A reader quotes me:
I still favor maximal religious liberty – even for a public accommodation like this one because requiring individuals to perform a marriage ceremony against their beliefs is just something we don’t do in a liberal society.
This business had two parts, based on the descriptions you provided. The first part was in the performance of marriages by the owners, and I agree that the owners should not be forced to perform a marriage contrary to their beliefs. But it sounds like their second business was in renting the space like you’d rent a ballroom at a hotel, with someone else performing the marriage. If they continue to rent the space to others, I don’t see why they should be exempt from anti-discrimination laws in who they rent to.
Another expands on that point:
I think the big legal issue here isn’t whether we should force ministers to perform gay weddings (I don’t think we should), but whether a for-profit business can use entirely pretextual changes to circumvent regulations. The ADF is picking a situation engineered to elicit a favorable response to the question – gay marriage, local ordinance – but the implications are massive. This is a shot strait at expanding corporate ability to exploit the Religious Freedom Restoration Act far beyond its intended purpose. In its Hobby Lobby ruling, the Supreme Court made the point that the courts are not in the job of measuring the religious sincerity of litigants. This case tests that proposition. Do we want a world where any for-profit business can escape regulations it finds burdensome by filing a few documents with the Secretary of State and changing the mission statement on its website? How long till a cottage industry of Corporate Religion Consultants starts advising every closely-held company on whether being Muslim or Mormon creates a better regulatory environment?
Another brings up the racial comparison:
As a country, we have been down this road before.
For example, many Christian bigots (including clergy) played a large role in sustaining the laws against interracial marriage, and fighting against the repeal of such laws. Their racist views often were genuinely held religious beliefs, as is some of the bigotry directed against homosexuals today. But we got it right back then. No matter how racist a minister may be, whether religiously inspired or otherwise – he knows he can’t open a private “whites-only” wedding hall business. The civic morality of that is clear, and homosexuals deserve no less. And it seems like one day homosexuals will reach full civil equality too.
I know Libertarians, Tea Partiers and, probably, you, hate the analogy between racism in the public square to anti-homosexual prejudice in the public square. I can’t help you there. Like some in the 1950s, etc., you just got to work that shit out yourself.
Another has an interesting idea:
I’m curious how this would play out if business owners were allowed to discriminate, but only under the condition that they post a large “NO GAYS” sign on their front door. Then let the market decide. These business owners would be turning away a larger and larger portion of their potential business as same-sex marriage becomes more accepted in the general population.
For example, in North Carolina, it is legal to open-carry handguns (and concealed-carry once you take a class and pay for the permit). However, private businesses are allowed to refuse entry of persons with guns by simply posting a “NO GUNS” sign on their front door. Gun owners and those sympathetic to their cause have responded by refusing to do business at these locations. There’s even a smartphone app that can tell you what businesses are gun friendly.
Perhaps if we’re going to give maximum religious liberty to ministers when performing marriages, we also need to break the clergy monopoly on performing them. In Idaho, for example, one needs to be a current or retired judge, a current or former governor or lieutenant governor (because I’m sure they’re always free to do weddings), a tribal official, or a “priest or minister of the gospel of any denomination”. Judges work in courthouses, so unless you’re getting married at City Hall with a handful of witnesses, any formal wedding with friends and family is going to be done by a minister. Sure there are a bunch of mail-order seminaries for just this type of thing, but why can’t we let notaries or pretty much any other adult do this? Why no civil marriage officiants without a pretense of religion? Most other states aren’t much different, not even California.
Over at Patheos is one couple’s account of trying to get a nonreligious marriage:
The most disheartening part of our search was when we turned to the local mayors. In our area mayors perform many wedding ceremonies and seemed like a nice secular option. The mayors we contacted were uncomfortable performing a non-religious ceremony. The pre-planned ceremonies that they typically used all included religion. We finally found a mayor who was willing to work with us, albeit uncomfortably, but he bailed on us 3 days before the ceremony!
In a display of real compassion my mothers pastor saved the day. He agreed to let my friend perform the ceremony an afterwords to do a secular pronouncement and sign our marriage certificate. He did read 1 Corinthians 13:1-7; but this particular verse doesn’t mention god or faith so we felt it was pretty fair.