From: The Pen of Robin Wilson
Flash-points over same-sex unions are already occurring across the United States. . . . New Mexico’s Human Rights Commission fined a husband-wife photography team more than $6,000 because they declined to photograph a same-sex commitment ceremony. In New Jersey, authorities yanked the property tax exemption of a church group that denied requests by two lesbian couples to use the group’s boardwalk pavilion for their commitment ceremonies.
So what should states do to respond to these clashes between same-sex relationships and religious liberty . . . ?
Last month, Connecticut and Vermont became the first states to pass conscience protection for religious dissenters in their same-sex marriage laws. Both states provide that religious groups “shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual if the request … is related to the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage.” Both also bar civil suits by people denied such wedding-related services.
Connecticut went even further. In that state, a “religious organization” providing adoption services may continue to place children only with heterosexual married couples as long as it gets no government money. Thus, in Connecticut, unlike in Massachusetts, Catholic Charities will not have to close its doors or face litigation threats.
As important as these exemptions for organizations are, states still weighing same-sex marriage should do better. 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. In Massachusetts, individuals violating the non-discrimination statute can be fined up to $50,000. In Connecticut, business owners can be sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Conscience protections are a thoroughly American idea. Since Colonial times, legislatures have exempted religious minorities from laws inconsistent with their faith. Such exemptions allow Americans with radically different views on moral questions to live in peace and equality in the same society.
Connecticut and Vermont have gone part of the way toward recognizing that the rights of same-sex couples should not come at the expense of the religious people who believe that marriage means a husband and a wife.
The author of this web site endorses a Biblical view of marriage and believes that homosexual relations are a sin: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, ESV) “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.” (1 Timothy 1:8-11, ESV)