There are many, many people denying that gay marriage and religious freedom are incompatible. Many of those who deny it are, in fact, hostile to religious freedom to begin with or, when the fight becomes more clear, will be against the church.I am one of those people who believe that gay marriage and religious freedom are compatible. It's actually pretty simple. Churches should be allowed to marry whoever they want, without interference from the state. (This freedom cannot be absolute, of course.) Analogously, the state should be allowed to marry whoever it wants, without interference from the church. That's what the separation of church and state is all about. Gay marriages would be sanctioned by the state, not by the church. What's the problem?
But I am not hostile to religious freedom. Indeed, even though I am an atheist, I consider religious freedom to be one of our most important freedoms, because I wish to be free to be atheist. I must therefore respect the freedom of others to worship, or not worship, as they choose. (This freedom can't be absolute either.) Freedom of religion is just a species of a more general freedom of thought which believers and non-believers should be able to enjoy.
Now, a lot of people seem to think that legalizing gay marriage will infringe on the religious freedom of Christians. For example, John Hawkins writes:
The moment gay marriage becomes the law of the land, all sorts of First Amendment freedoms involving the free exercise of people's religion will likely be infringed upon as a consequence. No pastor should be forced to marry a gay couple. No wedding photographer, cake maker, caterer, or wedding planner should be forced to be involved in these weddings. No church or any other location should be forced to be the site of a gay wedding. Children will be taught in schools that gay marriage is normal, legal, and moral -- and it directly contradicts the teachings of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. To create this special privilege for gay Americans would mean impinging on the First Amendment rights of more than 200 million Americans.This passage is terribly confused. As conservatives know, progressives defend the separation of church and state. And that doctrine would prevent many of the consequences Hawkins mentions! Churches would be free to marry who they wish. Wedding photographers and others aren't forced to be involved in any weddings now; why suppose that they would be if gay marriage is legalized? Children may be taught in schools that gay marriage is normal, but churches aren't allowed to dictate what is taught in the public schools now, and they can redouble their efforts to teach homophobia in their Sunday school classrooms.
Erickson predicts a similar catastrophe. He claims that if gay marriage is legalized, "churches will not be able to open their doors to the unchurched unless they include everyone." Cities will "pass anti-discrimination laws that would prohibit churches from being able to say no to sin without running afoul of the law."
But here's the main problem with this sort of argument. People like Erickson and Hawkins assume that they have a religious right to persecute those with whom they disagree. Now, they call it a right to religious freedom. But they are already free to practice their religion and worship freely. What they really want is a right to dictate to others how they shall lead their lives. And that's persecution. Further, they assume that this right overrides the fundamental right of another person to marry whoever her or she loves. This has to be one of our most important rights: to decide with whom we shall spend the rest of our lives. If there is a conflict of rights here, it seems obvious to me that the right to marry is more important and fundamental than any other right Erickson and Hawkins might have in mind. It is therefore overriding.
In defense of his own conception of marriage, Erickson appeals to the authority of the Bible, and claims that liberal Christians "willfully ignore Christ’s definition of what a marriage is — one man and one woman united to become one." This is itself incoherent. Erickson complains that the left will silence conservative Christians in their campaign to impose their conception of marriage on the state, and yet that is precisely what Erickson wants to do, i.e., impose his own conception of marriage on the state. In addition, Erickson seems unaware of the difficulty of explaining why anyone should give a flying fuck what Jesus allegedly said or did not say about marriage, and why the state should conform to Erickson's religion. I personally couldn't care less what Matthew 19: 4-6 or the rest of his fucking religion says, and he hasn't given me a reason to care.
If we don't do what Erickson tells us to do, and if we legalize gay marriage, an hysterical Erickson tells us what we can expect:
Within a year or two we will see Christian schools attacked for refusing to admit students whose parents are gay. We will see churches suffer the loss of their tax exempt status for refusing to hold gay weddings. We will see private businesses shut down because they refuse to treat as legitimate that which perverts God’s own established plan. In some places this is already happening.This is just another manifestation of Republican leaders' lack of connection with reality. We saw in in November when Dick Morris, Karl Rove, and even Mitt Romney couldn't believe the election returns they were seeing. We saw it more recently when Gary Bauer declared that polls showing support for gay marriage are "skewed." And now we have Erickson's ludicrous, apparently hallucinogenic-induced prognostications.
Erick Erickson, are you out of your fucking mind?