Idiot Logic

Debunking The Religious Freedoms Vermont’s Gay Marriage Won’t Take Away

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Groups like the National Organization for Marriage and Yes On 8 have nearly perfected the ability to disseminate half-truths and blatant lies about what legalizing same-sex marriage entails. Despite their YouTube videos, marriage equality legislation does not hamper religious freedoms. For example, churches will not lose their tax exempt status for refusing to let a same-sex couple wed under its cross. But in writing the instructions for marriage equality, Vermont has gone the extra step in writing down exactly how legalized gay marriage will impact religious freedoms. Namely: It won’t. And can’t.

And it shouldn’t! Let religious institutions operate under the same First Amendment rights that the rest of us expect. Practice your religion however you want, even if you hate gay people. That’s your right. And while we may write terrible things about your policy of preaching hate, we’ll never insist you lose your right to do so.

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Vermont went the extra step to make all this perfectly clear. The state’s “new law says in its ‘Public Accommodations’ section that religious groups ‘shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual if the request . . . is related to the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage.’ It also bars civil lawsuits against religious groups that refuse to provide goods or services to same-sex weddings,” writes David Benkof in the Daily News. “Now, the Vermont Clause certainly could go farther. I would like to see protections for individuals – not just organizations. Still, it’s a vast improvement over the other states that have implemented gay marriage without concern for its repercussions on the traditionally religious.”

Benkof is right. That is, until he’s wrong. A “traditional marriage” supporter, Benkof goes on to list (or rather, repeat from misinformed others) all the terrible things that religious types have faced because of legal same-sex marriage (which is why he’s such an advocate of Vermont spelling everything out explicitly). Among them:

• A year ago, the New Mexico Human Rights Commission ordered a Christian photographer to pay $6,600 for declining to photograph a lesbian commitment ceremony.

• Boston’s Catholic Charities in 2006 had to end its long history of facilitating adoptions because Massachusetts law would have required them to place children without any attention to whether the home had both a mother and a father or involved a same-sex couple.

• The California Supreme Court ruled last year that providers of in-vitro fertilization must perform the procedure on women in lesbian relationships even if they believe strongly that children need both mothers and fathers.

He’s incorrect on all accounts, and such sloppy journalism is a disservice to the debate. But you’ve heard enough of our harangue. Allow the excellent and straight-forward Rob Tisinai to explain the difference between legal same-sex marriage laws and anti-discrimination laws. (He addresses some of Benkof’s examples specifically.)