The gay marriage topic has dominated this blog. And for opponents, the ‘protecting religious liberty’ argument has dominated the gay marriage topic.
Here’s the typical refrain:
Instead, the religious liberties that have been the hallmark of our country since its inception will be trampled in the rush to impose a “right” that no one in the history of the world ever dreamed of – much less recognized – until a few years ago.
The argument is that certain church’s liberty will be denied because they will no longer be able to say that gay people are commiting a terrible sin. It is on the strength of that argument that Proposition 8 passed in California.
People actually believe that argument. They believe it, I think, not because it has merits, but because its a nice way to package opposition to gay marriage without sounding mean. For folks who find gay relationships scary or homosexuality gross, they are able to support anti-gay measures on the guise of ‘protecting religious freedom.’ But they never want to think too deeply about that position, because if they do, they’ll realize that it makes no sense and is contradicted by history.
History shows us that when government makes major changes, even to marriage, church’s have always been free to maintain their own traditions. Take the Catholic Church. They refuse to recognize ANY divorce and they refuse to ordain ANY women. Did the Catholic Church lose its ‘liberty’ because the government does allow divorce and the government does value gender equality?
Andrew Sullivan explains:
The biggest single denomination in America – Catholicism – denies the existence of divorce, does not recognize the sacred status of re-married couples, and has life-long marriage at the core of its definition of the institution. Has the Catholic church’s religious liberty been infringed by the ubiquity of divorced couples? Are Catholic priests denied their First Amendment rights because they occasionally have to interact in the civil sphere with married couples whose marriages they deem invalid? […]
Or take the Catholic church’s insane position on the ordination of women. Gender equality is much more deeply embedded in the law than orientation equality. Has anyone actually sought to prosecute the church for being a deeply sexist institution? Have women brought lawsuits against priests because a parishioner went out and raped someone – or discriminated against them in employment? I mean: please. The whole idea is fueled by pure panic at the thought of having to live in a society in which gay citizens are treated like everyone else.
I’m surprised this isn’t pointed out more often.