Faith groups increasingly lose gay rights fights
Faith organizations and individuals who view homosexuality as sinful and refuse to provide services to gay people are losing a growing number of legal battles that they say are costing them their religious freedom.
The lawsuits have resulted from states and communities that have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation. Those laws have created a clash between the right to be free from discrimination and the right to freedom of religion, religious groups said, with faith losing. They point to what they say are ominous recent examples:
- A Christian photographer was forced by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission to pay $6,637 in attorney's costs after she refused to photograph a gay couple's commitment ceremony.
- A psychologist in Georgia was fired after she declined for religious reasons to counsel a lesbian about her relationship.
- Christian fertility doctors in California who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian patient were barred by the state Supreme Court from invoking their religious beliefs in refusing treatment.
- A Christian student group was not recognized at a University of California law school because it denies membership to anyone practicing sex outside of traditional marriage.
I think the questions raised on both sides are very valid. As a gay man, I don't want to patronize a company that is run by a fundie who thinks I'm a wicked sinner. And if it is their company, why shouldn't they have that choice to deny me, especially as I would not mind reserving the same right to deny them service? For example, if I ran a catering company and refused to cater an Islamic fundie wedding based on moral grounds, shouldn't I have that right? I'd like to think so, just as a fundie photographer should have the option not to photograph my gay wedding.
But as Jennifer Pizer is quoted in the article, "We are not required to pay the price for other people's religious views about us." That is true I suppose, and a very valid point. What if a gay man wearing a t-shirt that reads "Gay Rights Now" winds up in the emergency room after a car accident, and the doctor on call refuses to treat him because homosexuality is against his religious views? Certainly that is not right.
These are difficult questions that don't deal with just sexuality or religion, but rights, responsibilities, and private property rights as well. But I guess the bottom line for me is that we cannot allow religion to be used as a persistent and justifiable means to excuse a person from the rules, regulations, common sense, and obligations which govern us all in a society that is based on reciprocity, cooperation, and shared resources and services.