious marriage.   Pastors will still be able to perform, or not, ceremonies at their will. No pastor will be forced to marry anyone. Period. It is true today and, no matter what the vote is on November 4th, it will be true then as well.

The language on Referendum 74 in Washington specifically states the law will “preserve the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform, recognize, or accommodate any marriage ceremony.” That seems pretty clear.

Ren & Josh, married. Love is love.

In Maryland, the ballot question “protects clergy from having to perform any particular marriage ceremony in violation of their religious beliefs; affirms that each religious faith has exclusive control over its own theological doctrine regarding who may marry within that faith; and provides that religious organizations and certain related entities are not required to provide goods, services, or benefits to an individual related to the celebration or promotion of marriage in violation of their religious beliefs.” Again, pretty dang clear.

Pastors can refuse to marry people at “random” and without retribution the same way they have been doing it for centuries — by saying “no”. My own pastor will not perform ceremonies for couples he does not deem suitable partners or “ready”.

Rein your minds back in on the other scary scenarios too.

Retreat centers and event facilities can continue to discriminate to their hearts content if they have filed their tax status correctly. A group that  is open to public funding of any kind, may not discriminate. That makes sense, doesn’t it? The facilities in the conservative news  that are so bravely “standing against persecution of our religious liberties” needed better tax advisors, not bigger Bibles, when they submitted their tax status applications.

And, some interesting points to remember:

  • No faith groups is uniformly opposed to marriage equality. Within all faith groups, there are LGBT affirming organizations.

    Rodrigo & Michael, married. Love is love.

  • Several denominations support marriage equality as part of the doctrine of their group. Surely they too have a right to express their “religious freedoms” and “religious liberties”?
  • Much of the pressure to change denominational doctrine is coming from within denominations. Seven in ten Catholics in the US support marriage equality.  In this instance, the base is clearly not in agreement with the hierarchy.
I encourage  Christian voters in Maryland, Maine and Washington  to extend justice to their fellow citizens in the minority and join Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York and the District of Columbia in approving marriage equality.
If you, as a pastor, don’t want to perform a same-sex wedding, simple, then don’t consent.
If you don’t believe in same-sex marriage, great, then don’t have one.
If you don’t want to go to a same-sex wedding, fine, then stay home.
But, you will be missing out on a whole bunch of love and fabulousness!

Casey + David from blurrysquid on Vimeo.

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