Wednesday, July 10, 2013

When Principles Conflict, Ignoring The First Amendment Should Not Be The Default

Indiana not only makes same-sex marriage illegal; it also penalizes those who perform same-sex marriages:
The law also penalizes a clergyman, judge, mayor, city clerk or town clerk-treasurer who solemnizes a marriage between two people of the same gender. Those who conduct a gay marriage ceremony can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
If the Roman Catholic church does not want to perform a same-sex marriage until the end of time, the church should be allowed to go with God and be happy. If the Episcopalians want to create a special same sex marriage ceremony, they too should be allowed to go with God and be happy. The state can regulate the contractual nature of the union to regulate how property is passed on or who can share insurance benefits. State legislatures, like Congress, should make no law regarding the practice of religion nor regulating the free exercise thereof.

Writing at The American Conservative, Rod Dreher sums up the shortsighted nature of this law:
This is a religious liberty issue — and Indiana conservatives are on the wrong side of it. If we conservatives don’t want the state telling our churches we have to marry same-sex couples, then we should stand up for the right of liberal churches to follow their own consciences within the confines of their communions. We may believe these churches are in serious error about same-sex marriage, but our own religious liberty depends on defending their right to be wrong. If we aren’t willing to stand up for them now, they won’t take seriously our future attempts to defend our own autonomy on religious liberty grounds.
I have a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach that the South Dakota legislature will see a similar law in the hopper in January, especially since over half of the state's residents oppose same-sex marriage.


P&R said...

It may or may not be a religious liberty issue.

If it is simply a ceremonial blessing, etc. then yes, it is a purely religious matter.

But when I perform a wedding, I also sign as an agent of the State of South Dakota on the marriage license. If I do that for a homosexual couple when the state bans such unions, then I am falsifying an official document - a civil matter, not a religious one.

I'd want to analyze the text of the law, and in particular what is meant by "solemnize a marriage" in this context.

Kal Lis said...

I understand that the state deputizes, for lack of a better word clergy and has them sign off on the licence.

I'm willing to be proven wrong, but quite frankly, I'd believe it would be better for state licence and the religious ceremony be separated because of situations like the one described.

I've the made the point elsewhere that it strikes me as problematic for the state to codify procedures for an act that one denomination considers a sacrament while another does not.

It may be a semantic game or an indication that I have been duped by a liberal/libertarian conspiracy, but the church should be responsible for "marriages" and the state responsible for "civil unions"

P&R said...

In many countries, indeed most, that is how it is handled, even some with historically much closer ties between church and state. The U.S. practice is something of an anomaly.