I hope there can be some kind of legislation crafted to protect religious liberties related to wedding ceremonies.
The recent legalization of same sex marriage in several states has prompted efforts by various state governments to pass laws allowing for business owners, on the basis of their religious beliefs, to deny service to homosexuals. The framers of these legislative efforts have insisted the focus is narrow, intending to protect wedding ceremony related activities and businesses. Nevertheless, sufficient concern was raised that such laws would be used by all sorts of businesses, not just wedding related ones, to deny service to homosexuals. Some opposing such proposed laws painted pictures of restaurant owners standing at the entrance of their establishment forbidding homosexual couples to enter. The Washington Post described the veto of such legislation as- “The Arizona Governor vetoes Controversial Anti-Gay Bill”. The Wall Street Journal described the same event by writing- “Arizona Governor vetoes Religious Freedom Bill.” The issue is as polarizing as you might expect.
I am not a legislator or a legal expert. I do know a very fine legislator who contributed to the crafting of such a religious liberties bill in Kansas. I am 100% certain his intention was to protect religious liberty in very specific situations, not create a way for any business to discriminate against homosexuals. So far, no bills concerning this matter have passed in to law anywhere in the U.S., that I am aware of.
I hope there can be some kind of legislation crafted to protect religious liberties related to wedding ceremonies. Traditional wedding ceremonies between a man and a woman have been around a lot longer than same sex ones. Even in modern times, legalized same sex marriage is in the overwhelming minority globally. There should be an appreciation for the antiquity and earth-wide majority practice of traditional, heterosexual marriage and the attending ceremony, that allows for such religious liberty protection. It is certainly not unreasonable to expect religious people in favor of traditional marriage to be alarmed and reactive by how quickly the legal situation has changed.
I am not sure of the best way to craft a bill that will please everyone. I do think, at this point, Christians should focus on being specific about wedding ceremony related activities and businesses in proposed legislation. Here’s my reasoning today (I am open to biblical correction):
As a pastor committed to the Bible as the Word of God and ordained by a denomination that upholds the authority of the Bible, I would not perform the marriage ceremony of a same sex couple. As a church, we would not rent our sanctuary for a same sex wedding. If I was in a wedding ceremony-related business (photographer, florist, cake maker, limo driver, etc), I would not offer my services to a same sex couple. The basis for my choosing not to do business with a same sex couple related to their wedding ceremony is based on my religious belief about marriage and wedding ceremonies, not because I am afraid of or hate homosexuals.
If I owned a non-wedding ceremony related business, I would not deny service to anyone on the basis of their sexual practice or marital situation (even assuming I would be able to know either of these). There are probably businesses I would not choose to run because of how complex the current cultural climate is (like a health club or hotel), but I can’t imagine discriminating against anyone. I oppose same sex marriage as an institution, not gay people personally. No, I don’t agree with homosexual practice, but I don’t agree with sex outside of marriage, lying, stealing, and all the other sins people commit. Why would I discriminate against one sinner and not another? If I know a guy is a serial player, bedding every woman he can, should I deny him service? What about a glutton who keeps coming to my buffet restaurant? The alcoholic who buys beer at my supermarket? How would you even be sure who is gay? What about other sins and sinners?
Frankly, if I wasn’t a pastor, I think I would like to own or work for an Italian restaurant. I would welcome anyone and everyone. I would try to meet everyone personally. I would love to dress in a pin striped suit with my hair greased back and walk people to their tables. I would tell them what the specials were, a bit of Sicilian lore, and try to make relationships with frequent customers. Eventually, if the situation was right, I would tell them about my love for Christ. Maybe over time I would have a chance to share Christ and His gospel with them. I think I would approach any business enterprise similarly, or at least I hope I would. Honestly, I don’t think most Christians would discriminate against any sinner in their business practice, even if there was a law that said you could.
It seems to me that Christians should stick to advocating for the passage of legislation that is wedding ceremony specific. If a Christian so opposes homosexual people, I would challenge them to reconsider such a stance, in light of Christ’s example of love and care. Jesus didn’t compromise concerning God’s standard, but he was kind to everyone no matter who they were and what they had done. If you just can’t get over homosexual sin, don’t be a non-wedding ceremony related business owner, because at very least, you risk representing Christ and Christianity poorly.
For those who scoff at the notion of not providing wedding ceremony related services to same sex couples, will you please do your best to appreciate our deep-seated religious beliefs and convictions in this area?
In the Christian Faith, marriage is a divine institution and the associated covenant-ratifying ceremony is sacredly connected. It has been recognized by millions, for centuries, that marriage has been explicitly ordered by God as a male-female union. This union forms the foundation of society and serves as a picture of Christ and His Church. For eons, marriage and wedding ceremonies have religious significance for a great many people, and so these folks should have protections if providing a directly related service- that’s all I am advocating for.
Disclaimer: I fully realize there are probably a thousand “what if’s” related to businesses and situations that could cause a sense of compromise for a Christian. I am not suggesting I have covered every angle here, but I think a dose of reality is needed on the part of Christians in Post-Christian U.S.A. The thing to be guarded is the Christian view and practice of marriage and wedding ceremonies. The horse is out of the barn related to the movement to nationwide legalized same sex marriage. The best thing Christians can do now is to keep their religious liberties intact related to wedding ceremonies and then to exhibit faithful, Christian marriages. The tide can only be turned back when Christians model godly marriages before a watching world and people come to Christ.