Monday, January 20, 2014

72% of Utahns Want New Laws Protecting Churches from Performing Same-Sex Weddings -- Even Though They Already Have That Protection!

Deseret News published an article about gay marriage in Utah, along with a series of public opinion polls. Here is the article in a nutshell:
A majority of Utahns do not support same-sex marriage, believe the decision on marriage should rest with individual states, and say if gay marriage were legal, Utah should pass laws to protect places of worship from having to perform weddings for gay and lesbian couples.
Here is a summary of the polls: 51% of Uthans think that businesses should be allowed to refuse professional services for gay weddings. 57% support civil unions for same-sex couples. 54% of Utahns would vote in favor of another constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. 45% of Utahns believe that their state should recognize same-sex marriages performed in states like Iowa or Hawaii. 37% of Utahns believe that states should have the right to define marriage. 55% of Utahns disagree with the recent federal court case that invalidated Utah's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. 57% of Utahns do not support same-sex marriage. And 72% of Utahns believe that a law should be passed to protect churches and other places of worship from having to perform same-sex marriages.

 That last poll result is the point of this blog article.

Why do Americans continue to express this fear that their churches will be forced to perform gay weddings -- totally against their will?

Marriage equality has existed in at least one state here in the USA for nearly 10 years. Actually, it's been nearly 14 years if you count Vermont's civil union period. There has never been a church in the USA that has been forced to host a gay wedding during that time. There has never been a minister or a priest or a rabbi or any other religious official here in the USA who has been forced to officiate at a gay wedding during that time. Not once. So why do they persist in expressing this unfounded fear?

Let's consider Utah prior to December 2013. During that time, only heterosexual couples were allowed to get legally married. Catholic Churches routinely limited weddings to Catholic members. Not only that, but they routinely refused weddings to those who've been divorced. Other religious communities have routinely exercised their right to establish wedding policies for their leaders and for their property.

Why do people think that all that gets thrown out the window because gay and lesbian couples now have the ability to get married???

Iowa has been a marriage equality state for nearly five years. My church is one of those churches who gladly welcomes and affirms LGBT members and families. We were doing commitment ceremonies for years before those weddings were legally recognized. It wasn't even a second thought that we would allow same-sex weddings in addition to other weddings at our church after the 2009 court decision that struck down our DOMA law.

But many other churches in Iowa do not perform gay weddings. Many other churches in Iowa will never perform gay weddings. And they have the legal right to refuse these weddings. Some of the kinder churches who have refused to perform gay weddings have been nice enough to refer gay and lesbian couples to our church or others like it. But they aren't even obligated to take that step.

The only people I have seen who've gotten in trouble over gay weddings since certain states have allowed them have been people like Rev. Thomas Ogletree or Rev. Frank Schaefer, who each made the choice to officiate at their sons' weddings and who are now being defrocked or already defrocked for making those choices. Neither man would have been defrocked if he had opted out of those weddings. And neither man would be criminally or civilly liable for refusing those weddings.

I think people get confused with two things:

1. There are government officials (they call them Recorders here in Iowa; they get called other titles in other states) who process wedding license applications. It's their job to process these documents. It's not an endorsement of every processed license. It's a process of confirming that each application is completed and processed correctly. They do not and should not have the ability to pick and choose which private citizens that they get to serve in those positions.

2. I think people are genuinely shocked that there are religious leaders and churches that actually support LGBT families and who are willing to officiate for same-sex weddings. Sometimes I seriously wonder if people just assume that those ministers/rabbis/officiators are literally drafted by pink-shirted government officials. Here is the deal: Those religious leaders are actually quite excited to officiate for those same-sex weddings. They wouldn't be there otherwise.

All this is to say that I would be one of those 22% who, if polled, would say that there shouldn't be any laws protecting religious leaders or institutions from hosting gay weddings. Because they aren't needed. They weren't needed in Iowa prior to 2009. They aren't needed now. They weren't needed in Utah prior to December 2013. They aren't now. Because churches are already legally permitted to establish their own wedding policies -- for gays or hets; for members or for non-members. It's already taken care of.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think the anti-gay marriage crowd in Utah and elsewhere knows the law already protects them from having to perform gay marriage. They also know that to keep ginning up their base, they need to keep the hate going, even if it's redundant. They NEED those folks to keep showing up at the polls to push the rest of their agenda. It's the same as the whole War on Christmas thing. Play the victim and then the really persecuted folks that the "victims" are persecuting won't get any attention.