Don't discriminate on my dime
November 5, 2013
You know the best way to ensure discrimination stays alive? Insist that anything but status quo would be discrimination against you.
Hawaii is on the cusp of becoming the 16th state to legalize same-sex marriage, and Nate Kellum of the Center for Religious Expression wrote a column on The Christian Post to argue Hawaiiâ€™s bill to repeal the stateâ€™s â€śone man, one womanâ€ť marriage definition tramples religious rights.
I disagree with him on his two biggest points.
Point 1: â€śWhile the bill purportedly protects clergy members from being forced to officiate weddings between same-sex partners, judges and magistrates â€” who share the same religious objections â€” are not extended the same courtesy.â€ť
OK, disagree is the wrong word. I agree with him that judges and magistrates are not extended the same courtesy as clergy members.
The disagreement is I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s a problem. Judges and magistrates arenâ€™t extended the same courtesy as clergy members, because clergy members donâ€™t take an oath to uphold the law and then get paid by taxpayers to do so.
If a guy running an adult novelty store puts in a business license for a store thatâ€™s legally zoned for such a business, a city worker canâ€™t deny the license because it violates their religious beliefs. In the same manner, a judge or magistrate canâ€™t deny a legal marriage because of their religious beliefs. If they have a problem with ensuring government service for everybody, perhaps government service isnâ€™t their best career option.
Point 2: â€śAs the bill is worded, if a church profits in any way from renting its property for weddings, it is not shielded from liability if a same-sex couple wants to use the facility.â€ť
Thatâ€™s not entirely accurate, because it infers this caveat is created by the new legislation. But itâ€™s not part of the bill; itâ€™s part of an existing state law. If youâ€™re a church, and you make a profit off of weddings, you canâ€™t refuse to marry people who are legally allowed to be married. The law protects interracial couples, couples where one or both partners have a divorce in their past, and other groups that may draw objections from certain churches. And if Hawaii decides gays and lesbians are legally allowed to be married, theyâ€™re added to the list. Simple as that.
If churches still have a problem with losing out on the possibility of profit, I see another avenue they could take â€” give up their tax-exempt status. Gays and lesbians pay taxes, and churches donâ€™t. Citizens shouldnâ€™t have to subsidize places that refuse to serve them.
In short, a church has three possible actions â€” deny otherwise legal marriages as they see fit, make money on marriages and keep tax-exempt status. It can do two of them, but not three.
Best idea, though? Government could get out of the marriage business wholesale, and then we wouldnâ€™t have to get into circular arguments of why your religious beliefs shouldnâ€™t be public policy for everybody else.
Kevin Wilson is a columnist at Clovis Media Inc. He can be contacted at 763-3431, ext. 313, or by email: