As mentioned before, there is common agreement between us about protecting clergy and religious institutions from having to participate in the celebration and/or blessing of a same-gender marriage, or forcing any church/synagogue/mosque to host such an event against the teaching of that religious body.
However, when we expand the conversation to include florists and bakers, photographers and innkeepers – all of whom operate in the marketplace and are legally required to serve the public without discrimination – our common ground might begin to narrow. Some conservatives have argued that conscience should trump convenience. So, if a florist has a religious objection to providing flowers for a same gender wedding, the argument goes, the couple should simply go elsewhere and find a willing florist. But suppose a florist, on religious grounds, were to object to an interracial marriage? Or an interfaith marriage?
Let's be clear, in jurisdictions that have no anti-discrimination protections for gay and lesbian people, this is not an issue. There are no federal anti-discrimination laws protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from such discrimination. In a majority of states, a person can be fired from her/his job just for being gay, although 90% of Americans erroneously believe that such protection is already in place. Until there is a non-discrimination law that includes LGBT people, vendors are allowed to exercise their right to refuse service or fire gay employees. I believe such an anti-discrimination law protecting LGBT people in their jobs and in the open marketplace should be put in place.
However, in states and cities where such anti-discrimination laws which include LGBT people are in place, lawsuits challenging such discrimination are possible. Such vendors have the right to refuse service, but they must bear the responsibility of their actions, which in those particular states/cities is prohibited. (As a side note, I must admit to not understanding why any gay couple would want an anti-gay photographer snapping pictures of the most important day in their lives! How good could the photographs be if shot by someone totally opposed to what is being photographed?!)
Arguing for the legal right of individuals, organizations, and businesses to refuse to provide goods or services to someone they find objectionable "on religious grounds" is reminiscent of our painful racial past. Decades ago (but within the lifetime of many of us), some restaurant owners refused to serve African-Americans. Their actions prompted sit-ins at lunch counters across the country. If such discrimination against serving LGBT people were allowed, what's to keep the owner of a Subway sandwich shop from refusing service to someone who has long hair, or is obese, or who has a tattoo (tattoos are forbidden in Scripture)? This is a road we don't want to go down!
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