A group of prominent Christians has published a letter indicating their intention to defy any decision by the Supreme Court that legalizes gay marriage or overturns the Defense of Marriage Act. Without bothering to wait for the decisions in gay marriage cases before the court, they have argued that natural law supersedes the Constitution.

You can read their argument here:

http://www.lc.org/media/9980/attachments/pr_ltr_marriage_solidarity...

Natural Law is a concept from Catholic theology that has been used to provide a basis for both morality and legality. A general discussion of its history and substance may be found here:

http://www.iep.utm.edu/natlaw/

In a nutshell, natural law is a claim that there are objective moral (or legal) standards which can be discovered by human reason. As such it is not a part of revealed religion, but might be considered as part of natural religion. Of course in the present instance the claim is that marriage is between one man and one woman is an objective moral law.

The unanswered question is what form their defiance can take. Mere refusal to recognize gay marriages is a weak kind of defiance if it can be called defiance at all. Another question is the degree to which Americans are prepared to recognize natural law as an objective basis for actual law. I would bet that the notion of natural law is not widely understood. Its purported independence of religious claims is also open to question.

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I'm sure you agree though that anyone who offers a service or product in the public marketplace should not be allowed to discriminate solely on the basis of religious belief.

States differ on whether or not they disallow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and I don't expect the court will formally change that since it is not an issue in these cases, but their rulings could set a trend against discrimination even with a restricted decision and I would like to see that change begin.

I'm conflicted on that one. 

I sometimes make decisions about buying a product or service, based on my philosophical difference with the company or provider.  For example, when I was hospitalized earlier this year, I insisted on transfer from the Catholic hospital, where the EMTs took me, to the secular hospital associated with my health plan - 30 miles away, and in a different state.  My health plan was absolutely all for that transfer - for $$$ reasons - and I think it's a better hospital, and there's much better continuity by staying in plan.  But my initial fear was of discrimination and subtle mistreatment.

So one could assert that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and if I can discriminate, so can they.  I don't know how to answer that.

Yes, but you are not in their position—the position of offering a service to the public. I have no problem with private clubs discriminating, but I would not want to join one that did. However a public business of any kind should not refuse a qualified and respectable customer on the basis of religious belief.

There is the principle of freedom of association, which is not absolute but should not be totally ignored either. There has been a hubbub recently about, for instance, bakers not wanting to cater gay weddings. To me, it's a matter of 'so what, go to someone who wants the business'. It's not like there is any urgent need to contract with that vendor, and really, would you want your event catered or photographed by someone who was really truly unhappy with it?

It can go the other way too. Consider that you're a web designer and an anti abortion group, or religious group wants you to do their website. Wouldn't you, too, want the option of declining?

On a lark, when my wife and I got married, we decided to an elopement/wedding mill stile event. Some of the venues explicity or implicitly indicated they did not want to do a nonreligious wedding. That was fine, we found someone more willing. I wouldn't even consider trying to make a discrimination case out of it.

To rule out discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, and national origin, but accept discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or abortion view puts the law in the position of saying gays and pro-life individuals have inferior status.

On the other hand to say a business may refuse service to anyone because of the owner's religious beliefs seems to privilege religion above other things.

As you surely know, the same kind of arguments as you make were made against having to accept black customers at restaurants and hotels during the days of the civil rights movement—that business would be hurt because white people did not want to associate with black people while they were eating or sleeping. This form of discrimination was ended by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This is not an easy question, but it is a problem.

Should a person be REQUIRED in all cases to enter a business contract with someone he objects to? Religion might be one reason (the basic context of the abortion example).It could be other things.I am not holding religious beliefs different from any other personal beliefs.

Obviously certain things must remain protected. Essential services: food, housing, medical, emergency services. But not everything falls into those categories.

Is it essential that people use a certain caterer? or photographer? Would you really WANT someone who has a problem with your lifestyle to be forced (probably with poor results) into performing for you? Alas under current law it would be illegal even for them to tell you that they're not comfortable.

It comes down to the fact that the law is so obsessed with antidiscrimination that rights of free association are largely ignored. (An article in a different context recently pointed out that free association is often suppressed by dictators to rob groups of a sense of group identity.)

There are different gradations. You walk into a restaurant, there is no significant social interaction between you and the owner. It makes no difference if you're gay or straight, Muslim or atheist. In a home, it's not the same thing.

Consider renting an apartment. If the tenant pays the rent and does not trash the place, the deal is fine. There is no real personal involvement. Contrast this with a roommate situation (I bring this up because a few years ago there was a court decision AGAINST a room mate matching service which allowed listing preferences of gender, religion, orientation, race etc). Here those requirements go way over the line as I see it. When someone is sharing the privacy of an intimate living space with you, you should be legally able to use any damned criteria you want. INCLUDING race, religion, gender, or sports team loyalty.

Non discrimination is usually a good thing. Forced application of it into private lives is not.

This is bound to happen when the legal system butts its nose into morality. Same happened with recreational drugs. Try to ban them, but a large number of people disagree with those laws. It's the trouble with a plural society. In order for a legal system / moral code to get respected by the citizenry, it must reach critical mass, and in questions of morality, no law can peacefully (without police reinforcement) be effective if 95% of the population does not back it.
As for the gay baker, what if I as a feminist refuse to bake a loaf for the wife-beater next door, yes, we must have freedom of association.
However, if someone works for a publicly funded institution/organisation, then a contract should be signed that this employee will effect any actions that are required/allowed by the people's government.

Re: housing, from what I know in Canada, if a renter is sharing any space with the renter (boarding/rooming sharing kitchen, laundry, anything) then the renter is allowed to set preferences, whichever they may be. However if someone is renting a separate suite within a house (private entrance should be the limit) with no shared activity, no such personal preferences may be stated.

The law should not be used solely for the purpose of preventing immorality, but those who argue in favor of drug laws see the use of drugs creating costs for society.

It's the same with motorcycle helmet laws. They are aimed at preventing physical injuries that become a burden to society.

@ Allan... Of course economics are always/often the lip service paid to sway our cherry picked cause. But the fact of the matter is, if we really wanted to dramatically reduce economic costs of healthcare we'd be wearing helmets in our homes, and banning fast food and smoking and all motorised vehicle driving above 15mph. Why we don't? strictly a question of social backing or not. We cherry pick the rules which meet the least resistance (motorcyclists are a very small percentage of the total population, easiest to dominate). It's all about the numbers, all cultural BS.

As an example: Using the cost to society argument, one could justify Iran style morality laws. Forcibly requiring everyone to ONLY have sex with their legally recognized (marriage license?) mate can be rationally demonstrated to virtually eliminate STDs (if enforce strongly enough). The problem (as you've pointed out) is that human freedom is more important than an arbitrary measure of 'social good'

Dr. Clark, what a strange language we use.

Is "disallow discrimination" a double negative and unclear?

Does removing the disses(?) and writing "allow crimination" make it clear?

But even privately owned businesses operate in the public environment and receive benefits from doing so—fire protection, sewer and garbage service, etc. They ought not to discriminate against any group protected by law.

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