If anything can go wrong, it will.

Love Is Love

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down bans on same-sex marriage throughout the country as of 26 June 2015 in a five-to-four vote.

Writing the majority opinion for the court, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had these words to say:

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

By the time that I sat down at my computer yesterday, the news was everywhere. People were celebrating in streets, and some were ready to tie the knot in states that had been holding out against same-sex marriage. In my own home state, one of the thirteen that were still holding out against same-sex marriage, the first marriage licenses for same-sex couples were issued immediately following the decision.

I have tried, despite my strong feelings, to listen to both sides of the debate. I have tried to understand why and how any person, or persons, could be affected in any way, by who other people choose to marry. I have heard those who say “Well, for example, my health insurance costs may rise because all of a sudden more people are eligible for coverage”. (As in benefits for spouses). Are you kidding me?

What I have not been able to work out is how any of the opposition to same-sex marriage is based on anything other than a religious or spiritual belief. To deny someone the same rights, liberties, and privileges as you, based on a religious or spiritual belief is, in my opinion, wrong. If you believe marriage should be between a man and a woman only, you are entitled to that belief – what you are not entitled to do is insist that everyone else believe it, or live their lives according to that belief. Not everyone believes as you do, and that is their right.

I have heard the arguments that people (as in members of the clergy) may find themselves “forced” to participate in weddings that they do not agree with or condone. I have heard the arguments regarding churches and other religious facilities being required to allow same-sex marriages to take place within their confines. I do not think that the two things are inextricably linked. As an individual, I believe that you have the right to refuse to provide a service you are uncomfortable with providing, whether you are clergy, a baker, a wedding planner, or what have you. (Let’s not be idiots about this, folks, honestly!)

I also believe that there are not that many individuals out there who would even want those services provided by someone they knew was not wholly at ease with the circumstances. Even if that were not the case, though, I believe that no court would force a person to participate in a wedding that they did not support.

Allowing same-sex couples the right to marry is not synonymous with stripping away the rights of the religious, or those that don’t agree with it, for whatever reason.

As someone recently engaged I can only imagine the heartbreak if I had said yes, but then been denied the right to follow through.

3 Responses to Love Is Love

  • While I agree almost entirely with what you say, I think some genuine dilemmas are bound to be caused. In the UK, for example, there have been cases where registry staff members, already in post when the law changed to allow same-sex marriage, have asked to be allowed not to officiate in such marriages and have been refused permission. Such officials have then to make the choice of either acting against their conscience or resigning their posts.

    Whatever we feel about these people’s opinions, I think we have to have some sympathy for their position as they took up their careers in good faith and have been ambushed, as it were, by a change in the law.

    When there is a radical change in the law such as this one, there is bound to be a certain amount of friction at first. This eases with time as people come to accept it. In fact, a change of law can be a powerful agent in changing the climate of opinion.

    • I do understand concerns about being forced to actively participate in something you don’t agree with or condone. (Which, to me, would be requiring someone to officiate, or even stand as witness).

      I should have, in fairness, either left out the “Let’s not be idiots here” comment, or phrased that a bit differently. What that was referring to was more to do with my belief that no one is going to want to hire a wedding planner who doesn’t think they should even be getting married, or a baker who won’t be perfectly happy to provide their cake. or an officiant who believes they shouldn’t marry. On what should be one of their happiest days, why would anyone want someone involved who didn’t add to the joy?

      The subject of “the right to refuse service” has come up many times, and I do believe that that can be tricky. All businesses here have the right to refuse service, but it must be applied in an equal manner. A dress code, for example, is a reason a restaurant may refuse to serve you, but the policy must be applied fairly. If a tie is required for men, then all men must wear a tie, and a man of one race may not be allowed entry without a tie if a man of another race is not.

      To be fair, there is precedent for the concern that a business could be held liable for refusing to provide services for a same-sex wedding. A baker who refused to provide a cake for a same-sex couple did have a court rule that citing religious beliefs as a reason to refuse service was, in that case, just a pretext for discrimination. I have mixed feelings, because again, why would you even want to seek the services of someone who felt this way, or give them your money?! I suppose though, in this case, baking a cake isn’t actually actively participating, either. Once you’ve baked the cake, and it leaves your bakery, what should you care where or how it is eaten? You are no longer a participant once the cake is out of your hands… and honestly, the wedding could go on with or without that cake! (Which, again, that last bit should be considered by both parties! That couple didn’t require that cake to proceed with their plans).

      An officiant is necessary for a wedding, though. With that said, there are plenty of people who can provide that service who are happy to do it. Technically, I myself am legally permitted to officiate a wedding! I’m rambling, and I’m sorry, but my point is here, there should never be a reason that clergy, or even judges, etc should have to officiate a ceremony they are not comfortable with for religious reasons.

      As I said, though, I am putting my trust in the U.S. government not to force an individual to participate in something that they truly believe to be morally wrong, or to act against their religious belief. I very much hope that trust isn’t misplaced, because I’d have to be as vocal in my stance that that, too, is wrong.

      • In the UK, religious belief is trumped by the equality laws. For example, a Christian couple who ran a hotel refused to accept a room booking by a gay couple, claiming that this contravened their religious convictions. The case went to court, then to appeal, but the hoteliers lost. The law requires them to treat all customers equally.

        There may be difficulties for people who started businesses or took jobs before the Act was passed but once this period of transition has passed, people will take on only those employments that suit their consciences.

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