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FIRST-PERSON: Religious liberty & the case against gay ‘marriage’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (BP)–The effort to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples will have an unprecedented effect on religious freedom. Those who don’t believe that don’t understand the nature of the battle.

Because as odd as it may sound, the campaign to redefine marriage isn’t primarily about marriage. Rather, it’s about the desire of same-sex couples to have their relationships validated; to have them free from criticism, state-generated or otherwise. That’s the key to understanding the fight for marriage. Marriage, to those who would redefine it, is simply a means to an end, not an end in itself.

As long as believers and other people of good will say that marriage can’t be redefined and that homosexual behavior is wrong, they will be subject to persecution. And if efforts to redefine marriage through the law are successful, orthodox Christians will be subject to persecution.

Some may think that’s hyperbole. I wish it were, but the truth is that there are already cases of religious persecution all over the country. Take the recent resignation of Peter Vidmar as chief of mission for the U.S. Olympic team. Vidmar was forced out because he had the temerity to engage in “anti-gay activism” by attending a couple of rallies and making a donation to support California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. That cost him his job.

Many on the left celebrated Vidmar’s resignation as an example of the movement’s growing power, like this boast from the Courage Campaign’s anti-Proposition 8 website: “How far we’ve come on this issue: to create a firestorm and make it clear that someone who supports separate but unequal because of his religious beliefs is not appropriate to represent the United States.”

Other examples abound; here are just a few:

— A New Mexico state court found that a wedding photography company engaged in “sexual-orientation discrimination” when it refused for religious reasons to photograph a same-sex couple’s commitment ceremony, and the court ordered the company to pay over $6,000 to the same-sex couple. It did not matter that there were plenty of other photographers available for the job.

— A Vermont same-sex couple filed a discrimination complaint against a small family-owned-and-operated inn when the owner expressed some reluctance to host the couple’s wedding ceremony because of his religious beliefs about marriage.

— In New Jersey, the state has vigorously prosecuted a Methodist group for not allowing a same-sex couple to use its facilities for civil union ceremony.

— A Virginia municipality’s human-rights commission ordered a video-duplication business to copy two documentaries promoting homosexual behavior, even though the business owner said that producing the material would violate his religious and ethical values.

— Adoption agencies run by Catholic charities in Boston, Washington, D.C., and most recently Illinois have been forced to close rather than place adoptive children with same-sex couples in violation of their religious beliefs.

If advocates for redefining marriage are successful, they won’t stop at marriage. They won’t stop until their opposition is either converted or silenced.

It’s time to redouble our efforts, while we still have the freedom to.
Dale Schowengerdt serves as legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund and litigates as a member of the marriage litigation team. This column first appeared on the Center for Arizona Policy’s Foundations blog, online at blog.azpolicy.org.

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  • Dale Schowengerdt