I have performed marriage ceremonies blessing and legally marrying Gay couples some six times since the District of Columbia passed its marriage equality legislation in 2009. What a blessing this has been in my ministry and the life of my church! Maybe the couples whom I have married are exceptional, East Coast individuals of remarkable intelligence who would never walk into a bakery and ask a baker to give them permission to marry, but I think they are unlikely to be the only ones. I imagine there are plenty of Indiana residents who are Gay who likewise are bright, intelligent and confident who also would not equate ordering a wedding cake with a request that the baker, the cashier or the owner of the business give them their blessing or permission. Heck, we would just like a cake. Please. You sell cakes, sell us one.
Can anyone imagine for a moment a straight couple going into a car garage and asking for tires only to be told that , well, hey, listen, we don’t believe you two should be married so we can’t sell you tires. Pressed to explain why, the mechanic would then say something like, it goes against my conscience to sell you a tire or to serve you. This is what passes for Hoosier logic today. And the State, in an effort to cover this embarrassing bigotry, throws a sheet of religion over it and parades it down the street.
No, I don’t think so. Few of us are buying it. And one reason we are not buying it is that bigotry pretty much smells the same no matter what religious ornament you hang on it. A klansman who stitches a cross on his robe is made no more a Christian than a person who stitches an alligator on their shirt is an alligator. Indiana has not only rushed to defend bigotry but its use of religion to defend bigotry is very nearly blasphemous.
So here is what needs to happen, of course, in Indiana (and Arkansas and elsewhere): read that first amendment. You may as well read the constitution while you’re at it, but just take a look at that first amendment and grasp this essential truth: the government is not obligated to perpetuate or establish your religious belief system. What the government is obligated to do is establish and protect each citizen’s right to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. You don’t get to deny equal treatment under the law to fellow citizens when you are selling cakes, pizzas, flowers, tires or providing medical care.
In 1520 a reformer by the name of Martin Luther wrote about marriage in a portion of his treatise, The Babylonian Captivity. In it Luther rejected marriage as a sacrament. That is, he understood the Church to bless marriage but he believed marriage to be primarily a civil matter that should be extended to anyone, whether a member of the Christian church or not. I certainly realize that ministers have various opinions about marriage equality. But those who claim that somehow the sanctity of marriage is violated by extending its protections to persons of minority sexual orientation are mistaken. Luther wrote in that treatise, “Why should another’s holiness disturb my liberty? why should another’s zeal take me captive? Let whoever will, be a saint and a zealot, and to his heart’s content; only let him not bring harm upon another, and let him not rob me of my liberty!” I can say it no better.