Despite following this for about two decades, I've only recently found that some same-sex marriage bans actually violate religious freedom. And it's even one that gets bandied about as a potential compromise by the right. One of the claims that opponents of same-sex marriage have frequently made is that they have no complaint about private religious ceremonies with no legal effect. But if that were true, then why is it illegal in at least two states for clergy to officiate at an unlicensed same-sex marriage?
I'm coming a little late to this in that the lawsuit was filed on April 28. I'm using the excuse of not having a blog title at that time. But when North Carolina voters were approving Amendment 1 in 2012, I don't remember hearing that one of its effects would be to criminalize blessing same-sex unions. Elsewhere I read of the Wyoming law. In both states, a member of the clergy who blesses a same-sex couple – no state paperwork involved – is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Clearly, when you tell a member of the clergy that he or she can't even bless the same-sex couple you were violating religious freedom. Of course, the opponents of same-sex marriage have a rather narrow view of religious freedom. The New York Times quotes Tami Fitzgerald of the North Carolina Values Coalition as saying that:
It’s both ironic and sad that an entire religious denomination and its clergy who purport holding to Christian teachings on marriage would look to the courts to justify their errant beliefs. These individuals are simply revisionists that distort the teaching of Scripture to justify sexual revolution, not marital sanctity. (North Carolina's Gay-Marriage Ban Is Challenged by Church)Does Ms. Fitzgerald get to the be the Pope all religions? I mean, really. Okay, so she's clearly not a member of the United Church of Christ, but if she calls their beliefs "errant," it's probably not going to go too smoothly at the interfaith gathering.
Ms. Fitzgerald seems to be one of the few to comment on this denial of religious freedom. And she's all for denying religious freedom when it's a freedom to hold a different religious view than hers. From the usual crowd that cries that religious freedom is being denied when gay people marry comes an utter silence. This is not a religious freedom that they are willing to fight for. Sadly, in their view weather may be a religious liberty to discriminate against gay people, there doesn't seem to be a religious liberty to celebrate the lives of gay people. No matter what your religion says on the matter.
I'm a supporter of both religious freedom and marriage equality. But that means that while I think that every congregation can decide whether or not they're going to celebrate same-sex unions without the interference of state, it also means that they don't insist that the state discriminate against gay people in granting marriage licenses. And it certainly means that they can't ask the state to stop people from blessing same-sex couples.
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