Can Pro-and-Anti Gay Marriage People Co-exist?

Still stuck in my writer’s block, the only way I could write a column this week for First Things was to format it as a playlet — a little one-act thing called “Suitable Recommendations” — wherein I try (and I have no idea whether I succeed) to showcase a story we’re increasingly seeing being played out as gay marriage becomes more common: the business owner whose conscience can’t let him or her provide services to a same-sex couple planning a wedding.

Gentleman: That’s some religion you’ve got there. Really? Jesus doesn’t want you to do flowers for my wedding? I don’t think Jesus could get behind this, because he would never be this hurtful! You’re betraying all the years we’ve known each other, and really hurting another person—two people; no, really a whole group of people—and then hiding behind Jesus; you’re letting Jesus take the blame for your hate. You have to hate me, because Jesus!

Florist: [Quietly] I don’t hate you.

Gentleman: Oh, this is what you call love? That’s some crazy kind of love; here, kid, have some cotton candy because I love you; oh, and don’t mind that razor blade I put inside! You’re rejecting me, you’re rejecting my marriage—it’s like you think I’m a second-class person.

Florist: Well, I don’t think that! I never could, and I wish you did not feel that way, because the last thing I want to do is to hurt you; that’s not what I want. Don’t you think that if I could make you happy, I would? It would be a lot easier for me to just set up your order and take your check, than to say “no” to you. In truth, I don’t especially want to say “no” to you. I want everyone to be happy and have just what they like; it’s why I’m so good at my job! But I can’t say “yes” to you, not if I’m being true to myself, and to what I believe God wants from me.

Gentleman: So, this is what you think God wants of you? He wants you to hurt people and tell them that their love and their families don’t matter? Well that’s news. I thought Jesus said we should love our neighbor as ourselves.

Florist: I don’t think God wants us to hurt each other. I think he wants us to live in truth, though. Jesus did tell us to love others as we love ourselves, but he said first and foremost to love God with all of our hearts and minds and souls. I know that’s hard to understand, because you don’t believe what I believe, which is that marriage is ordained by God, and meant to be between a man and a woman. That’s the truth.

Gentleman: That was truth a million years ago!

Florist: It was truth two years ago . . .

Gentleman: Times have changed, honey, you need to get with them. Whatever you think the Truth is, it’s not truer than love. God is love, right?

Florist: Yes. God is love.

Gentleman: And we’re in love, and we just want to celebrate that and build our lives together. God is in all of that.

Florist: God is everywhere and in each of us, but that doesn’t mean we are always right with God. You’re saying God is love; I agree. What is love, though? Does love only say “yes”? Do I not love my son when I tell him not to touch a hot stove?

Gentleman: Oh, here we go! Now you’re going to tell me I’m going to hell! Cue the cloven hooves!

I linked to the actual stories, — the florist, by the way is being sued by the state for not selling to a gay wedding. I urge you to go read the thing and check out the comments section which is pretty interesting. Some people feel I made the gay man too sympathetic, some thing the florist is too sympathetic. So…I’ve managed to annoy almost everyone. As ever I’m more interested in the larger implications down the road. If states can sue someone who is trying to honor their own conscience, what does it mean for us as a church, later on?

I wanted to go a lot more deeply into the question but you know — it’s a column — I knew I was pushing First Things’ limits with 1400 words. Also, I didn’t have much time to invest in it. But I might revisit this — actually turn it into a project. It might be an interesting exercise for me to try writing further into each perspective, as I try to break my logjam!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Newp Ort

    to be fair, at least for Savage, his rejection of monogamy is his personal choice, not a recommendation for all marriages.
    Obviously he sees monogamy as uneccesary to commitment, but that is not the same as rejecting monogamy as an outright negative for all committed couples.
    I’m not a scholar in the field, but I know there are many “thinkers” (for lack of a better word) who are openly hostile to monogamy, or at least it being an ideal, seeing it as a harmful concept. and I don’t believe that position is pushed by mainly gays, probably more straights

  • Lorenzo Fernandez-Vicente

    Mr Card does not merely oppose gay marriage, he wants to reinstate jail penalties for gay sex and the alleged ‘promotion’ of homosexuality.

  • Newp Ort

    maybe I’m nitpicking but:
    adoption is caring for children, not procreation, and only follows procreation by sheer physical necessity (sex-> kids)
    same/opposite sex couples, and singles all have the same relationship to procreation through adoption
    this of course is presuming procreation is not DRIVEN significantly by adoption (incentive/pressure/coercion/force to procreate for purpose of creating children to be adopted), only follows it.

  • Roki

    There’s a difference between discriminating against a person or group of persons, and being forced to participate in an act which one considers immoral.

    Let’s say I’m a painter. I make my living largely through commissioned works. Let’s say I’m also a strong believer in the biblical prohibition against “graven images.” (I could be a Jew, a Muslim, or one of many stripes of iconoclast Christian; what matters is that I consider the religious use of images to be idolatrous and morally wrong.)

    If a Catholic wanted to hire me to paint a Madonna and Child for his/her home altar, would I have a right to refuse? Or would I be compelled to make such a painting?

    I’d be happy to paint all sorts of other pictures for the Catholic, to decorate their home. I might disagree with the Catholic’s theology, but still respect him/her as a person.

    Yet, to participate in exactly that act which distinguishes me from the Catholic is something else again. It is something which I can object to, without disrespecting the person or the group to which he/she belongs.

    Moreover, to force me to participate in that act is exactly to disrespect and discriminate against me and the beliefs which are central to my religion or conscience or moral sense. It is an attack on my person, on my freedom, on my dignity.

    Does this make sense?

  • MeanLizzie

    Do you know, you’ve jogged a memory for me. This precise thing happened to me, once — I asked a landscape artist to reproduce an image of Christ for me; she had to turn me down b/c her religion, whatever it was, would not allow her to do portraits or “graven images” — which is why, I discovered, she did landscapes. I do remember being surprised and a little hurt that should turned down my request. But you know…there were other artists, and I found one.

  • SteveP

    Sure, The Episcopal Church (TEC) has decided to ignore the scientific evidence of meosis and gametogenesis and declare that two men can “be married”. Why do they get to decide what marriage means in the US?

  • Brian English

    So you are claiming you would do it? Let’s try to be honest here.

  • Roki

    Whaddaya know? I thought I was making up a purely hypothetical example!

    Even so, I doubt anyone’s ever filed a lawsuit in such a case. At least, not in this country.

  • Joel

    A minor correction, Brian: the florist isn’t in Seattle, but in Richland on the other side of the state. There’s a pretty wide cultural divide between Seattle and the rest of Washington.

    And I think a better analogy would be requiring a gay-owned business to cater Westboro Baptist functions.

  • Brian English

    If you read the 2011 article in NYT Magazine, he does indicate rejecting monogamy might not be for everyone, but his subsequent comments in the article lead you to believe that he considers monogamy only suitable for squares and religious fanatics.

    I think you have to look a little deeper on who is pushing the anti-monogamy agenda. I believe a survey was reported in the NYT a couple of years ago that found that over 50% of the gay couples in San Francisco had open relationships.

  • Brian English

    Well, that is refreshing to hear. But I think there is still a bigger issue here that makes “equality” difficult to establish. As Justice Alito pointed out in his dissent, there are really two different definitions of marriage in conflict here, and the DOMA decision arbitrarily choosing one of them was not the best way to resolve the issue.

  • BrandonUB

    As far as I know, this isn’t an argument at all, but an attempt at distracting from the point.

  • BrandonUB

    Well, sure, you’re welcome to hold that belief, but you can’t really expect it to hold legal force.

  • BrandonUB

    I really have no idea at all what would lead you to the conclusion that a capacity to reproduce is an objective definitional qualification for marriage.

  • Renee

    Let me repeat….

    As a straight woman I hold lesbian women to the same LEGAL standard I am held to, they are not allowed to withhold a relationship with their children’s father.

    I will defend a biological gay parent, I will not defend that person to deny the other biological parent simply because of their sexual orientation. Sexual orientation is not a defense in denying a child’s right to both biological parents. Children are not chattel.

  • Renee

    You are asking that a lesbian gets special rights to deny her children their father, that is not equal rights.

    Why does the child lose his/her human right to paternal kin based on the fact the mother is not sexually attracted to men?

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Ah, I guess you missed what I was saying. Procreation isn’t just sex, and you’re not done with procreation until you have a functioning adult human being.

    Adoption is sometimes necessary for that process to finish!

  • SteveP

    May I suggest a course in biology? The process of meiosis is fascinating and the numbers involved in RNA recombination – wow! Genesis 2:24 shows those bronze-age sheep herders were very observant. Technology has given us the ability to peer deeper into their insight and, lo, it is correct: a male and a female do indeed become one flesh. The Inventor of meiosis is a pretty smart cookie.

  • Newp Ort

    this argument, these avatars…I’m getting seriously weirded out here

  • BrandonUB

    Humans do a lot of RNA recombination, eh? I don’t think I’m the one in need of a whole lot of basic biological education here. You may want to try some though.

    I really have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to meiosis and marriage though. This is utterly nonsensical.

  • ortcutt

    Liberal people may find catering at an anti-gay Catholic event to be immoral. That doesn’t mean that they are free to refuse to perform those business services. This is pretty basic stuff, and I’m amazed that people are suddenly shocked by the general concept of civil rights anti-discrimination laws that have extended to sexual orientation in 21 states and the District of Columbia for many years.

  • SteveP

    If you read the Racial Integrity Act which was the law the Lovings challenged, you would understand that the prohibition was against bearing children. The SCOTUS decision which invalidated the VA law asserted that men and women have the right to marry—the right to breed. Nor really an issue (pun intended) with a “gay marriage” now is it?

  • hotboogers

    I guess this comments thread answers your question. The answer is No.

  • SteveP

    “Gender Studies” or “Queer Theory” or what not is not education but ideological indoctrination. Of course the key to a successful ideology is homogeneity of accepted narratives. That too I find fascinating. However, back to the subject, the other commenter questioned who gets to make the law. It’s a good question. I suggested empirical evidence — did you know that men cannot apply for benefit for themselves in the WIC program? Apparently empirical evidence of pregnancy is required. Ought men consider themselves second-class citizens, discriminated against by a gyno-normative narrative?

  • JoAnna Wahlund

    That’s not true. Catholics consider marriages of non-Catholics to be valid as long as there were no impediments existing prior to the marriages (e.g., divorce). My husband an I were married as Lutherans in the Lutheran church and our marriage was considered valid when we converted to Catholicism.

  • Roki

    For the ignorant among us (like myself), could you point to a resource on the legal basis for anti-discrimination laws? I’m especially curious about whether and how the laws distinguish between persons and actions.

    This probably is “pretty basic stuff” for a lawyer or a politician, but the nuts and bolts of anti-discrimination laws have never been an issue for me or most people I know. We’ve never had reason to investigate.

    That said, I’ve done a great deal of study on philosophy, especially the philosophical concepts of love and justice. And if there is something unjust in a law – any law – then the law must bend to justice, not the other way round.

  • Evelyn

    Actually, the Church fully recognizes nonCatholic Christian marriages and presumes them to be sacramental until proven otherwise. Which is why I have to seek an annulment in order to (re)marry in the Church.

  • Neil Cameron

    You are free to decline to write for Homeopathics Now!, Planet Tattoomee or Sheep Castrators Weekly if you have a legitimate reason to decline.

    Legally speaking, refusing to write for the sheep’s bollocks people BECAUSE their publication is managed by a raging homosexual bear is not a legitimate reason and is in direct breach of the law. As would be the case if refusing to write for them because they are African-American, or Buddhist.

    Why a Buddhist would be involved in such a publication is beyond me. Whatever lights your candle, as long as you don’t hurt any one.

  • Neil Cameron

    Who would want a portrait painted by a landscape artist?
    Its like getting the plumber to do the wiring, or the chicken farmer to supply you with carrots.

  • Neil Cameron

    The question was not about recognition of the validity of other marriages, the question clearly asked would it be acceptable to refuse to serve weddings of people of different faiths.
    Validity or lack thereof is not the issue.

    There is no law or anything which prevents the redefinition of a word or concept. There are no word meaning police either. Language is a beautiful, dynamic and evolving cultural creation.
    There is no Catholic marriage for same sex couples, but there IS civil law same sex marriage for them, no matter how much you dont want it to be so.

  • Neil Cameron

    Unfortunately for your argument, this particular case (Arlenes Flowers) the woman knew from the outset, entered into the contract, took payment up front. Then cancelled just before the wedding and deemed the payment to be forfeit.

    The couple only sued for their money back. The attorney general and the ACLU, however, sued her for breaching the laws of Washington state.

    Your question about right of conscience is an interesting one, but it leads to the similar sort of sentiment that a Right wing senator in Washington State raised:

    When filing for an amendment to the anti-discrimination laws to allow discrimination in cases where not discriminating went against your principles, he was asked how he felt about the fact that such a clause could legally result in signs on stores clearly stating “No Homosexuals”, effective segregation. His response was “The gays can grow their own food”.

    As a Christian, do you feel that casting the homosexuals out altogether to fend entirely for themselves is justifiable when done by the majority exercising their ‘right of conscience’?

    If so, then do you believe that segregation in USA, or apartheid in South Africa, was justifiable as it too was done by people exercising their ‘right of conscience’, backed up by their religious leaders and biblical quotes?

  • Neil Cameron

    Correct, but:
    Supporting sin is itself a sin, It facilitates sinful behavior and thereby helps the sinner damage their relationship with Church & God. It breaches the obligation to honor the Sabbath.
    If Same sex marriage is sin, then selling flowers for use in same sex marriages supporting sin?

  • Neil Cameron

    The gay couple had been clients for years and were on first name terms with the owner. She knew they were gay and had been selling them flowers for years.

    Similar situations with bakeries have emerged. A journalist ‘tested the waters’ with queries for cakes celebrating
    * divorced & free!,
    * boyfriend throwing a welcome home after the birth of their 2nd child,
    * winning a grant for embryonic stem cell research,
    * coven of witches celebrating the soltice (we need a pentagram on the cake!), and
    * the old cow died so we are having a barbeque and the neighbours are bringing shrimp and porkchops, we need a cake for desert.
    Apparently those cakes were ok to make, its only lesbian weddings they had a serious problem with.

    Journalists can be mischievous!

  • Neil Cameron

    Maybe the homosexual men YOU cross paths with.
    The majority of homosexual “activity” that mainstream society observes is the scandalous and extremist stuff in the media and the over-sensationalized concepts and rumours peddled among communities who don’t know any homosexuals.
    You thinking that all homosexuals are slutty, doesnt make it necessarily true!

    Just because you came across a homosexual once who was disinterested in monogamy, does not mean we all are not interested in it. The existence of the fight for marriage equality is proof of that!
    And with 50% of heterosexual marriages ending in divorce, I dont think any heterosexual is justified in labelling the homosexuals as the ones disinterested in monogamy! Pot, kettle, black.

    Just like any other human community, there are slutty ones, there are monogamous ones and there are celibate ones.

    Marriage will offer homosexual couples an institution of monogamy, one to aspire to and hold onto, just as marriage offers that to heterosexual couples.
    It may even help reduce the numbers in the slutty camp!

  • Neil Cameron

    Define natural.
    I have a lesbian friend who has never had sex with a man, but is the biological mother of twins.
    And no, a laboratory was not used either.

  • BrandonUB

    I’ve read the Loving v. Virginia decision closely and carefully, it’s of special interest to me. To put it bluntly, you’re full of it.

  • ortcutt

    The laws of sixteen nations and thirteen US states disagree with you on that matter. If you are of the opinion that the actions of state legislatures have no effect on “reality”, then why do you oppose marriage equality statutes? In a given jurisdiction, marriage is whatever the law says it is.

  • ortcutt

    Do you get the whole idea of civil rights public accommodations laws? The more I read the comments online about this issue, the more I am convinced that people suffer under the misapprehension that they are legally free to refuse service for any reason.

  • ortcutt

    It’s not infidelity if the partners don’t expect monogamy from each other. Infidelity only occurs when partners expect sexual exclusivity with each other and one or more of the partners violates that trust. Some couples expect sexual exclusivity. Some don’t. This is true of both different-sex and same-sex couples, whether married or unmarried. My wife and I expect sexual exclusivity, but I have no grounds on which to require that from other couples who don’t require it from each other.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Yep. He’s Mormon. We knew that.

  • Brian English

    “”She knew they were gay and had been selling them flowers for years.”

    Exactly. So obviously she didn’t hate gay people. She just did not want to be seen as giving approval to the wedding. You appear to think this is damning evidence against her.

    “Journalists can be mischievous!”
    Do you have a link to this? It looks like you picked up a story from the Onion as a serious news story.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    No one?

    This has been the game plan for 55 years:

    It is in fact steps 26, 27, and 40 of the goal.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    In fact, I don’t. I really don’t understand the idea of “civil rights public accommodations laws”. Can you explain to me how forcing people to do something against their conscience does anything other than foment rebellion?

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Except of course for you people who claim a sperm and a sperm or an egg and an egg can make a child.

  • BrandonUB

    Marriage is the societal recognition of procreation.

    Good luck backing that with any actual legal argument.

  • BrandonUB

    Ted, does it ever occur to you that you’re just writing blowhardy non-substantive flak that has not a hint of factual basis? I do immunology for a living, it’s wildly unlikely that I’m arguing with anyone that’s actually basing their opinions on a more sound understanding of biology. I could certainly be wrong about plenty of things, but it’s probably not going to be a a result of not understanding biology.

  • ortcutt

    I have no idea what polygamy has to do with anything I said. I really don’t know why people like yourself bring up polygamy every time marriage equality comes up. I’ll explain this slowly so you’ll be able to understand it. Marriage equality is gender-neutrality. Legalizing polygamy would introduce numeric-neutrality, which as you can tell by “gender” and “numeric” being different isn’t the same thing. Gender-neutrality has nothing whatsoever to do with numeric-neutrality, just as it has nothing to do with species-neutrality or the elimination of existing consanguinity restrictions. So, please don’t waste everyone’s time with nonsense about polygamy, bestiality, and incest.

  • BrandonUB

    I don’t really see how that’s the case. People can coexist and disagree; the vast majority comments in this thread have been peaceful expressions of assent or disagreement, not vitriol. There’s a few exceptions, but there’s one in every crowd, right?

  • ortcutt

    If procreation extends through having a “functioning adult human being”, doesn’t that mean that a gay couple can procreate by adopting and raising a child, or by raising a child which is the offspring of a lesbian parent? The problem with your devaluing of adoption by same-sex couples is that it also devalues adoption by different-sex couples. I’ve found it really shocking how willingly marriage equality opponents have thrown infertile adoptive parents under the bus in this debate. Adoptive parenting isn’t second-class parenting.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Then why do you keep insisting that procreation can be done in a bigendered species with two of the same gender?

    Either you don’t deserve your job, or you’re hiding a basic fact for political gain. Which is it?