Why New York Matters, Ctd

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 21 2011 @ 11:50am

A reader writes:

Churches have never been required to officiate the marriage ceremonies of anyone they don't want to.  St. Catherine's Catholic Church refused to marry my parents because my dad had been previously married and divorced.  The Church refused to baptize me because I was born out of wedlock.  While I did go to mass with my Grandmother, I didn't get to participate in catechism or communion. So, the idea that religion needs to be protected from recognizing my same-sex marriage seems absurd to me.

The gay rights movement never insisted that particular churches ought to be legally required to officiate same-sex marriages. Christianists said they would be forced to open their doors to homosexuals to scare people. The religious exemptions aren't there to guarantee religious liberty, but to codify religious privilege and to appease those with an irrational fear of losing it. This codification makes it more difficult for gay Christians to enact change and push for reform within denominations they wish to remain part of, so it's not without consequence.

The gay rights movement (the struggle for civil liberties) and the gay Christian movement (the struggle for religious liberty) is something that I've long seen as parallel movements in separate state and church spheres. In this case, the former is stepping on the neck of the latter to secure a right.

It doesn't seem particularly libertarian to codify something that doesn't need codifying. I never had a right to be Catholic for reasons apart from being gay, so why have legislation codifying that I don't have a right to be Catholic because I'm gay?

Another writes:

One needs to keep in mind that there are some churches and congregations who are having their religious freedom restricted when civil marriage equality for same-sex couples is not recognized.

For example, Unitarian Universalists and United Church of Christ support marriage equality as denominations and many of their clergy will solemnize same-sex unions in a religious ceremony today. But UU and UCC folks are told that their clergy must disregard their religious beliefs when acting as agents of the state in solemnizing marriages in any state where marriage equality does not exist. In states where same-sex marriage is not legal, some clergy have stopped doing any civil marriage ceremonies and have offered the same non-civil religious ceremony to all couples in their congregations.

That suggests that the "religious liberty" concern voiced by anti-gay marriage folks is a specious concern. They haven't worried about religious liberty when it comes to my Unitarian Universalist religion or liberal Protestant denominations like the United Church of Christ that do recognize same-sex couples as families. I'm willing to support the religious freedoms of anti-marriage equality folks to discriminate, but it looks like they don't want to repay the favor and support my religious freedom to forgo discrimination in my church.